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SOLO JAPAN II 14.-28.3.2004.
introduction | departure day
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conclusion of my trip | photo gallery II
Wednesday, 24th of March 2004

Day Eleven:
Charming Nagasaki

Japan's historical harbour of trade

Okay, time for a small review on Nagasaki's history, which is much more than just being the second city to be struck by the atomic bomb.

Nagasaki was opened as a trading port for the Portuguese in 1571. It quickly became a busy one and while the town grew rapidly, many citizens were converted to Christianity.

Fearing the effects of Christianity and the Portuguese, the religion was banned in 1597 by the Japanese government and many Japanese Christians were killed during the persecutions that followed soon after. In 1639 the nation isolated from the rest of the world due to fears that Christianity and increasing trade would lead to western countries attempting to invade Japan militarily.

Japan's small window to the outside world

However in 1641 Nagasaki was granted to do trade with the Chinese and the Dutch, making Nagasaki the only contact point to the outside world for over 200 years.

Although the Dutch were allowed trade (their protestant Christianity was considered less harmful than the Catholic Portuguese), even their movement in Nagasaki was restricted, as they stayed in a Japanese built artificial island where that could be easily guarded. The Chinese were given more freedom by having their own settlement in Nagasaki.

When Commodore Perry arrived with his "black ships" to Japan and ended the isolation in 1853, Nagasaki was a natural choice to become one of the first three ports for foreign trade. When the ban on Christianity was lifted, it revealed that the religion in Nagasaki had miraculously survived more than 200 years of prohibition behind closed doors.

Back to the present

Okay, that was Nagasaki's early years in a nutshell. Time to hit the streets. The weather was clear and warm, so it didn't take long for me to stuff my leather jacket in my shoulder bag. A very welcomed change from the cold weather in Hakodate a week earlier!

I had myself a sandwich breakfast in a cafe before heading to my first sightseeing spot for today, the Glover garden. The garden has on top of a mountain slope, so I could see some nice views of the city during my climb upwards along many stairs and elevators.

Thomas Glover

The garden itself contained the former house of Thomas Glover (1838-1911), a Scottish merchant who played a major role in modernizing Japan during the Meiji restoration. He introduced many new technologies to Japan, helped the country establish their first western style slip dock near Nagasaki, took part of forming Japan's first modern coal mine in the island of Takashima as well as other things too many to list here.

He was the most famous foreigner in Japan during his time and in 1908 he was awarded the 2nd class order of the Rising Sun by the Meiji government, a very high honour for a foreigner.

Artificial gardens and islands

The garden also had buildings of other foreign residents of that time. The strange thing however was that they were originally located in other parts of Nagasaki, but they were all moved into the Glover Garden for the convenience of tourists. Personally I found this kind of tampering with the face of Nagasaki a bit stupid, but this is only my opinion.

After wandering around the garden and houses for maybe a hour, I moved on to a near by catholic church built by French missionaries in 1864. Then I walked to the spot where the artificial island, Dejima, was built for the Dutch during the era of isolation.

Sadly the island was long ago demolished, but the city was now building a replica of the island. There were a few buildings up already, but it was still mostly a construction site. There was also a miniature island what it looked like and a show room that played a history film of Dejima non-stop.

Nagasaki's darkest moment

Okay class, listen up. It's time to go through that grim moment of history of Nagasaki and the world in general. On the 9th of August 1945, the second atomic bomb - nicknamed "Fat man" - was dropped on Nagasaki by the United States in order to speed up the end of Second World War and force Japan into an unconditional surrender.

Everything within a 2,5 kilometer radius from the hypocenter was destroyed and many other parts of the city were left in ruins. By the end of December of a population of 240.000, about 74.000 had died and 75.000 were left with injuries from the deadly blast.

Nagasaki wasn't originally the primary target for the second bomb. The primary target was Kokura, but due to bad visibility over that city, the plane carrying the bomb headed for Nagasaki instead - their secondary target - and dropped the bomb there. The target of the city was Mitsubishi's major ship yard, but the bomb missed the target slightly, ironically exploding above a heavily concentrated Christian area.

Atomic Bomb museum

I used a tram on my way to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb museum. The museum had detailed information of the development and motives of the bomb, events of the pacific war, the blast itself and the aftermath to this day. Naturally it had plenty of damaged relics on display and photos of the damage done by the bomb's heat, blast and radiation.

One photo that particularly remained in my memory were the "shadows" of a ladder and a human figure burned into a wall by the immense heat rays of the bomb. There was also a video room where survivors told their experiences of the blast.

