Mexico City, 2018
Our cruise ship slowly makes its way through Nagasaki harbour. Under the delicate spans of a cable-stayed bridge. Past Mitsubishi dry docks, busily fitting a new cruise ship. Past Catholic churches, their bright white walls and spires set against the dark greens of steep forested slopes. And onto the open sea.
We navigate around numerous uninhabited islands until one – our destination – appears on the watery horizon. A long, grey form crusted with ruins. From this distance it looks like a battleship and, indeed, it is locally known as Battleship Island, Gunkanjima. It’s real name is Hashima and the reason we and a boat full of other tourists are coming here is because of Hashima’s industrial history. Continue reading
It is fair to say that most people recognize Nagasaki as the site of one of only two nuclear bombs ever dropped on a civilian population. As significant as that event was, as relevant as it may be today given the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, I will leave that for my next post. That devastating attack was simply the most recent in a lengthy history of international confrontation and intrigue that has shaped the city of Nagasaki.
That history is evident as soon as Gail and I cross the threshold of the Dormy Inn to explore the city. Tucked in between the city’s concrete post-World War II towers are streets foreign to the Japan with which we have become accustomed. Just across a small canal from our hotel is the gateway to Chinatown, home to Chinese traders from the 15th to 19th Centuries. Not much further down that canal is Dejima, an artificial, fan-shaped island built by the Japanese in 1636 to house – or, more pointedly, isolate and contain – the Portuguese, then once they were expelled, the Dutch East India Company. Continue reading