Located in the northern part of Nagasaki City, the Urakami District was the location where hidden Christians resided during the 17th to 19th centuries during the ban on Christianity. Today, it is also known as the location where the atomic bomb exploded.
The name “Urakami” first appeared in 15th century history. During the 16th century, it is said that all the villagers were Christians. Although Christianity was banned in the 17th century, residents here secretly maintained their beliefs for over 250 years.
Tomb of the Beatus Family – Edo Period Martyrs (l603-1867)
After the ban was finally lifted in the latter 19th century, the Urakami Church was built, the predecessor to the Urakami Cathedral, and the area became the center of Christianity in Nagasaki. The construction of Urakami Cathedral started in 1895 and was completed in 1914. The twin bell towers were completed in 1925 making it the largest cathedral in East Asia.
Christians in Urakami Cathedral
On August 9, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped, exploding 500m above Matsuyama-machi. According to one theory, approx. 15,000 Christians were living in this area and more than 10,000 of them were killed.
Pre-Atomic Bombing Hypocenter Area – Urakami Cathedaral is located in the top right corner.
Post-Atomic Bombing Hypocenter Area –The majority of the area was completely burned and destroyed expect for some concrete buildings.
Damage in Urakami Area
Urakami Cathedral is located 500m from the hypocenter. The parish priest, Saburo Nishida, was about to enter the church to receive the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, a conduct held in preparation for the upcoming Assumption of Mary, and curate Fusayoshi Tamaya was in the confession room. These two priests and few dozen Christians inside the church are assumed to have died instantly.
Photo of Urakami Cathedral on October 1945
Front Entrance of Urakami Cathedral
North Bell Tower of Urakami Cathedral – The estimated 50-ton bell tower was collapsed by the force of the blast.
The staute of John the Apostle was blackened by heat rays.
Video taken by US Army researching the force of the atomic bomb blast.
Christian Graves by Urakami Cathedral – Judging by the engraved dates, these individuals lost their lives due to the atomic bomb.
Christian Graves by Urakami Cathedral – These eight family members died due to the atomic bomb.
Restoration of the Church
Although the atomic bomb caused a great deal of damage to Urakami Cathedral, Christians in the area were determined to build a temporary church as this location had strong attachment to their beliefs.
On December 1, 1946, a temporary church was completed. This was the first public building restored in the area.
This photo, taken in autumn of 1945, shows the gradual rebuilding of houses in the area.
Christians working at the temporary church construction site.
The completed temporary church (left) and the remains of Urakami Cathedral (right).
Urakami Cathedral (Present Day)
As restoration proceeded, the temporary cathedral that was built in 1946 became overcrowded. In 1958, reconstruction of Urakami Cathedral began and was completed in 1959.
Only little remains of the former Urakami Cathedral. However, many atomic bomb survivors still suffer from incurable mental and physical pain.