Nagasaki boasts a vast number of impressive sights. So, whilst traveling around Japan, a stop in Nagasaki is definitly worth it. From Mount Inasa, you can experience one of the three best night views in the world. Nagasaki Peace Park is harrowing but offers an eye-opening look at life before and after the atomic bomb, and Battleship Island is often a place cited as one of the most wanted places to visit by tourists from overseas. Read on for the top ten Nagasaki Attractions:
1. Mount Inasa
From Mt. Inasa’s observation deck, known as having one of the top 3 night views in Japan and in the world, you can view the beautiful nightscape of Nagasaki Harbor. The highlight is the huge 360-degree panoramic view.
Along with Mt. Hakodate in Hakodate and Mt. Rokko in Kobe, Nagasaki has one of Japan’s top three night views, and such a view from Mt. Inasa’s observation deck is well known. Furthermore in 2012, it was selected as one of the world’s new top 3 night views along with Hong Kong and Monaco. The view seen from Mt. Inasa is called the $10 million night view, and from the cylindrical-shaped View Tower which is covered all around in glass at the top of the mountain (alt. 333m), you can look at a 360-degree panoramic view. With the underground floor and the two levels above ground totally encased in glass, you can experience the night view at your own pace even in rainy weather, and the scenery from the open roof is spectacular. The afternoon scenery has a different feel, and with the Urakami River flowing through the city and plenty of undulating topography, your eyes can take in Nagasaki Harbor and Nagasaki itself, and if the weather is good, you can also see as far as the Goto Islands, Unzen and Amakusa. For those who want to see both types of scenery, coming just before sunset is recommended. There is also a restaurant on the observation deck where you can enjoy a meal and a drink while viewing the night scene.
2. Nagasaki Dutch Slope
Nagasaki is known as a city of numerous slopes. The city is surrounded by mountains, and there are many private homes on the sides of these mountains. From 1858 when the country was opened during the end of the Edo Era, many people from Europe and America came to live in Nagasaki, with the Higashi-Yamate and Minami-Yamate areas of Oura Ward and Dejima becoming residential zones representing self-governing regions for foreign residents with extraterritorial rights.
Famous even within the former residential area of Dutch Slope is Higashi-Yamate. Japan’s first Protestant Anglican Church assembly hall was established there in 1862, and since the citizens of Nagasaki at that time came to call all Western residents “Dutch-san”, the inclines where all of the foreigners traversed to go to Sunday service came to be called Dutch Slope or “Oranda-zaka”. Along Dutch Slope, there is Kwassui High School for female students which was built by Americans in 1879; the Higashi-Yamate Juniban-kan Mansion that was used as the Russian consulate and is now serving as the Historical Museum for Private Schools; the 7 Western-style residences of Higashi-Yamate; the atmospheric pavements, walls and ditches made of stone; and brick walls, all remaining from those days. We recommend strolling along those streets with that exotic feeling.
3. Nagasaki Chinatown
Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown is one of the three big Chinatowns in Japan, standing alongside Yokohama and Kobe. There are brilliant chuukamon gates at the entrances in all four directions, and 250m into the area, there is a cozy crossroads where about 40 Chinese restaurants are located. The origins of Chinatown came from many Chinese people moving to this area due to the abandonment of Chinese settlements at the end of the Edo Era which had been built on reclaimed land for storehouses for trade products from China during the middle of that era.
A popular item in Chinatown is champon. A noodle dish from Fujian Province given a Japanese spin, the birthplace is said to be the restaurant Shikairou which was founded in 1899. It is a rich soup with thick noodles and plenty of vegetables and seafood on top. There are also other popular Nagasaki Chinatown dishes such as saraudon which is crispy deep-fried noodles topped with a thick champon sauce, and tonpourou (Dongpo Pork) which is gently simmered pork sandwiched into fluffy pao bread.
The Nagasaki Lantern Festival started in earnest from 2004. It was originally an event held by local Chinatown residents to celebrate the Chinese New Year, and currently it is a seasonal reminder that winter is ending. Annually, the Lunar New Year lasts 15 days from around the middle of February, and in the central areas of the city such as Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown and the Hamanomachi Arcade, approximately 15000 Chinese lanterns decorate the streets. Starting from the main venue of Minato Park, every place that celebrates the event has huge lantern-like works of art modeled after the zodiac and historical figures from China. During this time, lively events such as parades, shows by Chinese folk art groups, Chinese lion dances, dragon dances and kokyu musical performances are held.
