You know there's a "but" coming, so I'll get right to it.
The significance of the use of nuclear weapons lies in the type of destruction and the way the world was changed as a result. I don't in any way want to diminish or minimise the suffering of the people affected, but the loss of life was not statistically significant in comparison to other war time events. Around 70,000* people lost their lives in the bombing of Hiroshima, while the firebombing of Tokyo killed around 87,793 and was described by flight commander Gen. Thomas Power as “the greatest single disaster incurred by any enemy in military history”. In the battle of Okinawa around 100,000 Okinawan civilians and 110,071 Japanese soldiers died. Japan's overall death toll during the war was around 2,350,000.
While the atomic bombings are important events that deserve significant memorials and attention from the school curriculum, I'm frustrated by the lack of knowledge about anything else that happened during the war... and that's just speaking domestically, the issue of what Japan did to the rest of the world is a whole other can of worms.
|From Japan's Bureau of Statistics|
*Estimates vary wildly and can get very political, but the difference in scale should be clear irrespective of which numbers you believe.