Explore Nagasaki: 13 Places to Visit (Part 1)

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Explore Nagasaki: 13 Places to Visit (Part 1)
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Tags: destinationskyushunagasakitemples

Nagasaki 長崎 is the second place after Hiroshima that was devastated by atomic bomb during World War II. It is also famous for attractions such as Battleship Island (Gunkanjima) and Mt. Inasa that offers one of the best night views in Japan. Even so, those who have visited Nagasaki before might have probably noticed that Nagasaki is a little different than other cities in Japan – Nagasaki is not a very “Japanese” place.

For centuries, Nagasaki was a hub for international trade with European and Chinese traders frequenting its ports. That turned Nagasaki into a city with strong Western and Chinese influences. It is because of this, Nagasaki has a different charm than many other Japanese mainland cities, making it a destination not to be missed especially for those who are planning a trip to Kyushu.

This article will provide you information on some of the attractions in the city that reflect not only Nagasaki’s rich past but also the resilience of its people.

Getting around

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Image credit: gaku. / CC BY 2.0

To begin, it is good to know that almost all attractions in the city can be reached easily by tram and on foot. It is served by four tram lines: Blue (line 1), Red (line 3), Yellow (line 4), and Green (line 5). The tram fare is ¥120 per ride no matter how far you travel.
For visitors who are going to travel a lot around the city, the one-day pass which costs only ¥500 a day is a bargain. But do note that the one-day pass is not sold on the tram. It can be purchased at the tourist information centre in Nagasaki Station, as well as at the reception counters of major hotels in the city.

Dejima 出島

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Image: tjabeljan / CC BY 2.0

This small artificial island was constructed in 1636 to accommodate the Portuguese traders living in Nagasaki. It became a Dutch trading post after the Portuguese were expelled for threatening Tokugawa shogunate’s power in southern Japan at the time. During the period of national isolation (1639-1854), Dejima was the only port in Nagasaki opened to foreign traders and only trade with the Dutch and Chinese were allowed.

Today, Dejima features reconstructed buildings and structures to recreate the atmosphere back then. There are also exhibitions that offer a glimpse of the life of the Dutch who lived on the island during the era.

Opening Hours: 8 AM to 6 PM
Admission Fee: ¥510
Access: Next to the Dejima 出島 tram stop (tram line 1)

Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown 長崎新地中華街

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Image: Jorge Láscar / CC BY 2.0

Today a popular sightseeing spot lined with shops and restaurants, the Chinatown in Nagasaki is actually the oldest in Japan. It is also one of the three major Chinatowns in Japan alongside Yokohama and Kobe. Like its Dutch counterpart Dejima, it was the place where the Chinese traders lived and conducted business during the national isolation period.

The area becomes especially happening during Chinese New Year when the Nagasaki Lantern Festival is being held. It is an annual event where the city will be adorned with thousands of lanterns, along with performances such as lion and dragon dance.

Access: 2-minute walk from the Tsukimachi 築町 tram stop (tram lines 1 and 5)

Glover garden グラバー園

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Image: tjabeljan / CC BY 2.0

The garden is home to several mansions of foreign residents formerly living in Nagasaki. The main attraction is the former residence of a Scottish merchant named Thomas Blake Glover. Built in 1863, the house reflects Western architecture from that era and has been designated as a national important cultural property. Besides catching a glimpse of the lifestyle of wealthy merchants at the time, you can also take a stroll in the lovely garden full of colourful flowers and enjoy breathtaking views over the harbour and the city.

Opening Hours: 8 AM to 6 PM
Admission Fee: ¥610
Access: 6-minute walk from the Ouratenshudo-shita 大浦天主堂下 tram stop (tram line 5)

Dutch Slope オランダ坂

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Image credit: ume-y / CC BY 2.0

A hilly district with rows of Western-style houses, the area was resided by foreign traders after Japan ended its seclusion policy and opened up Nagasaki ports to international trade again. It was named “Oranda-zaka” (Dutch Slope) because the locals used to refer to all Westerners as Dutch. Some of the houses here still serve as private residences, while some others have been preserved as museums and cafes.

Access: 4-minute walk from the Shiminbyoin-mae 市民病院前 tram stop (tram line 5)

Kofukuji 興福寺

Dragon-fish shaped meal bell.
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Image credit: TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) / CC BY 2.0

One of the prominent temples in the Teramachi (Temple Town) area, Kofukuji is not only the oldest Chinese-style temple in Japan but also the birthplace of the Obaku sect of Zen Buddhism. It was built in 1620 by a Chinese monk to pray for safe sea voyages of the Chinese merchants who frequent between China and Nagasaki. This can be seen from the Mazu or Chinese Goddess of the Sea enshrined here.

The temple houses many national and prefectural cultural properties and its Chinese-style architecture is among the many interesting features that make it different from other Japanese temples.

Opening Hours: 6 AM to 5 PM
Admission Fee: ¥300
Access: 8-minute walk from the Kokaido-mae 公会堂前 tram stop (tram lines 3, 4, and 5)

Sofukuji 崇福寺

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Image credit: Jennifer Morrow / CC BY 2.0

Built in 1629, this is another temple in Teramachi that was built by the Chinese living in Nagasaki. Interestingly, what sets it apart from Kofukuji is that it is a Fujian temple (built by Chinese hailed from Fujian Province), whereas Kofukuji is a Nanjing temple (built by Nanjing Chinese).

The temple is one fine example of Ming Dynasty architecture. Enter the temple through the striking three gated entrance, the Daiippomon (inner gate) and the Daiohoden (main Buddha hall) were actually crafted and disassembled in China, shipped all the way to Nagasaki and reassembled. They have been designated as national treasures of Japan.

Opening Hours: 8 AM to 5 PM
Admission Fee: ¥300
Access: 5-minute walk from the Shokakuji-shita 正覚寺下 tram stop (tram lines 1 and 4)

Confucius Shrine 孔子廟

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Image credit: kanegen / CC BY 2.0

First built in 1893 by the local Chinese community with the support of the Qing government at that time, the shrine is dedicated to Confucius, the founder of Confucianism. It is one of the very few Confucius shrines in Japan, where you can even find the life-size statues of Confucius’ 72 famous disciples.

It is also notable that the land on which the shrine stands actually belongs to China and is administered by the Chinese embassy in Tokyo. Also on the site is the Historical Museum of China, displaying relics and treasures from China, as well as artifacts related to the shrine.

Opening Hours: 8.30 AM to 5 PM
Admission Fee: ¥600
Access: 3-minute walk from the Ouratenshudo-shita 大浦天主堂下 tram stop (tram line 5)

Continue reading Part 2 of the article here.

Kyla HS
Kyla HS
A student, part-time translator and writer. I like anime, Jpop and Jrock in general but ultimately, I love to travel and often spend most of my expenses on food.

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