Tuesday, September 5, 2023

[NAGASAKI] The Only Sequel To Oppenheimer That You Need

Are you itching for a sequel to Oppenheimer? As if yet another atomic bomb explosion is what the planet really needed right now. Why not make it an immersive experience and fly to either Hiroshima or Nagasaki while waiting for announcements about release dates? At least, you’ll get to see the other side of the story. I guess this is what those two Japanese cities will always be associated with, which is rather unfair because they seem to have more to offer.

In the case of Nagasaki, it was the country’s only authorized open port back in the day, meaning merchants from everywhere were only permitted to dock their ships in Nagasaki. As such, the city has always had a unique smattering of western vibes that you can observe through its buildings and tourist attractions. While most foreigners come here for the atomic bomb related historical sites, you might want to consider squeezing in some religious or other historical attractions on your list.

As for me, the appeal of the atomic bomb sites was still strong just a few weeks after seeing the film. And so, most of my itinerary revolved around that. First things first, though, how do you get here? From Fukuoka, take the Relay Kamome to Takeo Onsen and connect there to the actual Kamome bullet train headed south to Nagasaki. The entire trip including the transfer won’t take you two hours. Both trains are on the same platform, which means just running towards the opposite side to change, which gives you enough leeway within the three-minute gap between arrival and departure.

Once in Nagasaki, you just have to hop on a tram to see most of the attractions. The one-way fare here is cheaper at JPY140 (~PHP55) and the distances are not that long. Unlike in Kumamoto, though, I did not see any credit card readers on the tram here, so just bring cash. The trams have bill-to-coin money changers installed so you won’t be having that much of an issue. Your stop is called PEACE PARK. Get off there and follow the signage leading to the park’s entrance.

You have to hop on the escalator to get to the top. Here is where you will find that giant blue sitting statue which is supposed to symbolize aversion for atomic warfare. The park is not that big and does not offer a lot of shade, but the feels are very solemn, perhaps due to what it is commemorating. I’ve read that this area used to be a prison. When the atomic bomb was dropped, 200+ people there, most of which were convicts, were among the first to get incinerated. You can still see some of the jail’s old walls within the vicinity.

The area is a popular field trip destination for students, and my visit coincided with one group. Aside from taking photos, they also pay their respects and get some sort of mini history refresher from their guide. There is nothing much to do here aside from taking photos and videos. If your plan is to chill and just rest, then bring an umbrella with you to shield you from the sun. Once done, you just have to get back down to the entrance and cross the street to the Hypocenter Park.

This park is named as such because it contains the exact spot where the bomb was dropped. To call it the point of impact is a bit controversial, because the bomb actually exploded 500 meters above the point marked by a tall dark obelisk here. There is a small info board here giving out figures of the damage and casualties as well as a colored map of what happened to the immediate surroundings. If you are yearning for more information, go up the steps to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.

The entrance fee is JPY200 (~PHP80) so there really is no reason not to go in. You will see a lot of those 1,000 crane thingies by the entrance. You have to head down one level to buy the ticket and start your museum tour. The museum itself is not that big but packed with historical tidbits and trivia about the history of atomic warfare. As such, I believe that it is worth the measly JPY200 fee because you just learn so much here about the horrors of a potential atomic holocaust.

After you are done with all the depression brought about by human atrocity, you can then select which religious establishments you have to visit. Nagasaki has two prominent cathedrals and many temples and shrines. I just ended up visiting that weird one with a giant Mother Mary-like figure riding a turtle as well as the neighboring monument to Christian martyrs, both of which are just walking distance from the city’s train station.

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