Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thoughts on Nagasaki on August 9, 2012

It has now been 67 years since the United States government dropped its second atomic bomb in warfare. The target: the port city of Nagasaki in the prefecture of Nagasaki, Japan. On August 6, 1945 the world was changed forever when Hiroshima burst into flames and mostly ceased to exist. Three days later when the US dropped its follow-up, the world knew that the first one was not a fluke and that we were deadly serious.

Just like in Hiroshima, shadows were etched onto the sides of buildings. Skin was burnt off of bodies. Glass bottles melted into deformed shapes. Entire buildings of brick, mortar, and concrete collapsed. Hiroshima was fenced in by its mountain ranges; Nagasaki has some mountains but is more of an open port city. So geologically they were different "test surfaces." I am not going to try to compare the death and destruction, however.  I'll leave that to more ghoulish sorts than I.

I went to Hiroshima for the first time in 1983. I did not get to Nagasaki until about seven years later. By that point I felt a huge affection for Hiroshima, and I was also a bit jaded. I knew the destruction already. So I wasn't all that keen on going to the Nagasaki Peace Park. In fact, the first time I went I visited my buddy David and I don't think we *did* go to the Park.

However, I eventually did go. There is no Atomic Dome to be the symbol of the city like there is in Hiroshima, so they use the Peace statue. Also, they have the Urakami Cathedral (shown above). Nagasaki had been the only city open to foreigners when Japan was going through its "closed" period (for, oh, 500 or so years) so this is the only city in Japan that had any foreign presence at all. The Urakami Cathedral was one of the oldest built in Japan.

When I went to the Nagasaki Peace Park and Museum, even though I did not want to be affected by the tragedy, I was. Like visitors to The Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls who simply cannot grasp the sheer scope of these natural wonders, the sheer scope of this tragedy cannot be put into words. The Museum was a brand-new building when I visited it but the modernity of it made the horrors that much worse. Imagine going to a fully refurbished Art Museum and seeing pictures by Picasso. Cool, right? Now replace those paintings with photos like the one above and much, much worse.

Nagasaki is on the upper-Northern most point of the island of Kyushu, which is where I lived for 14 years. The city itself is a bus or train ride away from where I lived in Miyazaki. "Kyushu" is a region of Japan similar to how "New England" and "the Mid-West" are regions in the US. So because I consider myself a "Kyushu Boy" I have a strong affinity for Nagasaki. It's only made stronger because I already considered myself as a native of Hiroshima.

"No More Hiroshimas!" indeed....

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