I was nearly exploding with excitement as my bus pulled into Nagasaki, the second Japanese city to get battered by an atomic bomb back in 1945. And I wasn’t let down, because I had a real blast in this booming metropolis. Alright, alright, I’ll knock off the puns. Shit, I didn’t know you had such a short fuse!
As soon as I made it out onto the streets of Nagasaki I could hear all sorts of commotion around the corner and, fearing that the place was being attacked again, I raced over to see what was going on. When I got there, the spectacle blew my mind. A dragon was wiggling its way between cars while women with funny painted faces danced around. Blokes were marching along in their pyjamas and people on the street were smiling and waving. Turns out I rocked up in the middle of the Kunchi Festival, which is a big deal around here.
As the dragon slithered down the road, one of the blokes holing it up slipped on some sushi and twisted his ankle. With him out of action, the other fellas had no way of carrying the dragon any further, and the crowd started booing and crying and carrying on. The festival, which has been around for more than three centuries, appeared ruined, but then a hero stood up when the city needed him the most. I finished my beer and galloped over to the sagging dragon, lifting it up and helping it along the street while thousands of people went bananas.
I eventually got sick of the constant adoration and palmed off my dragon-carrying duties to some dude dressed as a ninja. I found myself outside the Atomic Bomb Museum and, figuring few other places know bombs better than Nagasaki, I went inside. These days most of what you can learn in a museum can be found on Wikipedia, but at 200 yen (100 with the tourist discount) there’s no reason not to visit the place, and the photos and testimonies of the survivors are moving.
Next to the museum is the hypocenter for the atomic bomb. Fatman – and I swear that was the bomb’s name, I’m not making it up – exploded 500 metres above that point, obliterating everyone and everything within a one kilometre radius, and killing more than 75,000 people. It ended the most disgusting war of all time, but remains one of history’s greatest tragedies, and standing at the point where it all happened, imagining the death and destruction only decades before, was a solemn experience.
Needing to cheer myself after being to yet another of the world’s saddest places (Auschwitz, Salaspils and Sachsenhausen obviously weren’t enough) I set my sights on Mount Inasa, which rises 333 metres above the city and provides a you-beaut view over everything. A trip to the summit in the cable car is one of Nagasaki’s highlights and the vista from the top is world class. In one direction, untouched islands spill off into the distance, whilst in the other spread the concrete of the never-ending city.
Day turned to night as the sun bled out and gave way to a shimmering moon. The locals love to tell anyone who will listen that the view from the top is one of the top three sights on Earth – I don’t know, I’d have to put a naked Sion Fujimoto at the top of that list – and it really is gorgeous. It’s incredible to think that this place was flattened, burned and splattered, but is back and better than ever. Nagasaki, you da bomb!