Memories of Nagasaki

August 16, 2018

 

By Lilibeth Genova-Valiente Tanaka

THREE days before our flight I was worried and afraid because everyday was gloomy and stormy. We felt blessed that on the day of our flight, and while we were in Nagasaki, the weather was sunny and fine. The autumn air was cool and comfortable; walking all day was fun and enjoyable than tiring. I was not expecting to be affected much by the trip. This was the best place so far I have been to in Japan in terms of history and link to Christianity. It was good that in the morning we went for a pilgrimage tour of historical churches in Nagasaki (there were so many). I got more than what I expected. Little by little my feelings were getting heavier as we moved on to see more ruins of the damages caused by the war.

By mid-afternoon, we were almost over with our visits to Peace Memorials and Museums. It was sad and tragic. The feeling was choking me. My emotions were damp. I was beyond words with uncontrollable emotion. Sada had to bring me out of the museum quickly before we could enter more rooms because I was already crying and so devastated by the scenes, as the memories unfolded right before me.

Too Much To Bear. In the museum there was the lunch box of a high school girl, the charred rice inside still intact. Her name was written on the back of the lunchbox, beside it was placed her class picture. She was so pretty and innocent; her whole class – the whole school – did not survive the bomb. There was the cute dress of an 8-month old baby girl who died. Her mother was keeping that for her memory but later on decided to donate it to the museum. Blood-stained and torn. She wore that pretty, flowery dress on that fateful day. A helmet was displayed with remains of human skull still inside the helmet... blood…blood everywhere.  Melted rosaries found inside the church. Deaths of innocent people surrounded you. It was too much to bear.

An atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, three days after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The bomber had abandoned the primary target of Kokura, which was in another place, because of cloud cover and had flown to Nagasaki, the secondary target, and dropped the bomb from an altitude of 9,000 meters. A plutonium bomb, much more powerful than the uranium Hiroshima-type bomb, exploded about 500 meters over Matsuyama-machi neighborhood in the northern part of Nagasaki, killing or injuring 150,000 people and leaving a third of the city area in ruins.

On August 9, 1945 at 11:02, in the morning, time stopped in Nagasaki.

From the museum we went to the hypocenter – the ground zero. In the Peace Park, as it is called today, there was a Peace Fountain, a tribute to the atomic bomb victims who died begging for water. The words of a girl, nine years old at the time of the bombing, were engraved on a plaque in front of the pool: “Desperately thirsty, I went to draw water but found an oil-like substance floating all over it. People told me that the oil had rained down from the sky... But I wanted a drink so badly that I gulped the water down just as it was.” There are also many bottled mineral water offered by the people to paid tribute and to appease the souls of those who died.

A Dream of Peace. In the Peace Park, there were many peace statues donated from around the world, all for the dream of a peaceful world.  By the way, at the end of the exhibition in the Peace Museum were shown the world aspirations for peace, and I was proud to see the PHILIPPINES and our very own EDSA revolution on the history wall. The people power with the poster raised “Tagumpay ng Bayan” was the one captured in that scene.

Nagasaki is famous for the “hidden Christians”. Many were captured, killed and martyred for their Catholic faith. The Nizhizaka Hill is the symbol of Nagasaki. Can you imagine how in 1597, on this beautiful hill overlooking the Nagasaki port, there were 26 crosses set up to execute 26 Catholics who would not renounce their faith? They died crucified like Christ.  Three of them were Jesuits.  In the museum, the Philippines played an important part; most of the preachers came from the Philippines because at that time the best preachers were assigned in the Philippines. One Jesuit, Saint Miki spoke from his cross before his execution that he did not come from the Philippines and he was pure Japanese and had preached in Japan. The Jesuits would be so proud of their brothers. In the 26 Martyrs Museum there were original documents written by St. Francis Xavier, Ignatius Loyola. There is even a relic of St. Francis in the Museum. It’s a small museum but it’s full of treasures.

Another church, the Nakamachi Church is dedicated to the 16 martyrs of Nagasaki. Cardinal Sin in 1988 came to this church to consecrate the monument of San Lorenzo Ruiz one of the 16 Martyrs. He is the only one with a statue at the church ground.

Many of the churches were destroyed. What are left are headless statues, burned images, melted rosaries, etc.

 Nagasaki is a center of two afflictions: Oppression of Christians and the Atomic Bomb.

Romantic Memory. We ended up our day with a nice, romantic memory of Nagasaki. We went to Glover Garden, a beautiful and romantic garden on top of a hill overlooking Nagasaki port. The Glover house is the oldest western style wooden building in Japan. The house was owned by Thomas Glover, a wealthy Scottish businessman who later married a native of Nagasaki. The place flourished as a center for foreign residents who were mostly British. You go up the hill either by a moving sidewalk or through an elevator that moved up along the hill, from where you can look down where came. Many presidents visited and stayed in the place. Thomas Grant was one of them. Maria Callas, the famous soprano, was there in 1973 and her olive tree is still there. The very first asphalt road in Japan was in this place. The very first tennis court was also built in Glover garden.

Something more interesting, the opera Madame Butterfly was set in Nagasaki. The opera is a story of Madame Butterfly who awaits the return of her love. It is said Madame Butterfly was modeled after Tsuru Glover, the wife of Thomas Glover.

Nagasaki, after all the sad memories, is a beautiful city now. I find the people very calm and friendly. People in the tram have a more relaxed face than the people in Tokyo. They look more charming and happier.  As we walked along the streets we were surprised to see the young children were polite. One small boy even shouted at me “Ohayo Gozaimasu” (Good morning) as I was busy trying to have the best pose at the ruins of Urakami church. I did not notice him seated across the street. As we walked we met many young children and they greeted with a bow, or with “Ohayo Gozaimasu”, or with “konnichiwa” (Good day). Such charming kids I told Sada, very polite. Or, were they real children after all?

 PEACE to all.

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The writer is a Bikolana. She studied in what was then Colegio de Santa Isabel (1980) and Ateneo de Naga (1984). She worked for many years in the Human Resources Division of the Center for International Trade, Exposition and Mission (CITEM), in Manila before moving to Japan. She is married to Sadahito Tanaka. They reside in Tokyo.



 

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