As I glide across Victoria Harbor on the swift Mass Transit Railway, toward Hong Kong Island and the city’s gleaming skyline, no junks or sampans are visible. Walking the streets of the bustling Wan Chai or trendy Lan Kwei Fong neighborhoods, I see no rickshaws or women in traditional, snug-fitting cheung sarm dresses. After all, the metropolis of Hong Kong, one of the world’s most densely populated areas, bears no resemblance to the city in war photographs of a generation ago.
The Hong Kong Hotel, the Fortress Headquarters, and the North Point Power Station have nearly vanished without a trace. The city’s only easily visible wounds are shrapnel scars on the two bronze lion statues cast in 1935 that stood in front of a banking company headquarters, the HSBC Building, during the war, and continue to guard its replacement.