Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Christian Persecution and Nagasaki places of historical importance

Nagasaki is a city with a rather unique history. It was given special permission to conduct international relations during the time when Japan was supposed to be closed off to the world. It possessed (I think it still does) the largest amount of Christians, who suffered intense religious persecution at the hands of the Tokugawa. This weekend I am going to the onsen (volcanic hot springs) where many Christians were boiled alive. Comforting. Every year, the Tokugawa government required Nagasaki residents to stomp on carved images of Jesus or Mary to prove that they were not Christians. This was known as fumie. Those who refused were either tortured or executed. In Nagasaki is a memorial to 26 Christian martyrs who were marched here and crucified. I am yet to find this place.

On a more positive note, I did go check out some of the historical spots here. The first place I went to was the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture. It has a bunch of artifacts acquired from trading with Dutch, Portuguese, and Chinese merchants. It also houses a replica of the samurai offices where Nagasaki magistrates dealt directly with foreign traders. There was also a bunch of really pretty scrolls, some swords, the first ever Japanese-English dictionary, and too much to list, really. About half of the museum is carpeted or tatami, and shoes are not allowed. I was not allowed to take pictures inside, so here is a picture of the outside:
About 3 inches to the right outside of the photo is a Japanese police officer. It is illegal to take pictures of Japanese police officers.

The next place I saw was Spectacles bridge. It is the first arched bridge in Japan, constructed in 1634, and it gets its name from the shadows cast over the water. My picture did not come out that well, but I decided to post it anyway.
Finally, I went to Dejima. The actual Dejima no longer exists, and it was originally an island. All the land around it has been reclaimed over time, and it sits inside the city. The island that was the original Dejima can be pointed out because it sits slightly higher than the reclaimed land around it. It was rather late when I went, and I did not get to see much. It is quite pretty in the evening, though.

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