Monday, February 3, 2020

Nagasaki, Kyushu [Day 4 Part 1] - Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park

I started out this post as the usual day-to-day re-account of my trip there but as it progressed, I felt that the museum and the tragedy of which it served as a reminder deserved a post of its own. So here it is.

It was pouring cats and dogs on our fourth day in Kyushu, the tail end of a storm that has been plaguing that region for the past couple of weeks. There were reports of landslides and flooding in the center part of Kyushu but thankfully none near us. But boy, did it pour that morning.

Taken after the hordes of tourist buses had left. 
Still it did little to hinder our plans that day. I bundled my family, umbrellas and all into our rented car and off we went to the Nagasaki Peace Bomb Museum and Peace Park. The museum is one of the main attractions of the city, it being built near the epicenter of the atomic bomb, Fat Man. When he got there, cruises buses had also just arrived and the Peace Park were filled with tourists, many of whom were disrespectful of the significance of the Peace statue. They were mimicking the pose of the statue, scrambling to take group photos and were just plain shouting across the area. It felt like a morning market and not a place to respect. No prizes for guessing which country they were from.
The epicenter of Fat Man.

No explanation needed. 
Keen to get away from the crowd, we started making our way to the Nagasaki Peace Bomb Museum, passing many scars and after effects of the bombing that occurred on 9 August 1945. The epicenter was void of people as not many tourists ventured that far out and it really sunk in that we were standing directly below where Fat Man had exploded and destroyed the nearby Urakami Cathedral and so much of the city. As we explored the area, it was a teaser to the relics and homage that we will see in the museum.

The wall is all that remained of the original structure. 

Opened in 1996, the journey into the Nagasaki Peace Bomb Museum starts with a spiraling pathway to a floor below. The entrance fees was JPY200 which can be purchased at the vending machine. Audio guides can rented but as we had wifi, we just scanned the QR codes along the exhibitions and displays for facts and information.
Upon entering the first thing visitors will see was the moment time stood still for Nagasaki that fateful day as represented by this wall clock found in a house 800m from the epicenter. At 11.02AM, the atomic bomb exploded over the city, wiping out everything in its immediate radius. The hands of the clock was stopped at the time of the explosion, its face twisted and destroyed by the intense heat.

At this point, I realised this wasn't going to be one of those museum where I would be photographing everything. It only seemed respectful to put away my DSLR and just used my phone camera to snap a few photos here and there as reminders of my experience and how I felt as I journeyed through time and tragedy.

The museum goes on to display some of the actual relics from the bombing such as a water tower and its crumpled structure and what was left of the original Urakami Cathedral. A little further into the museum were displays of the timeline and documentations that led to the decision to target Nagasaki. Many people do not realise that the city wasn't the intended target but rather Kokura but due to clouds and smoke blanketing the city, the bomber planes rerouted to Nagasaki instead.

A holographic reenactment of the bombing and its affects.
There was a lot to take in at the museum: a life-size display model of Fat Man, clothes and belongings of victims tainted with blood and bones, medical supplies and even more relics of the past that were just frozen in time. The display that caught my attention the most was one of human bones embedded into glass. So intense was the heat and radiation that the human skin and flesh melted away to be encased forever in glass, possibly a bottle they had been holding for a sip of water at the time of the bombing.

There were survivor stories retelling their tales of the bombing fallout, some talking of burying the dead after and some of the illnesses that cursed their bodies. The affect of nuclear bombing was so painful to hear and one had to wonder if it was even worth it. The museum exhibition ended with information on international co-operation and exchange effort concerning medical aid and laws pertaining nuclear warfare.

By the time I exited the museum, I was mentally drained and wandered my way to the Peace Memorial Hall to commemorate those who have died in the atomic bombing. Then as I waited for the rest of my family to finish their exploration, I sat down at the museum cafe, ordered their local castella cake and simply sat there to process the magnitude of this tragedy.

If you're ever visiting Nagasaki or even Hiroshima, then Atomic Bomb Museum is a must visit to really grasp the horror that is so deeply ingrained into its history and how it continues to impact the city till today. An time capsule of sorts.

Nagasaki Peace Park and the Atomic Bomb Museum, Nagasaki, Japan
Address: 7-8 Hirano-machi, Nagasaki, 852-8117, Japan
Tel: +81 95-844-1231
Fax: +81 95-846-5170
Operating hours: Mon-Sun, 8:30AM-5:30PM
Admission: JPY 200

Take the tram to Hamaguchimachi station then follow the signs up to the Atomic Bomb Museum. There are also ample parking areas around the vicinity which can be found via Google Maps.

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