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Japan has maintained isolationistic policies for centuries that limited foreign trade so that they are one of the most homogeneous Asian cultures. The exception is Nagasaki, in which trade with the West was allowed. Western businessmen who settled here are credited with instigating the Japanese industrial revolution and there are numerous western schools here, some of a religious nature and some non-sectarian, that teach English. Therefore western influence is more apparent here and some visitors have become intrigued with East-West relationships being played out in Nagasaki. One wrote a very successful novel relating the poignant love story of a delicate geisha and a British naval officer, who eventually had to leave to go to sea. Puccini developed the story into an opera. High on a bluff over Nagasaki Harbor is a beautiful statue of Japanese soprano, Tamaki Miura, who gained worldwide recognition for her rendition of the tragic heroine, Madame Butterfly. Their Eurasian son at her side, she wistfully looks out over the harbor hoping for the return of her beloved Pinkerton. Behind her a gently falling waterfall mixes with soft strains of her aria. Nearby in white marble stands Puccini, a butterfly just having lit on his shoulder. Pink, orange, and white Koi swirl through the shallow surrounding pools beneath budding cherry blossoms. A masterpiece of perfect Japanese artistry! One month ago we were in Pearl Harbor (see #3 Hawaii) and now we are in Nagasaki, which was A-bombed at 11:02 AM on August 9, 1945, two days after Hiroshima. In an instant, 75,000 residents of Nagasaki lost their lives and that many more were gravely injured and burned. (The Hiroshima casualties were much higher as it was more densely populated.) We found the Atomic Bomb Museum to be a vivid portrayal of the incredible horror of that day. At the Peace Park, a powerful Japanese designed statue dominates the landscape. One arm points to the dreadful destruction, one arm is raised in hope of ending nuclear proliferation, one leg is extended showing their power of reconstruction and the other bent in meditation, while the eyes are closed in reverent prayer. Nearby hang thousands of chains of tiny origami paper cranes (birds), folded by school children, who have come on field trips from all over Japan. Some years ago, a little girl, who miraculously survived the initial blast, developed a lethal leukemia when she was 12 years old. In keeping with an ancient Asian myth that tells if one fold 1000 paper cranes, your wish will come true, she began folding cranes in her hospital bed. As paper was extremely scarce at the time, she used tiny medicine wrappers. Even though she folded well more than 1000 tiny cranes, her wish for life was not granted. Japanese school teachers encourage their students to bring festoons of their folded origami cranes on these field trips, lest this generation forget what happened here on that fateful day. Our visit occurred in the biting cold of an all day rain. It was though even the skies were weeping for Nagasaki. If only that next UN Security Council vote on Iraq could be expedited in this very place.

Kimono Dancers Madame Butterfly Nagasaki Today
Oragami Cranes Peace Park Pucini Statue