<I must apologize for the pictures. My camera died, and they were all taken with my phone.>
World War 2 was no joke. And now that I live in Japan, I feel like I’ve been learning about a whole other side to it. I’m no historian, nor do I remember everything I learned in school, but I do know that America chooses to focus more on the Holocaust aspect of that era. The two atomic bombs it dropped on Japan usually take up a paragraph in American history textbooks, but there was so much more to that affair than “We dropped bombs and people died.”
I’m not going to get into all of that, because that’s not really what this blog is about. However, during Japan’s Golden Week (a few national holidays that are so close to each other they get a whole week to celebrate), I had the opportunity to visit Nagasaki for a few days and learn a little bit more about what happened on August 9, 1945. It was, needless to say, a saddening and humbling experience, but also strangely beautiful. With a friend, I first visited the atomic bomb museum. Boy, was that rough. The museum’s “suggested route” begins right in the middle of it, with displays and replications of buildings that were destroyed by Fat Man, the nickname of the bomb chosen. Little monitors near the displays feature stomach-turning pictures and first-hand accounts. One particularly striking quote was this:
The museum then gives the time line leading up the bombing, explains atomic weaponry, and includes a replica of Fat Man himself. There are pictures of burn victims, fallen structures, and various other effects of the bomb. I won’t go into too much detail, because you really should see it yourself. Towards the end of the route, there is a wall covered with words of the survivors. There are even short videos you can watch of people who were affected. Right there, staring at that wall, surrounded by older Japanese people who very well could have personally known someone affected, I lost it. My friend was elsewhere, but I remember thinking that I needed to find her and talk to her to keep more tears from forming. Reading what an 11-year-old has to say about the bombing, with no resentment or hatred in his tone, only pure sadness for his lost family and destroyed home–it was just a really horrible moment. And I couldn’t help but read more.
After the museum tour, we walked towards Nagasaki’s answer to the bomb: the Peace Park. The path to the park starts near the entrance of the museum, and there are beautiful statues and monuments leading up to the hypocenter monument. If you walk a very hundred meters north of that, you’ll see the entrance of the Peace Park. There, you are bombarded by many more statues, some given to Nagasaki by other countries, and others featuring touching poems of hope and peace. Naturally, there are tons of people taking pictures and enjoying the weather. There was even a guy selling ice cream (heavy on the ice…must be a Nagasaki thing). I must say, though, that the park definitely helped dry my face after the museum did it’s thing. Here’s a taste of what the trail and park had to offer:
After the war, Nagasaki became a center of peace. It took this atrocity and made it something beautiful. What was done can never be undone, but to this day, Nagasaki is attempting to move forward and do something good for the world. It is true that there are many tourists who visit the area to learn of that day, and I’m sure all of them left Nagasaki as I did; feeling sorry and empathetic, but also hopeful for a future when someone dismantles all those bombs hiding in Russia.
Seriously, go to Nagasaki. You’ll cry, but you won’t regret it. In fact, I think I enjoyed it more than where I went the second part of my Golden Week trip. But more on that later. For now, I leave you with this: