Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Peace University

This past weekend I attended the 6th annual Nagasaki Peace University. This was a tour, lecture, and discussion put on by (I think) the Nagasaki Peace Foundation. It was open to the public, but most people there were students, jets, or professors. It began with a tour of the Atomic Bomb Museum, that was sadly cut short due to our bus leaving late. I'll have to go back sometime because I didn't get to see everything. They had a replica of the bomb, which is larger than I expected. They also had many artifacts recovered from the destruction, such as: a tower with its metal beams completely contorted, walls with shadows burnt into them, roofing tiles that formed blisters, and different objects with human bone melted into it.

We then shuffled into a big hall where we were divided into sections of English and Japanese speakers. A survivor of the bombing, Nagano-san, told us her story, which was translated into English by an interpreter. She lost her two siblings; her brother died the day after the blast from burns, and her sister died shortly thereafter from radiation sickness. They were very young. Her mother suffered from radiation sickness as well, but recovered and lived a long life. She expressed deep regret at requesting her siblings to come back and live with the family a few months before the bombing. What I think was most personal for me about her lecture is that I am familiar with, and frequent, the places she was vividly describing as only 60 or so years ago being covered with rubble and corpses.

After her lecture, there was a panel/discussion for a number of different topics. Most of the NICS students from my school attended the program. They are mostly from China, and a couple of them, during the discussion, made comparisons between the atomic bombing and the Rape of Nanjing. I'm not sure how the Chinese students phrased it in Japanese, but the interpreters translated it as the "Nanjing Event."

After the discussion, there was a guided tour of the Peace Park and the Hypocenter Park. Our guide pointed out the stark difference in atmosphere between the two parks. The Peace Park is more positive, and is often used for promotional, PR, and political stuff. By contrast, the Hypocenter is very solemn and quiet. Other than the obelisk and statue of Mary, it is quite empty. It is also, I hear, a place for high school couples to go at night.

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