Tuesday, August 09, 2011

August 9th

What remains of the original Urakami Church.

"What on earth is this?" It was Choro's voice.

"It's a new kind of bomb like the one that fell on Hiroshima." This was Shiro.

"No. The sun must have exploded," said Choro.

"Maybe so... the temperature has suddenly dropped." Shiro's voice was thoughtful.

"If the sun explodes, what happens to the earth?" Now it was the anxious voice of Nurse Tsubakiyama.

"It's the end of the world," Choro said with resignation.

The Bells of Nagasaki, Dr. Takashi Nagai

On August 9th, 1945, at 11:02 AM, then the most powerful force on Earth - the atomic bomb- exploded five hundred meters over the Urakami neighbourhood in Nagasaki, Japan, a city known as the only port for European sailors, the seat of Catholicism in Japan, a place of great martyrdoms and even the setting for Puccini's opera, Madama Butterfly.

A statue of Puccini at Glover Gardens

People went about their business in the militaristic state of Japan. A military government had long been at war with the Chinese and then the Americans in 1941. Indeed, in his book, Dr. Nagai describes people ready for air raids, some of whom may have had with them thick, padded hoods to protect them from falling debris and first-aid kits. Japan was prepared not just to fight to the last man but down to the last child, a sentiment eerily similar to the jihadist spirit today. Every man was sent overseas or to defend the home-front. Women and children worked in factories and every inch of arable land was used. Even silver and gold threads were picked out of kimonos and used for the war effort. The people of Nagasaki that morning were not just ready for the next air raids. They were working in factories, women assumed traditionally male-dominated jobs (and being paid significantly less!) and the faithful were in the churches preparing for the Feast of the Assumption.

Then the bomb changed that.

I imagine at 11:02 this morning, the Japanese went to work, prepared themselves for another memorial day, worried about the Nikkei or wondered at the rebuilding efforts of the earthquake-affected Sendai. There is no military government exploiting every last ounce of strength or resource they have, no desire for world domination and a new Urakami Cathedral stands where the old one was reduced to rubble.

Urakami Cathedral now

The bomb wasn't the beginning of an immense suffering. It was the end of it. How could an entire people and country ruin themselves with war? They started it and someone had to finish it. Militarily, it had to be done. To save Japan and the world, a bomb had to be dropped. A place of martyrdom and bloodshed had to exorcised from a kind of darkness that blinded it. It's a peaceful place now, one of my favourite places in Japan.

Go there and see.

No comments: