When Urakami Cathedral was rebuilt in 1959, many citizens experienced the loss of the ruins as a silencing of Nagasaki’s experience. This paper explores Catholic survivors’ attitudes towards the Cathedral and loss of an important atomic relic, and shows that while they regret the ruins’ disappearance, they also recognise the rebuilt Cathedral as a symbol of survival. In addition, by examining individual and collective narrative and photographic images, it is demonstrated that Urakami Christian (kirishitan キリシタン) narratives on the Cathedral bond the trauma of the bomb to older memories of persecution, which in turn intensifies the justification for rebuilding the church. By placing such communal memory in the context of theologian Johann Baptist Metz’s conception of the ‘dangerous memory’ of suffering, the author evaluates narratives such as Nagai Takashi’s providence (go-setsuri ご摂理) and interpretation of the bombing as the Urakami ‘Fifth Persecution’ (go-ban kuzure 五番崩れ).
This article analyses the symbolism of the Urakami Cathedral and its ruins after its destruction in the atomic1 bombing of Nagasaki on 9 August 1945 for Catholic survivors in Nagasaki seventy years on. The rebuilding of this cathedral by October 1959 was considered by many citizens to have robbed Nagasaki of an anti-war symbol of peace,2 but for Catholic survivors the rebuilding also signified the survival of their community.3 This paper is based on interviews with Catholic bomb-survivors and other residents of Nagasaki, and aims to elucidate how they understand Nagasaki’s experience. Many of the Nagasaki survivors whom I interviewed had Catholic and senpuku/kakure 潜伏・隠れ (secret/hidden) background (Figure 2).4 My Catholic interviewees reveal the convergence of two identities, that of suppressed religion, and of A-bomb survival. Approached with the help of the Peace Wing of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, the Catholic hibakusha described their understanding of the importance of the Urakami Cathedral (past and present) as a symbol.5
Other residents interviewed in this project included the grandson of Nagai Takashi 永井隆, the Protestant son of a survivor who works at the Twenty-six Martyrs Museum (Nihon Nijūroku Seijin Kinenkan 日本二十六聖人記念館), a female book author from the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (RECNA), a male Catholic Center teacher of Korean, two Catholic priests, and the volunteer Director at the Oka Masaharu Memorial Nagasaki Peace Museum (Oka Masaharu Kinen Nagasaki Heiwa Shiryōkan 岡まさはる記念長崎平和資料館). These residents offered considerable breadth to this study and were aged typically between thirty and fifty years old. All of the other interviewees worked in the vicinity of Urakami, the northern suburb of Nagasaki.
Local understandings of the symbolism of the Cathedral highlight the fluidity of mnemonic identifications and their dependence on context and date. For example, two of these understandings include the distressing communal memory of stepping on fumi-e 踏み絵 (holy images) to demonstrate apostasy, which is said to have occurred at the site of the Urakami Cathedral,6 and the more auspicious memories of building and re-building the churches. The Cathedral as a monumental symbol of resilience and resistance to oppression associates the experiences of the bombing with other occurrences of trauma.
By exploring the issue through oral history interviews with survivors (hibakusha), this article argues that the Cathedral is symbolic of more than simply atomic destruction (Figure 1). The minority Catholic community had potent reasons to rebuild the cathedral in 1958, found not solely in the immediate trauma caused by the bomb, but also in much older communal traumas of marginalisation. Rebuilding the Cathedral incorporated into atomic memory these older layers of consciousness. In this paper, I refer to the evidence in my interviews that divulges the importance of the Urakami Cathedral for the Catholic survivors and associates their collective narrative of atomic suffering to past persecutions. I introduce the terminology of the go-ban kuzure 五番崩れ (fifth persecution)7 and discuss two photos which incorporate the image of the cathedral in my interviewees’ narratives. I propose that resistance and redemption represent as significant a part of the Urakami Catholic narrative as victimhood and suffering, illustrated by way of the story of Tsuru, and through a redemptive renewal of the church in the place where the fumi-e were stepped on. Also redeemed in this act is the communal memory of destruction of Nagasaki churches. The A-bomb victims’ testimonies re-interpret the A-bombed cathedral through a Catholic lens. Throughout the paper I consider how the locality of Urakami, as a Christian ‘Ground Zero,’ and the testimonies of these witnesses, have had bearing on Nagasaki’s ‘walls of silence’ around the A-bomb, and I argue that the Catholic and other citizens’ understandings of the Cathedral constitute a kind of “dangerous memory” as posited by theologian Johann Metz, reminding the Catholics of their own faith narrative, but also ‘dangerous’ for the wider community as they threaten the status quo. As Lisa Yoneyama has suggested, narrated knowledge determines collective memory, which shapes how the past is conveyed in relation to, in this case, the Cathedral (Yoneyama 1999: 33). Oral history in this way earns its reputation for giving a voice to the voiceless, for empowering the weak and for remembering those on the “wrong side of history” (Abrams 2010: 27).
