The next stop on our cruise schedule was Nagasaki,Japan. A relatively short hop from Busan we arrived early the next morning giving us two consecutive days on land.
As always there were many organised tours on offer but having researched in advance I knew it would be very easy just to do our own thing. The ships organised trips are not really my thing because you are in large groups and consequently inflexible, they probably include stops you are not interested in, and to be honest, they tend to expensive too.
Nagasaki was apiece of cake.
The tram stop was easy walking distance from the ship, we had bought an all day roamer ticket so could hop on and off at will and decided that the first stop would be the Peace Park. Actually that's not true, we decided we would take the cable car to the top of nearby Mount Inasa for the viewing point but the tram was so crowded we couldn't get off at the right stop ! Instead we carried on to our next destination choice, the Peace Park which is a short distance from the Atomic Bomb museum and the estimated ground zero for the bomb.
On climbing the steps up in to the park the first sight you are greeted with is this water feature.
Beyond it a large statue.
I didn't think too much about it and walked around the side looking at some of the individual sculptures that have been donated by different nations from all around the world.
Claire meanwhile had read this plaque
Suddenly the enormity of where I was actually standing hit and I have to admit, I felt incredibly tearful.
The whole experience was rather odd though, in front of the statue large groups of school children where gathered.
Some where lining up to have their team photos taken,others were sat in groups and saying prayers.
It was mostly extremely respectful. It seems that a visit here is part of every child's education, and so it should be. The terrible lessons learnt from here should ensure it should never ever happen again.
In the midst of all this though there were the odd visitors who didn't share the same feeling I did.
I quote Wikipedia
"The statue's right hand points to the threat of nuclear weapons while the extended left hand symbolizes eternal peace. The mild face symbolizes divine grace and the gently closed eyes offer a prayer for the repose of the bomb victims' souls. The folded right leg and extended left leg signify both meditation and the initiative to stand up and rescue the people of the world. Installed in front of the statue is a black marble vault containing the names of the atomic bomb victims and survivors who died in subsequent years."
Maybe it's me but sat imitating this statue for a laugh just doesn't seem right.
Actually, I wasn't alone , my irritation was nothing compared to the people we met on the ship's tour . They were in favour of pushing one American in to the fountain as he was loudly telling everyone "they got what they deserved and it saved thousands of lives by ending the war".
The facts are that 180,000 people died, many a slow agonising death. 70% were women and children. Some were prisoners of war in the local jail which was flattened along with everything else within a huge area.
You can argue the rights and wrongs, it wasn't just down to the Americans, the British also knew exactly what was going to happen as Churchill had agreed to the plan but the consequences were horrific.
The whole point of the Peace Gardens is to promote future peace not point the finger . I was humbled to shake the hand of a survivor of the bomb who now gives his time to further the cause of peace.
Anyway, we visited the museum too and looked at the various artefacts, the molten glass, even rock etc. On the way out there is a display map of the countries who have nuclear weapons of which we are of course one. It showed how many each country is known to have in their possession and the numbers are quite frankly ridiculous.
The answers and solutions to all this are with much more intelligent people than I am, or at least we are led to believe so.
Let's hope it is the case.
Anyway after what was a very sobering but interesting and informative visit we headed off on the tram again.
We decided to give the viewing point a miss as the weather wasn't particularly wonderful. Instead we headed for the Spectacle Bridge, another tourist landmark.
Along the way I got back to playing with my camera !
As I did when we got there ! In front a group of schoolgirls, I just had to take the shot.
You have to be careful nowadays, I am not even allowed to take shots of my grandchildren playing sports anymore as rules so dictate. I found the fun in these kids just irrisistable and they made my souvenir shot of the bridge so much more interesting !
With lunch time approaching we dined in style at the local B-B-Q kebab shop. Tiny buy tasty and to be honest it was all we needed as we were so well fed on the ship.
My initial thoughts were that Japan was expensive but I didn't realise the exchange rate was roughly 180 yen = £1. The kebabs were 140.
You could eat quite cheaply as this menu elsewhere demonstrated
After lunch we walked through the town to our next site to visit, Glover Gardens. Where there are gardens there are birds was my thought. Knowing Claire's interest in all things botanic it was a cunning plan !
As it happened there were no birds to be seen in the garden , well not within photographic distance but on the way there I did catch a fleeting stop by this Blue Rock Thrush more locally referred to as a Red Bellied Rock Thrush for obvious reasons.
I was also surprised that a flock of town centre Sparrows were not House Sparrows as expected but Tree Sparrows. In the gardens a Grey Heron flew over, a flock of Oriental White Eye were feeding in a distant tree and two pairs of Black Kites flew over the town looking for food to scavenge.
In that panorama you can just see the Sapphire Princess, when you got closer you realised it was by far the biggest structure in town !
The ship has a special affinity with Nagasaki as it was built in the shipyard there. We were given a special send off that evening, a large brass band accompanied by dancers and flag wavers gave us a spectacular send off as we left.
The ship responded with an almighty blast from the funnels !
Another port left behind we headed out to see passing under the suspension bridge which spans the harbour entrance.
then out in to the night.
Our visit soon over we had time at sea before arrival back in China