How it has recovered from an atom bomb blast.
By D.B.N. Murthy
After an interesting visit to Hiroshima, I decided to go to Nagasaki, where the second atom bomb fell just three days after Hiroshima. It was an interesting train ride, changing trains to arrive at Nagasaki by the afternoon. We passed through coastal places with a view of small ports and ships anchored far away. I was surprised to see a huge youth concert that was going on with some youths singing and dancing at the entrance to the station. I watched in silence at the disciplined crowd which applauded the performers after each act. I had coffee and cake at the railway station cafe. My hotel was just across the station reached by an over-bridge. It was too late to go out and so I decided to take it easy that evening.
The next morning after coffee, I bought the day pass on the street car (tram) which enabled me to travel over the five lines (different colour coded) any number of times. The first place to visit was the attractive harbour against the backdrop of mountains where a number of boats and a big luxury cruise vessel were anchored. It presented a lovely picture on that clear morning. Just opposite was a public garden.
Nagasaki has retained some old-world places as heritage sites. It was the “The street along Oura River” named Sagan Matsue I visited near a streetcar terminus. The small stream was clear with houses and shops that have come up, though some of the old charms still persisted. From that heritage site, I went by another street car to the attractive Sofukuji Temple, with an ornamental entrance gate built in 1690. A small donation is collected as an entry fee. It was a quiet and peaceful place with altars outside and monks busy with their prayers. I looked around for a while before exiting.
Near the entrance to the museum was a nice colourful flower garden in which is located a tall statue. It is the “Vision of Peace”, rising out of the smoke from sacred pipes held by five Native Americans. This statue was donated by Saint Paul Rotary Club, Minnesota, USA, and Nagasaki Rotary Club. It took some efforts to locate the Atomic Bomb Museum but it was well worth the effort.
It is an impressive tall red building. It showcased the horrors of the day when everything was destroyed around the hypocentre and caused havoc with buildings collapsing, people with burns and serious injuries running helter skelter to find medical help. Pictures of the devastation caused by the blast were horrifying and one could imagine the surprise and anxiety of those caught in the direct blast and radiation. The actual hypocentre of the bomb is a little away from the museum, within easy walking distance. It was a peaceful scene at the Peace Park with flowering trees, and monuments.
At the edge of the hill, before one walks down the steps, are located several monuments – about peace, a rock found at the hypocentre and a young boy on a pedestal holding aloft a peace dove. Colourful clothes and ribbons were tied to a tree next to the pedestal as offerings. An amazing sight greeted me as I came down the steps. That was once the bomb hypo-centre totally devastated. What I saw was a field with young children playing joyfully, chasing each other and playing skip and jump. Each of them had a jacket with a number for easy identification. That was the difference between life and destruction! A memorial is erected at the hypocentre with a grieving woman holding her dead child, a poignant reminder of the dark day when everything at that site was obliterated. The inscription “1945 8.9.11:02” gives the exact date and time of the atom bomb blast over the site.
Hypocentre of the atomic bomb explosion: A plaque at the site gives details of the traumatic events of that fateful day. “At 11:02 am on August 9, 1945, an atomic bomb exploded 500 metres above this spot. The black stone monolith to the right of this plaque marks the hypocentre. “The fierce blast wind, the heat rays reaching several thousands of degrees and deadly radiation generated by the explosion reduced the city centre to ruins. About one-third of Nagasaki was destroyed and 150,000 people killed or injured and it was said that this area would be devoid of vegetation for 75 years. Now, the hypocentre remains as an international peace park and a symbol of the aspiration for world harmony. This photo was taken on October 1945 and shows the black monolith that was the first structure built after the bombing to mark the hypo-centre of the atomic bomb explosion.”
With a heavy heart I took leave of the hypocentre to head for my hotel. Nagasaki offers a history tour visiting an old Dutch settlement and a historical museum. Another tour is to visit the Chinese culture and shopping areas, each of which would take about three-four hours. These are on the streetcar routes. There are temples en route like the Confucian shrine, Kofukuji, and Sofukuji.
Nagasaki is easily accessible from other cities by air, road and high-speed rail. There are budget as well as starred hotels and a choice of restaurants including Indian food. One could buy the day streetcar pass for unlimited travel on all the five routes.