Three days after the horrific events of August 6, 1945, Japan was devastated once again when the Fat Man bomb was dropped over Nagasaki. Even though this was a bigger bomb than the one dropped on Hiroshima, its damage was limited due to the geography of the city – the hills surrounding the core tempered the effects of the bomb. That said, over 70,000 people died in the aftermath of the bombing.
Like Hiroshima, Nagasaki also has a memorial Peace Park and museum dedicated to remember that fateful day. I visited them for the first time in May or June of 2000, a few months before I moved to Hiroshima, so this really was my introduction to the horrors of the bomb. Even though I’ve been to Nagasaki a few times since then, I never had the opportunity to revisit the park until today. Unfortunately I was not able to make it to the ceremony, and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of any evening events, save for (perhaps) a procession of people carrying bamboo torches from Urakami Cathedral to the Peace Park. I went to the Cathedral first, and did see men there preparing the torches, but I couldn’t seem to get any information about when the procession would begin.
After that I headed over to the Peace Park (about 500m away) but most of the activity there involved taking down the stage and other bits set up for the memorial held this morning. Unlike Hiroshima, there was no other activity going on. To be fair, maybe it all happened earlier in the day and I missed it, or their memorial is a much more subdued one. The park is a fairly nice place to wander around, and has various statues and other monuments dedicated to them from artists and governments from around the world. The hypocenter is not in the Peace Park itself, but in an adjacent park across the street. It was covered with flowers and paper cranes, but like the park, things were beginning to be removed when I was there. Nagasaki does not have an iconic monument that symbolizes the destructive power of the a-bomb like Hiroshima does, other than, perhaps, Urakami Cathedral. The cathedral now is a reconstruction, but it does display some statues and other stonework that survived the blast. Most importantly, the belfry, which collapsed after the attack, lies where it fell. Unfortunately this is on the side of the hill and on a side street, so it doesn’t have the same impact as a semi-intact building does, like the Genbaku Dome in Hiroshima. There is also a fragment of a wall from the original cathedral that was moved down to the park, almost next to the hypocenter monument. It’s quite interesting to see, but doesn’t have the same impact of the dome. Sorry – I don’t mean to keep comparing the two cities, but it’s difficult. I feel like Nagasaki is like the second or middle forgotten child – even though it has something extremely important happen to it, which makes it part of a very small exclusive club, it wasn’t the first, so it doesn’t get the same kind of love and recognition as the first. That’s not to say that it’s not worth the visit – it definitely is (although hopefully on a less dreary, wet, and overcast day as today was).
In any event, my visit today seemed particularly poignant, with the two man-children in charge of North Korea and the USA posturing and making threats against each other. I really think it should be mandatory that any person who becomes a world leader have to visit places of mass casualties/destruction caused by the hand of man. Maybe they would think twice over what they are really saying.
Monuments: The largest statue in the park is the Peace Statue, that of seated man with one hand pointing upwards (peace) and the other pointing straight out (threat of nuclear war). Note: I don’t have a good image of the statue as a lot of work was going on around it to take down all the seats and tarps and everything else set up for the morning ceremony. There are many other statues and moments throughout the park, some of them sad, others hopeful.
Grounds: The grounds are quite large and pleasant to walk around. The park is up on a hill but there are escalators if you don’t want to tackle the stairs.
Visitors: As this is a major site in Nagasaki, it does see plenty of visitors, but there weren’t many when I was there (late afternoon).
Photographer notes: A lot of the statues are quite high, which means a lot of sky behind them, so it can be difficult to get good details out of the statues as the camera will tend to expose for the sky instead of the statue. If you can control the settings on your camera this isn’t a problem, but I was limited with my iPhone.
Name of site: Nagasaki Peace Park
Location: Near Matsuyama Tram station, Nagasaki
Date established: April 1, 1955
Internments: None that I know of in the park or the immediate vicinity, although thousands died in this location immediately from the blast (over 73,000 for the entire city).
Hours: The park is open 24/7