Nagasaki is the capital and largest city of Nagasaki Prefecture on Kyushu Island. It is also the second city that the US Army Air Force bombed after Hiroshima towards the end of World War II. Besides that, during Japan’s period of isolation, Nagasaki played an important role in foreign trade relations with other countries for many centuries.
It is pretty easy to travel around Nagasaki. The mode of transportation here includes bus and streetcar, or better known as the tram. The bus is a convenient mode to travel around Nagasaki City and to suburban areas. Streetcar routes extend to the north and south, east and west of Nagasaki City. I chose to move around Nagasaki City by the streetcar. The one-day pass is only priced at ¥500.
1. Eat Castella カステラ
Made of eggs, sugar, syrup and flour, castella is a square-shaped light Japanese sponge cake introduced by Portuguese missionaries who came to Japan around the 16th century. Fluffy, light and sugary, it is a perfect snack for afternoon tea. I had my cake from Bunmeido, one of the famous castella shops in Nagasaki.
2. Shop at Shindaikumachi and Siebold-dori 新大工町とシーボルト通り
Looking for fresh seafood, vegetables, fruits, or dried ingredients? Find them at this shopping street.
How to get here:
From the Suwajinja-Mae Station (Line 5), cross the river, turn left immediately and go straight. You will see a Shidaiku Machi and Siebold-dori arch on your right. It takes about 1-minute to get there.
3. Put on your spectacles at Meganebashi Bridge 眼鏡橋
Meganebashi Bridge is also known as the “spectacles bridge”. Constructed in 1634 by the Chinese Zen priest Mozi from Kofukuji Temple, it is the oldest stone arch bridge in Japan. At a certain hour of the day with perfect lighting, the bridge will look like a pair of spectacles when it is reflected in the river.
4. Immerse yourselves in Nagasaki’s Chinatown
Experience Chinese culture in Shinchi Chinatown, one of the three largest Chinatowns in Japan alongside the one in Yokohama and Kobe. It is Japan’s oldest Chinatown as it was established around the 17th Century, where Nagasaki’s port remained as the country’s only major port opened to Chinese trade during the era of isolation. Today, it is a popular sightseeing spot and a well-known place for noodle dishes, namely champon and sara udon. You may find food like “xiu long bao” and Chinese “bao” here, which are delicious Chinese steamed buns with meat filling. I wasn’t hungry when I was here, so I did not try out the local dishes.
How to get here:
Take the streetcar or tram to Tsukimachi tram stop (#31) on Line 1 or 5. Nagasaki’s Chinatown is a short walk from tram stop.
5. Check out the Old Chinese Quarter in Nagasaki
Just a stone throw away from Chinatown, there is a compound where the Chinese used to reside back in the 16th Century. Here, you can find the Tojin Yashiki which is a compound built for Chinese who came to Nagasaki. Back then, there were only two houses where 2000 Chinese people could live. Due to the increase of smuggling cases during those days, the military government decided to limit places where Chinese merchants could settle and hence built mansions in Tojin Yashiki. Nowadays, you can find residences such as Dojin-do, kannon-do, Tenjo-do, and Fukken house which were renovated during the Meiji era.
6. Climb the steep slope – Hollander Slope オランダ坂
Also known as Oranda Zaka or the Dutch slope, this slope refers to the steep street of this hillside residential area. The people of Nagasaki refer to non-Asians as “Hollanders” due to the influence of Dutch who lived in Dejima.
Inside Higashiyama Shika Higashikanban.
A stone throw away from the Hollander Slope is the Higashiyama Shika Higashikanban, a blue colour western-style house with a café and a beautiful open-air place to sit down.
How to get here:
- 7 minutes’ walk from Chinatown.
- 5 minutes’ walk from Shimimbyoin-Mae Station on Line 5.