Japan 2010: 12 - Where I see the Second Bomb

At 6am, none of us wanted to leave our relatively comfy beds. I had acquired the top bunk of one of the spindly beds, and I knew from the previous night that it was difficult if not impossible to get down from it without making a hell of a din and perhaps falling flat on my face if I missed a rung. Besides, the air through the opened window was fresh and cold, and we had all become accustomed it seemed to the warm Japanese weather under our duvets.

My bladder finally motivated me to make a start and by 8am I was dressed and sat downstairs in the communal room waiting for Yukari (the lady of the house) to appear. She had mentioned as part of the introductions the evening before about an optional Japanese or English style breakfast, so feeling a little homesick I decided to give the English one a go. Adenata came down as I was ordering and sat at the computer and we chatted for a while about Mt. Aso and my experiences at the Fukuno-yu onsen the night before. Adenata reacted with great interest; she was apparently a bit of a connoisseur when it came to spas and onsen and was on her own little quest to visit as many as she could on her holiday.

The breakfast arrived. It had some English qualities; there was a fried egg and bacon, and the thickest slice of toasted bread I had ever seen. This went down well, and the pear and side salad, though unusual was consumed with enthusiasm also.

I explained my intentions to Adenata; I was heading firstly to the Peace Park at the north end, and then following the attractions south until I was back in the centre once again, at which point I would choose a few other places to go depending on the time remaining. Oh, and that giant Buddha was also going to get a proper visit too. Adenata had already seen much of what central Nagasaki had to offer the previous day, and said she was heading north to the not very Japanese sounding Huis Ten Bosch, a popular Dutch theme park that attempts to recreate the Netherlands right in the heart of Japan.
Hotel Review: Nagasaki Kagamaya (2200 yen/night, 2 nights)
Situated at the end of the #5 tram route, it's a bit of a fiddle to find, but well directed by the family that runs the place, who are helpful and attentive, speak very good English and have a very useful website to help you get there. They make you feel well at home. The house is a very nicely kept building in a traditional Ryokan style and you are made very welcome. Even though it is far from the centre of town, I'd come again. (one tip: bring slippers if you can as the beautiful wooden stairs are large and hard on the feet!). Laundry service (Wash/dry) is 500yen, done for you. Breakfast is 500yen. Towel hire: 100yen.

The surroundings looked different as I left for the tram, night was now day, and the clear and cool morning mist gave things an autumnal feel, something I had not seen since Tokyo. Next to the Hotarujaya tram stop is an office (above the Family Mart) which for 500 yen will give you a days pass to the tram lines. If you get on and off 5 times, you're in profit, and there would be plenty of that today. I hit the #3 tram into town to the Matsuyama Machi station, the closest to the Peace Park; my idea was to spend the morning at the northern attractions and move slowly south until 5-ish when everything would start closing up.
The Peace Park is at the top of a large stone stairway, pleasantly surrounded by greenery and flowerbeds. At the top is what could be classed as a standard park with tidy lawns and pathways, except it has a sombre feel, mostly brought on by the quiet and respectful behaviour by my fellow walkers, often to be found in large groups headed by a guy in a gaudy yellow jacket, looking at the numerous statues sprinkled around the grounds.
These statues formed the backbone of the spirit of the place; donated from all over the world and accompanied by plaques talking about their name and meaning, and often donated by a country as a whole, rather than an individual (although the sculptor was usually named). Many of the statues followed the standard theme of mother and child, often in a positive, joyous light celebrating the human ability to survive, but occasionally reflecting the horror of the aftermath.
At the far end of the park was a Hiroshima-style open area, for meetings and summits, bookended by two statues; a fountain monument that evoked the idea of a pair of wings, through the centre of which was visible the other monument; a huge blue-tinted statue of a man sat upon a rock, one hand in the air pointing to the heavens as a warning from above, and the other one held out flat to the side, as a gesture of peace. The imposing statue sits on a stone plinth which itself appears to float on a quiet and serene lake. As I headed round I was slowly taken back to the feelings I had when heading round Hiroshima two years ago, strengthened by the familiar streams of paper cranes in small huts either side of the main statue.

