As we leave China behind in our armchair travels we hop on over to Japan. Nagasaki sits on the northwest coast on the island of Kyushu. The city is set on a large natural harbor with buildings on the terraces of the surrounding hills. This city is remembered for a key moment that happened during WW II, when it suffered an Allied nuclear attack in August 1945.
The Peace Park is located north of the hypo-center of the attack.
The highlight here is the 10-ton bronze Nagasaki Peace Statue which was designed in 1955 by Kitamura Seibo. There is also the dove-shaped Fountain of Peace and the Peace Symbol Zone, a sculpture garden with contributions on the theme of peace from all around the world.
Visitors can see how the nuclear attack destroyed the city and took the lives of so many through photos and artifacts at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. Some of the things you can see here are mangled rocks, trees, furniture, pottery, clothing and a clock that stopped at precisely 11:02 (the hour of the bombing). There are also first-hand accounts from survivors and stories of heroic relief efforts.
Adjacent to the museum you’ll find the Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. The memorial was completed in 2003 by Kuryu Akira. It is a peaceful place where visitors can read the carved inscriptions and walk around the sculpted water basin. In the hall below are 12 glass pillars which contain shelves of books with the names of the deceased.
Suwa-jinja is an enormous shrine that is found on a forested hilltop and only reachable by multiple staircases. It was established in 1625. On the grounds you can find statues of komainu (protective dogs), among them are kappa-komainu (water-sprite dogs), which you can pray to by dribbling water onto the plates they have upon their heads.
The Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture was opened in 2005 and focuses on Nagasaki’s proud history of international exchange. The main gallery is an impressive reconstruction of a section of the Edo-period Nagasaki Magistrate’s Office, which was in control of trade and diplomacy. There are detailed English-language explanations.
The Tokugawa shogunate banished all foreigners from Japan in 1641 the exception being Dejima, a fan-shaped artificial island in Nagasaki harbor. From then until the 1850s, this tiny Dutch trading post was the sole sanctioned foreign presence in Japan. Today the city has filled in around this island but there are still 17 buildings, walls and structures.
When visiting don’t miss the Dejima Museum, a cluster of small buildings along with exhibits on the Dutch and other foreign contact with Nagasaki and also free walking-tour maps of the entire site.
Of interest to visitors is the Atomic Bomb Hypocentre Park with a smooth, black stone column that marks the point above at which the bomb exploded. Nearby you can see bomb blasted relics like a section of the wall of the Urakami Cathedral.
Sofuku-ji is an Obaku temple (Obaku is the third-largest Zen sect after Rinzai and Soto). It was built by Chinese monk Chaonian in 1629. The red entrance gate is a good example of Ming dynasty architecture. Inside the temple you can see a huge cauldron that was used to prepare food for famine victims in 1681. There is also a statue of Maso, goddess of the sea, worshiped by early Chinese seafarers.
Glover Garden is a hillside garden where you can see the reassembled former homes of the city’s Meji-period European residents. The garden is named after Thomas Glover, the Scottish merchant who built the first railway in Japan, helped establish the shipbuilding industry and whose arms-importing operations influenced the course of the Meiji Restoration.While visiting the garden stop by to see the Glover House.
Exiting Glover Garden visitors walk through the Nagasaki Traditional Performing Arts Museum where they can see a wonderful display of dragons and floats that are used in the colorful Kunchi Matsuri, a festival that is held each year in October.
Visit the 26 Martyrs Memorial a memorial wall with reliefs of the 26 Christians crucified in 1597. It commemorates a harsh crackdown when six Spanish friars and twenty Japanese were killed. Behind the memorial is a museum with Christianity-related displays.
Fukusai-ji Kannon is a temple that takes the form of a huge turtle carrying an 18 meter-high figure of the goddess Kannon on its back. Inside, a Foucault pendulum that demonstrates the rotation of the earth on its axis hangs from near the top of the hollow statue.
Oura Catholic Church is a hilltop church that is the oldest in Japan dating back to 1865. It is dedicated to the 26 Christians crucified in Nagasaki in 1597. Inside you can see an ornate Gothic altar, a bishop’s chair and an oil painting of the 26 martyrs.