Historical Background of the Urakami Kirishitan
The early background of the Urakami community provides an important context for the discussion of the collective memory of the Urakami Cathedral. Nagasaki prefecture is located in the northwest part of the island of Kyushu and a considerable proportion of the previously kakure / senpuku kirishitan and katorikku community are to be found here. This is the only part of Japan where Christians may trace their roots back to the original sixteenth century mission of the Jesuits/Franciscans to Japan. Nagasaki harbour was ceded to the Jesuits by a local daimyō for a short period in the late sixteenth century and became Japan’s first and only Christian town for a short period of time (1580–1587). Later, following the proscription of Christianity, episodes of extreme persecution of the Christians involving torture, exile and even executions punctuated a period stretching from early Edo to early Meiji times. The Christians were driven underground, and their marginalised and hidden communities survived outside of the city proper where it was easier to go unnoticed. The northern Nagasaki locality of Urakami was one such area where “hidden Christians” settled. This community suffered conspicuous ghettoization as time progressed.
The hidden Christians of Urakami were exposed by the authorities and exiled en masse to other parts of Japan up until 1873, in the fifth year of the Meiji regime. Despite a period when there was greater freedom for the Christians, much later in 1945, the ongoing stratification of Nagasaki was reflected in the quip of residents from the city, who said “The bomb was not dropped on Nagasaki, it was dropped on Urakami” in retribution by Japan’s gods for the kirishitan community found there (Treat 1995: 305–306). Urakami Cathedral, as a well-known symbol of the kirishitan presence, was famously destroyed in the nuclear devastation and its ruins became a landmark of the atomic ruin of the city.
The atomic bombing of 1945 destroyed the cathedral, but also decimated the Urakami kirishitan community, especially given the presence of this people around the hypocentre (Ground Zero). The bomb exerted a blast more powerful in Nagasaki than in Hiroshima (Kort 2007: 3–4).8 Eight and a half of twelve thousand Urakami Catholics died, mostly in the immediate surroundings of the Cathedral, numbering more than one in eight (around 14 %) of those who died in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki (Yokote 2010: 73).
Fukahori Jōji 深堀譲治 (Figure 2, upper-right) was fifteen years old at the time of the bombing, having moved from Nagasaki city to the parish of Urakami Cathedral with his family one year prior in 1944. Fukahori would not speak of his experience for much of his life. He finally became a kataribe 語り部 (spokesperson, chronicler, storyteller)9 just five years before my meeting with him, at the age of 79 years. He lost his mother and three of his four siblings in the bombing (Akio, Machiko and Kenji, pictured on Fukahori’s left in Figure 4). When asked what the label kataribe indicated, Fukahori said:
… it is now only five years since I became one [a kataribe] … I thought I would be able to forget. Already, it is 65 or 70 years … what I think about being a kataribe … plays, and then, writing books, dissertations, making narratives, all these things are good I believe. I think they are good, but the truth of experience, true experience [is what matters]. What actually happened, no additions, nothing taken away, no lies. The reality, believable, told by a number of people … I’m already 83 years old. I won’t be around for that many more years.Interview with Fukahori Jōji, Nagasaki Atom Bomb Museum, 2014
In this way, Fukahori suggests that a factual study of “what actually happened” is vital. The second Catholic hibakusha interviewed for this article is Konishi Shin’ichi 小西伸一 (Figure 2, lower-right). At the time the US bomber dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Konishi was a six year-old on his way home from First Communion classes. Konishi remembered that he had just reached the front of the statue of the Holy Mother, near Ōura Cathedral.10 The blast caused shards of glass from the church to become embedded in the back of his head. The third interviewee, Matsuo Sachiko 松尾幸子 (Figure 2, left), began her tale of her experiences in the bombing as a kataribe spokesperson, at sixty-four years of age. Matsuo, whose family had previously had a horse carriage business in Urakami, was eleven years old at the time of the bombing. She escaped with her mother, grandmother and family to a shelter her father had built a few days earlier on Mount Iwaya. Her father, who was working in a civil defence unit station, was badly injured and died a few weeks later on 28 August.11
Urakami, Providence (go-setsuri), and Silence
The most famous Catholic interpretation of the bombing is as sacrificial providence or go-setsuri, which Nagai Takashi (1908–1951) introduced first at the ruins of the Cathedral. Nagai was a doctor, converted Catholic and best-selling author. He first espoused an interpretation of the A-bomb as “providence” at a Requiem Mass at the ruins of Urakami on 23 November 1945 (See Figure 1; Miyamoto 2012: 7). Later, in his book, Leaving my Beloved Children behind (Kono ko o nokoshite この子を残して), he said, “We … thought that the atomic bomb was not a divine punishment, but had to be the expression of a divine providence with some deep plan” (Nagai and Tsuneyoshi 2008: 26). According to some readings, Nagai’s interpretation made victims into passive bystanders and discouraged them from participating in even the peace movement against nuclear weapons (Shijō 2015: 48). Combined with the loss of the ruins of the original cathedral, Nagai’s interpretation was controversial even amongst Christians. The Catholic Church itself did not publish memoirs of the bombing, and prior to 1981 the members of the church felt that being involved in “peace movements” would mean they could be called communists (Shijō 2015: 162).