4. Kofukuji Temple
In the early part of the Edo Era (around 1600), Nagasaki had become an international city specializing in trade. There was an overwhelming number of Chinese people among the foreign traders, and it was said that one in six residents were from China. At the time, prohibition against Christianity was strict and there were questions about Christians among the Chinese, so to show that they were Buddhists, many Chinese temples were constructed. Among them, Kofukuji Temple was said to be Japan’s oldest example, and was established in 1620 for the purposes of praying for safety on the high seas and for peace toward the deceased. It is also called “The Red Temple” due to the main gate painted in vermillion. The founder, Ingen, was the first monk from China to become the chief priest of a holy site in Japan, and it’s also known that monks such as Mokusu Nyojo who built the Megane-bashi (Spectacles) Bridge and Itsunen who originated early modern Chinese illustrations were also prominent chief priests there. During the Second World War, although Nagasaki suffered terrible damage from the atomic bomb, the temple was saved from the fires and today the atmosphere from that time still exists today.
The Daiyuden Main Hall is built in the Chinese style with features such as elaborately carved pillars and beams, round Hyoretsu-shiki Kumiko windows, arched Oubaku ceilings and gourd-shaped bottles on the top ridge of the roof（during earthquakes, the bottles would open and water would flow over the main hall to protect it from fire）. It’s an unusual construction which differs from Japanese architecture and has been designated as an Important Cultural Property. The Japanese-style “Kane Korou” (Bell Drum Tower) has been rated as the most beautiful in the nation, and there remain cultural assets within the temple such as the “Gyoban” drum in the form of a wooden fish, and a gate built in 1689 for use by Chinese residents to live in one area to prevent smuggling.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 300 / Child: ¥ 100
5. Glover Garden
Centering on Glover Residence, Ringer House and Alt House which have been nationally designated as Important Cultural Properties, these are 6 facilities which had been located throughout the city as Western-style buildings in the 1860s before being dismantled and restored. These residences of traders who loved and lived in Nagasaki have been preserved in their original state, and the interiors have been recreated to show the lifestyle of that time.
Glover Residence is Japan’s oldest surviving wooden Western-style house and was the home of Scotland-born Thomas Blake Glover who traded in weapons and ships. It was revealed that he had gone beyond his position as a foreign trader for Japan’s reconstruction, and assisted in sending many young Japanese people to study overseas. Furthermore, Glover contributed to modern scientific technology in Japan and pioneered in the fields of shipbuilding, mining, fishing, steel manufacturing, minting, and beer production. In the roof above the corridor by his wife’s room in Glover Residence, it’s said that there is a hidden windowless room from where the patriots during the final years of the Tokugawa shogunate went in and out, and it’s known that Glover had been a historic mastermind contributing to reformation at that time.
Glover Garden is built on a slope reflecting Nagasaki’s unique topography, and from the residence garden you can enjoy a panoramic view of Nagasaki Harbor and Mt. Inasa, and there are flowers planted in the garden all throughout the four seasons. Night illumination is also available on a seasonal basis so you can enjoy a romantic atmosphere. In particular, during the summer (end of July to beginning of October), there is a beer garden within the garden area where you can enjoy a meal in an open atmosphere while viewing an 1860s landscape and the modern and beautiful night view of Nagasaki. On the weekends, there is also live music. Rentals of audio guides in English, Chinese and Korean are available.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 610 / Child: ¥ 180
6. Huis Ten Bosch
Huis Ten Bosch has been the leading tourist spot in Kyushu for domestic vacations for 2 years running since 2013. With its epic 1.5 million sq. m. of space and 6km of waterways and greenery, it is an amusement facility which re-creates the streets of Middle Ages Europe surrounded by flowers representing all 4 seasons. Huis Ten Bosch means “The House of the Forest” in Dutch, and it is a place where children and adults can enjoy attractions, museums, restaurants and hotels. There are also the two great sights of the flowers and the illumination, and there are events such as the Japan preliminaries for the world competition for fireworks artists and collaborations with popular anime programs.