I had arrived at the right time; there were relatively few tourists around, so I took some pics of the area, although a group of people were setting up on a bench in the centre for a group picture. It was beginning to busy up, so I moved on.
A quiet walk down the side of an innocuous stream took me to the next area of interest; the Hypocentre of the atomic bomb is set in the centre of a large circular area, with circles of stone in the ground representing the explosive forces emanating outwards. As I approached I could see through the bushes that there was a ceremony already in progress, the children, maybe from a local school or much further away were singing hymns. It was a sombre but beautiful experience. I kept a respectful distance.

As well as the central monument, there were other interesting things to see around the periphery, so as the ceremony continued in the centre I took a look. The first thing was a large chunk of a building, one of the pillars of a once much larger structure. This was the remains of the original Urakami Cathedral, which stood only a few hundred metres away from the hypocentre. When the bomb went off, the church was almost entirely destroyed, and the Christian congregation inside were all killed by a mixture of searing heat and collapsing debris. Most of the old cathedral was demolished, except for some which went to the atomic bomb museum, and this section which now stands as a memorial to the people killed inside on that day.
At the other side of the memorial area was a large statue. A simple work of a mother cradling a child in her arms. Her eyes burrow quietly into your soul. Underneath the statue is a simple plaque into which is etched the date and time of the bombings. This is the 50th anniversary monument. The accompanying sign written by the mayor of Nagasaki mentions that the child is merely sleeping, but I suspect this was not the original intent of the artist; its meaning may have been toned down to take some of the sorrow out of the situation. To me the child had a lifeless appearance; its arms and legs limp and the head cocked back towards the observer with a peaceful look upon it's face. Make of it what you will.

On the outer edge of the hypocentre were a set of steps down to another exhibit, and most people I think would miss it as it's pretty easy to pass without realising. Only once you read the accompanying sign do you realise the amount of geological disruption that the bomb produced.
The wall holding up the ground level - the one on top of which the hypocentre monument is located - has a glass window cut into it, showing the original ground level before the bomb some 10 or so feet below. As the site was being constructed, the archaeologists dug down through the decades old debris and found the remains of pots, pans, houses - and people. The window provides another reminder - albeit cleared of the most harrowing details - of the lives of the people who died here, some of which were semi-buried and desperately needing water from that nearby stream, still set at the original ground level. One account of a survivor talks about the water not getting through to them, as the stream had been blocked by a buildup of dead bodies upstream at the Matsuyama bridge. The innocuous stream I had passed on the way in was this lifeline denied, and when it was restored it was diverted slightly so it would now run past the resting place of these people and collect in a pool allowing their spirits to drink.

Across the other side of the stream were a few other, smaller monuments on the way up to the Atomic Bomb Museum, a strange building on many levels cutting like a wedge into the ground. After a short look around to pay my respects, I went inside.

I wasn't expecting to be able to take pictures, but was still absent-mindedly dangling my camera by the wrist strap. I walked in past a crowd of children and their teachers sat on the floor, and into the greeting room; a woman behind a reception desk gave me a guide to the building, and asked if I was going to take pictures. When I reacted with surprise she explained that they don't normally allow it, but if I wore one of their special arm bands (I would officially be a 'Photographer') I would be allowed. Taking the opportunity I snapped it up right there. I bought two tickets at their automated machine (wasted money on a childs ticket by mistake grr!) and then went in.
The sound of a ticking clock could be heard from outside as I descended the spiral walkway (again similar to the sister museum in Hiroshima). It's ominous and echoing tone put a chill down the spine as I headed through the darkness into the first area. Pre-war Nagasaki is shown in it's former glory. Prominent buildings nestling in the surrounding countryside, a circular panorama of the place's history is laid out to try and convey what was destroyed. As you move to the next room it turns to one of devastation;
horribly twisted metal girders hang out of the walls menacingly, large projections of photographs taken just after the impact (by forward thinking people making sure it would be captured so everyone in time could see the horror), and lighting highlighted briefly the remains of childs toys, everyday items, and parts of buildings (including the cathedral), so you only got to see them a few at a time. One of the most chilling was the section showing photographs and remains of walls, forever charred with the outline of a person who happened to be stood near it as the bomb went off.

