Nagasaki Japan – Nagasaki is a city located west of Kyushu Island and is, like Hiroshima, infamous for suffering a nuclear attack in 1945 during the Second World War. But Nagasaki’s rich history goes beyond the Second World War. It’s actually the only city that remained open to foreign contact during the country’s isolationist Edo period. Dutchmen stayed there for many years, namely on the island of Dejima that we’re going to talk about below.
So I’m giving you a glimpse of what Nagasaki has to offer through a list of my favorite attractions in the city. As usual, let’s see how you can travel to Nagasaki and where you can stay.
If you’re traveling to Kyushu Island, you will probably pass by Fukuoka, which is located north of the island. From Fukuoka, you can go to Nagasaki in just under two hours by train. A one-way ticket costs 4,700 yen (~ $42.5). The trip is covered by the JR Pass if you have one.
If you are not going to Kyushu and want to travel directly to Nagasaki, you can also take a domestic flight from Tokyo via Haneda Airport, or from Osaka or Kyoto via Kansai Airport. Domestic flights are not very expensive in Japan so you can travel faster and cheaper if you’re coming from a distant place.
As far as transportation in Nagasaki is concerned, you can use the tram which not only is very convenient but also very stylish I think! 🙂
If you are traveling alone and want to save some money, you can book at the Casa Noda. It’s around $20 a night (breakfast included) and is located in the heart of Nagasaki. Casa Noda is as clean and neat as you can expect it to be!
If you can afford more expensive accommodation, you can book at the Hotel Forza. It is just a few minutes stroll from the Hamanmachi Arcade which we will talk about later. The rooms are spacious and comfortable and for what it’s worth, I’m sure you’ll be more than satisfied.
If you want to try Nagasaki’s ryokan, you can book at the great Nisshokan Bettei Koyotei. Traditional Japanese atmosphere guaranteed and everything that goes with it: tatami, futon, sliding doors, traditional breakfast and onsen of course!
Try to book as early as possible; there aren’t that many ryokan in Nagasaki and the Nisshokan Bettei Koyotei sells out pretty fast.
Book your flight and your hotel and let’s review Nagasaki’s best attractions together!
I know the event is quite recent and not so cheerful but I think a visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum is a must if you’re visiting Nagasaki. It’s like when I went to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, I felt like I had to go to the Vietnam War Museum. I think this kind of exposure to the local culture really helps to understand the atmosphere of the city and the state of mind of its people.
During your visit to the museum, you will learn a lot about the history of this bomb, from its design to the trial period it went through and finally to its actual use. The museum is not necessarily meant to shock visitors but the experience is definitely memorable. It also remains enjoyable to some extent, the architecture of the museum being really interesting, sometimes even astonishing.
If you do visit Nagasaki, make sure to stop by this museum. 🙂
The beautiful Peace Park is only a few minutes away from the museum and its fountain of peace is the one you can see in the picture above. You can also visit the hypocenter of the atomic bomb explosion. As the name of the park suggests, it is especially meant to ease people’s minds and help them let go of their anger and resentment against the US.
There are many statues including that of a man sitting on a pedestal, called Peace Statue. His right hand is pointing up to show where the bomb came from. His posture is very symbolic and aims to sear such a tragedy into people’s memory. His left hand is extended, meaning that despite everything, peace must reign in this world. Inspiring, isn’t it? 🙂
Dejima is one of the most famous places in Nagasaki. It was often referred to as an island but it’s no longer the case. Dejima was actually an artificial island built by the Japanese in 1634 but since then, the city of Nagasaki has expanded and Dejima is now attached to it.
Before I tell you more about Dejima, let me tell you a few things about Japanese history first You probably know that Japan spent a century and a half in complete economic autonomy and self-sufficiency during the famous Edo period. Under the shogunate rule, no one was allowed to enter or leave the country… except through Dejima!
Japan was aware of the fact that being completely cut off from the rest of the world could create a substantial gap in terms of technologies and in comparison to the West, so it authorized the establishment of a Dutch delegation in Dejima. In addition to providing a platform for the exchange of knowledge, Dejima was also a trading hub between Japan and the rest of the world.
Dejima is a very special place where Japanese and Western traditions merge. The Japanese-style houses, that served as residences for the Dutch delegation there, have Western furniture. It’s very peculiar and that’s what makes Dejima so unique.
There are also paintings and wax reproductions illustrating scenes from the daily lives of the inhabitants of Dejima. There’s also a church you can visit; it used to be a place of worship for the Dutch.
Visiting Dejima is really like traveling in time and I really loved the experience. 🙂
The Basilica of the 26 Holy Martyrs of Japan is a monument that commemorates one of Japan’s darkest episodes. Let’s get back to the country’s history for a little while. In the 16th century, the Portuguese had reached the Japanese coast, and therefore many Christian missionaries landed in Japan with the aim of converting the country to Christianity.
The Japanese authorities could only see an intention to control the country behind this evangelization attempt, so what follows is ruthless persecution of all the Christians of the country, whether Japanese or not. A group of 26 Christians (9 Europeans and 17 Japanese) got crucified in 1597 in Nagasaki.
After the Edo period, Japan opens up again to the world and the authoritarian shogunate regime gives way to the Meiji era. It is also during this era that the persecution of Christians in Japan ended.
In 1863, two French priests go to Nagasaki and build a church in tribute to the 26 crucified Christians. The Basilica Of The 26 Holy Martyrs is today the only Western-style monument to be classified as a National Treasure in Japan!
In Nagasaki, I’m sure you’ll come across the Nakashima River that flows into the Japanese Inland Sea. Megane Bridge is one of the most beautiful bridges to have been built over this river. Megane means “spectacles” in Japanese and it is in reference to the two arches of the bridge which, with their reflection on the water, form the image of a pair of spectacles.
If you cross Megane Bridge, you may notice the heart-shaped stones on the banks of the river. This small detail that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Japanese so that’s how the Megane Bridge has become a lucky spot for lovers. 🙂
As you can see, Nagasaki is not a typical Japanese city and much of its identity has been built around its openness to foreign cultures. Chinese culture has also contributed to that so I really recommend you stop by the very lively Chinese district in Nagasaki. FYI, you rarely find a China-town in Japan. The only cities where you do are Yokohama, Kobe and of course Nagasaki.
If you like Chinese food as I do, you’ll love this district! 😉
The Hamanmachi shopping street is not far from Chinatown, and you can go shopping and buy souvenirs of Nagasaki there. By the way, this type of commercial arcades is called shotengai.
Round trip: 1230 yen (~ $11)
Last but not least on our tour of Nagasaki: the city’s panorama! You can take a cable car and go to Mount Inasa which is about 333 meters high. It is better to go there at night to enjoy the city lights.
That’s all I have to tell you about Nagasaki. It’s a peculiar city that doesn’t look like any other city in Japan. Visiting historic sites where major historical events took place is a unique experience.
If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, feel free to post them in the comment section below.
To continue to explore this area, feel free to also check out Ojika island!
For more tips about Japan, make sure to read these blog posts too: Japan Travel Blog.
See you around, fellow travelers!