Up at the crack of dawn - before it, even - and waking up the snoring night watchman to let us out into the sleeping streets of Nagasaki. Stock up on nigiri
and water, hit the wharf, and off to Takashima - the first step in our conquest of the ghost island Gunkanjima.
Getting off the ferry, it was like turning on a light in a dirty apartment (not mine) - like cockroaches scattering for the dark corners, every last person suddenly disappeared, and we were left on a deserted jetty in the middle of nowhere. There was a billboard showing recent graduates from the island's high school - all 3 of them. It's a small island.
Wandering around, we wondered if we even needed to bother getting on to Gunkan; Takashima seemed to be a ghost island in itself. The wind was blowing a gale, and it was freezing cold, but the sunrise was beautiful - and we were the only ones around to see it.
We made it to the westernmost tip of the island, from where we could see Gunkanjima in the distance, but still no sign of life. Back at the main jetty, finally a couple of old salts stumbled down to the water, but it seemed unlikely that many of them would be heading out that day - as we'd predicted the day before, the wind and waves were brutal. Still, we'd come this far, so we co-opted an old fella to do what he could and take us around the island. He flatly refused to let us disembark there, and when we got out there it was very obvious that there was no way in hell that would happen anyway - we would have been dashed on the rocks.
The water really was wild - Kana went numb and thought she was about to die - but we did get a reasonably close - though fleeting - glimpse of the fabled ghost island. Not quite the same...
Looking at the scale map back at Takashima just made me want to get there more.
So, in summary, we tried and failed. Although we were fucking tired, it was surprisingly some consolation that we'd at least done that. I must be getting old. Anyway, I still have the phone number of the dude in Nomosaki who will apparently take us there one day. One day. I swear.
You can see some interesting photos of Gunkanjima in a few places on the net. Try this
Back in Nagasaki, we went to a Russian restaurant for lunch - the first time I'd eaten Russian food since my penniless backpacker tour in 2004, and awesomely delicious, if a little pricey. We followed the Lonely Planet's directions to the place, Harbin, but found it had been converted into the office of a construction company. I went in and the secretary, who was about to start lunch, was supremely helpful. She told me Harbin had moved a couple of years earlier and looked up the new site on the web, gave me an old menu she found, and even offered to take us to the City Hall to get a good map. In short, FUCKING ANNOYING. Still, I appreciate the efforts, and it was people like her and the friendly customerless barber who gave me change for the coin laundry that made Nagasaki my favourite place in Kyushu. The best chocolate cake ever at Harbin didn't hurt either.
Next we took the tram to Urakami, which is where the second bomb was dropped on Japan in WWII. Sites like the 1-legged torii
and the invincible camphor trees were nice, but the Peace Museum was the bomb. So to speak.
Obviously it's hard not to portray Japan as the victim in this scenario - chiefly because it was
. No matter what evidence you offer to the contrary, dropping a burning ball of death onto a city is inexcusable. However, unlike its Hiroshima counterpart, Nagasaki is far more sedate and reserved. Instead of making grotesque plastic figures of melted people, they simply show photos of charred corpses and demented buildings. They went so far as to offer testimony from the Korean and other foreign victims of the bomb, who were tragically discriminated against even in such dire circumstances. Still, the mere presence of their words was a welcome inclusion.
In addition, there were extensive video resources, in English and Japanese, of why Japan was in the war in the first place - its greedy imperialism and power-hungry forays into East Asia, basically. On the whole, the museum offered many perspectives on the issue, and I don't hesitate to recommend it as possibly the best museum I have been to; certainly in Japan.
The peace memorial at the epicentre was also reserved and moving...
...unlike the monster at the peace park.
After the massive statue of Kannon on a turtle at Fukusaiji, it was dinner at Chinatown - a very unconvincing version of everyone's favourite place to eat. Surprising, because Nagasaki has historically had a lot of contact with China, and it was well written up in the LP. We ate the local Chinese specialties, sara-udon
, both of which were just sloppy, cabbagey noodles. Skip it safely.
Wandering drunk around the harbour was much more fun. Nagasaki is a beautiful place.