Mining in to Hashima’s History

Wednesday morning saw us enjoying another delightful Japanese style breakfast, cooked by Fujiwara-san’s wife. The breakfast room was very pretty with shoji screens, tatami and shiny black furniture. The day out the window looked positively miserable. We have been quite lucky with the weather, with only short periods of rain. It’s the wet season here, or at least the end of it, and many people have said it is not as hot as last year. The humidity is high and after it rains it is stifling. This rain was different to the light pattering we had experienced. Much heavier and it looked to be set in for the day. We decided to look for something indoors. We found the Gunkanjima Digital Museum. I read a couple of quick blogs and reviews, and we decided it sounded pretty good.

We headed first toward the caffeine and then to buy some tram tickets. Nagasaki has trams, or streetcars, some quite old and cute, and in this way reminded me of Hiroshima. Not much else about the city was similar to any other city I have visited in Japan. There is a lot of reclaimed land, and industry and it has a large waterfront with many islands. Tall mountains surround the city on three sides. We decided to do a quick bit of shopping before we headed out for the day. Nagasaki, with a population of around 420,000, has a great shopping mall, and an abundance of restaurants and has infrastructure we could only dream of in Australia. And, like all Japanese cities, is easy to navigate and travel around.

After a small amount of retail therapy, and I will say sorry now to Sandy, as I have strayed from stripes and purchased polka-dots, which I am well aware is her domain, not mine, we ran in the rain, jumped on a tram, changed to another tram and arrived at the museum. This museum is over three floors and it was seriously a great museum. Starting at the first level, we watched a short movie about the history of the island. It was followed by some information, on an English headset, about the company, the people, the mine, the living conditions and life on the island, in general. There was video footage of festivals and sports days and the high standard of living on the island, which after seeing the shell or the corpse of what was left the day before made the experience all the more haunting. At a time when 10% of the population of Japan owned a television, the rate of television ownership on Hashima was 100%. The harsh working conditions led to excellent remuneration and life above ground in Hashima looked pretty wonderful.

I have read a little since then, and we noticed at the Atomic Bomb Peace Park in Nagasaki, that it appears there was forced labour for POWs on the island during WWII. This was not really mentioned, however I believe the Japanese government have acknowledged the loss of many lives, largely unrecorded, and intends to, at some stage in the future, erect a monument to the memory of those who died. Largely Korean, I believe, but, as I said, I am not really sure on the history.

The museum had an apartment set up, as it would have been, on the island, with actual belongings donated by families. There were VR tours, a lot of personal stories, models, movies, photos, information, and it was all accessible in English. There was also a lovely young man from Hong Kong who basically acted as a personal guide for us and explained many things to us. If you are interested in the island, and are in Nagasaki, I highly recommend going to this museum. The tour to the island was largely in Japanese, and the English information was pretty basic. This really filled in the gaps.

We had noticed a ガスト(Gasuto) restaurant on the way to the museum that was walking distance. Super Sake Boy and I had eaten at this chain in Nikko before and thought it would be easy and quick for a very late lunch. ハンバーガステキー(hanbaga suteki) or hamburg steaky is like a hamburger, sometimes stuffed with cheese, usually smothered in demi-glace, and in this case with avocado and salad was exactly what was needed. Kids had pizza and steaky and wasabi chips and everyone was happy…

We walked back home, as the rain had subsided and delighted in the crabs, the cranes and the tombii, hawk or kite like birds, that grace the skies of Nagasaki looking for crabs or bugs to eat. I had been battling this virus and the girls were feeling pretty ordinary, so we went home for a nap. After a very short deliberation with the troops, it was unanimously agreed we should return to Yakitori Torimasa Ebisu, the excellent place we had visited two days prior. We arrived, and it was super busy, so we all sat up at the counter and we started ordering. When it comes to yakitori, I have little self-control and neither does Super Sake Boy. Add to that a lovely generous pour of a delicious sake and we are really possibly headed for trouble. The lovely waitress remembered us from the night before and they were so friendly and pleased we had returned. We ate enough for probably many more people than we are, and then sent the kids to get ice-cream, while we returned to our little sake shop to buy some extra special sake. A Summer release Gozenshu Blue Bottle Junmai namazake, 100% omachi rice. Exciting, and delicious. Some to drink now and some to take home, very carefully, wrapped in insulation and hopefully kept cold enough to still be delicious at the other end.

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