Summer in Northern Kyushu Part 3: A Day in Nagasaki

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Known as the second city bombed with an atomic weapon during the World War II, Nagasaki is a city often overshadowed. Why does Hiroshima get more attention? That was the question I had in mind before I arrive in the city. People I know who have been to Japan almost always include Hiroshima in their itinerary but never Nagasaki. Because of that, I was very determined to visit the city. 

 It was the best decision ever.
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Welcome to Nagasaki Station!
I arrived in Nagasaki from Fukuoka on a gloomy Saturday morning. I went to the tourism office, bought a one-day tram pass (JPY 500) and got a city map. Like all Japanese cities, language barrier was a problem. But like all my encounters in Japan, people are very willing to help. I was able to ask for directions and survived using a few Nihongo phrases like “Doko desu ka?”,“Arigatou gozaimasu” and “Sumimasen”. I can pronounce a few Japanese words very well, and some of the people I talked to were surprised to know I am not Japanese. Haha.
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Nagasaki eki mae tram station located outside Nagasaki Station
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look at the vintage-looking trams of Nagasaki :)
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city buses are also great transportation option in Nagasaki
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going up to the Site of Martyrdom of the 26 saints of Japan
My first destination was the Site of the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints of Japan. During my visit, I learned that Nagasaki was the largest Christian (specifically Roman Catholic) city in Japan. Practicing catholics in the country was a minority but over 10 percent of Nagasaki population are catholics. During the Tokugawa Shogunate, the last feudal Japanese military government (lasted from 1603 to 1867), Roman Catholics would be persecuted harshly. 
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located on Nishizaka Hill, only 5 minutes walk to the right of Nagasaki station
Nagasaki was chosen as the first place in Japan where people would be executed for Christianity. It was said that it was chosen because there were many churches and Christians in Nagasaki at that time. The 26 believers, including Japanese, Italian and Spanish, were forced to walk from Kyoto to Nagasaki and was crucified at Nishizaka Hill. The distance between these two cities is immense! I could not imagine what they have gone through. T_T

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the stone torii gates leading to Suwa Shrine
After 30 minutes, I went back to Nagasaki eki mae tram station and took tram #3 to Suwa Shrine. I instantly fell in love with the city’s tram system! I did not have a hard time navigating the city because their system was very straightforward. The one-day pass I bought in the station also has a city map which shows all the tram stops in Nagasaki. All tourist attractions in the city can be easily accessed using the tram, so the pass was really worth it!
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located in the northern part of the city, on the slopes of Mount Tamazono-san
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I was trying to get a decent photo of you doggie. But you kept running. Sorry for this embarrassing photo of yours. Lol!
Suwa Shrine, the major Shinto shrine of Nagasaki
In 10 minutes, I arrived at Suwajinja mae tram stop. Approached up a long flight of more than 250 stairs, I was greeted by the lovely Suwa Shrine. It was easily one of the best Shinto shrines I have visited in Japan. If you ever find yourself in Nagasaki, do not miss to see it! :)
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bronze horse statue before the stairs leading up to the main shrine
At this point, I was already exhausted because summer in Japan is like summer in the Philippines. It was hot, humid, stifling and suffocating. Although not at the same level as in the PH, I still had to make a few stops just to drinks lots of Pokari sweat and to paypay (tagalog term meaning to fan or to wave as to produce wind). 
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one of the best Shinto Shrines I have visited in Japan
I was seated in the resting area outside the shrine when a Japanese lady approached me. She was with her son and they were obviously tourists like me. She asked if I could take a picture of them and I said yes. She thanked me afterwards and when I was about to go back to my seat, she asked if I want a picture too! I wanted to say out loud, "Thank heavens for this lady!" haha. She took two photos of me and those were the first photos I had on this trip with me as the subject. Lol. Solo travel can be a real struggle because no one can take a photo of you in every tourist destination you visit. Sure you can ask fellow travellers but a tripod would have been nice so you could achieve a better photo (framing, ISO setting etc.). But because I had limited funds and I was so kuripot, I did not avail any pre-booked baggage allowance with Cebu Pacific. T_T
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Nice view over Nagasaki
After 30 minutes, I decided to proceed to my third destination, Sofukuji Temple. To get to the temple, take the  tram lines number 1 and 3 to Shokakuji-shita tram station, the last stop. At the station, I was greeted with a Home along the Riles scene. If you are a 90s kid like me, who grew up watching Philippine comedy series, you know what I am talking about. Haha. I did not know there were houses like these in Japan. The sight was very similar to what we have in some cities in Metro Manila, the difference is that there were no illegal dumping of household rubbish in Japan. This photo I uploaded on Instagram shows the crystal clear fresh water of the river. Amazing no?