Within the huge grounds, various beautiful flowers are in full bloom during every season via events such the spring tulip festival which boasts the largest collection in the country, the moss phlox garden in April, the May rose festival with 1.1 million flowers of 1000 different types, the June hydrangea festival with 800 types which is the largest in Japan, the begonia garden from autumn to winter with 15,000 plants of 1000 types, and a winter orchid exhibition.
The Kingdom of Light, which is held from November to early April, is the world’s largest example of illumination whose 11 million lights light up the entire park. With canal cruises through waterways of light and fountains, unique light displays through events such as parades in which visitors can participate while riding bicycles, the lighting up of the palace and church, and 3D projection mapping at 3 different places, Huis Ten Bosch is one grand event.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 6,200 / Child: ¥ 3,900
7. Nagasaki Peace Park
During World War II on August 9th 1945 at 11:02 a.m., an atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki and in one moment, many lives were lost and many more suffered the aftereffects. At the bombing’s hypocenter, Nagasaki Peace Park was created to put forward hopes for world peace so that the tragedy of war is never repeated. In this grand park of approximately 18.6 hectares, there are 5 zones: the Zone of Hopes, the Zone of Prayers, the Zone of Learning, the Sports Zone and the Plaza Zone which are areas where the tragedy of war is addressed, hopes for peace are cultivated, the importance of peace is realized through contact, and the nobility of peace is declared.
The Zone of Hopes was completed in 1955 and is where the Peace Statue is located. A bronze statue 9.7 meters in height and 30 tonnes in weight, its right hand points to the threat of nuclear weapons while its left hand is open in peace as its face is in prayer for the repose for those lost in the war. Every year on August 9th, “Nagasaki Peace Day”, the Peace Memorial Ceremony is held in front of the statue, and a declaration of peace is made toward the entire world. A prayer is made for those who lost their lives while searching for water, and in 1969, a Fountain of Peace measuring 18 meters in diameter was built. In the Zone of Prayers in the hypocenter, there is a monument on the atomic blast and the remains of the wall of Urakami Cathedral which once boasted a splendor unrivaled in the Orient are on display. In the Zone of Learning, the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum displays a re-creation of the city immediately following the atomic blast as well as photos and items showing the blast damage. It also addresses the threat and inhumanity of nuclear weapons and the tragedy of war.
From 1550, Nagasaki was developed as a trading port with Portugal. However, the increase in followers of Christianity within the country and their unity was becoming formidable to the shogunate, and in 1634, the fan-shaped artificial island of Dejima was built over 2 years to amass and control the Portuguese in one area so as to prevent the spread of Christianity. Afterwards, the Portuguese were expelled from the country and for 200 years, trade and diplomacy between Japan and the outside world continued to be restricted as a policy of Sakoku. During that time, only Holland showed its loyalty to the shogunate, and gaining its trust, a Danish trading firm was moved to Dejima. During Sakoku, Holland became the only Western trading partner and the island played an instrumental role in the modernization of Japan as an exchange base for finance, culture and art.
Since 1900, the role of Dejima ended and its original form has been lost since the area around the island was filled up, but currently, there is construction to restore its historical legacy. At this time on Dejima, there are 49 buildings representing residences, dining rooms, warehouses, guard houses, etc. and 10 of them have been restored for visits. You can follow the changes in Dejima while viewing the remains over 4 eras such as the original Edo Era stonewall breakwaters where the Portuguese had lived, the closing days of the Tokugawa Shogunate when Ryoma Sakamoto and his followers were rebelling, Dejima’s stone warehouses after the opening of the country and the valuable wooden Western-style buildings during the Meiji Era. Avenues are recreated as if you went back in time, restored buildings have become museums, the history and lifestyle of Dejima are on display, and life at that time has been recreated. Access from within Nagasaki is excellent and there is a dining facility known as Nagasaki Dejima Wharf nearby with a fine view of the seaside where there are many places where you can try fresh seafood in Japanese, Chinese, and Italian establishments and cafes.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 510 / Child: ¥ 100
9. Gunkanjima (Battleship Island)
During the Golden Age of coal mining, people led a crowded lifestyle with a population density more than 9 times that of Tokyo. The life of those times has remained as it was on a deserted island of abandoned buildings left for 30 years.
