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Travel to Nagasaki - Dispatch from Nagasaki, Japan (Part 1)
A Travel Journal
Atomic Bomb Museum
During our two-month stay in Tokyo this spring, my wife Carol and I took the train to Nagasaki (1200 km) for a couple of days to visit the Atomic Bomb Museum and explore vestiges of early European presence in Japan. On the northwest coast of Kyushu (about the same latitude as San Diego, CA), Nagasaki, is situated in a beautiful fiord-like harbour surrounded by mountains and high hills similar to Hiroshima a little to the northeast on Honshu. In both cities, the atomic blasts were contained by their respective topographies.
Physically and conceptually reconstructed in 1996, the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum offers more complexity in its presentation of the atomic bomb attack and in its anti-war message than what I remember of the Hiroshima museum visited last year. It describes in detail the bombing and its terrible aftermath, complete with graphic photos and victim accounts. More than Hiroshima, it accounts for the deterioration of democracy in pre-war Japan and acknowledges Japan’s responsibility for hostilities in Asia, including forced labour, forced prostitution, and mistreatment of Allied POWs, Weller’s First into Nagasaki gives some insight into experiences of POWs in the Nagasaki area as well as into American attempts to control public messaging about the atomic bomb attacks.
The museum display also accounts for debate within American scientific, government, and military communities at the time over the efficacy and morality of using atomic weapons. Although a secondary target on the day, there is no doubt in my mind that Nagasaki was once a credible military target given its extensive Mitsubishi installations –steel mill, ship yards, armaments production-and it was a jumping off point for sending Japanese Imperial Forces to the Asian mainland. However, I never bought the story that Nagasaki, three days after Hiroshima, was necessary at all. But I did buy the Hiroshima story that the A-bomb prevented the potential deaths of thousands of American servicemen until I read John Toland’s book, The Rising Sun, in the 1970s. For me, the question has remained open ever since.
The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is situated near the hypo-centre of the blast north of the city centre and is well worth a visit. Plan on at least three or four hours but you could spend the whole day. But there is more to Nagasaki, a city of 450,000.
* Nagasaki Harbour
* Peace Memorial Cranes
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