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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Journey to Nagasaki #1

I would have to say that a trip to Nagasaki was a good use of my week-off and I think some of the pictures are worth seeing.

Nagasaki is located at the end of a mountainous, twisted peninsula which sort of resembles a Rorschach inkblot. The city itself is clustered along a narrow inlet with mountain ridges on either side. In the picture above, the water on the left leads up the inlet. Overall, the place has a rather isolated and sleepy feel to it. It's an all right place to visit, but I don't think I'd wish to live there. The nearest bullet-train line ends in Fukuoka, which is an attractive city with a much more exciting vibe to it; it is located about two hours away by inter-city train.

There are a number of aspects of Nagasaki's heritage which make it a place of historical significance: the atomic bombing, the former Dutch trading post of Dejima and the city's centrality to the spread of Christianity in Japan.

On the first day we visited the Peace Park, part of which memorializes the atomic hypocenter. It is clearly marked with a black pillar, pointing-up at the spot in the sky where Fat Man went-off at 11:02 AM on August 9th, 1945...

The monument marking the hypocenter stands in contrast with the one in Hiroshima. Although Hiroshima Peace Park is a sprawling place with a well-appointed museum, the marker of that explosion's hypocenter is located down an alley, around the corner from the memorial park. It's easy to miss if you don't know where to look for it.

The explosive force of the plutonium bomb released over Nagasaki was 21 kilotons, compared to the 13 kilotons of Hiroshima's enriched-uranium bomb. The death toll in Nagasaki was 40,000 killed by the blast, with perhaps another 30,000 dying from various attendant effects within a year. In contrast, the death toll in Hiroshima was an estimated 140,000, mainly because Hiroshima was located on a flat river delta while Nagasaki's mountains mitigated the blast somewhat.

Nagasaki was actually the secondary target. Kokura, an industrial city on Kyushu's north coast, was the primary target. Luckily for them, there was too much cloud cover on that day so the crew of the B-29 "Bock's Car" gave it a pass and moved-on to Nagasaki instead.

About half a kilometer from Ground Zero is Urakami cathedral. It wasn't a particularly old building (it dates from the early 20th century) but it was at one time the largest Christian house of worship in Asia.

The building was shattered by the force of the explosion. Today, the cathedral has been rebuilt and stands on the same ground, while part of the wreckage is a central fixture of Nagasaki's atomic bomb museum. (One fragment of Urakami, a blackened stone statue of St. Agnes, is currently on display at the United Nations Building in New York City.)

The cathedral itself is connected to a different kind of a tragic history dating from before the atomic bomb, but the full story ties-in to the next installment.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Let's English! #7

I think this place sells handbags. Like, moist velvet purses or something.

Hey, don't blame me for this. I don't makes 'em up, I just sees 'em.