Dr. Takashi Nagai Surveys Ruins of Nagasaki

Doctor Takashi Nagai (February 3, 1908 – May 1, 1951) contemplates the devastation of the Matsuyama district looking across the Urakami River towards the Inasa Mountains. The ruins of the Nagasaki Medical College, where Nagai worked as a radiologist from 1928, are behind the trees in center right, and the Chinzei School is far left, a dark shape at the foot of the hills. Like the Hiroshima bomb, only steel reinforced concrete buildings survived the heat and blast waves of the bomb. Still, they were heavily damaged by fire and shock. Occupants of these buildings survived the initial exposure but suffered severe radiation poisoning. Nagai became a devout Catholic in 1934, taking the name Paul. As a medic, Nagai served with the military in China in 1940 and on his return, accidentally poisoned himself with radiation. Nagai and his family worshipped at the Urakami Cathedral, the largest Catholic church in Asia. By June 1945 he developed leukemia, and was given three years to live. On the morning of August 9, 1945, having sent his children out of the city for their safety, Doctor Nagai said goodbye to his wife Midori. Exposed at the Nagasaki Medical College 2,300 feet (700 meters) from the blast's hypocenter, Nagai's temporal artery was severed, causing high blood loss. Nagai bandaged his head and joined the staff in treating casualties. Two days later, he was able to search for his wife but found her bones among the ashes of their home. He collapsed a month after the attack, his leukemia aggravated by the bomb's radiation; he nearly died but recovered his strength by October. Dr. Nagai’s Funeral Address for the 8,000 Catholic victims of the atomic bomb given on November 23, 1945, in front of the destroyed Cathedral of the Assumption, in Urakami, Nagasaki, read in part: "How happy are those people who left this world without knowing the defeat of their country! How happy are the pure lambs who rest in the bosom of God! Compared with them how miserable is the fate of us who have survived! Japan is conquered. Urakami is totally destroyed. A waste of ash and rubble lies before our eyes. We have no houses, no food, no clothes. Our fields are devastated. Only a remnant has survived. In the midst of the ruins we stand in groups of two or three looking blankly at the sky. Why did we not die with them on that day, at that time, in this house of God? Why must we alone continue this miserable existence? It is because we are sinners. Ah! Now indeed we are forced to see the enormity of our sins! It is because I have not made expiation for my sins that I am left behind. Those are left who were so deeply rooted in sin that they were not worthy to be offered to God. We Japanese, a vanquished people, must now walk along a path that is full of pain and suffering. The reparations imposed by the Potsdam Declaration are a heavy burden. But this painful path along which we walk carrying our burden, is it not also the path of hope, which gives to us sinners an opportunity to expiate our sins?" He began to write, and his first book, The Bells of Nagasaki, became a best-seller and a successful movie. His leukemia became acute in 1946 and he was bedridden for the rest of his life. In 1948, he used 50,000 yen paid by "Kyushu Times" to plant 1,000 three-year-old cherry trees in the district of Urakami to transform this devastated land into a "Hill of Flowers". Even though some have been replaced, these cherry trees are still called Nagai Senbonzakura ("1,000 cherry trees of Nagai") and their flowers decorate the houses of Urakami in spring. At he lay dying on May 1, 1951, he asked to be brought to the Medical College so his students could observe a patient dying of leukemia, but he died shortly after arrival. 20,000 people attended his funeral. His residence is a museum today. He is known as the "Saint of Urakami" and the "Gandhi of Nagasaki."
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
Nagasaki Prefecture