Tag Archive: Nagasaki


The Madame Butterfly House of Nagasaki


The setting for the Puccini Opera “Madame Butterfly” is a house on a hill overlooking Nagasaki Harbor. Could this be the Glover House that inspired this Puccini masterpiece? This oldest Western-style wooden building in Japan was built in 1863, just some 25 years before Madame Butterfly was written in 1898. The Scottish merchant who owned and lived in this house likewise married a Japanese. Not a geisha though, as in the story, nor was the Japanese wife abandoned by Mr. Thomas Blake Glover. Rumor is rife that Glover and his Japanese wife adopted a son whose bio-mom was THE ex-geisha. And that’s where the story begins. Or ends.

Glover is credited for his significant contributions to Japan’s modernization particularly in the areas of shipbuilding, coal mining and other businesses. He lived with his Japanese wife in this famous, charming house. Today, the Garden is really an open-air museum cum park. The koi pond is on a promontory overlooking the harbor and many of the Western-style mansions have a clear, sharp view of the Nagasaki Bay especially from the second-floor balcony of the former Mitsubishi Dock House. Within this same park or garden, there is a lifesize statue of a kimono-clad Japanese lady with one hand on the shoulder of a young boy and the other hand seemingly pointing to something. For sure, this statue evokes memories of the Puccini opera.

Being a weekend, the park was teeming with visitors. Perhaps some were Sunday mass-goers from the nearby Oura church touted as the oldest wooden Gothic-style church in Japan. We didn’t have a chance to get inside this Church at the foot of Glover Garden that was dedicated to the 26 martyrs executed in nearby Nizhisaka Hill. Not among the 26 martyrs is San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint. San Lorenzo was with subsequent batches of martyrs. We couldn’t even take a decent shot of this church because of the scaffolding but Sunday worshippers must enjoy spending time in the park up on a hill. Don’t fret over the climb. There is a long-ish escalator to bring up park visitors.

There is a coffee and ice cream shop within Glover Garden. As soon as we spotted it, we “lost” our group. Just had to stop for that cone of Cremia goodness and milkiness. By the time we slurped the last spoonful of ice cream, we found our group. Or rather they found us! All’s well. 🍁🍂🍁

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THE DAY WW2 ENDED


The War ended, but at the expense of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Just 3 days apart, 2 atomic bombs were dropped on these 2 cities on August 6 and 9, 1945, sealing Japan’s unconditional surrender. In my year-earlier trip, I visited Hiroshima but very briefly stayed and moved on to Miyajima Island, just a few more minutes train and ferry ride away. Too depressing to visit Hiroshima, I thought. Yet here I am in Nagasaki, wallowing in the same depressing vibes as the bombed-out Hiroshima. The Peace Park, Ground Zero and the Museum are more than enough reminders of the city’s devastation and the people’s undeserved suffering.

The explosion unleashed a destructive force which resulted in 60,000 to 80,000 deaths. That is not counting the many consequences of the radiation exposure on the health of Nagasaki survivors. Yet more than these physical ailments resulting from the blast and radiation exposure, how about the mental anguish of Japanese survivors? Imagine a father burying his 3 children and wife after the bomb dropped. Or living through hell with missing limbs, suffering from leukaemia. How to stay sane after finding yourself alone, having lost the rest of your family? What agony!

The open spaces in the Peace Park and Ground Zero help ease the depressing thoughts. The Museum is another matter though. Film clips of the blast, tattered remains of clothing last used by atomic bomb victims, other reminders of this human-inflicted catastrophe are on display in the Museum. Not so easy to dismiss, especially after reading some haiku, essays and recorded interviews of those who came home to bury their dead. The anguish, the agony, the insanity of feeling guilt after having survived while many loved ones were lost. Just how do you even begin to share your depressing stories?

The Japanese in power during the War learned a hard lesson. Emperor Hirohito’s historic address to his Japanese subjects may have brought the humiliation of defeat, the unthinkable pain and suffering of losing dignity, BUT IT ENDED THE WAR. It also ended Japan’s imperialism and paved the way for its rebirth. All that after too many innocent lives were lost.

Today, the Museum and Park are grim reminders of the War. There are many, many war stories to tell — on victories, on defeat, but worst, on sufferings endured. May mankind’s cruelty never ever happen again. 🙏🏻

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