West of the harbor you’ll find Mount Inasa-yama rising 333 meters-high and offering fantastic views over the city. You can take a cable car to the top. One ascends every 20 minutes.
Some of the most spectacular views are of the city at night.
The Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum was designed by Kuma Kengo. It is located by a canal and is an environmentally friendly building with a roof garden. Here you can see a permanent art collection that covers both Nagasaki-related art and Spanish art. Special exhibits are eclectic, from Chinese to Chagall. You can relax at a lovely cafe in the bridge over the canal.
Nagai Takashi Memorial Museum celebrates the courage and faith of one man. Dr. Nagai was suffering from leukemia but managed to survive the atomic explosion however lost his wife. He then devoted his time to treat bomb victims until his death in 1951. In his final days, he continued to write prolifically and kept securing donations for survivors and orphans, thereby earning the nickname “Saint of Nagasaki”. You can see videos in English.
Koshi-byo shrine claims to be the only Confucian shrine built by and for Chinese outside of China. You can see statues of sages in the courtyard.
Behind the shrine you’ll find the Historical Museum of China with displays of Chinese art, jade artifacts and Neolithic archaeological finds along with terracotta warriors and Qing-dynasty porcelain. In the gift shop there are Chinese trinkets.
Visit the vibrant Chinese community Sinchi Chinatown. Visitors love to see it all, to enjoy the food and to shop for Chinese crafts and trinkets.
Kofuku-ji temple dates back to the 1620s. It is noted for its Ming architecture of the main hall. This is also an Obaku Zen temple and the oldest in Japan.
The bridge Megane-bashi is the best known of several bridges that span the river. The river Nakashima-gawa is crossed by a picturesque collection of 10 17th century stone bridges. At one time each bridge was the distinct entrance way to a separate temple. The Megane-bashi or spectacles bridge was given its name because the water and the arches come together to form a reflection in the water thus creating a spectacular effect.
Urakami Cathedral was once the largest church in Asia. It took three decades to complete and only but a moment to flatten. A smaller replacement was built and completed in 1959 on the ruins of the original. You can walk around the side of the hill and see a belfry lying there where the original structure fell after the explosion.
Visit Dutch Slopes where you can see flagstone streets that were once lined with wooden Dutch houses. Several buildings have been restored and let visitors take a look at Japan’s early interest in the West. Koshashin-shiryokan and Maizo-shiryokan showcase the area’s history but most of the signs are in Japanese.
Of interest is the Madam Butterfly Statue of the Japanese opera singer Miura Tamaki and inspiration for the famous opera by Puccini. This story took place in Nagasaki.
In the central part of Nagasaki Prefecture is Omura Bay. Close-by is Nagasaki Airport stretching towards the sea. The whole bay area is designated as Omura Park, a prefectural nature park.
You’ll enjoy Huis Ten Bosch, a residential-style resort that is modeled after a medieval 17th century European town, lying in the northern part of the bay. Canals run thorough the vast park, where the landscape and buildings have been reproduced. It includes an amusement park, museums, restaurants and hotels. Visitors can look around on rented cycles or canal cruisers.
On the west side of the bay you’ll find Nagasaki Bio Park, a nature and animal park with 170 different kinds of animals.
Visitors enjoy Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium with eight species of penguins among them little penguins and King Penguins, which can be 90 cm tall. Here you can also see the Mekong giant catfish, Golden mandarin fish, Japanese horseshoe crab among others.
Adjacent to the aquarium is Tachibana Bay where a part of the sea is isolated by using nets and fences and the penguins are released into this part to that visitors can observe them. Some other highlights are penguin parades, touching penguins and sea kayaking.
In the Nature Zone is a biotope that re-creates the environment of the countryside of Nagasaki. Here you can see native grasses, flowers and trees as well as endangered species grow. Among the plants live Japanese rhinoceros beetles and Japanese killifish just like they would in nature. The scenery is lovely.