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Nagasaki – A Brief History

In a previous post I had written about the history of Hiroshima and the atomic bomb attack on the city. In this post I will be writing about the Nagasaki. Another tragedy followed Hiroshima. Let’s see what happened before the destruction of this great historical city.


Nagasaki is located in the Nagasaki prefecture in Kyushu Japan. In 1543 a group of Portuguese merchants who were traveling to China had landed to the town of Nagasaki accidentally. Since then Japan acted as a middleman between the China and Portuguese trades. But in 1550 the Portuguese king declared the trade as “crown monopoly” and the Chinese authorities also supported this idea which led to a cold war between two countries. The Japanese lords wanted to attract the Portuguese and their trade back which led the Ōmura Sumitada, the lord of the Japanese town Yokoseura to converted to Christianity.

In 1971 he granted from a small fishing village and a port was established in the area which was opened to the foreign ships. Between 1580 and 1587 the town was ruled under the Portuguese. Many differences were made within the city. The city welcomed not only the Portuguese merchants but also the exiled Christians from other territories. A chapel and a college was constructed. The law within the city limits were derived from the Roman law.

After series of fights the city’s control was taken back by the Omura clan. But most of the population remained Christian. Most of the city was destroyed by the huge fire occurred in 1663. In 1720 the ban of Dutch books was lifted which caused hundreds of scholars to move in to the city in order to learn about western arts and cultures. Eventually the city became a center of knowledge. There were Chinese factories built in the city and many Chinese merchants and artists traveled back and forth between the China and Nagasaki. It is said that one-third of the Nagasaki population were Chinese at the time.

After the Meiji restoration Japan was again opened to the foreign trade. In 1868 modernization of the town was begun and 1889 Nagasaki was officially named as a city. After that Christianity was legalized and the Japanese Christians came out of hiding.

During the Meiji period the city was famous for ship building. By the time of second world war the city had become an important part in the Japanese economy.

Fat Man

The bomb used in Nagasaki incident was known as Fat Man. The bomb was made with solid Plutonium core.

World War II and Nagasaki

Nagasaki was one of the greatest seaports in Japan because of its wide range of productions. The city was producing ships, military equipment and other war materials such as artillery. The main companies in the Nagasaki at the time were shipyards, Arms and steel factories. These companies employed about 90% of the labor force of the city.

Unlike Hiroshima, Nagasaki was not cut off from the bomb raids. It was geographically difficult to locate the city at night. So the city was rarely bombed during those raids.

The second nuclear bomb was scheduled to drop on the 11th of August but in order to avoid the bad weather condition on that day the operation was moved 2 days in to 9th August. At 02.47 on Japanese time Bockscar, the US aircraft which contained the nuclear weapon Fat Man took off from the Tinian island. Nagasaki was the secondary target and the primary target was Kokura.

But the plane was delayed for about 30 minutes to take off and when the aircraft had reached the Kokura the city was already filled with the clouds made form the fires from the nearby city Yahata due to the bomb raids from the previous night. Also the steel factories in Yahata also burned coal intentionally to create the black smoke. These actions made the area near the city obscure. The pilots flew over the city three times but could not drop the bomb due to unclear target and by the third time the Japanese anti-aircrafts were getting close and the fuel had run low.

Then the pilot of the Bockscar decided to go for the secondary target which was Nagasaki. At 11.01 am Fat man was dropped on the target and the bomb exploded after 47 seconds above a tennis court between Mitsubishi steel and Arms factory and Nagasaki arsenal. The bomb Fat Man was more powerful than the bomb used in the Hiroshima attack but the damage occurred due to the blast was limited because of the hillside by the narrow Urakami Valley. About 35,000-40,000 people must have died during the blast and many more died after due to the injuries occurred. By the end of 1945 about 39,000-80,000 were dead. The range of casualties have a huge difference because many unidentified foreign workers were found dead.

31 replies on “Nagasaki – A Brief History”

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