My two-week Japan Rail Pass having kicked in, it was time to start some serious travelling. First stop: Nagasaki!

I left Ibusuki during a monsoon. Thankfully the weather improved the further north I travelled in Kyushu (the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands).

The hilliest city I’ve visited in Japan. Also one that caused me minor confusion when I first asked for directions to the major tourist sites and was advised to take the 路面電車 (romen densha). Only recognising one of those words, I couldn’t quite figure out how I was supposed to take a densha (or “train”) across solid pavement, until I realised that Nagasaki actually has a tram system, and the Japanese word for streetcar is literally “road surface train”. I got there eventually!

I began my day at the 原爆公園 (Atomic Bomb Park), where this monument marks the hypocentre at ground zero. On the 9th of August, 1945, an atomic bomb exploded in the sky about 500 meters above the point where this monument now stands. By the end of December, some 74,000 people had died with a further 75,000 suffering from injuries. The area within a 2.5km radius of the hypocentre was utterly devastated, and the rest of the city was left in ruins.

A window is cut into the remnants of a wall by the riverbank, preserving the moment of impact. Inside, the earth, bricks and melted glass are fused into a scorched mass.

The Atomic Bomb Museum, serving as a powerful reminder of the true nature of nuclear weapons and of the pressing need for world peace.

Visual display of nuclear armament across the globe.

The city is, understandably, a common destination for school trips.

Nearby is the Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, with 12 pillars of light symbolising hope for peace.

“Children Trusting in The Future”

平和公園: the Peace Park.

At the park’s north end is the 10m-tall Peace Statue, created by sculptor Seibo Kitamura of Nagasaki Prefecture. The statue’s right hand points to the threat of nuclear weapons while the extended left hand symbolizes eternal peace. The mild face symbolizes divine grace and the gently closed eyes offer a prayer for the repose of the bomb victims’ souls. The fold ed right leg and extended left leg signify both meditation and the initiative to stand up and rescue the people of the world. The statue represents a mixture of western and eastern art, religion, and ideology.

Installed in front of the statue is a black marble vault containing the names of the atomic bomb victims and survivors who died in subsequent years.

My visit to the park was sobering, but also uplifting in a way: to see how the city has recovered and flourished in spite of its painful history.

A photo I sent to my breast best friend Lindsay, captioned “I didn’t know they’d erected a statue in your honour!”

A perfect instance of “the journey not the destination” – I caught this en route to one of the city’s major landmarks and it was my favourite picture of the day.

I’ve mentioned before that manhole covers are different in every in Japan. Nagasaki’s are, curiously enough, covered in pentagrams.

Stone bridges over the Nakashima River.

…the most famous of which is 眼鏡橋 (Megane-bashi: the “Spectacles Bridge”). This is, coincidentally, where I was proposed to by a lovely, if misguided, Japanese girl, who still insisted that we take pictures together. (All on her phone, alas.)

Spectacles are something of a theme.

Megane-bashi is so named because the reflection of its two arches in the river creates the image of a pair of spectacles.

Dinner at 魚民 (Uotami).

They also had the hilarious “Russian Roulette” menu with hidden wasabi or habanero, which – given my general tolerance for spice – I decided probably wasn’t for me.

  1. Markus McD says:

    Very sobering indeed! I’m sure the museum was stunning and they use it as a great tool for future generations. The epicentre alone is crazy to think about.

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