Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Nagasaki 2 and something else.

Recently I see many TV programs featuring Japan, making me feel nostalgic how we went to the same place and the way we felt there.

One of them was showing the Former Navy Underground Headquaters in Okinawa, which we visited in 2016, one of the main war memorials in Southern part of Japan.

But for now, let me talk about Nagasaki during the war.

When you think about Nagasaki, the first thing that comes into your mind is Atomic Bomb. Everybody knows Hiroshima and Nagasaki are two cities where atomic bomb was dropped, and yet the feel that evokes is somewhat different.

Nagasaki was the first city where the Christianity was introduced and remained to be the most Christian city throughout Edo era.
Shimabara region is famous for the Christian rebellion in 1637-1638, by April 1638, over 27,000 rebels were fighting against approx. 125,000 soldiers sent by the Tokugawa Shogunate government, after the battle ended, more than 37,000 Christian rebels and sympathisers were beheaded according to Wikipedia. Reference: The Shimabara-Amakusa Uprising- Tragedy for 37,000 (jump to the site)

Japan went into National Seclusion Period after that and the Christianity was officially banned, and over 30,000 hidden Christians with unwavering faith held their belief in the shadow until they resurfaced in the 18th century when Nagasaki opened as the first international trading port in Japan.

Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture also shows you how Nagasaki developed to be the most multi-cultural, Christian town in Japan since 15th century.
You can download the English leaflet from the following link.
The Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture (EN)
Oura region (nearby Dejima) became the main foreign settlement during the mid to late 18th century (Nagasaki foreign settlemement) where traders and sailors from China, Holand, France, Portugal, Scotland, England and America lived, and caused its colourful culture to flourish, until the war erupted.

Nowadays, although you don't find many foreigners inh Nagasaki other than Chinese and overseas tourists, you still see the influence of Asian and European influence everywhere in the city and there are many Christian schools that were built before the war and demolished by the atomic bombing.

What made the Nagasaki Bombing more tragic than Hiroshima was the fact that the Christians were killed by all-Christian US army crew on the mission.

The day when the Fat Man was dropped, inside the Urakami Cathedral, which happened to be the most prominent catholic church in Asia back then, were few dozens of Church members and priests summoned for the upcoming preparation for Mass, some for confession.

The church was located within 500 metres from ground Zero and all died instantly. There were over 15,000 Christians in Nagasaki, out of which, approx. 10,000 Christians eventually said to have lost their lives because of the radiation trauma.

What touched me the most was the way the survivors viewed the tragedy as “the sacred sacrifice that was crucial to end the war” and how forgiving they were. Nagasaki Christians stayed true to their belief and didn’t hold hostility towards Americans.

Seeing the photo of the collapsed Urakami Cathedral and then the head of St. Mary exhibited in the museum after that, was an awesome experience. There was this initial hopelessness and sadness I felt when I saw the wreck of the Church, and then the strange sense of tranquillity consumed me after seeing the head of St. Mary.

Growing up in Yokohama, I was used to see the remains of former Hiranuma station in Yokohama, which was destroyed in the great fire bombing of Yokohama.

Towards the end of war, hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians died in the bombings, the total death toll mounted up to easily over 500,000, and yet, it’s far less than the war casualties Japanese military caused in China during the war. And we also mustn’t forget those Koreans, especially young girls brutally raped and killed by Japanese soldiers during the war.

The worst cruelty of the war in general is the fact that innocent civilians are the ones who are really victimised, rather than the military themselves. Why don’t all the ministers, prime ministers and the presidents go to the war and fight themselves without involving civilians? How come do innocent people have to hate each other only because their countries are fighting each other?

Like those all Christian army crew who dropped the Fat Man, many of those who start the wars probably are religious, and yet the hunger for power and/or false sense of obligation and justice always seem to engulf the human conscience.

There was a poem by Akiko Yosano (as seen in the photo below), called Kimi Shinitamou Koto Nakare, which is the most famous anti-war poem of that time, meaning “You shall not die”
It goes like this. (I apologize that I don’t remember the full version.)

Oh, my brother
I cry for you
You shall not die
For you were the last born
Our parents loved you all the more for that reason
Yet did they teach you to grab a sword and kill people?
Kill them and eventually die yourself
At 24?

Born into the prominent merchant family in the town of Sakai
Because you are the young master of the house, who has to carry the family name
You shall not die, my brother
The castle of Ryojun (Port Arthur) may fall but what's the big deal?
It doesn't say in the rule book of our merchant family (that you should fight in the battle)
Although you may not know

Don’t you die, my brother
Our emperor doesn’t fight in the front line himself, does he?
Are you sure you have to shed human blood unnecessarily,
And die like a beast,
Is it really honourable to die (like that)?
As the emperor's being so compassionate,
He wouldn't think like that to start with, would he?

I think I was taught this poem at high school somewhere between Year 10 and 12. Since it is like 3 decades ago I only remember the poem up to here, but it is still enough to represent the true feeling of the civilians (especially females).

I apologize that I translated this poem with my own interpretation. The original Japanese version was written in the old style, which has made it confusing at times.

During my multiple attempts, I even considered changing the style completely. The third verse is full of personal feeling, sarcasm and criticism towards the emperor and his army, therefore it was hard not to get my emotion in the way of making it more accurate. There are heaps of better translations elsewhere under the title "Thou Shalt Not Die" by Akiko Yosano.
Published in 1904, I must say it must've been  a miracle that such a controversial poet got away without getting enjailed or even killed.
We all know that it’s wrong to kill unnecesarily. Whether it’s another human being or animals - and yet we still do if there is even a single excuse or a cause, even if it’s not always justifiable.

Everyday, uncountable numbers of cattle were killed and wasted. The prevalence of vegetarian, and vegan culture may have lessened the total meat consumption, but the decrease in the demand doesn’t seem to reflect much on the supply department.

The cause? The cattle farmers need to sell the livestock to sustain their business, right?

What about human lives?

In present days, many countries banned the capital punishment, resulting in murderers sometimes coming out of the jails depending on their behaviours in prison, WHILE in the war, were too many innocent people who lose their precious lives. Or would you call it the sacred sacrifice?

Sometimes wars and fights are started under the name of justice and yet, I can’t help but feel the doubt as to how much justice was really concerned in the initial decision to start them.

Often when money and greed are concerned, our morals get clouded. Wars often have positive effect in the economy because the munitions industry prospers by selling weapons. It’s all relevant, isn't it?

Why do we have to prioritise things that have little to do with human lives?

Well then, why don’t we all go back to the primitive, nomad life style?

Now I’m starting to sound stupid.

What appears to be meaningless is not really meaningless,

As long as we stay aware.

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