ANN Tamashii no Radio - Nagasaki: Part 2
Zankyo 残響 - A collection of Masha’s thoughts on his hometown Nagasaki (5)
ANN Tamashii no Radio Live:
The days after the atomic bombing on August 9 upto the end of the war on August 15, carry a huge significance in the history of the city of Nagasaki. I guess in the period after the war, the rapid growth of Japan and the progess of time had brought about a lot of changes.
August 9th 11:02am, the time when the 2nd atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. I haven’t been back at Nagasaki to relive that moment for years. In Junior High, our Brass Band would perform each year in a parade, starting from our school all the way to the Nagasaki Peace Park* situated at the hypocentre of the bombing. We would reach there before 11:02am and would sometimes be invited to perform at the exact moment (in the Memorial Ceremony) as well.
I have been to the hypocentre many times (over the years) on that same day and time. When I decided to return again this year (2006), I chose to stand aside as a spectator. I had reached the vicinity of the hypocentre to check things out before 11:02am. Riot police, demonstrators, political activists etc., the place was full of people and the atmosphere grim and severe. “I can’t believe this…” I couldn’t help thinking, after I saw it.
Things symbolizing “Japan”; “War” and “Peace” could be seen there. Every year at this time, memorial ceremonies will be held only in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And also for August 15 (end of the war).
And I’m thinking…..what classifies as a peaceful life?……..We had 911; in the 90’s there was the Gulf War, even in our times, we are aware of wars still happening in the world. When we philosophize on topics like “What is war?” “What is peace?”, I think the answers can be more clearly seen in those memorial activities in August in Japan.
People who come to attend the peace ceremony; members of the riot police and political activists against a background of demonstrations by the general public, etc. - all these symbolic scenes together makes one wonder…….. “Is this what we call ‘Peace’?”; “To hold our memorial ceremony in the midst of this setting, is this… ‘Peace’?” Well, I guess in a real war-zone, or in a country at war, we probably wouldn’t find this phenomenon! Nor would it be possible….
So where was I at the exact time (11:02am)? I was at the Sanno-jinja (山王神社 Sanno Shrine)** located next to the hypocenter and Peace Park. A one-legged Torii gate stands outside the Shrine. One side of it was shatterred by the waves of the atomic bomb. I remember taking my graduation photo at that Torii, but I was much more relaxed then. If you walk on past the Torii, you’ll get to Sanno-jinja. There is a huge camphor tree at the entrance.
That camphor tree was badly damaged in the heat and the blast, its bark burnt. People did not expect it to survive because it took the direct impact of the atomic bomb, but with treatment by the arborist (tree doctor), it is now thriving and growing strong. Indeed, after decades, it has survived and is still standing. I have always loved that tree, it’s very special to me. That’s why I wanted to spend that particular moment (11:02am) there.
August 15, the day the war ended (for Japan).
A few days earlier, I had dinner with my Grandmother. I wanted to ask her views on whether (ex-)Prime Minister Koizumi would visit the Yasukuni Shrine this year. I really wanted to talk to her about this. My father had an “Atomic Bomb Survivor (health) Handbook”, because he was a second generation bomb survivor. As an offspring (of a bomb survivor), when I’m back now at Nagasaki as an observer during this time, what did I perceive? I’m not sure myself……
Having left Nagasaki for almost 20 years, I live in Tokyo now, I’ve been all over the world, to different countries. I really want to re-acquaint myself with this city, to re-learn about all of Nagasaki’s history, to delve a bit more, a bit deeper…That was the main reason I went back this time.
~ Extract from ANN Tamashii no Radio (2006.08.19) ~