A message of peace

JAPAN'S REMINDER

A message of peace
When I first decided to visit Nagasaki, it was because I wanted to see the second city in Japan on which an atomic bomb was used. When most people think of atomic bomb, they think of Hiroshima and the classic picture of the A-bomb dome, not Nagasaki. Barely anyone I knew had gone to Nagasaki’s atomic bomb museum, whereas almost everyone had been to Hiroshima’s. Nagasaki was essentially a city victim to a forgotten atomic bomb despite the fact that the bomb — nicknamed Fat Man—   was more powerful than the one used in Hiroshima.

Declassified US cables reveal that Nagasaki, being a producer of military assets with its dockyard, pattern shops and shipyards, was only a possible target for the atomic bomb, although a victim of several air raids. Certainly not one of the initial cities to be considered for the atomic bomb, and even on that fateful day of August 9, 1945, it was only a substitute for the city of Kokura, the next target after Hiroshima. Fortuitously for Kokura, smoke prevented adequate visibility and Nagasaki became the victim when the US bomber Bockscar dropped Fat Man on the city.

Depth of understanding

Nagasaki turned out to be an attractive port city with landmarks including a spectacular combination of ocean and mountain views, cheerful tram cars, and tales from friendly and helpful residents.

By getting off a street car at the Matsuyama-Machi tram stop and a short walk later, I was at the Nagasaki Peace Park, which recalls the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. A monolith with a micro-filmed list of the names of the A-bomb victims has been built to mark the hypocentre of the atomic explosion. It was here, at

11.02 am on August 9, 1945 that an atomic bomb exploded. Huge numbers of people were killed immediately, while others died later from illness or injuries; the bombing destroyed all plant life around the hypocentre, and despite a rumour that no plants would grow there for the next 75 years, it was found that within just one month after the bombing, about 30 kinds of plants started to grow.

Currently, this area is a green-filled oasis throughout the year, full of greenery that includes over 500 cherry blossom (sakura) trees.

Future is this

Dominating the Peace Park is the Peace Statue, with its raised right hand pointing to the sky, depicting the threat of the atomic bomb, and the left hand stretching horizontally, symbolising eternal world peace, while the slightly closed eyes express a prayer asking that the souls of the victims may find rest. A fountain of peace has been built in the park, brimming with water, as an offering to all those who lost their lives before they could drink a single drop of water! The design is a reminiscent of dove wings symbolising peace.

Above the park stands the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, where more artefacts related to the atomic bombings are exhibited. It was gut-wrenching to see a school girl’s lunch box with the rice in the box charred by the fires. The school girl, Satoko Tutsumi, all of 14 years old, had written her name and class number on the box, and this was clearly visible!

Another noteworthy museum is the Takashi Nagai Memorial Museum. Dr Takashi Nagai, now known as the Saint of Nagasaki, was a physician whose work as a radiologist had resulted in his being diagnosed with chronic leukemia, and he was given roughly three years to live. Nagai was sustained by his wife Midori’s unflagging faith in the face of such devastating personal news. Then came the atom bomb, and everything changed. On that fateful night, it was Dr Nagai’s turn for air-raid watch, and he slept the night in the hospital.

The following day, when the bomb exploded over their heads, everyone was ina  frenzy, trying to rescue patients in the hospital. It was only three days later that he could return to the site of his house. Amidst the ashes in the kitchen, he found the charred remains of his wife’s pelvis and spine, with a rosary and a cross nearby. He scooped the remains into a scorched bucket, and embracing the bucket to his heart went to the cemetery. How little one knows of destiny? Given only three years to live, it was actually the wife who was supposed to carry Dr Nagai’s ashes!

There were several other spots in Nagaski left to see. There was the Glover Garden, named after a successful Scottish merchant. The garden has several Western-style mansions still standing and conveying the romantic atmosphere of the 19th century. Part of my initial bucket list included an island, Gunkanjima, where coal was mined and which had been featured as the villain’s lair in the James Bond movie Sky Fall. But the tragedy faced by the city was too poignant and too moving for me to appreciate the splendour of the rest of Nagasaki. Deep in thought and with a heavy heart, I caught my Shinkansen back to Tokyo.

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