I discussed Nagai’s interpretation of the bombing as providence with his grandson, Nagai Tokusaburō 永井徳三郎, who is the current director of the Nagai Takashi Museum in Urakami.
Yes, that’s right … really, there were a variety of circumstances that led to this statement … it was at a memorial service remembering the dead and the people there were all Christians … apart from that, he did write it down into his most famous book, which also went on to become a bestseller and this is a phenomenon which continues … for me, basically, it was … a way of offering encouragement … Mae muite, arukō 前向いて歩こう (looking ahead, let’s walk) … Perhaps in answering the people’s hope, this was to say ganbatte, ikimashō (do your best, keep at it), that kind of thing …Interview with Nagai Tokusaburō, Nagai Takashi Museum, 2014
Nagai died in 195112 and the context of the place where he spoke (Figure 1) is of vital importance to understanding his interpretation.
Cathedral Ruins Erased as Forgetfulness
As Chad Diehl suggests, for many non-Catholic citizens of Nagasaki, the ruins of Urakami Cathedral in the early days up to 1959 became the major civic symbol of memory of the futility of war (Diehl 2011: 189).13 The idea of Urakami Cathedral as a “sacred space” refracted particular interpretations of the atomic bombing, not only Nagai’s, but also non-Catholic interpretations of ‘peace protest.’ Diehl argues that the removal of the ruins left Nagasaki with “empty symbols” (Diehl 2011: 233).14 A sense of loss and regret regarding this loss persists to today (e.g., in postcards sold at the Art Museum. See also Figure 1). Recent books lament the loss of the ruins as relics, such as Nagasaki kieta mō hitotsu no genbaku dōmu 長崎消えたもう一つの原爆ドーム (The Other Atomic Dome of Nagasaki which Vanished), by Takase Tsuyoshi (2009). According to this understanding the Catholic intention to rebuild thwarted the ruins as a peace symbol and went hand in hand with a passive acceptance of the bombing as God’s plan.
Cathedral Ruins as “Crippling Memories”
Nagai’s idea of the A-bomb as “providence” or God’s plan was unpalatable not only to many Nagasaki residents but also for many Catholics. From the Urakami Catholic perspective, rather, the rubble of the Cathedral represented a dark presence of death, or even the absence of God. These ruins brought to the surface not only the recent but also older memories of trauma and death. Hibakusha Matsuo, in her interview, suggested that the ruins (Figure 3) for the Catholic believers were associated with fujiyūna omoi 不自由な思い, or crippling/comfortless memories, and thus connected with persecutions and the destruction of the Catholic community in earlier times. Matsuo recalled the time immediately after the bombing when some non-Catholics said that the bombing was actually a divine attack on the Christian populace of Urakami and a punishment by Japanese gods. Furthermore, the bomb stigmatised its victims, many of whom were disfigured and some also consigned to a slow death. Many people in Japan considered those with radiation sickness to be infectious, leading to double discrimination against the Catholic community.15 The ruins represented a memory to avoid, what Keshgegian has termed a “profound negative” (Keshgegian 2000: 121).16 Informant Miyazaki Yoshio 宮崎よしお of the Catholic Center maintained, “you can understand that it seems it would be a wonderful memorial, but also empathise with how they [the believers] felt” (interview with Miyazaki Yoshio, Catholic Center, 2014). The Urakami Catholic faith meta-narrative sought hope of resurrection: this hope was discarded whilst the church remained in ruins.
