Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Kyushu Trip: Nagasaki--Signs and Wonders

My first day in Nagasaki, I dared the drizzly rain to go to the Peace Park. It was sad, as you'd expect, but somehow not as moving as Hiroshima.

Reading the signs, I learned that while the pilot intended to drop the bomp considerably more to the south, directed more against the harbor and shipbuilding area, it basically went off right above a local church. The sign noted that the targeting was ironic. Ironic because the church was a remnant of western Christian influence bombed by westerners? Ironic because the church is supposed to be under the protection of a benevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent being, but the people confessing and working there were killed by the bomb?

I'm not quite sure the irony intended by the signage, but I couldn't help thinking, as I looked at the remnant statuary in the Park, that the whole protection thing didn't work out well.

Later, walking by a river, I read the signage on a small shrine. It said that this shrine was for a local god who protected against floods. A bad flood (it said without irony) had hit the area in the 1990s (I think, maybe 80s?), and so the city had undertaken a large flood control project using the latest engineering knowledge to prevent floods in the future. And they'd recreated the shrine that had washed away in the last flood to protect the area against floods.

And I couldn't help thinking that the whole protection thing didn't work out well, but at least they had the sense to use engineering to deal with the problem rather than really relying on the shrine.

When I returned to Host City and saw some blogs, I was reminded that it's Easter week in many Christian countries. I hadn't noticed, and hadn't thought about it, and suddenly realized what an amazing thing it is to have my first ever spring without slaughterous overtones. As someone raised in a Christian church, I lost faith in my late teens because I realized that given the horrors of the world, I didn't think there was a god, and if there were a god, I didn't think it was benevolent, and if there were a non-benevolent god, then worshipping it didn't make any sense anyway.

But still, throughout the year I'm bombarded by Christianity, especially around the two big holy days. My state-run schoolyear is dictated by those holy days. My legal rights are limited because people want to follow rules made by a patriachal society thousands of years ago. And I'll admit that I resent the impositions. So it's been exceptionally nice to be free of them.


  1. Easter was so early this year that I think it caught a lot of people by surprise--certainly I managed to almost (not quite) ignore it. I can imagine it would be nice to be free of the impositions entirely.

  2. Here in Arkansas, the Xtian impositions are especially itchy. I suppose if we were Xtians ourselves they would be less so, but having to live surrounded by holy laws in a land that is meant to be civil, and then to have to listen to whining from the Xtians about how persecuted and oppressed they are -- it gets annoying.

  3. I agree re Easter - I love to just relish spring in all its natural glory without the religious overtones.

  4. we only celebrate secular holidays here, but christmas and easter count on culural grounds. we need the tree and stockings; the kids need easter baskets, even if most of "the kids" of the family are legal adults now.

    i kind of regret shopping for easter baskets at the japanese dollar store, because i got these toys that are really noisemakers, and i forgot how annoying they are. on the other hand, daughter happily ate pokeys for breakfast.