Nagasaki is not just a few hazy images. I remember it as a real chunk of my life.

This past weekend some of my coworkers and I planned a trip to Nagasaki. It was a wonderful trip and I wish we could have had more time instead of just one day. There was so much we wanted to do, but just didn’t have the chance to do.

This was my first time traveling by train for an extended period of time–well, a train that wasn’t the shinkansen. We rode just an average train for about an hour and then switched onto an express line the rest of the way to Nagasaki. It’s really unfortunate. I enjoy traveling by train but the price can be a pretty penny depending on where you go. The landscapes fly by and you get to see snippets of Japanese life as they fly past your window. I caught myself wondering if some of the villages I watched from my window had changed much over the past couple of decades. How the Japanese build rice fields into their hills always amazes me no matter how many times I see it.

We arrived in Nagasaki at about 10AM in the morning and rushed to get our daily tram passes so we could be sure to get around the town. We first went to eat champon which was very tasty. Though I think I prefer just normal ramen. What is champon? Champon is a dish I assume was adapted from a Chinese dish. It has noodles inside which are nothing like those used with ramen, soba or udon. They are completely round and smaller than both ramen and udon but bigger than soba. In the dish there are a variety of things. Many different kinds of vegetables (leaks, sprigs, mushrooms) and seafood (little octopus or squid, some shellfish, etc).

Afterwards we went towards Suwa Shrine, which was lovely.  From the top you could look out over a nice chunk of Nagasaki. It allowed you to imagine what it would have looked like about a hundred years ago. The shrine was very nice and I think there was a small bird zoo nearby because we could hear the calls of peacocks.

Afterward we went to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb museum. I have never been to the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Museum, but I have heard that it is much more “in your face” in regards to what exacltly happened before, during and after the bomb was dropped. We slowly walked into the gallery where there were pieces of buildings and other items that survived the atomic blast–well, barely. As we continued forward we reached the gallery which housed familiar items to many people that had been exposed. Melted coins and bottles, burnt and bloody pieces of clothing. There was even a large glob of melted glass with the bones of a hand encased within. A young school girl’s obento (lunch box) with the rice still in tact within from being burned so fast and quickly. There were also items you could touch, which I touched. I took one picture inside, but I couldn’t take more than that. Even though it was allowed (or perhaps even encouraged) I felt as though it was rude.

There was a wall that had the shadows of items and a person etched into it. A ladder with the shadow of a man standing next to it, almost as though time there stood still and the shadow was still looking up toward the sky unknowing about what horror was going to shortly occur. The testimonies from people who survived the blast were also horrifying. A young kid who had to cremate his mother in the backyard of his school and that whenever he went to where she was cremated and scratched a stick into the dirt he could see the face of his mother in the black ash.

Afterward we went to Peace Park, which was very nice, but still indeed looming. There was a large statue with one hand pointing up towards the bomb that fell and the other stretched out in peace. The Hypocenter was also very dreary. I feel like I learned a lot despite how depressing the entire subject is.

Afterward we went to buy some omiyage (souvenirs) for the people we work with and went hunting for some yakiniku. We found a lovely grill, albeit expensive, but we were able to eat a lot of food and we couldn’t even finish all of it! We had beef, chicken, special cuts from pigs and even whale! I know many people do not agree with eating whale, but truth be told we didn’t know it was part of the course we ordered and since it was ordered and the money already paid for we found no reason to allow it to go into the garbage–which is exactly where it would have gone. Whether I ate it or not, the outcome would have still been the same–it would have still been purchased whale.