I walked along the main road to look for English signs going to the temple, but unfortunately, I could not find any. I checked google maps and pretty much relied everything to it. I stopped a couple of times to practice urban landscape photography, so I did not feel lost at all. So glad google maps took me to the right direction. :)
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on my way to Sofukuji Temple - practicing urban landscape photography again 
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Am I getting better at urban landscape photography? :)
I did not spend a lot of time in Sofukuji because it is a relatively small temple complex and it won’t take any more than 30-45 minutes to see them all. I went back to Shokakuji-shita tram station and took a tram going to Nigiwaibashi tram station on the tram lines number 4 and 5. My 4th destination was the Meganebashi (more common known to foreign travellers as spectacles bridge), the most beautiful of several stone bridges that cross the Nakajima River in Central Nagasaki. 
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Spectacles Bridge (Meganebashi)
During the period of national isolation under the Tokugawa Shogunate, only Nagasaki was allowed to maintain business relations with foreign merchants. The Nakajima River had a very significant role in connecting the Port of Nagasaki to the rest of the city.
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the Hypocenter of Atomic Bombing
At around 2:00 PM, I arrived at my 5th destination, the Hypocenter of the Atomic Bombing. To think that I stood in this spot where the  second atomic bomb was dropped still gives me chills down my spine. 
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On this day in History, Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 09, 1945. 
My 6th destination was the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, which I have to say was the highlight of this trip. If you have been following my blog, you would probably know that I am a history buff. The primary reason why I wanted to visit Nagasaki was to visit this museum. If you still remember your history lessons in grade school and high school, then you know that Japan was recognised as a colonial power after the WWI. The country was very advanced and powerful compared to its neighbours, which led to the rise of nationalist leaders. At that time, the Japanese army had a great influence over the government. The Japanese Imperial Family, specifically Emperor Hirohito, was not involved in the affairs of the state except in a purely ceremonial role. 
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the day the world changed forever...
Basically, Japan partially created the World War II. Their war-loving generals and politicians wanted to dominate Asia and the Pacific and to seek economic security. Because of this, war unexpectedly came to the Philippines. My country suffered GREAT loss of life and physical distraction. It was estimated that 1 million Filipinos died during the war. Knowing these facts, I actually have no idea how I would feel once I enter the museum.
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there were many recovered rosaries after the atomic bomb explosion
The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum showed what happened on August 9, 1945. Although I was a bit disappointed because they did not show why it happened. Below are some of the photos I took during my visit. I apologise in advance if you'll find it disturbing.
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The ruins of the Urakami Christian cathedral at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.
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A schoolgirl’s lunch box
This is a memento of Satoko Tsutsumi (14 years old at the time of the bombing), who was exposed to the atomic bomb explosion in Iwakawa-machi about 700 meters from the hypocenter. The rice in the lunch box was charred by the fires after the bombing. Satoko’s name and class number are written on the bottom of the smaller box. 
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Part of the victim’s skull remains on the inner surface of this helmet found near the hypocenter - sorry for this very graphic photo

I’ve watched a couple of videos inside the museum and I learned that Nagasaki was not the primary target for the second atomic bomb. It was actually Kokura, an ancient castle town in Kitakyushu known as the site of a large arsenal used by the Japanese government during the World War. The plane carrying the Fat Man atomic bomb (Bockscar) circled around Kokura a few times but the target was obscured by heavy ground haze and smoke. Thus, the city was saved from a deadly bombing. 
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the charred corpse of a young boy
In the area near the hypocenter, it is reported that the heat instantly carbonised human bodies and vaporised their internal fluids. In the distance of 1 or 2 kilometres from the hypocenter, the burns produced by the bombing were fatal. Several photos in the museum show proof that the skin came off revealing tissues and bones. 
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corpses of a mother and baby on the platform at Urakami Railroad Station
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some more photographs from the museum

