It was unusual for the bright sunshine to wake me. At 7:45, it pointed directly at my window. We were already tied up at the dock. Within a few minutes Capt. Glenn made the announcement that the ship was cleared & that the first group of Passengers could proceed ashore for Japanese inspection. Like we experienced in China, all guests (whether you planned to go ashore or not) were required to report at a designated time to officials in the terminal. In this case we were to pick up our ‘personalized envelope’ which contained a copy of our passport, copy of the Japanese visa & a provisional landing permit. As you snaked your way through this long line, you would be photographed, fingerprinted & your temp would also be scanned. They made you feel so welcome....
Some of us went through this procedure & marched right back on the ship; some proceeded out the front door & headed on their way doing whatever. My appt. time was between 9-9:30. I carried my baby netbook to the terminal for a little free wifi & exchanged some USD for yen for tipping ($25 USD bought me 1,825 JPY) at their friendly exchange desk. I got back onboard at 10:20; headed to the Bistro for my usual breakfast (& a Portuguese custard tart). I had a quick chat with Christie, Peggy & Elaine. Then back to my cabin.
Since I had some time to kill until my tour, I sat on the verandah enjoying the warm sunshine (low 60’s) & read a bit. Liz came in to tidy up; we chatted while she worked. At 12:15 I went back out & hopped on bus #8 for the afternoon tour entitled “Introduction to Nagasaki” (NGK-BW). We had the most adorable guide, Keiko, & Mario (Spanish teacher) escorted our group.
During our ride to the Atomic Bomb Museum, Keiko provided some historical & geographical facts & figures (in her very soft spoken, high pitched voice). The city of approximately 450,000 is located on the southernmost island of the Japanese Island chain (Kyushu Island). What started as a small fishing village, soon became an important international trade center & shipbuilding mecca. It is indeed a modern city; but in such an understated way compared to Hong Kong & Beijing. Buildings are spread out; there’s lots of green space. Although our timing is a little early in their spring season, the cherry blossom are starting to bloom & the many soft green willow trees wave gracefully in the wind. With temps in the mid to upper 60’s, it was a perfect day to be outdoors.
We were dropped off in a courtyard beside the Atomic Bomb Museum. From there we walked past a curved wall of falling waters & into a round building with a geodesic glass dome ceiling. We walked down a long spiral ramp that had strands of origami cranes draped along the walls. (Cranes, being the city’s symbol of peace.) It was very bright with natural light, very quiet, signs with messages of peace everywhere. We descended into a basement level to start our tour of the museum.
The first set of exhibits were remnants of various clocks that had all stopped at 11:02 am (8/9/45), which of course marks the exact moment of implosion of the bomb that the U.S. dropped on Nagasaki.
The next room housed the largest pieces of the exhibit; a mangled water tower from a middle school & a mangled fire lookout tower from the outskirts of town.
At the far end of this room was a reconstructed piece of the facade of the Urakami Cathedral, the largest Catholic Church in eastern Asia. The overhead lighting was on a timer. The light would illuminate each of these exhibits for several seconds; & then go out. It was as if to remind us that one moment they were there; & the next, they were gone. Very moving.
Another display showed a layout of the terrain around Nagasaki. With the use of sound & pulsing colored lights, they were able to show the extent of the damage in just those first three seconds. Try to imagine 6,000* fahrenheit & 600+ mph winds?
A great deal of forethought went into planning the flow of these exhibits. One moment you are experiencing the total shock of the widespread devastation; then move to another room & study the impact it had on the tiniest reminders of everyday life. Things like melted glass bottles, charred lunch boxes, clothing, jewelry, books, etc.
And then around the corner...... a life-size replica of the (plutonium) nuclear fission bomb (code named ‘fatman’) that was used that day. It was large; but not as large as I had expected it to be. That within itself was eye opening, realizing that the amount of destruction caused was not necessarily relative to size.
As we progressed further, we saw photos & video showing the effects of radiation damage that followed the impact. And at the end there was a large map that showed the location of all the nuclear weapons stockpiled around the world today. Above it hangs a life-size nuclear missile.
There were several who admitted to being disgusted by what they saw; & some who still carry the bitterness of this war in the Pacific. I know people who refuse to purchase or even ride in a Japanese made vehicle! As an American citizen, am I supposed to be ashamed for what we did? Or am I supposed to carry a grudge forever because the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor?
Having grown up in the 50’s & 60’s, believing that we could ‘duck & cover’ under our school desks to protect ourselves from the weapons of cold war; I realize that the average person can hardly imagine the impact of war. Post 9/11, we only got a small glimpse of what it could be like.
