[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

1. Here in Nagasaki, the air is different. Located on the island of Kyushu close to the Asian mainland, Nagasaki has historically received more influence from the outside world than other parts of Japan (except the Ryukyus which only became a part of Japan in the late 19th century).

2. After the Basque Jesuit, Francis Xavier, arrived in 1550, many of the local inhabitants converted to Christianity. When the Shogun Hideyoshi found out that many daimyos (feudal lords) had converted, he was greatly alarmed sensing a political challenge to his position. He decided to get rid of this potential problem, root and branch. Christians were horribly persecuted. 26 of them were marched 800km in the heart of winter from Kyoto to be crucifed in Nagasaki.

3. When the Tokugawa Shogunate under Ieyasu took over, the policy against Christians was continued. The local guide showing me the sites explained that Christianity was a threat to the strict hierarchical order of Tokugawa rule. For two hundred years, Japan isolated itself from the outside world limiting all contact to the port of Nagasaki.

4. After the Western powers forced Japan to open up, the first foreign concession was established here. The area is now called Glover Park where a few old houses preserved from that era can still be seen.

5. Because it became a centre for naval shipbuilding and other military activities during the Second World War, Nagasaki was the second city after Hiroshima to be destroyed by the atom bomb. It is now a charming provincial town with excellent seafood. A monument reminds us of the blessing of peace.

6. The Nagasaki-Singapore Friendship Society was established many years ago to foster good relations between our two cities. There is regular student exchange. There is also a programme of collaboration between the doctors and scientists of NUS and Nagasaki University. I met some of them from Nagasaki this evening at a dinner hosted by the Mayor. They have warm feelings for us and wanted a larger framework of cooperation with Singapore for infectious diseases like avian flu. I agreed to put this to the Health Ministry for consideration.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


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