A while back, my good friend from college Jordan came to visit me in Japan. Currently, he is an English teacher in Seoul, Korea. Oddly, we now live geographically closer to each other here in Asia than we did when we were both U.S. residents. Wild. Hoping to maximize his trip, we headed to the historical city of Nagasaki for the weekend. Having weighed out the lodging options ahead of time, we had passed up some more lavish options like a vacation home rental and booked a traditional Japanese traveler’s Inn. Basically the Japanese equivalent of a Western B&B, it was nice to set our backpacks down on our tatami floored room and regroup before touring the town. This was my first visit to this historical city, but since I’ve been there two other times: once with my fiance Lori for the Nagasaki Lantern Festival and once with my Japan by Bicycle team members as we cycled through.
I still feel that the various sites, museums, statues, and memorials dedicated to the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki to end WWII were all superbly done. It’s hard to prepare beforehand for the impact of being in such a place. It wasn’t disturbing, but simply somber to realize the enormous suffering that occurred less than a century ago at the very locations we visited. A stat I still can’t fathom: 150,000 people died in either the immediate explosion or in the days after from burns or radiation exposure. The museum does its job well of presenting the case that the bomb was unnecessary. Having done a fair amount of research, I tend to lean toward this view myself. However, with such a momentous decision, asking “what if” may be the wrong question. The Nagasaki community outwardly seems quite open to foreigners. Never did I pick-up even a hint of lingering animosity, only welcoming hospitality.
Besides visiting the Peace Park and Museum, Jordan and I made our way to Suwa Shrine. Located on the slopes of Mt. Tamazono, it survived the atomic bomb. Although it was originally built to counteract the growing Christian population in Nagasaki, the shrine now holds an important role in the community as a culture center and is the location of many festivals throughout the year. I’m not sure why, but they had a cage with monkeys on the shrine grounds that I couldn’t help but feel sorry for.
Our return train trip went by quickly as we stared at the beautiful Nagasaki coastline once more. At the end of the day, we said our farewells and Jordan boarded a plane back to Korea. It’s always nice to meet up with old friends.