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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, November 15, 2019
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Sol Y Sombra
with Rinaldo G. Remitio

Nagasaki - mon amour

Rock & Refuge

One thing you have to possess going to Nagasaki is a strong stomach. While it is true that Nagasaki has been called the San Francisco of Japan because of its physical relation to the sea, it is still the atomic bomb dropped on this industrial city on Aug. 9, 1945 that blasted the lives of 73,884 Japanese (and injured about the same number of people) that defines the feeling of every newcomer.

The word “horror” is probably inadequate to describe our feelings as we descended a circular staircase indicating the years until the base floor of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum where the exhibits are displayed.

Everyone can have his or her reaction to the items displayed in the Bomb Museum. There are hundreds and hundreds of them. On my part, I can still remember a human face burned and twisted by the blast that it lost all its human look and became an ugly, evil caricature.

Radiation from the bomb caused a human spleen to expand a hundred times.

Somebody was holding a glass in his hand when the explosion occurred which fused the hand and the glass together, creating a unique but horrible center-piece.

Talking of melting glass, on display are six melted bottles due to atomic heat. It probably should adorn the desk of Putin at the Kremlin.

Photos of blasted buildings, schools, shrines churches, you name it.

At the time of the blast, at exactly 11:02 a.m., two priests were hearing the confessions of several dozen parishioners at the Urakami Cathedral. The priest and the confessioners were all blasted to smithereens and were covered by the ruins of the cathedral.

I finally met an exact reproduction of the famous “Fat Man”, the type of bomb that annihilated thousands with a single blast. It’s about 3 meters high and 1.5 meters wide.

It stood in its platform, painted yellow with an enlarged middle part. Maybe it’s the reason for the moniker “Fat Man”. But one cannot stay too long in a chamber of horrors. We were glad to be out of this unique museum and happy that the date was Oct. 5, 2019, not Aug. 9, 1945.

We went to the nearby area, the epicenter of the atomic blast. There was a memorial to those who perished. It’s a plea in concrete of the cry “never again”. Of course you are immersed with the idea that many years ago, this place was the center of hell.

One cannot help but imagine the Fat Man (the Atomic Bomb) slowly descending from above and in seconds blasted more than 70,000 Japanese into eternity.

So we had to seek refuge in a bench under the trees near the memorial. There was a dark coolness under the trees which totally blocked the sun. But one cannot divest himself of the idea that years ago, an atom explosion cleared this area and made it an incandescent desert. I picked 2 stones near my feet. I stared at them wondering whether they were parts of the area called ground zero.

There was a stream nearby and we had told that after the blast many survivors who were thirsty drank from the water of the stream and succumbed. You may survive the blast but not drinking radio-active water.

And so we left the area of the epicenter and went to the heavily touristed Peace Memorial Park lorded over by a colossal statue, 30 foot high, the figure of a man with outstretched arms. Does it indicate the message that the world cannot afford another Fat Man or similar device?

To wash away the dread, we have to go somewhere, peaceful. So we were whisked to the famed Clober Gardens which were crowded with visitors, foreigner and local.

It should be remembered that Japan was an isolated country for three centuries. Its contact with the rest of the world was only thru Nagasaki. Clober was I think, a Portuguese businessman and he was a dominant figure in Nagasaki, a vital link to foreign trade.

So he built his mansion and his vast multi-tiered mansion on top of a promontory with fascinating view of Nagasaki and its coast.

I quote from notes scribbled on a scrap paper:

“We visited the Clober Gardens, an elaborate multi-tiered gardens on top of a hill. There, the house of Clover glistened in the afternoon sun, a jewel of a mansion From its terrace, you can glimpse multi-colored carps, lazily lounging in the water of a huge pool, until some tourists throw a piece of bread, and the water swirls with feeding carps.”

Of course, one can write more about Nagasaki even when the stay is just a sliver of time. But then, an atom explosion and a gorgeous garden will be enough for now.

So Sayonara Nagasaki.*

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