I walked across the street while I waited for the others to finish the tour. I sat on a bench looking down on the monument at the hypocenter (otherwise known as ‘ground zero’). It was located at the bottom of a hill, accessed by a very steep stairway. I knew if I got down there, I wouldn’t be able to get back up. So, I sat & pondered everything I had just seen. I feel for the Japanese people that I watched cry as they walked from exhibit to exhibit. This event directly impacted them or someone they loved. Just as a visit to the Vietnam Memorial does for those who visit Washington. We can’t change or make amends for what happens in wartime. All we can do is learn, show respect, heal & move on. And the next stop on today’s tour, set that very tone.
Ground ZeroWe reboarded the bus & just a few miles away, we arrived at the Peace Memorial Park. They dropped us off in an underground parking lot, from which we were SUPPOSED to climb 49 steps to the park level. It was almost twice that many. I had to pause & rest at the top. I looked over to my left & was surprised to see Celeste getting off the elevator (there’s an elevator?). She chose her tour specifically because it did not go to the museum. But there were a few on the bus who coerced the guide into visiting the museum & the park instead of time for shopping. Celeste was not happy.
At the north end of the park is a 30’ bronze statue of a sitting man with his right arm pointing to the threat of nuclear attack from above & his left arm extended in a sign of peace.
There is a huge open grassy area as you walk toward the south end. There are several long rows of short stacks of bricks that are the remnants of the former walls of the old prison.
The circular Peace fountain dominates the south end of the park. The ornate brick walkway & the water spouts in the fountain are shaped to mimic the wings of the crane.
The sidewalk around the perimeter of the park showcases the dozens of statues & unique pieces of artwork that were donated to the city from various countries around the world in the name of peace. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to leisurely study the symbolism of each piece. Some were easy to understand. Others were a little more obtuse.
We made our way back to the bus & across town for our last stop of the day. We passed by a tiny wooden hut (named Nyokodo, about 90 sq. ft) with a heartbreaking story. Doctor Takashi Nagai lost his wife & his home in the bombing. Although he suffered severe radiation burns, he & his two children remained at the hospital to treat as many patients of the bombing as they could. A few months later, he had the hut built from the remnants of his family home. He lived the remainder of his life in that tiny hut in homage to his wife.
Our tour ended at Glover Gardens, the former home of industrial pioneer, Thomas Glover. His home is located on top of hill looking down on the ship’s dock. The bus was parked at the bottom of this hill; & the small road you followed up to the top was lined with shops, restaurants & a church for good measure. By this time, some of the Passengers had had enough & chose to take their life in their own hands & cross a major thoroughfare without the benefit of a traffic light in order to return to the Serenity early.
I wanted to see what was in Mr. Glover’s magic garden; but it was a tough climb. Up 2 long steep inclines, a rather long flight of stairs BEFORE you reached the escalator to the very top. The escalators only went up, you had to take even more stairs to get back down.
Thanks to Peggy for the use of her Glover Gardens photos.
Halfway up, I began to question the person who designated this tour as ‘moderate’ walking. I got halfway up the steps & decided it could not possibly be worth it. So, I went back down & sat on a bench in the shade as others made the climb.
Both Peggy & Darko proceeded upwards; & I begged them to take my camera up with them. They declined; but promised they’d share their photos with me. Well, at least Peggy came through for me. From what I saw later, the views of the harbor looked spectacular. The grounds were supposed to be the setting for the fictional opera ‘Madame Butterfly’. But I didn’t see anything that made me regret my decision not to climb that mountain!
We got back to the ship at 4 pm. We were scheduled to depart at 5. So, I went to the cabin, unloaded my stuff & then went out on the promenade deck dockside to await the sailaway activities. There was a local school band that was going to play on the pier; & some of the locals came down & waved goodbye to us from the roof of the terminal. I thought it strange that there was no one else out on deck as I watched them set up.
A little before 5, I watched as this group of women & children made their way down the gangway in the most gorgeous kimonos. In a few minutes other Passengers began to come out on deck. I asked who the ‘kimono people’ were; & they told me that there had been a welcome show & ceremony in the Galaxy Lounge at 4. It was in the Reflections; & I had totally missed it. They said it was a great show; & the little kids were so precious.
Man, I’m sorry I missed that cause those little people were jumping up & down, laughing & waving to everybody up on the ship. The band, 95% female, played for about 20 mins. They were still playing when we pulled away from the pier. The last song, Auld Lang Syne, guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes.
It got quite cool as the sun was setting. I went up to the Trident Grill to get a grilled ham & cheese sandwich & fries. Carried them back to the cabin; got under the covers to warm up while I ate. I remember checking email; but I must have dozed off right afterward. Liz woke me up at 8:30 when she came in to check on me. I told her I didn’t need anything more tonight. I was just wiped out & fell right back to sleep.
BTW, Capt’s Glenn’s thought for the day.....”Any man who knows all the answers, most likely misunderstood the question.”
My beloved Clarke sandals that walked on 5 continents were forced to retire
today in Nagasaki. May they rest in peace!