I felt I could have given Nagasaki a skip because of the grim reminders of the devastation, grief and misery of the atomic bombs dropped here 3 days after Hiroshima, 300 kms. away. It didn’t help to know that the 2nd bomb should have been dropped in Kokura, some 150 kms. away, but visual bombing couldn’t be managed then because of heavy ground haze and smoke. A change in fortune favored Kokura at the expense of Nagasaki. The rest is history.

Meganebashi survived the bombing. It now stands as the oldest stone arch bridge in Japan, earning the monicker “Spectacles Bridge” because of the reflection on the water created by its two arches. There are several bridges spanning Nakashima River, but this 400-year old stone arch bridge built by a 2nd-generation Chinese monk is the prettiest. Disaster nearly hit Meganebashi when flood waters washed it out in the 1982 deluge that hit the city. Thankfully, each single stone was retrieved and the bridge restored to its original appearance. Likewise, the riverpath has railings that are both artful and functional.

The Nakashima River snakes through Japan’s 2nd largest city and it was a pity we didn’t have time to try those stone steps from street level down to the riverbank to stroll along its river path. The locals — notably the Chinese merchants operating shops along the banks — hang illuminated lanterns along the length of the river on Chinese New Year, and we can only imagine how pretty that is. Being a port city, Nagasaki was Japan’s only contact with the outside world during its period of isolation or seclusion. Chinese. Portuguese. Scottish. Dutch. Obviously, it had first taste of world cultures that seem to have reflected in its art, fashion, architecture, cuisine and religion.

Speaking of religion, history records the arrival of Saint Francis Xavier in Nagasaki in 1549. Interestingly, Meganebashi was built in 1634, during the time when Christianity was banned in Japan and Christian missionaries kicked out of the country. Today, Meganebashi is among Nagasaki’s top tourist attractions and among Japan’s top 3 famous bridges alongside Nihonbashi Bridge in Tokyo and Kintaikyo Bridge in Iwakuni, Japan.