19th July 2017: Nagasaki – the perseverance of nature and the pride of man {Japan, summer 2017}

My Nagasaki [長崎] day was the worst weather I’ve ever experienced in Japan. There was a storm mid-morning which caused the atmosphere to become so heavy with water vapour that even breathing was difficult.

I started the day getting a tram pass and a map, and I first set on my way to see the Heiwa Koen [平和公園] or Peace Park, in order to be done with the ‘heavy feelings’ and then do other more relaxing stuff. I saw the Peace Fountain and the Peace Statue and snooped around Urakami cathedral outskirts, but it was being cleaned / renovated, so I did not walk closer. Then I looked at the Hypocentre of the Atomic Bomb. It made my heart heavy, thinking about what humans can do to each other.

After the Peace park I really wanted to see the one-legged torii of Sanno Jinja (山王神社), located less than a kilometre away from the blast site (the problem was that following the Nagasaki tourist map and signs, I had to take a huge detour). The shrine was destroyed in the blast, but the second torii did not completely collapse. The right leg and half the front remained standing, albeit, albeit rotated 30º. The torii still stands and now Sanno Jinja hosts the kami of two camphor trees that were scorched in the blast, but they survived and are now covered in leaves.

After that I took the tram towards Chinzei Taisha / Suwa Shrine [鎮西大社 / 諏訪神社] and as I was getting to the tram stop, the storm broke. It was not the rain as much as the asphyxiating heat what made it hard to breathe, even much more to climb up the stairs to the shrine.

After that, once the clouds had lifted and I had drunk a whole bottle of coke in pretty much one go, I headed off to an area called Teramachi [寺町] where two prominent temples stand. The first is Kofuku-ji [興福寺].

The second is Sofuku-ji [崇福寺]. Both of them are Chinese origin temples that at the moment feel more like tourist attractions than actual temples (entrance fee and all).

As I had taken down such a detour for Sanno Jinja and underestimated the distance between Kofuku-ji and Sofuku-ji I was running a little behind schedule, so I decided to change my original plans. First, I made a brief stop by Megane Bashi [眼鏡橋] (the Spectacles Bridge) over the Nakashima River, which is the oldest stone arch bridge in Japan, built by the same Zen master who established Kofuku-ji.

After this, even if I was a step away from Chinatown, I took the tram to the Nagasaki Koushibyou / Chuugoku Rekishi Hakubutsukan [長崎孔子廟 / 中国歴代博物館], aka Confucius Shrine and Historical Museum of China, because I wanted to be there before it closed. That was really and quite unexpectedly cool.

Again due to timing, I backtracked to Dejima [出島]. This is / was a small artificial island in Nagasaki bay established in 1634. This served as the opening of Japan to the Western world through trading with Dutch merchants. The recent renovations have restored the buildings in the island and established a museum to show how the Westerners lived. One of the things that grabbed my attention was the skeleton of a cow which had apparently been used to grow vaccinations. And there was a stamp rally, which only added to the fun. As a matter of fact I have to say that most of Nagasaki was more interesting and fun than I had expected, especially after the Peace Park and the heavy heart it caused.

I finally could backtrack to Nagasaki Chinatown (Chuokagai [中華街]) in Shinchi Machi.

After Chinatown I walked up to the Former Chinese Settlement, or Tojin Yakishi [唐人屋敷], where I saw Dojin-do [土神堂], Fukken Kaikan Hall (main gateway and Tenko-do) [福建會館], and Kannon-do [観音堂] which are remaining Shinto shrines in the area. Tojin Yakishi is the area where the Chinese merchants were confined, much like Dejima was for westerners.

To end up the day I wandered around the Seaside Park, Nagasaki Mizube No Mori Kōen [長崎水辺の森公園] and backtracked to the station to head off to my next destination. All in all, I got the feeling that unlike Hiroshima, Nagasaki is trying to move on from the bombing and cultivate everything that it has to offer.