Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Three days. Three ports–Part 1: Nagasaki

April 20, 2014 – Easter Day at Sea
M/V Celebrity Millennium
10:00am Position: 37deg 34’ North    123deg 21’ East
Cruising the Yellow Sea between China and Korea at 18kts on a heading of 325
The temperature is a cool 11C and in the last 15 minutes fog has rolled in and the ship’s horn sounding every 2 minutes.

Where in the world have we been since the last blog post? Three ports of call: Nagasaki, Busan & Jeju Island. 

Nagasaki, Japan: Grace & Gardens – Smiles and Flowers
A joyous profusion of flowers greeted us as we left the ship. The whites, corals, blues, and yellows of Spring accompanied our travels throughout the city. The smallest staircase, window box or  even just an ordinary street corner smiled with colour. Though we had missed the cherry blossoms by two weeks, this unexpected vibrancy lent a note of celebration to our visit. I felt safe here, less worried about taking a wrong turn. This comfort level was aided not only by English street signs at the major intersections, but also by smiling, happy people eager to assist the moment we were seen puzzling over a map.

We stopped in at the Oura Cathedral, the oldest Christian Church in Japan then continued on to a number of temples.

In contrast to Taipei & Tamsui, the temples here were tucked up high and away from the hustle of the street. They were less ornate and less cluttered with fewer offerings piled up on the altars. No humongous mounds of “God Money”, in fact none at all but rather just offerings of fruit, water and origami prayer chains all arranged with care. These temples were Zen, a branch of Buddhism which does tend to be rather more austere than other Buddhist sects. (The number of Christian denominations and variations cannot come close to the many, many ways of Buddhism). Also notable about the temples we visited was that, with the exception of one where a ceremony of blessing for a newborn was taking place, they were devoid of worshippers, a stark contrast the noisy, crowded temples of Taiwan. Empty of people, though full to the brim with serenity, calm, and the heartbeat of the Holy.
The Kiyomizu-dera Temple, built in 1623 under the supervision of the monk Keijun.
The Sofukuji Temple, a Obaku sect Zen temple built in the mid 1600’s for Chinese residents. The Buddha Hall is the oldest building in Nagasaki.
Nagasaki is of course better known for being the second (and LAST) city to endure a nuclear bomb. On the morning of August 9, 1945 the 10,000 pound plutonium bomb was released some 5 miles above the city. It took 43 seconds for “Fat Boy” to fall and at precisely 11:02am the equivalent of 21 kilotons of TNT exploded 1500 feet above the city, unleashing a blast surge of 600mph and temperatures in excess of 7000F.
Neither Norbert nor I had any interest in visiting ground zero nor the Atomic Bomb Museum, but rather our observance and remembrance took the form of visiting the Fukusai-ji Kannon. This temple takes the form of a huge turtle carrying an 18m high figure of the goddess Kannon on its back. Inside, a Foucault Pendulum suspended from high inside the goddess statue, keeps vigil over the remains of 16,500 Japanese killed that day. (Unfortunately the very dark location of the pendulum did not lend itself to photos).
In addition, the temple bell is sounded every day at 11:02am.
Lest we forget.

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