A Morning at Peace
|Nagasaki – The One Legged Torii of the Sanno Shinto Shrine|
The gravestones are fascinating, each one providing just enough information to start my imagination. Name, age, country of origin, occupation. What was life like for these pioneers? Even now I get stares from people shocked by the blonde-haired and blue-eyed figure in front of them. In 2006 the foreign population in Japan is at 0.6%. In the 1800s I bet they had to round that number up to zero. Every tombstone here has a story, and its amazing to see that some graves have fresh flowers.
A little further past the cemetery is the One Legged Torii (a gate for a temple). The temple was destroyed by the atomic bomb, and all that’s remaining is one half of the gate. I’m only 600 m from the hypocentre, and yet there are trees, backyard gardens and kids playing. The radiation damage was estimated to last more than 75 years, but thankfully that’s not the case. The lop-sided torii stands tall, and I touch it, trying to realize that it was here when the atomic bomb was dropped. There’s not much else to see there, its a normal residential street with people going about their Sunday morning routine, and I move on to the museum.
The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum has one goal, to make sure its visitors never forget what happened on August 9th, 1945. There are three areas of exhibits, Nagasaki before the bombing, the immediate devastation of Nagasaki and its recovery, and the history of nuclear weapons and aspiration for world peace. Nagasaki before the bombing is a dark room with pictures of Nagasaki during the war. A ticking clock emphasizes the silence of the reflective visitors, until you are confronted with a broken clock stuck at 11:02, the time the bomb exploded. This image is shown throughout the museum, from pocket watches to grandfather clocks, all frozen at the same time. 11:02. Its simple, but has a strong impact, and I catch myself glancing at my own watch as it nears 11:00 a.m., holding my breath as it passes.
|Nagasaki – Peace Statue in Peace Park|
It only takes an hour to walk through the museum, but it feels like longer. The sunshine is bright when I exit the museum, and after the dismal interior its nice to be outside. If the museum represents the horror of the past, then the Peace Park represents the hope for the future. Full of sculptures donated by artists from around the world, its more like an outdoor gallery. The peace fountain, in the shape of doves wings, was built to appease the victims with the water they never received. The large, blue peace statue was sculpted by Nagasaki native Seibou Kitamura, and represents the divine love and mercy of Buddha. It is the main attraction in the Peace Park, but I found it imposing. More moving was the thousands of paper cranes placed on either side of the peace statue. A rainbow of colours in all different sizes, its a beautiful way to say that the victims of the bomb are not forgotten.
|Origami Cranes in the Peace Park|
For all the horror in Nagasaki’s recent past, it has grown into a lively city. The city has a courageous core that is uncovered in only a few hours, but after three days I leave wanting more. How, in 60 years, did Nagasaki transform itself from a nuclear wasteland to a modern city? In the days following my morning to the peace area, every corner I turn, temple I enter, and bridge I cross it hits me. I am in Nagasaki, site of the second atomic bomb dropping. Nagasaki has cured my cynicism and pessimism. No matter how bad life seems, it can always get better.