There were also other imperatives. The surviving Catholics built a temporary church but it was too cramped, recalled Matsuo, and worshippers had to stand at mass. Matsuo also remembers the discomfort of hot or rainy days. Other pressures to rebuild increased as the population of Catholics again grew. By late 1948, the Urakami community numbered 4319 members (Diehl 2011: 223). The community’s determination to rebuild the Cathedral in view of these pressures and understandings demonstrated resilience, and a need for symbols of survival that recalled their historical narrative.
The Debate and Modern Catholic Opinion
Despite the above reasons for rebuilding, the modern Catholic hibakusha whom I spoke to in 2014 were in retrospect ambivalent about the loss of the ruins. Debate about their preservation had begun just weeks after the bombing. On 6 October 1945, Nagasaki City Councilman Kunitomo said the city ought to “preserve all important research material, such as factory ruins, scorched trees and the ruined Urakami Cathedral” (Diehl 2011: 83). Between 1949 and 1958, Nagasaki’s Committee for the Preservation of Atomic Bombing Materials voted nine times in favour of preserving the ruins of Urakami (Diehl 2011: 222). Despite this, in July of 1954, the Urakami Catholic community, led by Fr. Nakashima Banri and Morita Kijiro, formed the Urakami Tenshudō Saiken I’in Kai 浦上天主堂再建委員会 (Association for the Reconstruction of Urakami Cathedral) (Yokote 2010: 85). Finally, in 1959, the church was rebuilt.
The modern Catholic hibakusha agreed that the city could have preserved the ruins as a memory of the bombing. Fukahori Jōji sympathised with the city people who would have liked the ruins of the Cathedral to remain untouched.
… it’s not that I don’t understand the idea of leaving it there in remembrance of the war, of this horrific thing that happened; to treasure and to leave it there after such a tragedy had happened. Yes … my thought is that they could have put it up in another place. Well, really, they should have kept what they wanted to. Even keeping old things we would understand Catholic history, wouldn’t we? Even if it wasn’t pretty.Interview with Fukahori Jōji, Nagasaki Atom Bomb Museum, 2014
Konishi also said, “It would have been good to keep the ruins as a memorial, similar to the genbaku dōmu of Hiroshima and as a testimony to the war” (interview with Konishi Sen’ichi, Nagasaki Atom Bomb Museum, 2014). Konishi and Fukahori demonstrate a reconciliatory approach with the Nagasaki City community as a whole, despite the fujiyūna omoi that Matsuo cited, and the importance of a functioning cathedral for the surviving community.
Hence, rebuilding the Cathedral was an understandable outcome for the Catholics, even though the removal of the ruins was actually experienced as a silencing by other citizens. The rebuilding of the church suggested a future for the “hopeless,” recalling the community memory of suffering prior to the bombing as well as implying “resurrection” following atomic devastation. The bomb event is not forgotten by this community, but forms one part of this wider story. Metz claims that the future advocated by “dangerous” memory such as that of this community in Nagasaki is for the oppressed; for those without hope, and therefore may be seen for the hibakusha as an atomic legacy, which also engages with wider history (Metz 1980: 102–107). The memories of the bombing bond the community with others and my interviewees seek reconciliation with the wider community. The history of suffering, says Metz, which is wider than the Christian community, acts to unite all men and women. For the Catholic hibakusha, however, the bombing hearkened back to persecutions of the past.
Ground Zero as “Fifth Persecution”: Catholic Memory of Resistance and Resilience
Some amongst the post-war Catholic community associated the ruins of the bombing with a previous persecution by naming the devastation of the bomb the go-ban kuzure (fifth persecution).17 An 1867 exile and persecution of the Urakami villagers is known by the community as the yon-ban kuzure 四番崩れ, or the fourth persecution (Kataoka 1963: 52). This kuzure lasted until 1873 or the fifth year of the Meiji Restoration. Around 3400 people were detained and exiled, of whom only 1900 were eventually repatriated (Yokote 2010: 69). The three Catholic survivors Fukahori, Konishi and Matsuo all claim this kuzure history as a part of their ancestral story. The yon-ban kuzure narrative traces a lineage to an older history and more ancient persecutions (Mullins 2003: 21).
