Nagasaki sightseeing in one day
Nagasaki is a port city, located in the most western part on Kyushu Island and surrounded by mountains. The city flourished around a busy harbour – which greeted Portuguese ships in the 16th century – and enjoyed a colourful history until the atomic bombing in 1945.
On August 9th 1945, the B29 bomber Bockscar, loaded with an atomic bomb, was headed towards the industrial city of Kokura but was confronted with cloudy weather conditions which made it change the course for the second target: Nagasaki. The bomb was dropped and exploded 500 meters above Matsuyama-machi, in the northern part of Nagasaki – leaving about 74, ooo dead and over 75,000 injured. The population of Nagasaki counted around 240.000 people at the time.
Consequently our first stop was the impressive Peace Statue in the Nagasaki Peace Park in Urakami (north of Nagasaki).
Designed by Seibo Kitamura and erected in 1955 on the 10th anniversary of the devastation of the city. The statue is highly symbolic. The elevated right hand points skyward to warn of the threat of nuclear weapons and the outstretched left hand signifies tranquillity and world peace. The closed eyes represent a prayer for the repose of the souls of all atomic bomb victims, the right leg symbolises meditation while the left leg is positioned for action.
Some people leave flowers at the statue.
We felt lucky and surprised but very honoured to meet a Nagasaki survivor who is a living reminder of the atrocities of the city’s history. Moments I will never forget.
The video is in Japanese but this is what was written on a plaque next to him – his story:
“I would have died unless my boss had told me to do that irregular job of fixing parts in the other building. We were transferring to the new workplace. The atomic bomb exploded 1.1 km from my workshop of Mitsubishi Arsenal Co. Ohashi Factory. The bomb blast blew me away 14 meters from my job site. Luckily I was behind the huge pillar that helped to save my life. Survived had only two of us out of the 32 workers. All the rest perished. As an atomic bomb survivor I want people throughout the world to know how horrible the atomic bombing was and how valuable peace is.”
The Fountain of Peace from 1969. The City of Nagasaki constructed this fountain as an offering of water to the victims and a prayer for their souls. The water forms a pair of wings of a peace dove and says: “It is our wish that you will remember the departed victims whilst visiting this fountain and that you will join us in striving for world peace.”
The peace park consists of various peace statues from all over the world.
At the Atomic Bomb Hypocentre Park, located near the Nagasaki Peace Park, you can see a black monolith which is the marking point above which the bomb exploded. The whole area within 2.5 kilometres of this hypocenter was completely destroyed and reduced to ruins.
It is here that we have taken a measurement with our Geiger Counter and found it astounding that about 50 years after the explosion, radiation is back to normal. Look at all our measurements in Nagasaki, in the upcoming post.
The remains of the Urakami Cathedral dating back to 1895, once the grandest church in Asia, was located about 500 meters northeast of the hypocenter and demolished in seconds. The wall remnant with the depiction of Christ and one of his apostles, was relocated to Hypocenter Park, where it stands as a testament to the disaster of the atomic bombing.
The cathedral was rebuild in 1959.
Picture at the hypocentre of the explosion showing the devastation in 1945. Amongst the rubble, many charred bodies were found.
After the explosion people’s flesh was melting due to incredible heat and victims were trying to save themselves at this stream.
When the atomic bomb exploded thousands of people suffered terrible burns and died begging for water. We were stomping on historic grounds of war horrors.
The memorial by Naoki Tominaga from 1997, with the date and time of the explosion, reminds us that about 70% of the victims of the bomb were children, women and senior citizens.
The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is further a must visit. Similar to the museum in Hiroshima it informs visitors about prewar history of Japan and the terrifying effects of the atomic bombing. More than anything the museum is an appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of lasting world peace. Admission: 200 yen per person.
The wall clock. Found in a house near Sanno Shinto Shrine, 800 meters from the hypocenter. The clock was shattered and its hands stopped at 11:02 – the moment of the explosion.
The Fatman, due to its shape, this was the name of the American bomb dropped on Nagasaki. The bomb was 3.25m in length, 1.52m in diameter and 4.5t in weight. Atomic bombs are much more destructive than TNT bombs. When it exploded, its energy emission was equivalent to 21kilotons of TNT.
It was frightening to read about all the atomic testing that is still going on to this day. The power of nuclear warheads has increased significantly.
This illustration shows which countries have a terrifying amount of nuclear arms. There are over 17,000 warheads still in existence of which at least 90% belong to either the United States or Russia.
The people of Nagasaki who longed to revive their city have succeeded. After 50 years, Urakami is a very peaceful district with many green areas and a beautiful rural feel in Nagasaki.
The bombing left Nagasaki in ashes. It is incredible to imagine the city’s resurgence from devastated wasteland. Nagasaki is full of life!
Other points of interest are located in central Nagasaki, south of Urakami.
