9 Days of Rustic Kyushu, Day 3 (Part 1): Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum + Peace Park

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Apologies for the hiatus. There were so many things that have happened in the past months and I just didn't have the time or want to blog. With 2017, I'm just trying to get back on track, so here's the rest of my Kyushu trip.

Nagasaki (長崎市)

Nagasaki's location as a important port of call secured its position as a centre of Chinese, Portuguese and Dutch influence from the 16th to the 19th centuries. When in Nagasaki, the Portuguese and Dutch influences are abound and something which you should not miss as a traveller.

Nagasaki is also notoriously known as the second (and let's all pray that it will be the last) city to have experienced a nuclear attack in 1945.

Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum (長崎原爆資料館)
The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum was completed in April 1996 and is dedicated to serve as a remembrance of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. A visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum is almost a "must-do" for all travellers visiting Nagasaki.
Day 3: Atomic Bomb Museum + Peace Park --> Hashima Island --> Glover Garden --> Mt Inasa Night View --> Hotel
Upon entering the museum, you can almost feel a palpable sense of solemnity and quiet permeating through the place. The stark white and grey interiors of the entrance add to the atmosphere, almost as if they are aware of the sobering and tragic exhibits that lie beyond.

This "String of a Thousand Cranes" art piece hangs along the walls while you walk down the inclined slope towards the exhibits. The Japanese believe that if a wish can be granted if you fold a thousand paper cranes. These strings of paper cranes have since become symbolic of hope and peace.

Exhibits within the museum depicted the devastating horrors of the explosion and advocated against nuclear war. Our tour guide shared that even though he had brought many to this place so many times, to date, he still could not look at the exhibits without feeling emotional. And mind you, our guide was not a local Japanese.
Initially I was still worried that my parents would not be appreciative of the museum tour. They're not history buffs nor are they the museum sort; my mom once breezed through a local museum in 15 minutes and then waited a full 2 hours for me. My fears were thankfully unfounded.
The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum did well in presenting a tragic historical event that was made easily understandable. My parents spent quite some time looking through the many photos and items, such as the replica of the Fat Man bomb, pictorial scenes of destruction, the impact of exposure to radiation, etc. My mom, who's illiterate, even asked for translations of some of the signages that came with exhibits. Like I said, other times when I brought her to similar places, she would have just breezed through them. Do note that most of the exhibits were well accompanied by explanations in English for the international visitors, so language wouldn't be an issue here.
This particular stop on the itinerary was an emotionally educational one. Having said that, it's not as if we ended the museum visit feeling depressed. Rather, it was more of a sobering effect about the dangers of nuclear war. Perhaps, even of war in general. I remember having a discussion later that day with my parents about our current state of world affairs. And at the end of the tour, my parents even asked if I could bring them to the Hiroshima museum one day.
I didn't take much photos while touring the museum either. It just seemed disrespectful. However, I sought to capture these many strings of colourful folded paper cranes. These appeared at the end of the museum tour and like a breath of fresh air, brought to bear the significance of the hope for peace.


Enroute to the Peace Park, we also passed by the Hypocenter. This is the point directly beneath where the bomb exploded 500 feet above on that fateful, day (9 August 1945, 11:02 am), i.e. Ground Zero. The site is now marked by a black cenotaph that is ringed by concentric circles, symbolic of the ripples of devastation. The empty tomb at the base stands in honour for those who evaporated and were never found in the aftermath.

Next to the Hypocenter, the scorched ruins of a church wall stands. This is what remains of what was once the largest Catholic church in Japan, the Urakami Cathedral. Likewise, the foundational stones that innocently line the path towards the Peace Park are testaments of what was once a prison. Nothing much else within the very simple and innocent compounds, and hence, all the more effective as reminders of the devastation endured.

Given the historical significance, I was pretty sure we would encounter students before we started the tour. In fact, our tour guide shared that encountering students and learning groups at this venue was common. Sometimes, the place would be crowded with students and most groups would often bring along strings of coloured paper cranes as offerings. I sincerely hope that the lesson of peace would be felt by as many of these student as possible.

The Peace Park is adjacent to the Atomic Bomb Museum and a pleasant, short walk to get there. I remembered reading that it was feared that the place would be devoid of vegetation for 75 years from all the radiation. So these lovely flowers made it a memorable shot for me.
The hallmark of the Peace Park is the bluish 10-meter-tall Peace Statue created by sculptor Seibo Kitamura.  This is a very well-known symbolic piece of artwork; the right hand of the statue points to the sky, signifying the threat of nuclear weapons and war. The extended left hand symbolizes the wish for eternal peace. The mild expression on the statue's face is representative of divine grace, while the closed eyes offer a prayer for the souls of the victims of the bombing. The folded leg is also symbolic of the wish for peace while the other leg appears in a pose indicative of the need to be ready to stand up against nuclear threat.
Unfortunately, I wondered how many of the swarm of Chinese tourists (who were all loudly clamouring to take photos and selfies with the statue) understood and appreciated the significance of the Peace Statue.
By the way, apart from the students, please also be prepared for the swarm of Chinese tourists that are likely to descend on the place as well. Given Nagasaki's location on the sea routes as well as it's historic Chinese influences, it is common for cruise tours from China to make a stop-over at Nagasaki.
The city of Nagasaki had also invited donations of peace monuments from countries around the world.

I can't recall which country the above sculpture was from but the one below, of a mother holding her child high, was a symbol of love and peace from Italy.

This huge stone with the Mandarin characters for Peace is from China.

Halfway through, I thought I had lost my parents. It wasn't a very big park but there were tons of Chinese tourists abound. It was only after a bit of looking around that I found that they were distracted by a lady selling ice-cream! It wasn't any ordinary ice-cream either. Check out my picture below!

In a place full of beautiful sculptures, this amazing ice-cream lady painstakingly sculpted her ice-cream cones to look like roses! I should have take a video of her at work, but unfortunately, my parents had by then shoved one of her cones into my hands. She's a regular feature at the Peace Park and even shared that she had once been on a Japanese TV show because of her amazing skill! In fact, she was being filmed while we were there! So do look out for her if you're visiting the Peace Park!
Tourist Information
Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
Local Name: 長崎原爆資料館
Address:  7-8 Hirano-machi
Local address: 平野町7-8
DID: +81 95-844-1231
Opening hours: Mondays to Sundays, 8:30 am to 5 pm. Admission closes 30 mins before closing.
Admission fees: 200 yen
Peace Park
Local Name: 平和公園
Address: 2400 Matsuyama-machi, Nagasaki 852-8118
Local address: 〒852-8118松山町2400-
DID: +81 95-829-1171

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