Tuesday, March 6, 2001

Today started out with breakfast in our room of a room-temperature fried egg, toast, fruit in yogurt, and a cup of ultra-strong coffee. Then, as promised, they moved us to a better room. It was at least twice as big, contained two actual chairs, and even had a private bath! Kazuko gave it to us at a reduced rate because our room the first night was not so great. We ended up paying 8000 yen per night plus 400 yen tax (about $78 U.S.), very reasonable for Japan. We had a lot of sights we wanted to see in Nagasaki today, so we bought an all-day streetcar pass at the front desk for 500 yen each.

We took a streetcar to the Urakami area, the hypocenter of the Fat-man atomic explosion that ended World War II, since a lot of the things we wanted to see were congregated around there. A bunch of teenage school girls got on board shortly after we did, and none of them wanted to sit by Tom! One girl did though after all the other seats were taken, while the other girls giggled about it, but she was too polite to move later on after more seats opened up. Better than Mexico, where all the teenage girls wanted to sit by my husband!

Hypocenter Monument
and a remnant of the Urakami Cathedral

It was really moving to visit Hypocenter Park. The park has a black stone column marking the exact point above which the bomb exploded. Nearby are bomb-blasted relics, including the "One-Legged Torii," which is a portion of a gate to a Shinto shrine. The blast knocked down one side of the entrance arch to the shrine, but the other leg still stands to this day.

Nagasaki Peace Statue

Just down the road from Hypocenter Park is Heiwa-koen (Peace Park), presided over by the Nagasaki Peace Statue. The Peace Statue is a big guy with his left arm extended reaching for peace and his right hand pointing to the sky as in "look out for the bomb." At the time of the explosion, the park was the site of Urakami Prison and every occupant of the prison - prisoners, guards, and their family members - were killed instantly. There are a lot of other more minor statues in the park that have been donated by other cities and countries. An annual antinuclear protest is held at the park each August 9, the anniversary of the explosion. Tom dropped 10 yen into a container at an adjoining shrine to pray for luck, and the shrine spit it back out! That was kind of freaky, so I threw in a couple of 5 yen coins to make up for it.

What's this?!?

We next walked over to Urakami Cathedral. The original Urakami Cathedral was completed in 1914 and flattened in 1945. Relics from the original cathedral are on display in the A-Bomb Museum.

No visit to Nagasaki would be complete without visiting the A-Bomb Museum. Opened in 1996, the museum memorializes the horrors of the explosion and its aftermath in excruciating detail. 70,000 people were burnt to death in an instant, and the city was turned into an inferno. The full effects of the radiation on the human population is not fully known even to this day. Scant reference in the museum is given to events leading up to the dropping of the bomb though. Hmmm... I wonder why?

After another streetcar ride, we successfully acquired lunch at the Royal Host Restraunt at the train station (they had a menu with pictures we could point at), and then visted the 26 Martyrs Memorial. The memorial is a wall with reliefs of 26 Christians crucified in 1597 in Japan's most brutal crackdown on Christianity. Six of those crucified were Spanish friars, the other 20 were Japanese, and the two youngest were aged 12 and 13.

Nagasaki Kannon Universal Temple

When we got to Nagasaki, our ryokan gave us several tourist maps with various notable sites marked on them, but the next place we visited was inexplicably absent from all the maps. Luckily, our Lonely Planet guidebook mentioned it, because it should not be missed. Fukusai-ji, also known as Nagasaki Kannon Universal Temple, is a building in the form of a huge turtle carrying a 60-foot tall figure of the goddess of mercy, Kannon, on its back. Originally built in 1628, the temple was completely burned down by fires resulting from the A-bomb. This replacement was built in 1979 and dedicated to the souls of all war dead and A-bomb victims. A bell tolls from the temple seven times at 11:02 a.m. each day, the exact time of the explosion, each time praying for 10,000 victims.

Hanging from inside the hollow Kannon and down through the temple is a Foucault pendulum, a device that demonstrates the rotation of the earth on its titled axis. At 25 meters, it is the longest one in Japan and the third longest in the world. Here it commemorates perpetual peace, perpetual as the movement of the earth. On the east side of the main room of the temple is the Altar of the Fallen Soldiers, a big trench helmet that serves as a tombstone under which are buried the remains of 16,500 creamated soldiers. On the west side of the main room of the temple is the Altar of the A-Bomb Victims, a globe cracked nearly in two in the direction from which the bomb blast came; under it lie the remains of an unknown number A-bomb victims. A room to the east of the main hall of the temple displays articles that were collected at battlegrounds. Some bear the names of their former owners. You are welcome to claim them, if you feel entitled to.

Spectacles bridge over the Nakajima-gawa

We caught a streetcar and moved on. It happened to be rush hour. Yikes! We thought we might be crushed to death by all the people, but luckily we were bigger than them, so they could not crush us! We got off at the stop near our ryokan and just walked around from there. We went over to the Nakajima-gawa (river), which was supposed to be crossed by a picturesque collection of bridges, and it was.

We strolled along the river and snacked on dead-cat fries. They didn't really contain any dead cats that we know of, but the picture on the front of the package was of an obviously dead cartoon cat. This is the way you advertise food? Anyway, they were good.

Jana and her dragon

Both of us had caught colds, so we went back to our ryokan to take long, super-hot baths and recouperate awhile before dinner. It was very relaxing. We finally managed to drag ourselves out about 9:00 and ate dinner at the Italian Tomato, another restaurant with pictures of food we could point at. It was pouring down rain, and we saw far fewer prostitutes.

Continue to Day 7

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