October 18, 2007

Nagasaki Nuclear Bomb Memorial

Our first morning in Nagasaki we headed out to pay our respects at the atomic bomb memorial and peace park. With the sun shining brightly on the beautiful harbor city surrounded by mountains, it was hard to believe that 60 years ago much of it had been instantly rendered a radioactive wasteland with tens of thousands of dead and dying.

The peace museum was powerfully moving, with haunting images and artifacts. It also does not overlook Japan's imperial expansion and aggression.

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Preserved ruins of the Urakami Cathedral. The cathedral, then the largest in East Asia, stood near the epicenter of the blast. It is ironic that Nagasaki was likely the most "Western" city in Japan at the time, and had the highest proportion of Christians in Japan.

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I had never quite understood the symbolism of the Nagasaki peace monument until I read the plaque with the following words:

Words of the Sculptor

After experiencing that nightmarish war,
that blood-curdling carnage,
that unendurable horor,
Who could walk away without praying for peace?
This statue was created as a signpost in the
cause of global harmony.
Standing ten meters tall,
it conveys the profundity of knowledge and
the beauty of health and virility.
The right hand points to the atomic bomb,
the left hand points to peace,
and the face prays deeply for the victims of war.
Transcending the barriers of race
and evoking the qualities of both Buddha and God,
it is a symbol of the greatest determination
ever known in the history of Nagasaki
and of the highest hope of all mankind.

Seibo Kitamura
Spring 1955

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Nyokodo. It's tiny, yet so moving...

From the plaque:

Nyokodo (As Thyself Hermitage) is the sickroom and study used by Dr. Takashi Nagai, honorary citizen of Nagasaki City. Born in Shimane Prefecture, Dr. Nagai graduated from Nagasaki Medical College and majored in radiology. He was exposed to excessive doses of radiation while treating large numbers of tuberculosis patients with poor equipment. As a result he developed chronic myeloid leukemia and was given three years to live. Two months later he was injured in the atomic bombing and lost his wife, but he continued his selfless efforts for the rescue of the atomic bomb victims, finally falling bedridden. However, spurred on by his sense of scientific mission and also his Catholic faith, Dr. Nagai wrote more than ten books from his sickbed here. He named the building after the Christian maxim "Love others as you love thyself" and live here with his two children, appealing to the world about the foolishness of war and the importance of peace until his death on May 1, 1951 at the age of 43. Nyokodo continues to this day to serve as a symbol of Dr. Nagai's spirit of peace and brotherly love.

Posted by Paul at October 18, 2007 07:41 PM