On August 9, 1945, an
American B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, killing tens of
thousands of people in the blink of an eye, while fatally injuring and
poisoning thousands more. Among the survivors was Takashi Nagai, a pioneer in
radiology research and a convert to the Catholic Faith. Living in the rubble of
the ruined city and suffering from leukemia caused by over-exposure to
radiation, Nagai lived out the remainder of his remarkable life by bringing
physical and spiritual healing to his war-weary people.
Song for Nagasaki tells the moving
story of this extraordinary man, beginning with his boyhood and the heroic
tales and stoic virtues of his family's Shinto religion. It reveals the
inspiring story of Nagai’s remarkable spiritual journey from Shintoism to
atheism to Catholicism. Mixed with interesting details about Japanese history
and culture, the biography traces Nagai’s spiritual quest as he studied
medicine at Nagasaki University, served as a medic with the Japanese army during
its occupation of Manchuria, and returned to Nagasaki to dedicate himself to
the science of radiology. The historic Catholic district of the city, where
Nagai became a Catholic and began a family, was ground zero for the atomic
After the bomb disaster
that killed thousands, including Nagai’s beloved wife, Nagai, then Dean of
Radiology at Nagasaki University, threw himself into service to the countless
victims of the bomb explosion, even though it meant deadly exposure to the
radiation which eventually would cause his own death. While dying, he also
wrote powerful books that became best-sellers in Japan. These included The
Bells of Nagasaki, which resonated deeply with the Japanese people in their
great suffering as it explores the Christian message of love and forgiveness.
Nagai became a highly revered man and is considered a saint by many Japanese
Softcover, 267 pages
non-Christians alike were deeply moved by Nagai’s faith in Christ that made him
like Job of the Scriptures: in the midst of the nuclear wilderness he kept his
heart in tranquility and peace, neither bearing resentment against any man nor
from the Foreword
Singapore fell in 1942 and one of the many Australians who became Japanese prisoners was Army Chaplain Lionel Marsden. He preached a simple message to fellow slave labourers on the Thailand Railway: "We are Christians, we rise above hatred”—until a guard’s kick sent him tumbling down an embankment. The padre picked himself up, consumed with an anger that gradually turned to hatred, and then to depression: he had become a phoney, a preacher who hated! In desolate helplessness he turned to prayer – and found himself promising Christ to begin a mission of reconciliation in Japan (if he survived).
The war ended. Encouraged by Lt.Col., “Black Jack” Galleghan and helped by other ex-P.O.W.s like Stan Arneil, he went to Japan and pioneered the Marist Fathers Mission. He began a hostel for poor students and set up kindergartens and churches. Returning to Australia to spread the message of reconciliation and peace, he died of cancer, touching his many friends deeply by the way he met death.
Australian Marists are still in Japan, continuing his work for understanding between nations, work recognised by the Japanese and Australian governments – for instance by a medal from the Emperor to John Hill and Tony Glynn, and an OBE and AM to Tony. Marists from other lands have since joined this Japanese mission.
Paul Glynn has worked on this Japanese Marist Mission for more than 20 years. In 1988, assisted by his Japanese friends, he wrote A Song for Nagasaki, the story of Dr Nagai. The considerable profits from Glynn’s book have been sent to the Philippines for the impoverished sick –he and his Japanese collaborators hope this will heal some of the wounds left there by the Pacific War.
Today all profits from the sale of Fr Glynn’s six books go to the impoverished people of the 3rd world.