The public gives an initial mixed reception to Oppenheimer in Japan

(Tokyo) Oppenheimer was finally presented for the first time Friday in Japan, the country where two cities were wiped out 79 years ago by nuclear weapons invented by the American scientist at the heart of the Oscar-winning film. Reactions from Japanese moviegoers were understandably mixed and very emotional.

Toshiyuki Mimaki, who survived the bombing of Hiroshima when he was 3, admitted to being fascinated by the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, often called “the father of the atomic bomb” for leading the Manhattan Project.

“What were the Japanese thinking when they launched the attack on Pearl Harbor, starting a war they could never hope to win,” he asked, with sadness in his voice, during a telephone interview with the ‘Associated Press.

Mr. Mimaki is now president of a survivors’ group called the Japanese Confederation of A- and H-bomb Victims’ Organizations. He has seen Oppenheimer during a preview event.

“Throughout the film, I was waiting for the scene of the bombing of Hiroshima, but it never happened,” Mr. Mimaki said.


Toshiyuki Mimaki, a survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima

Oppenheimer does not directly present what happened on the ground when the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantly reducing some 100,000 people to ashes and killing thousands more in the days that followed, most of them civilians.

The film instead focuses on Robert Oppenheimer and his internal conflicts.


The film’s arrival in Japan, more than eight months after its release in the United States, was awaited with apprehension due to the sensitivity of the subject matter.

Takashi Hiraoka, a former mayor of Hiroshima, was critical of what was left out of the film when he spoke to local journalists at a preview event.

From Hiroshima’s perspective, the horror of nuclear weapons has not been adequately described. The film was made in such a way as to validate the conclusion that the atomic bomb was used to save American lives.

Takashi Hiraoka, former mayor of Hiroshima

Some moviegoers still praised the feature film.

A man leaving a Tokyo cinema on Friday said the film was great, noting that the subject matter was of great interest to the Japanese, although it was also emotionally difficult. Another added that he was blown away by the film’s scenes depicting the internal conflict experienced by Robert Oppenheimer.


J. Robert Oppenheimer, in 1957

Neither man wanted to give his name to the Associated Press journalist.

Japanese point of view

Kazuhiro Maeshima, a professor at Sophia University and an expert on American politics, called the film an expression of “the American conscience.”

People expecting an anti-war film are likely to be disappointed, in his opinion. But telling Oppenheimer’s story in a blockbuster Hollywood movie would have been unthinkable decades ago, when the need to justify the use of nuclear weapons dominated Americans’ feelings, Mr. Maeshima said.

“This work shows an America that has radically changed,” he argued.

According to other speakers in the world of cinema, the time has perhaps come to present the events of August 1945 from the Japanese point of view.

Takashi Yamazaki, director of Godzilla Minus Onewhich won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and is in its own way a powerful statement on nuclear catastrophe, suggested he might be the man for the job.

“I think Japan must respond to Oppenheimer. One day, I would like to make this film,” he said during an online dialogue with the director ofOppenheimer, Christopher Nolan. The latter absolutely agreed.


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