Tuesday 24 January 2023
Today we pick up a hire car to drive round the top half of Kyushu. But first, breakfast. Hotel Wing offers a complimentary breakfast. There are four choices, three of which are fish, including porridge with a dollop of pollock roe. I can think of plenty of nice things to add to porridge. Fish eggs isn’t one of them. The only fish free option is pancakes with fruit and whipped cream. So, dessert for breakfast it is then.
After breakfast, we check out and take the metro to the airport to pick up our car. Distance walked round the airport trying to locate the car hire desk/shuttle bus; two miles. That’s not strictly true. After a mile, we find an information desk and are told to cross the motorway and walk to the car hire office, which is another mile.
Drive to Nagasaki
It’s our first time driving in Japan, so we’re not really sure what to expect, except that it’s going to be expensive. Today’s 93 mile drive to Nagasaki costs Y4290 (£26.54) in tolls, while the hotel wants Y1540 (£9.52) per day to park the car.
We set off on the expressway to Nagasaki. All is going well until my GPS freezes with 69 miles to go. We decide to drive to the next services to find Wi-Fi. In the interim, the wind picks up so the car is being blown all over the road. And it starts to snow.
At the rest area I reset my GPS and we set off once more, only for it to freeze again. We head on to Nagasaki not really knowing where we’re going or how to rectify the matter. After a couple of circuits of the city, we locate the Peace Park and finally find our hotel. It’s down a tiny road that we’d driven past several times.
Hotel Concerto Nagasaki
Tonight we are staying at the Hotel Concerto Nagasaki. It’s somewhat more up market than our past few hotels and conveniently located for the Peace Park.
My favourite thing is the jacuzzi bathtub with TV. I’m not sure why I’m so excited about this – it’s not like I can understand Japanese TV…
I think a soak in the jacuzzi will be the ideal antidote to a stressful day, but forget rule No 1 of jacuzzi baths. I throw in the bath gel provided by the hotel and have soon created a foam mountain range in the bathroom.
Hotel toilet report; it has a clock. So you can do a time and motion study on your motions?
Once we are settled into our hotel, we go and explore Nagasaki, although the combination of the weather and the fact we arrived much later than anticipated mean we have to curtail our plans.
The port city of Nagasaki has played a prominent role in foreign trade for many centuries. On 9 August 1945, it became famous for another thing as it was the second city to be destroyed by an American atomic bomb.
Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
We head first to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum which tells the story of the bomb attack and its aftermath.
It’s not as easy to locate as you might imagine, as it’s in a large multipurpose building which houses the town hall and the library. Entry costs Y200.
The museum is divided into four sections; Section A, entitled August 9 1945, shows the city prior to the bombing, images of the bomb drop and a graphic of the immediate damage it caused. At the entrance is a clock discovered 800 metres from the hypocentre which stopped at 11.02, the time of the blast.
Section B, Damage caused by the Atomic Bomb, displays artefacts destroyed by the blast; for example rosary beads which melted and fused and the warped water tower from a school.
August 9th was a Thursday, so the school would have been full of children.
My favourite items are these sculptures made by a Dutch PoW who was working 1500 metres from the hypocentre when the bomb hit.
Section C, Towards a World Free of Nuclear Weapons, documents the world’s current nuclear arsenal and what has been done to encourage countries to disarm.
Section D consists of Video Rooms where you can watch videos related to the bombing. Although the museum makes for sombre viewing, it is less macabre than its counterpart in Hiroshima. There are photos of corpses and horrifically mutilated people, but they’re mainly on TV screens as part of montages, so you aren’t confronted by the same image for long. I came out feeling more educated than nauseated. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…
National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims
Adjacent to the Atomic Bomb Museum is the Memorial Hall where a water basin symbolises people crying for water as they died. Twelve Pillars of Light hold the names of the victims. You can listen to survivors’ messages and leave your own message for peace. We don’t stay long as an enormous school group descends.
Atomic Bomb Hypocentre Park
We cross the road to a park. This small, paved park contains some statues and a stone column that marks the hypocentre above which the bomb exploded.
Nearby is a section of the wall of the Urakami Cathedral which was destroyed in the attack.
We think that the park we are in is the Peace Park and that it’s a bit naff compared to Hiroshima. It isn’t until later that we realise we haven’t actually been to the Peace Park – oops!
By the time we leave not the Peace Park, it’s 4 pm and we haven’t eaten since breakfast. None of the nearby restaurants are open so we head for a mall. In a fitting ending to what has been a trying day, we seem to manage to find the only mall in Japan with no food court. So we buy some bits from the supermarket and return to our room for an indoor picnic whilst watching the snow fall outside.
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