From February 1-3rd, the 21st class of Mansfield Fellows traveled to Nagasaki on a trip sponsored by both the National Personnel Authority and the City of Nagasaki. We had a behind-the-scenes tour of the airport, a sobering and moving visit to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, the Peace Park, the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture, Dejima where the Dutch traders lived, Mount Inasa, Glover Garden, Oura Church, and Urakami Cathedral. We also paid a courtesy visit to the Mayor of Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue-sensei.
In 1955, ten years after the dropping of the atomic bomb, Louis W. Hill Jr., grandson of Minnesota railroad baron James J. Hill, reached out to the city of Nagasaki to create the first sister city relationship between American and Japanese cities. On December 7th, 1955 Nagasaki and St. Paul became sister cities.
I was born in St. Paul and spent the first 10 years of my life there (only to move a short distance away). I remember visiting the James J Hill house, now registered as a National Historic Landmark. During the holidays, actors would dress in period costume to give tours and bring us back in time. Little could I imagine that many years later I would be in the office of the Mayor of Nagasaki, shaking his hand in recognition of the bond between his city and my hometown, that Mr. Hill’s grandson helped bring about.
For 218 years, starting in the 1630’s, Japan was closed to the world through a policy called “sakoku“, a policy of national isolation. All trade was banned, except for one single port: Nagasaki. I’m piecing this history together very quickly after a 3-day trip and consulting some websites, so please do your own investigation into this fascinating history. I believe all trade had to be conducted at Dejima, an island in the port of Nagasaki, which was created specifically for this purpose.
We were also fortunate to be visiting Nagasaki during the Lantern Festival, which is held during the Chinese New Year.