The exhibits continued in their theme, baring the horrific reality of the lives turned wretched in an instant. At the point of detonation as simulated on one of the monitors, the 240,000 population had nearly a third wiped out immediately. Pictures of the living and the dead were on every wall; the names of the districts and their casualty rates; accounts from survivors of what they saw and their impossible grief at the sight of their loved ones; and a few inspirational stories of heroic individuals who worked to restore power and transport in the days afterwards, or who treated the sick and dying when they themselves were succumbing to the radiation and disease. One in particular - a Dr. Takashi Nagai is remembered for his tireless work during and after the war. Despite his pre-existing leukemia and a serious injury sustained from the blast, he joined in the relief efforts and was an influential part of it, despite collapsing and being close to death a month later. I will be looking to read one of his published books at some point.

The A-Bomb museum is every bit as sobering and disturbing as the one at Hiroshima, and I defy anyone with ridiculous notions of any of it being worth it 'in the name of stopping the war' to see what is there and remain steadfast in their belief. Nothing is worth this level of sacrifice.

The last area of the indoor section highlighted the more current and pressing situation of continued atomic bomb deployment and detonation. How many atomic bombs have been actually detonated since these first two? None? A few? A hundred?

Not even close.
An imposing mural of the history of atomic warfare takes up a long straight wall on the path to the exit. Listed by year are symbols of mushroom clouds. Each one represents an atomic bomb detonation. From the single test in 1945, the number per year climbs sharply, so that by the 1950's more than a hundred per year are being detonated as part of extensive tests. More and more countries join the 'elite club' of nuclear-armed states, and the symbols continue to climb.

To provide a reassuring balance, the lower half of the exhibit describes the anti-nuclear actions of people around the world, and the work they have done to temper this progression. Thankfully as we head to the present day, the work appears to be paying off, but not before the most up to date sections warn of the potential threats on the horizon.

Even so, it's all very chilling; just as before there are no happy feelings at the end, but this sort of thing however depressing should be taught and re-taught to everyone, or else we will make similar mistakes in the future with weapons more powerful still.

Still reeling from the horrors within, I ascended the gentle slope at the end back to ground level, but not before the creators of the museum cannily stuck a small but noticeable bookshop in the way. Four or five shelves, and about ten feet square worth of space given primarily to the sale of books and a little bit of manga - mostly from Japan but a few from other parts of the world - on the subjects of war and suffering. They had a similar one at the end of the Hiroshima museum, and if I had the money or the room back then I would have picked some up. This time I was not going away empty handed, although I was wincing at the prospect of adding yet more weight to my already bulging backpacks. What I got would have to be a balance between culturally weighty and physically light.
After much perusing and causing the attendant to look up several times thinking I had made up my mind, I finally plumped for a pair of hardback books; one was 'No More Hiroshima, Nagasaki', a collection of accounts, illustrations and photographs showing the massive devastation the survivors of both bombings; the other was to my surprise a selection of poems and haiku from some of the survivors of the bombings, illustrated by talented long time Ghibli background artist Kazuo Oga. Both are sobering reflections of what was a massive rendering of life to ash, and sit prominently on my bookshelf.

I emerged again near the entrance, although I took a little time to reflect in a seating area to the side; various works from children all around the world had been donated here and sat on tables or were pinned to the walls. It was a peaceful place with a positive feeling, that so many people from around the world would come to see and to take on board the messages here. The large room high windows shimmered with the water trickling down them from the fountain exhibit on the top of the building. I sat and thought for a while.

Near to the Atomic Bomb museum is another place for quiet reflection. The Peace Memorial Hall is set underground and is a place to go to quietly contemplate things and pay respects. Unlike the Hiroshima one, which consisted of a simple but effective circular room at the bottom of a spiral walkway, this building took the shape of a claustrophobic maze. As you enter, the roof and the walls close in, and the path to the central remembrance hall follows the perimeter, slowly working its way down into the depths of the building. Quietly trickling water features are the only sounds, recessed into the walls at the end of each long corridor, giving the place a feeling somewhere between the inner structure of an Egyptian tomb and a long forgotten country graveyard. Water is a recurring theme throughout the monuments, as it was in desperately short supply in the days after the bomb; many thousands died gasping for a drink. It was an incredibly serene place, and commanded respect.
After some twists and turns, and with some help from a nearby attendant, I arrived at the hall entrance. It has a cathedral-like air. Twelve glass pillars command the attention, pointing towards the hypocentre. In the centre is a pillar containing 27 drawers, inside which are kept the names of each of the 70,000+ victims of the initial blast, plus the additional 80,000 or more that have since died as a result of their injuries or radiation poisoning. Hiroshima has it's own list.