Konishi Shin’ichi related the yon-ban kuzure experience:
… the yon-ban kuzure … was the final persecution. The believers made up around 3600 people …18 and they were sent to many places throughout Japan … disappeared, were killed and escaped, and it was called the travel (tabi 旅) … And they returned … They didn’t have homes and there were feuds over common property and some quickly gave up their faith (koronde 転んで) … So when they returned, they had no land, no housing and for believers such as that it seems there were quarrels (izakoza いざこざ) …Interview with Konishi Shin’ichi, Nagasaki Atom Bomb Museum, 2014
Officials and hisabetsu buraku 被差別部落 (“outcaste”) representatives of Nagasaki magistrate’s office (bugyō 奉行) separated family members from each other (Urakawa 1973: 284), and confiscated religious paraphernalia. The new destruction of the bombing in 1945 was enough to trigger the memories of the few remaining survivors such as Matsuo’s grandmother, and from this, coupled with the added trauma of returning from exile to a scene of desolation was born the term the go-ban kuzure (Kamata 1983: 413).
Two interviewees presented me with one photo each containing an image of the pre-1945 Urakami Cathedral. Fukahori’s photo (Figure 4) is of his fourteen-year old self together with his three siblings who were killed in the bombing. The Cathedral forms a backdrop for the family portrait.
… this … is the pre-war cathedral. You can’t see it clearly, but … and this is me. Junior high, third year and this is my brother, who was in first year of junior high. And this is brother who was in fifth year of primary school and my younger sister and apart from this I have another little brother [who survived] … as well, my mother died together with these three in the atomic bomb.Interview with Fukahori Jōji, Nagasaki Atom Bomb Museum, 2014
Fukahori’s autobiographical image recalls his lost family, but also his family’s previous survival and return after exile to this parish, with the biggest church in East Asia at the time. In the yon-ban kuzure, Fukahori’s grandfather had been displaced to Ishikawa prefecture, northwest of Kyoto. The Urakami Cathedral, just visible in the picture, is symbolic of community pride, built by a destitute returnee community in thirty years—and for Fukahori, now including the fifteen more years of rebuilding after World War II. The Cathedral has great significance for the identity of Fukahori’s vanished family, and the collective memory shared with other Urakami Catholics.
Matsuo’s photo from 1930 (Figure 5, taken sixty years after they were exiled) presents the Cathedral more lucidly than in Fukahori’s photo. In this photo, survival is demonstrated—not Matsuo’s atomic survival, but rather an older familial narrative. Matsuo’s photo associates the Cathedral personally and immediately with memory of the yon-ban or fourth Urakami kuzure persecution. The text description adds that this photo is of the returnees from three of the detention camps at Tsuwano, Tottori and Matsue. In this photo there are twelve men and twenty-seven women returnees (thirty-nine out of the original 335 people) alive in 1930. According to the Urakami kirishitan history, put together by Urakawa in 1943, sixty-four men and 271 women and children were exiled to Tsuwano, Matsue and Tottori (the other exiles were taken to a number of other camps within Japan) out of a total of 2810 people who were deported on 6 January 1870.19 Matsuo said:
Yes … my grandmother was one of the Urakami yon-ban kuzure survivors and at that time there were still some of those survivors who were alive … these people still believed, everyone was able to stick at it and get through … Within their testimony, they didn’t talk about their pain.Interview with Matsuo Sachiko, Nagasaki Atom Bomb Museum, 2014
Matsuo spoke of her grandmother with warmth, as a double survivor, who survived the kuzure as a child and the bombing as an elderly member of the community with Matsuo at the same shelter on the mountain. Matsuo remembers her grandmother of the Urakami Cathedral community as resilient, and faithful.
Fukahori and Matsuo’s photos incorporate the building of the church as a symbol of survival, resistance and resilience through the memory of suffering and persecution. Matsuo’s picture of the handful of survivors makes sense of the temporary appellation of the atomic-bombing as the go-ban kuzure. It is unlikely that many of Matsuo’s grandmother’s compatriots survived the atomic blast. The Catholic hibakusha through these photos show a symbolism in the incorporation of the church building in the remembering of their own histories, Fukahori’s linking to atomic suffering and death and Matsuo’s to a previous memory of suffering. Both of these photos powerfully link back to the senpuku kirishitan narrative.
The Resistance of Tsuru
Keshgegian adds to Johann Baptist Metz’s notion of “dangerous” memory the important aspects of resistance and redemption. “The authenticity and effectiveness of Christian witness is to be measured by the capacity of the Christian story to be faithful to those victimized” (Keshgegian 2000: 235). In the testimony of the Catholic hibakusha, not only victimhood and suffering but also resistance and redemption are perceptible. When I asked Matsuo whether there were any other places of significance for the history of her community, she told me that “There was a rock which someone was forced to sit on, a woman, and she was told to stop believing in Catholicism and to believe in Buddhism.”