Towards the exit of the museum, this photo caught my attention. I recognised it so fast because I have seen it in the internet and I also saw the movie 'Grave of the Fireflies' by Hayao Miyazaki. Joe O'Donnell, a U.S. Marine photographer took this photo, “A boy standing at a crematory” (taken in 1945, Nagasaki ground zero).



"I came in from Sasebo to Nagasaki and looked around from a hill. Men walking with white masks caught my attention. The men were working besides a big hole of about 60cm deep.  They were putting the corpses pilled up on a wagon into the hole with burning lime
. Then I saw a boy of around ten years old walking toward them. 

He has his little brother baby strapped on his back. In those days, it was quite common in Japan to see young boys carrying their little brother or sister on their back while playing at the field.
  But this boy wasn’t here to play. He had a very important duty to come to this crematory. 
You can see it on his face. And he was bare feet. 

The boy came to the edge of the crematory. His face is stiff and eyes bracing for an ordeal. The baby on his back looks deep asleep and head bent backward.  The boy stood there for five or ten minutes. Then the men with the white masks came towards him and started to untie his strap. At this moment, I realized that this baby brother he was carrying was dead. 
The men gently held the baby’s arms and legs and slowly put him into the hole where the hot stones are laid.  I could hear the steaming sound of the baby’s flesh burning. Then a gleaming red flare danced up in the air. The bright red color like the sunset was reflecting on the yet tender boy’s cheek as he stood there straight and still.  That moment, I realized that the boy was biting his lip and it was bleeding. He was biting hard as he gazed his little brother in flames. 
When the flames had calmed down, the boy turned on his heels and left the place silently."(excerpt from an interview by Seiko Ueda)



Oh God. That was hard to read without tearing up. T_T
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path leading to Nagasaki Peace Park 
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at this point, I was not sure if I was walking towards the right direction haha
My tour ended at the Nagasaki Peace Park, designated as a zone to pray for world peace and to commemorate the atomic bombing. I seated at one of the park benches and thought about my experience inside the museum. Do I feel the Japanese people deserved the atomic bomb because of what they did to my country and for all the inhumane atrocities they committed? I still don’t know to be honest. I wanted to answer yes, but when I think about the innocent citizens, I feel like “of course not” is the answer. Perhaps the atrocities were not the fault of these victims, but the fault of their military leaders. Perhaps these leaders deserve awful deaths. But one thing’s for sure, in war there are no winners.
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Nagasaki Peace Park
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Peace Memorial Statue
I boarded a limited express train going back to Fukuoka at 5:00 PM. The trip to Nagasaki is definitely one of my absolute favourites because I learned so much about the city. Unlike the rest of Japan that adopted foreign cultures only recently, Nagasaki has been the country’s most international city for generations. So imagine my wide eye satisfaction during my tour :) Nagasaki has this international feel while maintaining its unique Japanese charm. It has a painful history but definitely a bright future. Hard to explain but there is something very nostalgic about the city. Perhaps it was a like a modern city decades ago but then time stopped. This is why I felt compelled to photograph every part of Nagasaki during my one-day tour.
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outside JR Hakata City
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classic tonkatsu ramen of Ichiran Ramen for dinner :)

So, that’s how my trip to Nagasaki went! Thank you for visiting Project Gora. I hope this blog entry has in one way or another touched, entertained, or inspired you. If you have any questions, let’s chat in the comments section down below! (I respond to every single comment). ^_^

Check out my other Northern Kyushu posts right here:
Summer in Northern Kyushu Part 1: Hakata Gion Yamakasa
Summer in Northern Kyushu Part 2: Dazaifu Temmangu Shrine
Summer in Northern Kyushu Part 3: A Day in Nagasaki
Summer in Northern Kyushu Part 4: Beppu Onsen Town

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