Incredibly, I was there completely on my own; the attendant was waiting respectfully outside and none of the other tourists had come in. I was alone in the silence, except for the quiet trickling and gurgling of water shimmering on the glass ceiling above. Again, there are numerous benches to sit on around the periphery of the room, and I took the opportunity to take it all in.

One area allows people to voice their feelings, which I guess could be bubbling pretty strongly within many of us by this point of the day; it certainly felt that way for me. A glassed-off room contains a wall of hooks, on each of which is hung several pieces of paper; each one containing the thoughts and messages from visitors for that day. Additionally, posters adorn the free space on the walls, these have been chosen and printed out from the hundreds that have been submitted to their database over the years. A couple of computers hooked up to graphics tablets allow people to register their attendance and draw a poster using a mixture of crude painting tools and clip art, plus a message below if you're feeling inspired enough. I left mine (if you find yourself there and are interested in what I put, mine was registered on 10th October 2010) and wrote a quick note to hook onto the wall, and then finally left through the exit.
I emerged at the upper level of the hall, level with the glass ceiling. From outside you could see into the hall below through the shimmering water. The tower of drawers carried on through the ceiling and stood prominent in the water. The nearby Nagasaki Museum of History and Folklore, housed in one part of a prominent, modern looking building with a giant glass archway, was unfortunately closed for the day but there was an art exhibit that was open in one of the rooms, so I took a look. Yataro Noguchi was an impressionist painter who died in the seventies, known locally for his works involving colourful, abstract painting styles that verged on childlike depictions at some points. The gallery was stuffed with paintings, and from the look of it most of his works were there. In particular I was struck by a single work six feet or so in height, of a woman in jeans reclining on a chair; it was clearly done in the later years of his life, and seemed to be far more real than the rest; the canvas was - or seemed to be - etched with the various bumps and curves in the picture to give it a very 3D look. If it weren't for watchful eyes and security cameras, I'd have took a sneaky pic.

Eventually, I seemed to run out of museums and other buildings to look at, so mindful of the advancing hours I retraced my steps to the entrance of the A-Bomb dome, and then headed out to the next thing on the map.

I had a streetcar map that showed many of the tourist spots, but wasn't to scale. Consequently, something that appeared to be just across the road and down a bit, wasn't. I spent a bit of time trying to find the science museum across the tracks but gave up and instead happened upon the 'one-legged Torii' gate after some searching, which was coincidentally what several schoolchildren were doing.
The torii was unspectacular, but a strange oddity; the blast supposedly managed to blow only half of it down, which lays alongside the still standing section in pieces. What was slightly more interesting was the Sanno Shinto shrine that it was guarding.
I followed the narrow path round between the city buildings, until I came to a set of old stone steps. At the top of which were two large and clearly ancient Camphor trees with a thick red decorative rope slung between them. They had clearly been around for some time as the accompanying plaque attested. After the nuclear blast, the trees had been stripped of their leaves and bark, and were left with huge splits in their trunks. The shrine had been obliterated, as it lay only a few hundred yards from the hypocenter. Dismissed as two more casualties of the bomb, they surprised everyone when they started showing signs of life. Patched up with large plastic moulds, they are now registered as natural monuments to the people who lost their lives.
Through the hordes of schoolchildren I paid my respects at the restored shrine, and left for the main road once more. Not wanting to waste more time, I took the tram back to the main station. I had a date with a bird.
The bird - of course - was not there. The graveyard was as serene as the previous day, and there was no sign in the sky of anything coming in to land any time soon, so I headed back to the Oka Masaharu museum, which thankfully was open (although it was difficult to tell from the outside).

Masaharu died some years ago and this museum is his legacy; he was passionate about bringing the treatment of the Korean immigrants into Japan before, during and after the war, something that Japan has been very reluctant to face up to, and is not mentioned in the main, government funded museums. It was for this reason that I thought it was important to see while here.