The rock to which Matsuo referred is found at the Cathedral. The gōmonseki 拷問石 or torture stone (Figure 6) and the story that is told alongside it evinces the connection from the so-called Fifth to the Fourth kuzure and is found alongside some of the atomic memorials and remains in front of the Cathedral. The gōmonseki references the above mentioned yon-ban kuzure of the secret kirishitan. On a memorial stone beside the rock, in front of the Cathedral, is the story of a twenty-two year old woman, Tsuru. The tale of Tsuru is also found in Kataoka Yakichi’s 片岡弥吉 Urakami yon-ban kuzure 浦上四番崩れ (Kataoka 1963: 183). Tsuru no teikō ツルの抵抗, or The Resistance of Tsuru, discloses how a young girl is encouraged to apostatise by officials and a Shintō priest. Eventually, she is forced to kneel in seiza 正座 (sitting with legs tucked under) position on this rock, stripped to the waist. After a week elapses, Tsuru succumbs to unconsciousness in the snow. The story comprises some midrash but details an incredible, even miraculous survival, whereby Tsuru is revived. She not only survives, but returns to Urakami to become a nun, raising orphans at the Urakami Cross Society Convent. Tsuru’s parenthetical death was in December of 1925, just after the completion of the original Cathedral. The community has not forgotten the story of Tsuru no teikō, however, but has linked her to the narrative of the atomic remnant. At the Urakami Cathedral today, Tsuru’s memorial is positioned in pride of place alongside the atomic memorial statues.
As well as the yon-ban kuzure, hibakusha Fukahori told me another reason the Catholics sought to rebuild the Cathedral at this particular site. The Tokugawa authorities forced the senpuku kirishitan to apostatise in this particular location, by stepping on the fumi-e icons. Fukahori referred to a collective memory of suffering, prior to the yon-ban kuzure, from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the villagers had to apostatise in front of the Japanese authorities.
Yes, yes, that was the place where they stepped on the fumi-e (fumi-e o shiteta basho 踏み絵をしてた場所). It was called takatani 高谷. These things happened in the Taishō [period 1912–1926]20 in the area. So, this was on top … so definitely, there … they really made an effort to make it [there].Interview with Fukahori Jōji, Nagasaki Atom Bomb Museum, 2014
By rebuilding here, the Urakami kirishitan redeemed this history in their own narrative. This “dangerous memory” of suffering subverts the official Japanese history of the Tokugawa regime, which had previously assumed that by policy and action, the kirishitan would be annihilated.21 An attachment to a shared narrative may enable hope for the Urakami Catholics inasmuch as this narrative links to resistance and memory of survival against odds. From the point of view of the believer, the Catholic narrative of this community is touched by tones of transcendence. Rebuilding the church, consistent with the Catholic collective memory of past perseverance and endurance through stories of the fumi-e, enabled the community to move beyond the time of suffering towards a promise of resurrection and life (Diehl 2011).
Finally, a cycle of destruction and of rebuilding of churches has been a recurring theme for the Urakami Catholics. Hibakusha Matsuo recalled a hidden church (senpuku kyōkai 潜伏教会) near her house in Urakami, named St. Clara’s. In fact, the two believers who started a secret society of kirishitan in Urakami around fifty years after the banning of the religion in the seventeenth century had previously participated enthusiastically at St. Clara’s (Ikeda 1972: 48). The collective memory of violent and imposed destruction of churches in Nagasaki intimates another layer on the new destruction of Urakami. The American destruction of Urakami Cathedral evoked memory of the destruction of other churches in the past. In 1587, Toyotomi Hideyoshi 豊臣秀吉 first ordered churches destroyed in Nagasaki (Ward 2009: 321). Up to 1619, such churches went through cycles of destruction and rebuilding before their ultimate demise (Ward 2009: 330). The Urakami senpuku kirishitan secretly visited and worshipped at the site of St. Clara’s in Urakami whilst maintaining their façade as Buddhist believers through the Edo period. Monuments to the old churches may still be found dotted through the city of Nagasaki today. A non-Catholic informant, Takazane Yasunori 高實康稔, emphasised the importance of coming to terms with the intricacies of Japanese history. Takazane is the current Director of the Oka Masaharu Nagasaki Peace Museum. He viewed the history of persecution of Christians including the destruction of churches as part of a blind spot for the people of Nagasaki. The bombing in Nagasaki may not be understood, he avowed, until the history of persecution of the Catholics is properly understood within it (interview with Takazane Yasunori, Oka Masaharu Memorial Museum, 2016).
