“The Cannon-ball of Ohato”, Nagasaki, c. 1910.

1910sHistoric EventsModernization
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“The Cannon-ball of Ohato”, Nagasaki, c. 1910. It is said that this cannonball was cast in 1638 for use against Hara Castle during the Shimabara Rebellion*. As it turned out the cannonball never left Nagasaki and was instead placed at Ohato. Preserved at present in a small park near the ferry terminal, it has been called one of the seven wonders of Nagasaki and has become part of the local lore, even figuring in a folk song that asks: “.. here is the cannonball, but where is the cannon?”

“It may be a mere historical footnote, but to this day a giant cannonball cast during this era remains on an obelisk at Ohato beside Nagasaki harbor.

“According to Plutschow, originally the gift of a Nagasaki merchant, the iron ball along with cannon was intended to be deployed against the rebel fortress at Shimabara*. Even so, the sheer size of this object (175cm circumference; 560kg weight) makes that assertion somewhat improbable.

“Whatever the provenance of the ‘Ohato cannonball’, it does testify to a transfer of casting techniques [and technology] probably from the Dutch and with the Ayama family of temple bell caster a likely candidate.”

World Trade Systems of the East and West: Nagasaki and the Asian Bullion Trade Networks, by Geoffrey C. Gunri, 2017

* During the Shimabara Rebellion (1637–1638), rebellious Christian peasants were besieged at Hara Castle. Following their defeat, and the subsequent suppression of Christianity in Japan, the Shogunate decided to expel the Catholic Portuguese – who had supported the peasants – from Japan. The Protestant Dutch, meanwhile, gained the trust of the authorities after they bombarded Hara Castle, where the insurgents had taken refuge, and thus gained a monopoly on European trade with Japan during the 214-year period of isolation known as sakoku [“closed country”] with the proviso that they conduct no evangelism.
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