Nagasaki

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Nagasaki (長崎) is a Japanese city. Founded over 500 years ago, it was originally a secluded harbor village with little historical significance until contact with European explorers in the mid-16th century when a Portugese ship accidentally landed at Kagoshima Prefecture in 1542. The zealous Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier arrived in another part of the territory in 1549, but although he left for China in 1551 and died soon after departure his followers who remained behind converted a number of daimyo (warlords). The most notable among them was Omura Sumitada, who derived great profit from his conversion through an accompanying deal to receive a portion of the trade from Portuguese ships at a port they established in Nagasaki in 1571 with his assistance.

The little harbor village quickly grew into a diverse port city, and Portugese products imported through Nagasaki (such as tobacco, bread, tempura, sponge-cake, and new clothing styles) were assimilated into popular Japanese culture. The Portuguese also brought with them many goods of Chinese origin.

In 1587 Nagasaki's prosperity was threatened when a new shogun, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, came to power. Concerned with the large Christian influence in southern Japan, he ordered the expulsion of all missionaries. Omura had given the Jesuits partial administrative control of Nagasaki, and the city now returned to imperial control. Japanese and foreign Christians were persecuted, with Hideyoshi crucifying 26 Christians in Nagasaki in 1596 to deter any attempt to usurp his power. Portuguese traders were not ostracized, however, and so the city continued to thrive.

When Tokugawa Ieyasu took power almost twenty years later conditions did not much improve. Christianity was banned outright in 1614 and all missionaries were deported, as well as daimyo who would not renounce the religion. A brutal campaign of persecution followed, with thousands across Nagasaki and other parts of Japan killed or tortured. The Christians did put up some initial resistance, with the Nagasaki Shimabara enclave of destitute Christians and local peasants rising in rebellion in 1637. Ultimately numbering 40,000, they captured Hara Castle and humiliated the local daimyo. The shogun dispatched 120,000 soldiers to quash the uprising, thus ending Japan's brief 'Christian Century.' Christians still remained, of course, but all went into hiding, still the victims of occasional inquisitions.

The Dutch had been quietly making inroads into Japan during this time, despite the shogunate's official policy of ending foreign influence within the country. The Dutch demonstrated that they were interested in trading alone, and demonstrated their commitment during the Shimabara rebellion by firing on the Christians in support of the shogun. In 1641 they were granted Dejima, an artificial island in Nagasaki Bay, as a base of operations. From this date until 1855, Japan's contact with the outside world was limited to Nagasaki. In 1720 the ban on Dutch books was lifted, causing hundreds of scholars to flood into Nagasaki to study European science and art.

After US Commodore Matthew Perry landed in 1853 and the shogunate crumbled shortly afterward, Japan opened its doors again. Nagasaki became a free port in 1859 and modernization began in earnest in 1868. With the Meiji Restoration, Nagasaki quickly began to assume some economic dominance. Its main industry was ship building.

This very industry would eventually make it a target in World War II. At 11:02 am on August 9 1945, the American B-29 Superfortress "Bockscar," in search of the shipyards, instead spotting the Mitsubishi Arms Works through a break in the clouds. It dropped the "Fat Man" nuclear bomb on this target, the second nuclear bomb to be detonated over Japan. 75,000 of Nagasaki's 240,000 residents were killed, followed by the death of at least as many from resulting sickness and injury.

The city rebuilt after the war, albeit dramatically changed, as any city would be after such colossal damage. New temples were built, and new churches as well, since the Christian presence never died out and even increased dramatically in numbers after the war. Some of the rubble was left as a memorial, like the one-legged torii gate and a stone arch near ground zero. New structures were also raised as memorials, such as the Atomic Bomb Museum. But Nagasaki also remains first and foremost a port city, supporting a rich shipping industry and setting a strong example of perserverance and peace.