Monday, August 4, 2014

Nagasaki/Saint Paul

Nagasaki aesthetics, Como Park, St. Paul, MN.
Minneapolis and St. Paul are twins; Nagasaki and St. Paul are sisters.

In March 2014, I got to meet St. Paul's sister.

I decided not to stay at the Hotel Saint Paul Nagasaki, its name designed to attract my compatriots. I had not come all this way to overhear their comments in the breakfast room.

It was the Nagasaki of 1800 that drew me here, but I first needed to pay my respects to the victims of the atomic bomb.


Origami peace cranes, Nagasaki Peace Park.
I visited the Peace Park, and the Atomic Bomb Museum.

Next, I slowly made my way through the Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. There were no other visitors, so all I could hear was flowing water...
...water that was not available to the dying, "thirsty beyond endurance."
This subterranean concrete cathedral, opened in 2003, spoke more clearly than the bustling museum.

A Bigger Picture

War tourism can be about emotion, not learning; a focus on one event, missing a bigger picture.

We forget Japan fought with the allies in 1914--1918. The end of World War I was a time of squandered opportunities, perpetuating colonialism, and leaving seeds for militarism to grow in Japan and Germany.

This inexorably led to the extensive and destructive fire-bombings of many Japanese cities, and the atomic bombings.

Defining Nagasaki

I don't want Nagasaki to be defined through the prism of one bomb.

For 200 years until the early 19th Century, Dejima, an artificial island just off Nagasaki, was Japan's sole point of contact with the outside world.

Dejima, Nagasaki: Japanese cherry, Dutch tulips.
I spent an afternoon exploring the reconstructed Dutch trading community on Dejima. I had previously read David Mitchell's page-turner, The 1,000 Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, which is largely set on this tiny artificial island.

Recreated Dutch kitchen, Dejima. 
Nagasaki is historically a place of change, learning, and connection across cultures. It's too bad we resist these values.

  • Attributions. The design of the gardens pictured at the front of this post was a gift from the City of Nagasaki. The "thirsty beyond endurance" quote is from a poem by a 9-year-old girl, Sachiko Yamaguchi, describing her experience. 
  • Previous Related Posts. The origami peace cranes in the picture are a strong symbol in Japan. I have previously written about cranes. In a previous post I described my visit to Kokura, the primary target for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.
  • Google Street View: you can explore both the interior of the Peace Memorial Hall and the alleys of Dejima. You will see Dejima is no longer an island: it is now contiguous with the city of Nagasaki because the surrounding land has been reclaimed.
  • I returned to the Nagasaki area in April 2015.