(28.11.2016 – 04.12.2016)
This week’s recap has a kind of melancholic tense to it. For one thing because half of my time in Japan is now officially over and for another because as I am writing this I am browsing through the pictures of our last trip. Even though the trip was a lot of fun, with a group of eight crazy people on the bus and in the hostel, delicious food as well as culinary fails and yet another weekend where we could successfully beat the boredom of our dormitory rooms, the trip still had left its lingering mark in my thoughts.
Last Sunday, we hopped on an early morning bus that brought us to Nagasaki, the eponymous capital city of the most western prefecture of Kyushu. Of course we all know the name of Nagasaki for its history and the role it played in WWII. Of course we all know about the horrible things that happened there in the course of war. Of course we all know about the atomic bomb. Yet, things like these tend to be so far away from us if we not take a moment from time to time to think about them, to reflect on them, and most importantly, to inform ourselves about them. Therefore it was an important task for all of us to visit the Nagasaki Peace Park and the Atomic Bomb Museum, which we did directly after bringing our stuff to the hostel in which we shared a room for the night.
Peace Park and Atomic Bomb museum
The Peace Park itself is a small arrangement of flower fields and a small way lined with statues given as symbols of peace to the city. The path leads to a giant statue, almost 10 metres in height, simply named the Statue of Peace, which depicts a man rising up his right arm in remembrance of the dangers that the atomic bomb brought to the nation. Its horizontally stretched left arm symbolises the wish for peace in the world. It is said that the figure is praying for the souls of the people who did from the atomic bomb. Next to the statue there are little shelters in which thousands of origami cranes sit aligned on threads. They symbolise the wish for peace and everybody who visits can fold these cranes and give them to the museum as to support this wish.
Right next to the Peace Park there is the Atomic Bomb Museum. I did not take any pictures inside, mainly because it was not allowed but also because it felt not really right to do so. All I can say is that the exhibition is very well put together, providing detailed insight into what happened in Nagasaki at the time of the war, before and after the bomb. I can only recommend everybody who comes to Nagasaki to visit the museum, even though it will very likely leave you with an uncomfortable feeling.
Outside the museum towers the obelisk marking the hypocentre of the atomic bomb. Only 500 metres above it the bomb called „Fat Man“ exploded on August 9th 1945, killing 22,000 people immediately and another almost 50,000 within the months following the attack.
A view over the city
After paying our duties to history, which was very important to us but nevertheless kind of depressing for a trip with friends, we were more than happy to change locations and turned to the happier sides of the city. We tried the local speciality called Sara-udon in a restaurant in Chinatown and climbed up the Nagasaki tower to enjoy a beautiful sunset above the top of the city.
The next day we got up early to see the rest the city had to offer. As two out of our travel group of eight were from the Netherlands, we visited Dejima, a former Dutch enclave located on an artificial island in the harbour of Nagasaki during the Edo period. These days Dejima is no longer outside of the city but due to post-Edo period land tapping surrounded by modern houses. Nevertheless, one can still visit the houses built in traditional Dutch style and learn about the time when the Netherlands were – besides China – the only nation allowed to trade with Japan.
After visiting Dejima our way led us again to China Town for a quick lunch and later on to the Sofuku-ji, a Buddhist temple built by Chinese immigrants in the 17th century. Inside there is an impressive collection of white statues and a big Buddha to worship.
Our next activity was a stroll past many other shrines and small temples spread all over the city which we ended at the Spectacles Bridge. After we grabbed our stuff from the hostel we paid a quick visit to the Monument of the 26 Martyrs depicting Christian missionaries and converted Japanese who were killed in 1597 by the order of Hideyoshi Toyotomi who was shogun (warrior head of the nation) at that time.
After that we hopped on the (very comfortable, I have to admit) bus which brought us back to Oita, where we arrived late in the evening. Exhausted yet satisfied with having made the best out of our short time in Nagasaki, we are happily planning our next trip now!