Shinchi Chinatown. Chinese merchants were not as restricted in their daily business trade as the Dutch which is why there still is a lively Chinese community in Nagasaki. The area used to be called Shinchi Warehouses, where Chinese boats stored their goods. Four water gates opened up when the ships came to unload.
Tourists and visitors mainly come for the food.
Selling panda meat burgers. Just kidding!
It is pork buns. If only pigs looked like pandas!
Well, THE food souvenir to get from Nagasaki is Fukusaya CAKE anyway!
Fukusaya Castella Cake. South of Shianbashi tram station is Castella Cake Shop which has been in the cake business since 1624! Hand whipped eggs and batter, fluffy and moist cake with a thin layer of brown sugar crystals – it has been used by Portuguese missionaries to draw Japanese people into Christianity in 1625!
Sponge cake in the spotlight.
The first Fukusaya used the Portuguese recipe to sell his Japanese version of the cake in Nagasaki. The newer branches look very stylish and it feels like buying diamond rings when choosing your cake flavour, size portion and wrapping.
Fantastic history at Dejima. Dejima was a fan-shaped island of about 15,000 m2 built in 1636 under the Tokugawa Shogunate ‘for’ the Portuguese. A huge investment – talking about building an artificial island in the 17th century – to (successfully) prevent the spread of Christianity after a riot inflicted by Portuguese Christians in Japan. The Portuguese were expelled from Japan in 1639 and Portuguese ships banned from Japan by the National Isolation Edict.
Recalling Christianity’s bloody history during those centuries, it is fair to say that the Japanese acted wisely.
Costs. Dejima was funded by the 25 most powerful merchants in Nagasaki. At the present currency rate, it cost about 400 million yen to build.
In 1641 the Dutch East India Company in Hirado was moved here. The Dutch were more focused on trade than religion and for two subsequent centuries the island was Japan’s (only) link with Europe, Western technology and culture.
Until the end of Japan’s period of isolation in 1859, Dejima played a major role in the modernization of Japan. The Japanese were astonished by the appearance of the Westerners and fascinated by the artifacts they brought. Things like firearms, vidro (glass), playing cards, sarasa (printed cotton), coffee, beer, tobacco and pao de lo (yep, this precursor was going to become the famous Fukusaya sponge cake).
Dejima is an impressive museum today (in parts under reconstruction) and does feel a lot like old Europe. Admission: 500 yen per person.
Access to the island was strictly controlled. Women, other than courtesans were banned. Vendors were not allowed. The departure of Dutchmen from Dejima needed permission. Japanese people worked here and looked after the Dutch on the island as well. I caught one in a traditional costume – on the right in the picture.
Dejima otona (town elders) were Nagasaki residents appointed to issue passes, to manage fire prevention, to allote servants to each Dutchman and to supervise activities of the Dutch on the island. The first otona was assigned to Dejima in 1641 and this system was upheld until 1860.
I was fascinated by the harmonizing architecture of traditional Japanese and western styles.
Spot the Dutchman!
The Dutch did not miss out on spaciousness and all the comforts from home – paired with Japanese coziness. Soft tatami mats on the floor and beautiful shouji (sliding paper doors) with an unobstructed view. Luxury for the Dutch ‘prisoners’ !
This opulent sight features more than you would see in any western museum portraying dining rooms – real looking plastic food models – not just the kitchenware – that is sooo Japanese!
This was my favourite room – keeping old robes and clothing.
Gorgeous motives with exotic birds and flowers.
The sun clock still works accurately.
A picturesque bridge. I imagined dressed up Dutch merchants strolling this way.
The miniature model of the island was made using a Japanese painting from 1820.
The island was surrounded by water and connected by a single bridge to adjacent Edo-machi.
After Japan was opened to the outside world, the sea surrounding Dejima was gradually reclaimed, an 18 meter wide slice of land was removed from the island and used to reroute Nakashima river in 1885. The Japanese are incredible at constructing more land. In 1904, the island became part of the mainland and lost its fan shape. Huge harbour projects made it look like this today.
View from the ‘island’. The oldest iron bridge still in use in Japan, was built in 1890.
The Dutch Slopes. A picturesque attraction are restored wooden Dutch houses going up the hill at Higashiyamate. You can walk inside and look at old photographs – which is not the reason you come here. But looking at the contrasting Dutch architecture in the midst of Japanese residential houses is!
Koshi-Byo Temple. This Confucian shrine dating back to 1893, was built by Chinese residents of Nagasaki and our last sight before we were heading back to Fukuoka. Destroyed by the bomb blast it was reconstructed.
A colourful sight with bright yellow tiles from Beijing and sharply curved roofs.
The shrine houses images of Confucius and a museum of Chinese history.
And Christianity has made its way into Japan after all.
A thoughtful but most of all fun trip due to our amicable travel companions. Jasmine from Singapore and Devin from the States! Hope to see you again kids!
Oh and this is what I learned about driving in Japan and renting a car to Nagasaki.