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Nagasaki, Nagasaki

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Nagasaki (長崎市; -shi) is the capital and the largest city of Nagasaki Prefecture located at the south-western coast of Kyushu, Japan. Geographical location It was a center of European influence in medieval Japan, and the second city on which an atomic bomb was dropped by the US during World War II.

Nagasaki lies at the head of a long bay which forms the best natural harbor on the southern Japanese home island of Kyushu. The main commercial and residential area of the city lies on a small plain near the end of the bay. Two rivers divided by a mountain spur form the two main valleys in which the city lies. The heavily built-up area of the city is confined by the terrain to less than 4 square miles out of a total of about 35 square miles in the city as a whole.

As of 2003, the city has an estimated population of 418,901 and the density of 1,736.74 persons per km². The total area is 241.20 km².



Medieval era

Founded before 1500, Nagasaki was originally a secluded harbor village. It enjoyed little historical significance until contact with European explorers in 1542, when a Portuguese ship accidentally landed nearby, somewhere in Kagoshima prefecture. The zealous Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier arrived in another part of the territory in 1549, but left for China in 1551 and died soon afterwards. His followers who remained behind converted a number of daimyo (feudal lords). The most notable among them was Omura Sumitada , who derived great profit from his conversion through an accompanying deal to receive a portion of the trade from Portuguese ships at a port they established in Nagasaki in 1571 with his assistance.

Nagasaki at night, 2003
Nagasaki at night, 2003

The little harbor village quickly grew into a diverse port city, and Portuguese products imported through Nagasaki (such as tobacco, bread, tempura, textiles, and a Portuguese sponge-cake called castellas) were assimilated into popular Japanese culture. The Portuguese also brought with them many goods from China.

In 1587, Nagasaki's prosperity was threatened when Toyotomi Hideyoshi, came to power. Concerned with the large Christian influence in southern Japan, he ordered the expulsion of all missionaries. Omura had given the Jesuits partial administrative control of Nagasaki, and the city now returned to Imperial control. Japanese and foreign Christians were persecuted, with Hideyoshi crucifying 26 Christians in Nagasaki in 1596 to deter any attempt to usurp his power. Portuguese traders were not ostracized, however, and so the city continued to thrive.

When Tokugawa Ieyasu took power almost twenty years later, conditions did not improve much. Christianity was banned outright in 1614 and all missionaries were deported, as well as daimyo who would not renounce the religion. A brutal campaign of persecution followed, with thousands across Kyushu and other parts of Japan killed or tortured. The Christians did put up some initial resistance, with the Nagasaki Shimabara enclave of destitute Christians and local peasants rising in rebellion in 1637. Ultimately numbering 40,000, they captured Shimabara Castle and humiliated the local daimyo. The shogun dispatched 120,000 soldiers to quash the uprising, thus ending Japan's brief 'Christian Century.' Christians still remained, of course, but all went into hiding, still the victims of occasional inquisitions.

The Dutch had been quietly making inroads into Japan during this time, despite the shogunate's official policy of ending foreign influence within the country. The Dutch demonstrated that they were interested in trading alone, and demonstrated their commitment during the Shimabara Rebellion by firing on those Christians in support of the shogun. In 1641 they were granted Dejima, an artificial island in Nagasaki Bay, as a base of operations. From this date until 1855, Japan's contact with the outside world was limited to Nagasaki. In 1720 the ban on Dutch books was lifted, causing hundreds of scholars to flood into Nagasaki to study European science and art.

During the Edo period, the Tokugawa shogunate governed the city, appointing a hatamoto, the Nagasaki bugyō, as its chief administrator.

Mushroom cloud from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rising 60,000 feet into the air on the morning of August 9th, 1945
Mushroom cloud from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rising 60,000 feet into the air on the morning of August 9th, 1945

Modern era

US Commodore Matthew Perry landed in 1853. The Shogunate crumbled shortly afterward, and Japan opened its doors once again to foreign trade and diplomatic relations. Nagasaki became a free port in 1859 and modernization began in earnest in 1868. With the Meiji Restoration, Nagasaki quickly began to assume some economic dominance. Its main industry was ship-building. This very industry would eventually make it a target in World War II, since many warships used by the Japanese Navy during the war were built in its factories and docks.

On 9 August 1945, the primary target for the second atomic bomb attack was the nearby city of Kokura, but the bomber pilot found it to be covered in cloud. The industrial areas outside Nagasaki were the secondary target and so, despite a far more powerful bomb, the devastation visited upon Nagasaki was less severe than that experienced by Hiroshima. The bomb exploded directly above the suburb of Urakami, the site of Urakami Cathedral , then the largest cathedral in East Asia.

The city was rebuilt after the war, albeit dramatically changed, as any city would be after such colossal damage. New temples were built, and new churches as well, since the Christian presence never died out and even increased dramatically after the war. Some of the rubble was left as a memorial, such as a one-legged torii gate and a stone arch near ground zero. New structures were also raised as memorials, such as the Atomic Bomb Museum. Nagasaki remains first and foremost a port city, supporting a rich shipping industry and setting a strong example of perseverance and peace.

Nagasaki in Western music and song

Nagasaki is the title and subject of a 1928 song with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Mort Dixon . A popular success in its day, the music remains a popular base for jazz improvisations. The lyrics today are enjoyed for their ludicrous incongruity and their lack of political correctness. The song asserts: "Hot ginger and dynamite/There's nothing but that at night/Back in Nagasaki/Where the fellers chew tobaccy/And the women wicky wacky woo."

Nagasaki is also the setting for Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly.


  • Oura Cathedral (大浦天主堂)
  • Urakami Cathedral (浦上天主堂)
  • Glover Garden (グラバー園) - Thomas Blake Glover
  • Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown in Japanese


Universities in Nagasaki city

  • Nagasaki University (national)
  • Nagasaki Institute of applied science
  • Nagasaki University of Foreign Studies
  • Kwassui Women's College
  • Nagasaki Junshin University

Sister Cities

'Nagasaki's Sister Cities

See also

External links

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