Furthermore, there was a separate exhibition room of the current state of nuclear weapons around the world which wasn't any spirit lifter either. As from 1970 as a mission for world peace, the major of Nagasaki has always written a protest letter to any government who had made an atomic test. I wonder would the major have had time to do anything else if he had started this trend already during the 50's and especially 1962, when a record number of 178 nuclear tests were made.

The peace park

Near the museum was a monument marking the spot of the hypocenter about 500 meters above it. Further north was the Peace park, where the dominate figure was the Peace statue that was revealed ten years after the bomb.

Although the statue has an odd looking pose, the hands and legs all do symbolize something. The raised arm points towards the threat of nuclear weapons while the outstretched symbolizes peace. The folded leg stands for peaceful thinking, while the other is for helping people.

Close to the Peace Park was the Urakami Cathedral. Completed in 1925 after 30 years of labour work, it was the largest church in Asia before it was destroyed by the atomic bomb. It was rebuilt in 1959, but in front of it there are three stone human statues left to carry the scars of the blast.

Mt. Inasa

Even though I went through all the locations mentioned above with no haste, the time was still just around 16:00pm. I decided to head for Mt. Inasa, which is pretty much the equivalent of Hakodate's Mt. Hakodate. In other words a mountain 333 meters high, offering yet another "million dollar view" during night time.

This time however I was going to settle for an evening view of the city while the sun was still up. The whole visit was quite amusing as I was the only person going up the ropeway and yet the girl in her tourist guide suit routinely talked about Nagasaki (I presume) during the ride.

The top was almost deserted while I took my time looking at the scenery before returning to the bottom as the girl yet again made her routine speech about Nagasaki (I guess). Maybe I should have waited a bit longer for that night view after all.

For the rest of the day I ended up walking around the streets of Nagasaki checking out minor spots mentioned in the tourist map.

Next day's plan

Once I returned to the ryokan, I began planning where I should go tomorrow. Considering Kyoto as my next stop to sleep at, I made a phone call to the same guesthouse I stayed in during my first trip while in Kyoto (Tour Club). Not much of a surprise it was already full for tomorrow, so I changed my mind and settled to stay in Hiroshima the following night instead, which I would have visited anyway.

Impressed by the quick service and quality ryokan Nagasaki's tourist center reserved for me, I decided to let Hiroshima's tourist center pick an accommodation too once I get there.

When that was sorted, I had another microwave meal and watched some bizarre tv-programs before hitting bed. There were clearly more people staying in the ryokan than yesterday judging from the noise from other rooms, but I still had the room all for myself this night too.

Verdict on Nagasaki

So what do I think of Nagasaki? Historically, it's a gem in Japan. Nagasaki's roots really come from the arrival of many cultures blending with Japan, which has given the city its own exotic touch.

And although Nagasaki will never forget the devastation of the atomic bomb, the city has risen from the ashes and feels more like a city of peace than a reminder of war.

The island of Kyushu does have many other star attractions, but I think I did a smart pick by choosing Nagasaki from all the other available locations. This is truly a city with its own flavour.

back to top | proceed to day twelve!


Photo copyright Ude
A small snapshot of Nagasaki.

Photo copyright Ude
A mansion at the Glover Garden.

Photo copyright Ude
Small statue of Thomas Glover in his later years. When he came to Nagasaki in 1859, he was 21 years old.

Photo copyright Ude
The Oura Catholic Church close by the Glover Garden.

Photo copyright Ude
Nagasaki Atomic Bomb museum.

Photo copyright Ude
The Peace statue pointing towards the threat of the atomic bomb, while the other symbolizes peace.

Photo copyright Ude
The rebuilt Urakami Cathedral near the Peace park, once the largest church in Asia.

Photo copyright Ude
A broken torii arch left as a reminder of the bomb.

Photo copyright Ude
Riding the ropeway up the Mt. Inasa located next to Nagasaki, while the staff girl makes her routine speech to an audience of one that doesn't even understand Japanese. ^_^;

Photo copyright Ude
Hazy ocean view from Mt. Inasa.

Nagasaki - Here you can find the website of Nagasaki in English.
Restoration of Dejima - Excellent website of Dejima, the artificial island in Nagasaki built in 1636.
Thomas Blake Glover - A small biography of Thomas Glover, who did major help in modernizing Japan.
Nagasaki City Peace and Bomb - Some information about the Nagasaki atomic bombing.
Copyright 2003-2019 © , second edition. Latest minor update 4th of May 2010 (fixed and deleted broken links)
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