At 11:02am on August 9, 1945, a city was silenced.
That city was the Nagasaki.
It was here, after all, that the second of two atomic bombs were dropped on an ailing Japan, leaving the city’s structures in ruins and, with its ferocious heat and blast, indiscriminately slaughtering its inhabitants and scarring the lives of those that survived for years to come.
This one atrocious act makes a pilgrimage to The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum a must-see on any visitor’s travel itinerary.
A visit here is as harrowing as it is interesting. The sheer scale of the destruction of the Atomic Bomb ‘Fatman’ bought about to the region is astounding. In total around 150,000 people either died or were injured when the bomb exploded 500m above the city.
The museum – which first opened in 1966 – is a comprehensive reminder of that day and the build-up to it. Inside its simplistic brick walls, the museum portrays scenes of World War II, the dropping of the atomic bomb, the reconstruction of Nagasaki right up to the present day while also exhibiting the history of nuclear weapons development.
It’s said that the residents of Nagasaki consider it their duty to make sure the horrors which they experienced are never repeated. Because of this, the museum is designed in such a way that the audience can see just what effect the bomb had on the city, the reconstruction, and the lasting effects of the atomic bomb.
The clock which stopped at 11:02
After paying the (very cheap) entrance fee, the museum opens up with a room dedicated to the city as it was just before the bomb decimated Nagasaki. A clock which stopped at 11:02, the precise time the bomb hit the city, is also on display to demonstrate how so many people were killed in an instant.
In the next section, visitors enter a room which shows Nagasaki just after the bombings. Included in this room is a water tank with contorted legs which was located at Keiho Middle School, approximately 800m away from the hypocentre of the bombing. The exhibition has many items on display that were exposed to the blast as well as a replica of a sidewall of the Urakami Cathedral which was hit by the bomb.
Visitors are guided from exhibit-to-exhibit, across the museums three floors, by a handheld recorded narrator – which is provided as part of the entrance fee – which describes what you are looking at and allows visitors to get to grips with just how badly Nagasaki suffered.
Spread throughout the museum there are countless items salvaged from the wreckage on show, including bottles that melted together under the extreme heat, clothes that were peeled off the victims’ backs, a lunchbox still containing the remains of a rice lunch a young child was taking with them the day the bomb hit and a life-sized replica of the bomb itself.
Hypocentre Park, the exact spot the bomb exploded 500m up
Leaving the museum is a sombre affair, the stories told within are a stark reminder and warning of the dangers and destruction that such and act can have.
Nearby, in the Hypocentre Park, visitors can come face-to-face with a monument symbolising the exact spot the bomb exploded 500m up; an area the museum will have spoken much about during a visit. Incredibly, just metres away from this is the one-pillar Torii – the remaining part of the traditional gates that are synonymous with Japan – that has stood firm against the bomb’s destructive blast.
After leaving the museum, visitors can make the short walk to the Nagasaki Peace Park. Established in 1955, and near to the hypocentre of the explosion, remnants of a concrete wall of Urakami Cathedral – which you’ll have learnt about in the museum – can still be seen to this day.
Just inside this park is the 10m-tall Peace Statue created by sculptor Seibo Kitamura This statue is depicts a large man pointing skywards.
Explaining the meaning of the statue a plaque titled “Words from the Sculptor” has the poignant message within its text that reads “It [the statue] conveys the profundity of knowledge and the beauty of health and virility. The right-hand points to the atomic bomb, the left-hand points to peace, and the face prays deeply for the victims of war.”
The spot is a deeply meaningful place for the residents of Nagasaki and acts as a memorial for those lost following the bombing. The setting is one of peace and the approach to the statue is surrounded by fountains which add to the overall atmosphere of the area.
While a trip to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum can be a horrific reminder of the devastation humans can cause, it is also a celebration of how life can prevail even through the darkest of times. Nagasaki has experienced destruction like few other places can imagine but has managed to come out the other side.
Now, with almost 80 year having passed since that the earth-shattering moment, Nagasaki continues to blossom with its residents being silenced no more.