Inside I was surprised to be greeted by a youngish German man and his middle-aged Japanese assistant. He could speak some English and was clearly happy to have a tourist visit what appeared to be quite an under-appreciated place. I mentioned the museums' presence in the Japan By Rail book and he was clearly pleased, and told me that a couple of days previous they had been visited by another Yorkshireman!

A converted office building running on a shoestring, the museum was a collection of donated works and home-made guidebooks and signs, some of which were in dual language. The ground floor attempted to give a feel of the living conditions experienced by the immigrants; captioned photographs, old magazines and newsletters from the age, clothing and possessions were laid out neatly in a covered area made to look like typical living quarters. It smelt fusty and a little unmaintained, but the subject matter was stark and eye-opening. I had been aware of the Japanese problem of stoic pride and not being able to admit fault for some things the country has done, but this was the first time it was being shown to me.
On the first floor, past the uncomfortable pictures of torture and mutilation on the stairs, the museum expanded it's coverage to atrocities committed all across the world after the war, by the Japanese and others. Problems in the African Congo, Germanys' Auschwitz and others were given prominence on the walls and tables around the room. A large black tome on one of the desks grabbed my attention, it was a dual-language book chronicling the Nazi death camps, full of the sort of horrific and unforgettable imagery from the time. I returned to it after looking at the other exhibits, and spent some time in the silence (again, I was the only one there) and lost track of time.
I thanked the curators and left around 4pm, feeling heavy under the weight of what I had seen today. It was time to stop before it consumed me. The giant Buddha was still in my sights, so I headed off in its' direction. Getting up to it proved difficult, but I finally managed to find a narrow passageway up some hidden steps that brought me out just next to it. The rope I stepped over suggested that if I had been earlier, someone would have tried to get me to pay for the privilege. This was Fukusai-ji temple. The statue rose up imposingly, sat on the back of what I could now see was a giant silver headed turtle, the shell of which was large enough to double as the temple building. I took some pics, but didn't go inside, which was a mistake, as I have since learned that inside is a pretty huge pendulum actually hanging in the inside of the statue; the entire thing is an enormous clock, which strikes just once at 11:02am, the time of the explosion.

Back on the trams, I took the #1 to Tsuki-machi, where I had to get a little ticket that allowed me to transfer my fare onto the #5 tram and carry on to Ishibashi, where a number of sights were promised. It was getting late, so I wouldn't have much time, so I headed straight to the Glover Garden area, past the beautiful Ōura Church.
A strange blend of tourist spot and nature park, the gardens were high on a hill, accessible from a steep-sloped road lined with inevitable tourist shops. I pushed on through the crowds coming the other way - it had reached the point where more were coming out than going in - and got my ticket.

The Glover family were originally from Scotland, but settled in Nagasaki in the late 19th century and made their name (and a sack of cash) with coal mining and shipbuilding. The gardens now stand as cultural treasures in the city, allowing people to peek into their lives and history for a small fee.
Fortunately the garden keepers had decided to install modern escalators which helped make the final sections of the hill more manageable. Koi lakes and well-kept flowerbeds full of recognisable plant-life abounded on the way to the summit, where the first of a number of European style houses were built. A large, square pool outside was full of massive, well fed fish, and the view out into the bay area was beautiful and serene, even with a bunch of clipboard-wielding kids larking around.
I padded around the two-storey dock house for a little while, creaking the smooth varnished floorboards with my stocking feet. The house had been kept much as it was a hundred years ago, with period imported furniture and plaques and guides showing the Glover dynasty and the employees that helped make the firm.
It was pleasant peeking through the curtains to the outside and seeing a view much as was in the past, or standing on the veranda with the sun beginning to set and casting pleasant shadows on the grounds, now slowly being covered in darkened hues.
I took a quick look in the old Ringer and Alt houses, and then started to head through the gardens towards the exit, as it was clearly shutting down for the evening. One final building at the end halted my progress until I went through it.
No great surprise that it involved a souvenir shop, but before that I walked down into a basement room, a large hall with subtle lighting and a wooden floor, on which were a couple of benches. The area was deserted aside from one similarly late tourist sat in the middle, watching a projection of the recent Nagasaki Kunchi festival ceremony on the screen on one wall. In it, huge crowds turned out to cheer on the procession; people dressed in colourful and traditional clothes twirling streamers and playing instruments. Groups of men carried large ornamental wooden floats through the streets Occasionally stopping, with careful timing, they threw them into the air with all their might and after an intake of collective breath by the audience, caught them again. To the left and right, down the sides of the hall were a selection of the floats from down the years. Robustly designed and delicately decorated, they are clearly the pride of the city.
Just beyond, the giant puppets used in the festivals' 'dragon dance' were displayed; large beasts of an elongated, snake-like form as the Japanese prefer to envisage a dragon, they were held up by poles and placed in menacing, writhing poses. Most beautiful of all were the smaller floats; large ornaments resting on cushions, the most exquisite detail and colour - fishes jumping from the water, delicate bonsai trees. Beautiful things. If only I had seen them in their element where from what I can see, they looked truly spectacular. Next time for definite.