Seventy years after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, memory of the ruins of Urakami Cathedral as an emblem of the city has come to symbolise a call for an end to war. However, this article has argued that the Cathedral represents more than simply atomic memory. Silences in Nagasaki are to some extent self-imposed by a Catholic community born out of senpuku secrecy, but are also a result of discrimination and of the long-term interpretation of the bomb as go-setsuri or providence. In interviews, Catholic survivors demonstrated sensitivity to the ruins of the Urakami Cathedral as atomic memory, and showed a sense of regret about their removal. Conversely, Urakami Cathedral, in its rebuilt form, reminds them of another history prior to the bombing. Fukahori put it succinctly:
People who weren’t Catholic strongly sought to keep the ruins there, similar to the Hiroshima atomic dome (genbaku dōmu). However [laughs], for the Catholics that was the place where they stepped on the fumi-e, they suffered their persecutions, and where they put up a church, right?Interview with Fukahori Jōji, Nagasaki Atom Bomb Museum, 2014
The “dangerous” memory of suffering related by the hibakusha in their oral testimony divulges a lesser-known narrative of resilience of the Urakami kirishitan people. The interviewees do not necessarily interpret the bomb in Nagai Takashi’s terms as setsuri, or providence, and disclose a strong desire to remember rightly. Urakami Cathedral in ruins is an influential symbol, but the resonance and importance of rebuilding for the Catholic community is of analogous importance. The two published photos bequeathed by Fukahori and Matsuo link the trope of the Cathedral to older memory such as the yon-ban kuzure, and manifest the church building’s allegory as resilience and resistance. The geographic location of the Cathedral where the headman of Urakami once lived mnemonically redeems the sombre memory of apostasy performed on fumi-e for the remembering community. In front of the building, nuclear memorials stand adjunct to the torture rock of Tsuru, a faithful survivor, associating the yon-ban kuzure to a so-called go-ban kuzure.
The inveterate debate over the rebuilding of Urakami Cathedral suggests the monument’s ‘dangerousness’ for Nagasaki. On the occasion of the recent seventieth anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, Otsuki (2015) raised this debate again, exemplifying the Urakami Cathedral as a still contested mnemonic site. This church reveals richness of memory and the interviewees’ responses garner new possibilities for understanding the historically stratified society of the wider city of Nagasaki.
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Thanks to the National Library of Australia for the Japan Study Grant 2015, which enabled me to complete a large part of the research towards this paper. Also, I want to acknowledge Fukahori Jōji, Konishi Seni’chi and Matsuo Sachiko for their willingness to discuss the Cathedral and their memories in this way.
In this essay I use the word “atomic” to refer to the consciousness about nuclear weapons in general, including both fission (A-bombs, such as the bombs which fell in Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and fusion (hydrogen) bombs.
See, e.g., Diehl (2011: 232), Yokote (2010), Takase (2009), Otsuki (2015).
The number of people in the community of Urakami Cathedral has grown once again to around 7000 today, although people in this community are generally cognizant of whether congregants are members of the “old community” from before the bombing or not (Shijō 2015: 191). Dwindling numbers of kakure kirishitan 隠れキリシタン live in regional areas of the prefecture. The term hibakusha 被爆者 has commonly been used (although not solely) to connote the human survivors of the atomic bombs (Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation 1986; Shipilova 2014; Yoneyama 1999).
Senpuku (concealed, latent or dormant) refers to the hidden Christians during the time of persecution, known by historians as the senpuku jidai (1640–1873) (Higashibaba 1999: 29). Stephen Turnbull notes that Tagita Kōya was the only writer to apply the term senpuku kirishitan to the communities who remained separated from the Catholics, whilst Turnbull chose to apply the term kakure instead, following Kataoka Yakichi and later Miyazaki Kentarō (Turnbull 2000). The terminology of kirishitan 吉利支丹・キリシタン is commonly applied to Catholic and “hidden” senpuku/kakure believers of the Edo period (1603–1868), whereas in today’s Japan the usual terminology for Christian is kirisutokyō キリスト教 or kurisuchan クリスチャン. In view of their historic links to the original Christians, however, this article applies kirishitan or Christian to call to mind the Catholic group found here. Katorikku カトリック or katorikku shūdan カトリック集団 (Catholic group) are other common terms used to identify Catholic believers in Nagasaki today. Since the Meiji period (1868–1912), it should be noted that other Christian denominations have also shaped civil life in Nagasaki.
