Remembrance of things past
|Memorial of the Martyrs
Photos by Mary King
Mary King discovers that Nagasaki,
Japan’s old portal to the West and target of the second atomic bomb, has more than
Japan' San Francisco has
something to whet everybody's appetite from the hubbub of its small Chinatown and the
homes of Nagasaki's pioneering Meiji-era European residents to the city's darker hours.
The atomic bomb that killed an estimated 75,000 of the city's 240,000 people in the
closing days of World War II is commemorated throughout the city at the "One-legged
Torii" Peace Park, at a smaller park sited directly under the epicenter, and at the
Fukusai-ji, or Nagasaki Kannon Universal Temple, may not be listed as an architectural or
cultural gem, but it's certainly unique and worth a visit. The temple building is in the
form of a huge turtle carrying an 18m-tall statue of Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy) on its
back. The original temple built in 1628 was a national treasure destroyed by the A-bomb
blast. The temple that stands today was built in 1979 and is dedicated to the souls of all
war dead and A-bomb victims. It also contains several fascinating displays, such as the
replica of Foucault's pendulum (a device that demonstrates the rotation of the Earth on
its tilted axis) suspended in the temple's basement-only St Petersburg and Paris have
larger examples of the phenomenon. Commemorating those who perished in the war, the Altar
to the Fallen Soldiers features a huge trench helmet made of iron from the sunken warship Mutsu.
Under this symbol of the fallen warriors lie the remains of 16,500 soldiers, with a
panoply of their belongings collected from the battlefields of Burma, the Philippines and
various small islands of the South Seas.
At another war monument, the Altar to the A-bomb Victims, you will come across a globe
nearly cracked in two: This is the memorial tombstone for the bomb's victims. The crack
opens in the direction from which the blast came and symbolizes the threat of planetary
extermination by nuclear bombs. As at the Altar to the Fallen Soldiers, the remains and
belongings of many of the city's A-bomb victims lie buried under the globe. In one corner
of the room is a further exhibition of articles recovered from foreign battlefields. Some
items, such as canteens, bear the names of their former owners, and the temple invites
those who are entitled to do so to claim them. The Bell for the Repose of the Departed
Souls tolls seven times every day at 11:02am, each peal symbolizing a prayer for the
repose of 10,000 victims of the bomb that turned Nagasaki into an inferno at that very
minute on Aug 9, 1945.
Sadly, the old Dutch trading enclave of Dejima is long gone, having been swallowed up by
new buildings and land reclamation to the point where it is now well inland. From the
mid-17th century until 1855, this small, isolated community was Japan's only contact with
the Western world. Today, a small museum near the old site of Dejima has exhibits on what
life was like for the Dutch and other foreigners who lived on the island during that most
difficult of periods. In this area you find the gently inclined flagstone streets known as
Dutch slopes, or "Oranda-zaka" - at that time the people of Nagasaki
referred to all Europeans as Hollanders-which were once lined with wooden Dutch houses.
Just a short stroll from here you come to Glover Garden, where some of the homes of the
city's European community during the Meiji Era have been reassembled.
Shaded by large trees and offering a panorama of the city, Glover Garden boasts Japan's
oldest Western-style building, designated an Important Cultural Asset. Glover House was
built in 1863 by Thomas Glover, a Scottish merchant who was the most renowned member of
Nagasaki's expatriate community. Glover, known for his prodigious energy, dabbled in
several fields during his time in Japan. As an arms importer, he played an important part
in the Meiji Restoration. He also built the first railway line in Japan, and even helped
establish the first modern shipyard, progenitor of modern Nagasaki's Mitsubishi shipyard.
At the top of the park you will find the Mitsubishi No. 2 Dock building, originally
erected in 1896 at the Mitsubishi shipyard where it served as a temporary residence for
|The one-legged Torii is a relic
from the bombing
Although Glover House is the
centerpiece of the garden compound, two other buildings within the grounds, Ringer House
and Alt House, are worth stopping by. Each has been designated an Important Cultural
Asset, and lie alongside the principal mansion. Ringer House, built in 1865, commemorates
its founder, British merchant Frederick Ringer, whose family occupied the house for
decades. Another British merchant, William Alt, built the house that bears his name, an
intriguing example of the earliest union between Western and Japanese architectural
You exit the garden through the Nagasaki Museum of Traditional Performing Arts, which
displays the colorful furnishings and floats used during the Kunchi Festival. This
celebration, dating back more than 340 years, is one of the city's annual highlights,
featuring Chinese-influenced dragon dances and parades in the precinct of Suwa Shrine.
Visitors interested in learning more about the deep bonds between China and Nagasaki
should drop by Koshi-byo, reputed to be the only Confucian shrine beyond China's shores to
have been built by Chinese hands. Even today, the land on which this shrine stands is
regarded as Chinese territory.
JAL (tel: 0120-255931), ANA (tel: 03-5435-0333) and JAS (tel: 03-5457-5566) have daily
flights from Haneda Airport to Nagasaki. For further information contact Nagasaki City
Tourist Information (tel: 0958-23-3631).