Indeed, although nowhere in the cityscape is there any grand medieval castle or fabulous Buddhist temple or Shinto Shrine, the old neighborhoods of Nagasaki exude a unique charm that has captivated--and captured--countless visitors over the centuries. Upon closer inspection this charm reveals itself to be none other than the residue of international exchanges, from the years in the late sixteenth century when the town was established by Portuguese traders and Jesuit missionaries, through the Edo Period when it was a trading post for the Chinese and Dutch and Japan's only peephole to the outside world, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when it enjoyed a golden age as a foreign trade port and coaling station on Oriental ocean lines, and on August 9, 1945 when a crew of young Americans dropped the second atomic bomb right into the heart of the former "hidden Christian" enclave of Urakami in the northern part of the city. Now in every nook and corner of Nagasaki the artifacts of this eclectic history lie half hidden under the dust of time, and the many meetings and separations that occurred here live on in literature and music, both in Japan and abroad.
But Nagasaki's charm and the significance of its history do not lie merely in the fact that it served as a meeting place for diverse cultures; it is rather the uncommon fact that the mood of almost all these meetings was friendly. The Portuguese, Chinese, Dutch, Russians, British, French and Americans used no force to establish themselves here, nor did they shed blood among themselves. The majority of Japanese residents, meanwhile, arrived here after the little fishing village became an international trading port and missionary base in 1571, as though--to borrow Saul Bellow's analogy about California--all of western Japan was tipped sideways and everything unfastened slid into Nagasaki. The Japanese residents were just as much "outsiders" as their foreign counterparts and so were naturally inclined to openness and leniency. The end result was an unparalleled blending of cultures and exchange of ideas between East and West--the "twain that never shall meet."
Nagasaki may be changing quickly now in the wake of urban development schemes and its role in international affairs drastically reduced, but the lessons of its history are perhaps more relevant and important than ever in a world made small by technological advances but less and less able to reconcile differences.
It is in this spirit that CROSSROADS makes its debut as an open forum for works of history, literature, art, photography and anything else that delves into the heart of old Nagasaki, on either side of the language barrier.
We hope that this annual publication will flourish and grow, giving Japanese authors a voice in English and overseas authors an opportunity to talk about Nagasaki in Nagasaki. If it provides a new "crossroads" for communication and exchange, our efforts will have been amply rewarded.
Back to CROSSROADS Home Page