Coal was discovered around 1810 on the island of Hashima, some 30 minutes away from Nagasaki Harbor by boat, and some 80 years later in 1890, Mitsubishi bought the rights for the mining areas for the entire island and began coal mining in earnest. The island was called Gunkanjima because its shape resembled that of a battleship. More than half the island was rich in ore, and the remainder was filled with hospitals, schools, temples, shrines, police boxes, movie theaters, barber shops, etc. so it functioned as a complete city.
During the high-growth 1960s, 5,300 people lived there with a population density that was No. 1 in the world and more than 9 times that of Tokyo. Utilizing cutting-edge technology, it was a near-future city channeling modern metropolises with Japan’s first high-rise reinforced concrete apartment buildings, an undersea water supply first invented by Japan, the nation’s first roof gardens, etc. But with the switch of the country’s main source of energy from coal to oil, there was a course of decline. In January 1974, the mine was closed and in April, all of the residents left the island, leaving Gunkanjima a deserted island. Since then, people had been prohibited from going onto the island, but from 2009, tourism and field trips were allowed.
Despite the presence of abandoned buildings, household appliances starting with TV sets and other traces of life have been left there as they were, with the island as a whole being left as it was during its prosperity, and one can feel what Japan was like during the period of high growth. There are some tour companies, and high-speed ships leave from Nagasaki Harbor. Due to the extreme danger from the concentration of decrepit reinforced concrete buildings on Gunkanjima, visits are performed by going around the island once by ship. Then, tourists go onto the island and with a guide, they can tour for about 1 hour. Since there are guides who can speak English, inquiry is necessary beforehand.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 3,600 / Child: ¥ 1,700
10. Oura Church
Continuing from Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the Edo Era Tokugawa Shogunate continued the ban on Christianity, and from the 1639 seclusion policy, all missionaries were ousted from the country. However, during the Bakumatsu Era when Japan was opened, a foreign settlement in Nagasaki was established, and in 1864, Oura Church was completed for the foreign residents. Officially, it was named the Church of the Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan in honor of the 26 saints who had been executed in 1597 on Nagasaki’s Nishizaka hill due to the ban on Christianity, and the front of the church faces that same hill. The oldest surviving church in Japan with a Gothic style representing Europe in the Middle Ages, it has been designated as a National Treasure with its stained-glass windows being over 100 years old. The designers were Fathers Louis Furet and Bernard Petitjean from France. At the time it was completed, tourists descended upon the church to see this unusual Western structure and many underground followers of Christ also visited. It was revealed that though they were attired as Buddhists on the surface, they were underground Christians with a passionate faith after the 250-year ban on the religion. In front of a statue of the Virgin Mary on a small altar to the right inside the church, the miraculous encounter between the underground Christians and the Fathers led to the statue being called “The Statue of the Virgin Mary for Discovered Followers”. With this big news about the existence of these many underground Christians in Japan being spread throughout the world, the white statue of the Virgin Mary placed in the middle of the entrance was sent in commemoration from France and named “The Holy Mother of Japan”. In addition, the bell in the belfry at the rear of the church was saved from damage during World War II, and since its establishment, it has continued to be rung. Even now, it is rung at noon and at 6 p.m.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 300 / Child: ¥ 200
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Spending time in Japan can be daunting especially if you are not familiar with the language, transportation, or culture. Whether it is spending helping with navigation or convenience, I recommend Triplelights, as they have over 1,000 professional tour guides that can help you navigate Japan efficiently while eliminating the risk of getting lost. Not only that, but the guides are all experts in their local areas so you would be able to receive customized itineraries with whatever you want to specifically do or see in the city. Tokyo, for example, is a metropolitcan city that can be quite crowded in many of these areas, so if you are not willing to make trek to any of the above locations via public transportation but still want to experience the city's wonders, check out the private car tours that are offered, and feel free to send a message to any of the local guides for more information about planning your trip.
Furthermore, if none of the above locations are aligned with what you want to do in Japan or if you already have some locations you want to go to, you should check out some of the cultural activities that are happening in the city as there are so many more interesting and fun events to partake in that will make your trip the most memorable trip you've had!
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