I perused the gift shop and bought a Nagasaki fridge magnet, and tried to work out why they were stocking little London taxis and telephone boxes (the Glovers were Scottish!), but finally after a little polite coughing by staff who were waiting to go home, I emerged into the evening dusk. As I descended the steep road back to the station, the shops were closing their doors and windows, and the holiday tourist part of the day had finished. Tomorrow, I was leaving Nagasaki to head north again, but there was still plenty of places I wanted to see. One more spot couldn't hurt, even if it was closing. It was 5.30 in the evening so there was a good chance I was going to be disappointed, but the Koshi-Byo Confucius Shrine, the only one of its sort made outside China by Chinese hands, may still be open. Shrines are not typically closed off to the public, except for the very large ones, and remain open throughout the day, at least as far as the surrounding grounds go. However I had to find it first, and the map was not much use. As the evening light faded to nothing and the night lights began to take over, my enthusiasm to look around the next corner waned, particularly as I seemed to be heading off the tourist trail. A shrine-like building on the hills above that was all boarded up was the closest I had found, and it didn't look very Chinese, or very accessible. I called it a day.

But maybe the elusive Mt. Inasa ropeway could still be reached, which would give me some beautiful views of the neon city below. Filled with a degree of enthusiasm I got onto the streetcars back to Takara-machi, and headed over the train tracks towards the hills. By now however, I was tired, and it was very dark. All in front of me was signless roads and bridges, and nothing in the gloom looked like it might scoop me up and plonk me at the top of the hill. Reasoning that I had some top of the hill photos from yesterday at the onsen, I lost interest once more and turned back.

Ah yes, the onsen. It was around this time yesterday that I had got my first taste of it, and I suddenly wanted more. I returned to the hostel, dropped off my things and picked up a towel, and caught the 7.20 bus with a degree of authority and confidence.

As the bus door opened, I was greeted by a familiar face; Adenata had returned from the north and had followed my suggestion of trying Fukuno-yu out. We chatted away as the bus ascended the hill, and I spent a few hours repeating the relaxing bliss of the night before, only this time with an air of confidence, I was a seasoned onsen-goer now. On the way out, before the last bus disappeared, I had a quick go with a tank of Garra Rufa fish, the same ones who nibbled my hands in the Kagoshima hotel some days previous and are now the latest craze in the UK, who were now ruthlessly stripping my feet of any dead skin they could find.

The bus dropped me off at the train station, which was still lit up at 10pm. I had looked with some curiosity before leaving at the tall AMU building that was part of the complex. Still with some energy to explore, I decided to had inside to see what I was missing. The building has 5 or so floors, the two upper ones reserved for commercial shops, cinemas and restaurants, all in super clean sparkling neon and metal. The cinema was still showing Arrietty, to my surprise as it was now several months since release, and the upper floor bulged with restaurants. Most were Japanese, although there was also a Steakhouse, an Italian and an Indian. To my regret I had eaten at the onsen once more, and even I'm not that greedy.

I reached the hostel around 10.30. Adenata had returned some time ago; we had a final chat over some green tea as she was emailing her friends, and then we headed off to bed in the small hours.

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