June 05 2017
When we found out we were moving to Kyushu, I promptly added the Nagasaki Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum to my bucket list. I am ashamed to say it took two years for us to make the short drive down to Nagasaki to experience this part of our shared history. Shame aside, it was every bit as moving as I expected it to be.
We visited on a beautiful Saturday morning and were surprised to find the park very peaceful and quiet. We could hear fans chanting at the soccer stadium across the street but the park itself was very serene. There is a multi-level escalator leading up to the park from the street which I found very thoughtful for elderly visitors. When you arrive at the top, you are met by a massive fountain shaped like angels wings and through them you can see the famous peace statue in the distance. There are many statues installed along the perimeter; gifts from various countries and cities around the world.
In the center of the park was the remnants of a prison that housed 134 people. All that remained was the twisted rebar protruding from the concrete foundation. Imagining a building, with lives inside, reduced to twisted steel and then recognizing that this still happens today, 72 years later, is agonizing. We may not be dropping atomic bombs on each other, but bombs nonetheless.
As we walked over to the hypocenter, where a black pillar marks the epicenter of the bomb, we passed an old air raid shelter. According to the info sign, the U.S. military studied air raid shelters in the aftermath, noting the locations of casualties versus injuries. Research. I understand why. I do. But it’s still gross.
The Atomic Bomb Museum sits on a hill above the hypocenter. It was a very sobering experience. I tried not to think of Pearl Harbor or the strategic reasoning for using the atom bomb. Instead, I just let myself be devastated by the horror. Tiny bodies, bloodied and charred. Children. Mothers. *sigh* So much death. The sadness was similar to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. when you see all those tiny shoes or when you walk through the hall with all those faces. I could not bring myself to take photos. It seemed wrong… and unnecessary. I can still see the bodies when I close my eyes.