by Bryce Marley
Today Japlanning are heading down south to Kyushu, Japan's third largest island, and the southern most of the four main islands. On Kyushu lies the city of Nagasaki, with a rich history and important place in Asia’s shipping industry. Today, Nagasaki is more than just a shipping port, with rich culture, a sad history in war, and many amazing sights, it's a must visit when making it down to the island of Kyushu.
Nagasaki was founded by the Portuguese in the later half of the 16th century, when it was just a small fishing village. The influences of the Portuguese and other European countries can still be seen in Nagasaki, particularly in European influenced churches, and other christian spiritual sites around the city.
The city has a rich history with international flavours found everywhere, and also has a sad war history with having the sad title of being the last city in the world to experience a nuclear attack, just after Hiroshima was attacked in WWII. In Nagasaki, you will find museums and a peace park like Hiroshima dedicated to spreading education on nuclear warfare and promoting world peace.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular tourist sites Nagasaki has to offer.
This is for all you James Bond fans out there!
Located about 15km from the Port of Nagasaki is the island of Gunkanjima. Looking at it, you may think it’s familiar, as it was used as the bad guy's island fort in the James Bond film Skyfall. However Gunkanjima’s history spans make much further.
The island was originally a coal mine which housed over 5,000 workers and their families. Due to the massive population on such a small island, all available space was used and built up, resembling a giant floating battleship (Gunkanjima in English roughly translates to “battleship island”). The coal mine was in operation until 1974, when it was closed down and all the residents were forced to abandon Gunkanjima.
With the closing of the mine, the island and all it's buildings sat there and deteriorated. With it sitting in a prime location for typhoons, the island now resembles an eery modern ghost city, in the middle of the sea.
For many years you could do a boat sightseeing around the island, until 2009 when a new boat dock was constructed and now you can jump onto the island as part of an organised tour. On the tour you will be taken to three observation areas on the island, spending about 45 minutes in total on the island. Due to the fragile state of the deteriorated buildings, for your own safety, you cannot go inside them or get too close. The boat ride to the island offers views of the island as well as some of the neighbouring islands, and a spectacular view of the port of Nagasaki on your return.
The peace park in Nagasaki is a memorial in remembrance of the atomic bombings that happened on August 9th 1945, that was a key part of ending WWII.
The attack destroyed massive areas of Nagasaki, and killed tens of thousands of residents. The park itself holds many memorials and statues dedicated to various groups, people and the city that were all affected or lost in the attack. You will find a black column that sits inside several large circles, which marks the epicenter of where the bomb hit the ground that day in August, 1945, and this memorial stores a list of all the names of those who died.
Next to the park is the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, where you can walk through exhibits that detail the day it happened, the effects of the atomic bomb and also the work being done to see this never happens again anywhere in the world, and promoting the work globally towards world peace. It’s a very somber museum that holds important historic information, that even though quite confronting, should not be missed.
The Nagasaki Peace Park is in Urakami. To get there, take the tram on lines 1 or 3 from JR Nagasaki Station. The Park and Museum is a short walk from Matsuyamachi tram stop.
For more information on the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum visit their website here
Now this is a unique shrine in Japan, as it is dedicated to the Chinese philosopher Confucius, and not a Japanese Shinto or Buddhist shrine.
As most people in the world have heard of Confucius’ wisdom and teachings, it's a great stop in Nagasaki for a temple or shrine credit. The shrine was built by Chinese residents in 1893, which is considered to be a much newer shrine compared to many of the others in Japan. The shrine has a heavy Chinese-style influence, and is beautifully crafted. Come admire it’s beauty and also pay your respects to Confucius if you wish.
The shrine also houses a fascinating museum on China history.
Koshi-byo is open daily from 8:30am to 5pm, and entry costs 600¥ to visit. The best access to the shine is via the number 5 tram line, and is just a short walk from the Ouratenshudo-shita tram stop.
Inasayama is a nearly 400 metre mountain that is just out of the city centre of Nagasaki.
You can grab a bus or taxi to the summit, for one of the best views of Nagasaki, encompassing the whole city and its majestic port. It also offers the best night view of the port side of the city all lit up with lights. There is also an observation deck and restaurant on the top floor, which offers some spectacular views. In fact, it is considered one of the top three best night views you can get in all of Japan!
For a more enjoyable ride up the mountain, Japlanning recommends taking the ropeway to the top. The gondola ride takes just five minutes to get to the summit and is the fastest way to the top.
The Inasayama ropeway is open year-round, except for early December. A round trip ride costs 1200¥, and is open from 9am to 10pm. Gondolas depart the base and summit every 15-20 minutes. To get to the lower ropeways station, just take a quick 5 minute taxi from JR Nagasaki Station.
Nagasaki has countless fantastic eateries specialising in local cuisines, however there are two specialities you need to try:
- Champon. A Local soup dish which is filled with noodles, a rich pork broth, vegetables, bacon, and seafood, delicious!
- Kakuni-Manju. A local delicacy that is a spectacular snack. What seems like a humble pork bun, is instead a marinated braised pork cutlet that is served in a steamed bun. This is one of Devon’s top snacks ever devoured in the world. To this day, another pork bun hasn’t beaten the spectacular taste of this Nagasaki treat.
To try both of these, the best place to look is in Nagasaki’s Chinatown. Take the blue tram to the Tsuki-machi tramp stop.
GETTING TO NAGASAKI
- AIR - 2 hours from Tokyo - Haneda Airport
- TRAIN - 7 hours from Tokyo
- AIR - approx. 1 hour from Osaka - Kansai Airport.
- TRAIN - just over 4 hours from Osaka.
Nagasaki is a delightful seaside city with spectacular sights, museums, gardens and wonderful locals, who are always more than happy to help an out-of-towner. It's a city that is a bit more laid back than the big metropolis’ up north in Japan, however it’s charm, attractions, rich history and people make it a must stop for anyone traveling to southern Japan.