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The end of World War II was marked by celebrations and festivities all over the world. Look online at Post-World War II images, and you’ll see people on the streets cheering, waving flags, and, in the case of Times Square in New York, a soldier kissing a complete stranger out of sheer happiness. But what about in countries that lost the war? In Japan, the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the subsequent surrender of Japan to the Allied powers ended the war…but not the nightmare. In peaceful regions of the country, the people faced varying degrees of hardship. From bombing raids to food shortages, things weren’t easy. With the bombing of two major Japanese cities, the suffering encountered by people near those regions increased.

The 2016 animated film “In This Corner of the World” shows us the perspective of what life was like near the city of Hiroshima before, during, and after fire and radiation swept through the city.  But how much of this movie is fact?

Let’s break it down!

Part I: Breaking Down History

Yes, it was! Omiai (pronounced oh-me-eye) is a traditional Japanese custom similar to Western matchmaking. During this, a man and a woman are introduced to each other with the prospect of marriage in mind. Parents were usually involved and would ask questions about their respective families during a formal meeting. After a series of dates and meetings, they would come to a formal decision to decide whether the couple should marry.

Food rationing had been in place in Japan since 1940 with the beginning of conscription for the war, with individuals receiving about 12 ounces (0.75 lbs.) of rice per day. Throughout the war, these amounts steadily decreased, causing widespread hunger and malnutrition in the country. Major crops and vegetables, like potatoes, beans, carrots, onions, etc., were also rationed to a few ounces a day. By the end of the war, daily rations reduced caloric intake to approximately 1,500 calories. To avoid starvation, many families turned to foraging wild vegetables and ingredients, such as dandelions, chrysanthemums, chickweed, wild mushrooms, acorns, or whatever edible items they could find. These would be added to their rations, making small, insubstantial morsels of food into nutritious and often filling meals. 

The Kenpeitai (also known as Kempeitai, pronounced kim-pay-tie) were the military and secret police of Imperial Japan.  They were known to arrest individuals who did not support the war effort at home and abroad. If a person was suspected of espionage or promoting anti-propaganda efforts, they were likely to be visited by Kenpeitai. They were known for their brutality, often torturing or killing individuals suspected of hindering the Japanese war effort.

Time-delayed bombs were commonly used during the war by all sides the war.  During air raids in Japan, thousands of bombs were dropped in both residential and agricultural areas. Because some of these explosives did not explode on impact and relied on timed fuses, some bombs did not detonate for days, weeks, or months at a time. Individuals would encounter craters left behind by explosives, with the potential for them to detonate if disturbed. Even today, bombs are still being found in old World War 2 battlefields throughout the world, including areas of Japan like Okinawa.

The “Little Boy” Atomic Bomb was dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.  With a 15-kiloton payload (the equivalent of 12,000-15,000 tons of TNT), the destruction was on a scale that the world had never seen before. Five square miles of the city were obliterated, with anyone in the epicenter vaporized and leaving behind firestorms. Anyone who survived, but was within the blast radius of the explosion, would soon suffer the effects of radiation, with acute radiation syndrome spreading throughout the city.  With bone marrow (responsible for making cells that fight infection and assist with clotting) destroyed by radiation, most victims died from illness or hemorrhaging. Long-term radiation exposure would lead to various cancers and diseases, such as leukemia. Overall, approximately 90,000 to 166,000 people died in Hiroshima alone.

Part II: Recreating History – Japanese Tempura (6 Servings)

Now that we have broken down the historical accuracy of “In This Corner of the World,” why don’t we recreate some history! Tempura is a staple of Japanese cuisine that dates as far back as the 16th-century AD. Introduced in the port city of Nagasaki (another city that was destroyed in World War II by an atomic bomb), this popular dish was made with flour, sugar, sake, and then deep-fried in lard. With the more modern use of vegetable oil and availability of other ingredients, recipes in the 1900’s traditionally used flour, water, and eggs for the batter.  Vegetables were commonplace and used frequently for tempura, though some locations used seafood in their recipes.

Here’s a basic tempura recipe to get you started:

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour

  • 1 Large Egg

  • 1 Cup Ice-Cold Water

  • Vegetables of your choice (Broccoli florets, onion rings, sweet potato slices, and eggplant slices are recommended to start)

  • Vegetable Oil, for frying

  • Soy Sauce (optional for dipping)

Directions:

  1. Beat one large egg in a small bowl.
  2. Add water to the egg and mix.
  3. Slowly add flour to the egg mixture, but do not overmix (it should be a little lumpy).
  4. Heat up your vegetable oil in a pot on medium-high heat or until the oil temperature is about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  5. Using a bit of extra flour, lightly coat all your vegetables.
  6. Dip the vegetables in the batter lightly.
  7. Immediately fry in the oil for 1-2 minutes, or until crispy.
  8. Serve hot with soy sauce, and enjoy!

Original Recipe: Easy Authentic Japanese Tempura Batter Recipe

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