Even though it was cold, wet and miserable, I took the back roads most of the way from Hiroshima to Nagasaki; it may have took me twice as long as using the toll expressways, but I probably saved over 100 USD in tolls. That’s a lot of sake.
The 400km ride took me all day and I arrived late in the evening, after dark. Thank goodness for my Open Street Maps (downloaded free from the web and uploaded to my Garmin) which took me directly to my home for the next 2 nights – The Nagasaki Catholic Centre, where I fitted right in.
Pretty cold, wet and tired, I was shown to my dorm by very nice Nuns, jumped into a lovely hot shower, and then jumped back on the bike to ride up Mount Inasa, where the night-time view is ranked as one of the 3 best city night views in Japan and dubbed the “10 Million Dollar View”. Personally I would not have paid 10 million dollars to see it, which was lucky as the car park was only 2 dollars. However, it was very nice.
On the way back to my sanctum, while waiting at some traffic lights, a policeman ran up from behind me and tapped me on the shoulder, pointing wildly at my number plate.
I congratulated him on his observance, which he luckily didn’t understand, and smiled politely as he asked how I’d smuggled such a vehicle into the country, under the nose of everybody until now. Luckily I had all the correct documents and Japanese insurance required exactly for occasions such as these, but unfortunately I had left them all safely under lock and key back at the hostel.
Double unfortunately, I was about to over-run the 11pm night curfew enforced at the good Catholic Centre, obviously made to protect such vulnerable young creatures like myself from the dangers of the night. Not fancying a night on the streets, no matter how much I liked Nagasaki, I managed to pull up some documents on my iPhone which seemed to satisfy Mr Nice Policeman, after a long conversation with his superiors.
I made it back to the hostel in the nick of time, and even managed to stop quickly at 7-Eleven to grab a very late dinner; I was starving!
Happily fed and watered I slept soundly listening to the voice of angels, and the snoring of a man opposite.
I woke late and enjoyed a good old fashioned Christian breakfast of tea and croissants, and a good lashing with a birch branch for my sins over the years (only a couple actually).
I had plans – big plans.
I was uncharacteristically organised for me, and even managed to draw up a detailed itinerary for the day’s events:
1. See some stuff
2. Find the nearest British/Irish pub
I liked Nagasaki. It is one of the nicest big cities I’ve ever visited, and small by Japanese standards at less than half a million people.
Like all Japanese cities, Nagasaki is clean and orderly, but there’s something else that makes it stand out for me. Maybe it was the colourful flowers delicately planted alongside the pavements and in the parks, or the fresh, open feel to it.
Of course on 9th August 1945, ‘Fat Boy’, a plutonium bomb, was dropped on Nagasaki, instantly killing over 40,000 people and levelling a large part of the city (twice as many had died 3 days earlier in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima). Ten of thousands more died horribly from the subsequent fallout.
A visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum was very sobering, and begs the question whether it was right or wrong. One thing everyone agrees on – nothing like that should ever happen again.
Amazingly one Japanese man was present at both atomic bombings, and survived them both (just). He must have been the luckiest unluckiest man in history.
I spent most of the day wondering around lovely parks and various museums. The Peace Park was especially nice, full of various monuments and statues. It was established near the hypocentre of the explosion and remains of Urakami Cathedral are standing nearby – once the grandest church in east Asia.
The 10-meter high Peace Statue stands proud in the park as a reminder to everyone. As symbolic gestures, the statue’s right hand points to the “threat of nuclear weapons while the extended left hand symbolizes eternal peace; the mild face symbolizes divine grace and the gently closed eyes offer a prayer for the repose of the bomb victims’ souls. The folded right leg and extended left leg signify both meditation and the initiative to stand up and rescue the people of the world.” In front of the statue is a black marble vault containing the names of the atomic bomb victims and people who died from the after affects.
I stopped at the Urakami Cathedral on the way back, right across the road from the hostel. Once the largest church in Asia, it was destroyed during the atomic bombing and rebuilt a few years later.
After 2 nights in the Catholic Centre, my soul felt sufficiently rescued, and it was time to hit the road.
On my way out I thought I’d better take in at least one temple, so I chose Sofuku-ji, constructed in 1629 by Chinese residents and one of the best examples of Ming Dynasty architecture in the world (including China).
I was heading south to Amakusa (meaning ‘Heaven’s Grass’), a series of smaller islands off the west coast of Kyushu, via the Shimabara Peninsula and the very active volcano Mount Unzen.