I asked about the Cathedral both generally and in terms of the symbolism of the ruins.
According to various sources, including two of my interviewees, fumi-e ceremonies had occurred at the site of the Cathedral, when the land belonged to the village headman. In fact, interviewee Fukahori Shigemi said that this was the reason for submitting the Urakami Cathedral as a possible World Heritage registered site. However, he also related that providing evidence of this was proving difficult and as a result, the church was not put forward for registration in a World Heritage bid after all (interview with Fukahori Shigemi, Urakami Cathedral, 2016).
Kuzure refers to collapse, as in collapse of the “underground cells” of senpuku kirishitan.
Hiroshima experienced the equivalent of a force of 12500 tons of TNT; Nagasaki the equivalent of 22000 tons (Kort 2007: 3–4).
John W. Treat discusses the kataribe and mentions Hayashi Kyōko, survivor and writer of Nagasaki, who sought kataribe status, which carried with it special authority and responsibility, speaking into the future. The kataribe, he notes, is a role given to a particular “tribe” to perform recitation of genealogies and cosmologies, tracing back to eighth century Japan (Treat 1995: 318).
Ōura Cathedral (Ōura Tenshudō 大浦天主堂) is in southern Nagasaki and as such, was far enough away from Ground Zero to survive the bombing.
Interview with Matsuo Sachiko (Nagasaki Atom Bomb Museum, 2014). Supplemented by information from Nagasaki Peace Site http://www.nagasaki-np.co.jp/ (Accessed 2 January 2015).
Nagai died of radiation sickness, although this was also linked to exposure to radiation in his work in radiology.
Non-Catholic residents appreciated its aesthetic from earlier times as well. For example, novelist Kamohara Haruo in 1931 wrote the following as quoted in Diehl (2011): “red-bricked Urakami Cathedral, which greets us not with its religiousness but its beauty.”
Diehl quotes an article from 2002 in Nishi Nippon Shinbun to back up this claim. Chapter 5 of his dissertation goes into more depth regarding the discussion of lack of symbols in relation to reconstruction of Nagasaki (Diehl 2011).
See Hiroshima-shi Nagasaki-shi Genbaku Saigaishi Henshū Iinkai (1981) for more information regarding the social implications of radiation.
Keshgegian (2000) critiques Johann B. Metz’s conception of “dangerous memory” as lacking in life affirmation and transformation. Focusing too much on suffering at the expense of survival, renewal and resistance would trap the victim in “victimhood,” she says. If all that is remembered is suffering and loss, then those who remember are still caught in the victimisation, says Keshgegian.
Kamata (1983, 15: 413). One of my interviewees, Kataoka Chizuko 片岡千鶴子, however told me that the go-ban kuzure was an inappropriate appellation, despite the fact that a book had been published with this name (interview with Kataoka Chizuko, Junshin University Museum, 2016).
According to Stephen Turnbull, 3300 Christians were exiled (Turnbull 2000: 186). Takagi Kazuo lists 3404 people exiled, of whom 660 died, 176 went missing and 1981 returned (Takagi 2008: 285).
This was a different date in Japan at the time, as the Gregorian calendar was not used until the sixth year of the Meiji period (Urakawa 1973: 290).
Fukahori probably means the building of the initial Cathedral by 1925.
Thirty-seven Buddhist temples were built in Nagasaki between 1598 and 1642, as the destruction of kirishitan churches continued. The Buddhist temples were a part of an anti-kirishitan policy, and all Japanese submitted to a temple guarantee and were members of a temple (Higashibaba 2001: 147–148). After the Shimabara rebellion of 1637, at which many kirishitan were killed, Anesaki quotes a high government officer’s diary in which he comments, “quite naturally all measures were taken for exterminating the surviving Kirishitans in the whole land” (Anesaki 1938: 293). See also Turnbull (1998: 49).
See e.g. Diehl (2011: 232) Yokote (2010) Takase (2009) Otsuki (2015).
Keshgegian (2000) critiques Johann B. Metz’s conception of “dangerous memory” as lacking in life affirmation and transformation. Focusing too much on suffering at the expense of survival renewal and resistance would trap the victim in “victimhood” she says. If all that is remembered is suffering and loss then those who remember are still caught in the victimisation says Keshgegian.