Having a place in Japanese history

Nagasaki Travel Blog

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Ruins in front off Urikama cathedral

I go all the way from Osaka to Nagasaki today - I figure doing this long stint of travelling today I will have put most of my long distance travelling away in one go and can focus on short trips for the rest of my time in Japan. It is a pretty long way to travel but I manage to get on one of the early trains heading south to Kushiro where I change from the fast train in Hakata - the end of the shinkansen line to the local express heading the rest of the way to Nagasaki.

 

Nagasaki got a place in Japanese history - and the world history as well - due to the fact it was the city suffering the second nuclear attack in the world.

Collection box - Japanese style
But even without this the city would have had an important part of Japanese history and a place in world history as well. The harbor in Nagasaki was the only harbor open to international trade before Perry forced the Japanese government to open more ports for international trade in 1859. Hence for a couple of centuries the harbor in Nagasaki was the sole link between Japan, Europe and the rest of Asian. Though the presence of the Europeans was highly restricted.

 

Japan had issued a ban on Christianity in the country and hence they did not want any contact with Spanish and Portuguese merchant because these were seen as too closely associated with the Catholic clergy and too dangerous in expanding Christianity in Japan. Instead they would like to get some merchant more interested in trade and not interested in religion - the Japanese wanted some merchant with a background in the less conversion orientated Lutheran countries of northern Europe.

Ruins in front of the cathedral
Hence they would like some British or Dutch merchant to take care of the international trade. The Dutch merchant being by far the most screwed merchant of the time manage to convince the Japanese authorities that Britain were in fact a catholic country making them unwanted in Japan - hence the Dutch ended up having a monopoly on the trade with Japan for a couple of centuries.

 

The Dutch did not have totally free access to all of Nagasaki - they were highly restricted. They were only granted a little plot of land on an artificial island in the harbor of Nagasaki - in total it was only 15.000 square meters or about 3 acres of land. Hence it was a quite crowded area with lots of people living there - houses and warehouses for the trade plus livestock giving some needed supplies to the people living on the island. Today the island is no longer in the harbor because a lot of land have been reclaimed in the area of the harbor - hence the old area is now in the middle of Nagasaki - there are a big collection of old houses which you can visit if you like - I am not entirely sure if the houses are original or if they have been rebuilt.

Statue in the peace park
Large part of this part of town burned down in the fires resulting from the atomic blast. I did not actually go into the outdoor museum myself I just wonder past the area in the evening after it had closed.

 

Today most people seem to have forgotten of this part of Nagasaki history instead they know the later part about being the second city to be hit by an atomic explosion. The faith of Nagasaki is one of these times when events just took an unexpected turn. Nagasaki was not the target for the blast - instead a city a bit to the north had been chosen - the city of Kukora - hence this was the day Kukora was destined to take its place in the history of the world. But this did not happen - when the bomber carrying the deadly cargo got to Kukora it circled the city a couple of times but the visibility was very bad and they could not identify the target for the bomb. Instead they headed towards the secondary target for the day - the city of Nagasaki.

 

It was a cloudy day in Nagasaki and the bomber crew could not see the city because of the clouds - hence they did a couple of circles and were starting to run low on fuel - hence they were considering to turn back.

Statue in the peace park
  But then suddenly there were a bit of hole in the clouds and the crew could spot the target. They went into attack mode and dropped the bomb - the bomb with the code name Fatman were drop but it missed its intended target by a few miles instead of hitting down at the harbor area it hit in the northern part of town very close to the biggest Catholic Church in all of Asia - the Urikima cathedral.

 

I actually stay right next to the rebuilt cathedral hence I make this my first stop on my little sightseeing tour of Nagasaki. After the cathedral I head on to one of the main attractions in the town - the peace park where many sculptures have been placed hoping for a world without nuclear weapons. For some reason most of the sculptures seems to be donated by countries from the former communist block in Europe and there are not many from the western nations.

 

Next to the peace park is a small monument - just a single pillar - indicating the exact location of the blast on 11.

The remaining foundation of the old jailhouse in the Peace Park today
02 August 9th 1945. The blast took place about five hundred meters above the ground. The actual explosion is the biggest ever used in war in the history of mankind - it was bigger than the explosion hitting Hiroshima because this bomb was a plutonium based bomb and not a uranium based bomb like the one used in Hiroshima. The blast was equivalent to about 21.000 tons of ordinary explosives. The explosion destroyed almost every building with 2 kilometers of the blast site and many buildings further away were damaged or burned in the fires following the explosion.

 

Nobody really knows how many people were killed in the blast and in the immediate aftermath as a result of the radiation. But it is estimated about 90.000 people were killed. Among the victims were some allied POW and a large number of Koreans working as forced labor in Japan. Next to the hypocenter is a museum which describes the effect of the bombing in Nagasaki - it is dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons in the world and try to work towards world peace.

The exhibits inside tell about the developments leading up to the war in the Pacific and then continue on to tell about the development of the atomic bomb. The most moving part and also the least pleasant part of the museum is the parts which shows how the people of Nagasaki suffered when the bomb went off - with displays of the burns which hit the people because of the heat of the blast and the scares they developed. Plus the many individual stories about how different people got killed and injured.

 

The museum also contains a big exhibition of the post war development of nuclear weapons and how Japan has moved to the forefront of the antinuclear movement with Nagasaki and Hiroshima as the two main cities working for nuclear disarmament in the world.

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Ruins in front off Urikama cathedr…
Ruins in front off Urikama cathed…
Urikama cathedral
Urikama cathedral
Collection box - Japanese style
Collection box - Japanese style
Ruins in front of the cathedral
Ruins in front of the cathedral
Statue in the peace park
Statue in the peace park
Statue in the peace park
Statue in the peace park
The remaining foundation of the ol…
The remaining foundation of the o…
Looking through the fountain
Looking through the fountain
Marking the location of the blast
Marking the location of the blast
Old building at the Dutch hill
Old building at the Dutch hill
Old building at the Dutch hill
Old building at the Dutch hill
Old building at the Dutch hill
Old building at the Dutch hill
The cathedral after dark
The cathedral after dark
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photo by: bensonryan