26-27 October 2008

In October 5 of my friends came over from the Netherlands to visit me and (maybe even more important) for sightseeing Japan. They stayed with me the first days and explored Tokyo and Nikko. Then they went to Matsumoto, Kyoto, Nara, Tottori, Hiroshima and Kumamoto. To share a bit more time with them and because I had never been to Kyuushuu yet, I had decided to join them in Kumamoto. However, I also wanted to see Nagasaki because of the historical Dutch trade post Dejima (Decima) and some other sights. As my friends had no time in their busy schedule, I went while they were in Hiroshima (the other A-bombed city)...

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Most of the places I have been and which I discuss here are included in the file with locations for Google Earth

I had taken one of the earliest planes in the morning of October 26th, so I was in Nagasaki well before lunch. After dropping my backpack at the hotel, I headed for Terra Machi (temple city).

There are 3 tram lines in Nagasaki, which are actually quite convenient. They charge a flat fare for every ride, but after some time I found out that you can ask the driver for a transfer ticket when you exit at a transfer station, so you don't have to pay twice in such a case.

[Part of Koufuku-ji temple] Although I have really seen a lot of temples around Japan, making it hard for me to get excited about yet another one, some of these temples were definitely different. One reason is that Nagasaki has a rich history with many international influences, of which most are actually Chinese. I also read somewhere that during the ban on Christianity from 1587, an enormaous amount of temples was build just to show (or give the impression) that people were not Christians.

This is the famous gate of the Soufuku-ji temple; too bad they have the ugly ticket office immediately behind it...

The next gate of the Soufuku-ji (up the stairs) contains some funny wood carvings of bats and flowers on the doors. There is also a huge iron pot (cauldron) which is said to have been used to boil porridge for 3000-5000 people a day in a time of extreme hunger.

I had some Chanpon for lunch, which is a kind of noodle-soup with shrimps an a lot of cabbage which is said to be typical for Nagasaki.

In the afternoon I went to Urakami, the neighborhood in the north of Nagasaki where the epicenter of the atomic bomb was. Now there are ceveral places releted to the memory of the effects of the bomb. One is the peace park with this statue.

[HDR] Another is a cathedral which has been rebuilt after it had mostly been destroyed during the blast.

Water was the recurrent theme in most of the memorials, symbolizing the water that the direct victims longed for so much (because of radiation illnesses), but were unable to find. Fountains in the peace park, water sounds in the museum, a huge bassin on top of the underground memorial place... So far, so good, but the could have left away the rain that day...

The memorial building was very nicely done. It has a strong geometric design with distinct textures on the walls, relatively dark but with interesting lighting generating a quiet, peaceful, ... place to commemorate. In Hiroshima de dome building is such a place that can involve one emotionally with what happened, but in Nagasaki the epicenter is just a boring square without a powerfull reminder of what happened.

The hall in the picture is the climax of the walk through the building, a big hall with pillars of light.

It was almost getting dark, but on my guide map I had seen there would be a torii gate with only one "leg" (A torii is a traditional japanese entrance gate to the holy shrine grounds). Although the other leg was destroyed by the explosion, half the torii still stands today (or at least when I was there the 26th of November 2008).
What the people in the tour busses (slowing down on the road down there) couldn't see is that the pieces that constitute the other half are put a little further up the hill with an explanation and picture explaining each part's original location in the torii.

[HDR] This is probably the most bizar temple I have seen. It is a huge Kanon statue standing on top of a turtle, and some sitting disciples. It is the Fukusai-ji temple by the way. Haning (on the inside) from the top of the Kanon's head is a Foucault pendulum (wiki link), a weight on a long string which demonstrates the fact that the earth is rotating. I saw the wire from the main hall, but unfortunately the basement was closed when I was there and there seemed nobody around.

(at the Shoufuku-ji temple) Of hij lacht zich te barsten of hij heeft scheurbuik vanwege een te eenzijdig dieet (waarschijnlijk alleen rijstepap, rijstewijn en zout). [sorry, joke in Dutch]

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