Nagasaki is a beautiful Japanese port city located on the island of Kyushu. The city is one of Japan’s main port cities and is often associated with the atomic bombings that resulted from World War II. Despite its tragic history, the city is now a very interesting destination where history, culture and proximity to water meet in a wonderful mix.
Hashima Island is truly the definition of a desert island. In the past, this was a thriving mining town where families lived and workers mined coal from the underwater mines. Nowadays, there are only overgrown industrial buildings, dilapidated workers’ housing, a deserted Shinto shrine and an underground staircase aptly named “Highway to hell”.
The island has been abandoned since the mine was closed in 1974 and is now a well-visited tourist area. The stories surrounding this ghostly island are many, including that Chinese and Korean prisoners of war were used as slave laborers in the mine during World War II. The island has also been the backdrop for several films, including the Bond film Skyfall.
With its deserted concrete houses and the surrounding wall facing the China Sea, this is a place not to be missed!
If you feel like hiking, head 333 meters up to the top of Mount Inasa. Here you will find, in addition to a 360-degree panoramic view of Nagasaki, both playgrounds, a large outdoor theater and a flourishing azalea garden.
If you visit Nagasaki in the spring, you absolutely must not miss the big flower festival, the mountain’s biggest tourist attraction is the 80,000 azaleas that bloom in late spring. The festival also offers typical Japanese karaoke competitions and kite flying among the mountain peaks.
But Inasayama Park doesn’t just have azaleas and views, here there are huge amounts of Japanese cherry trees that frame the beautiful view in a pink glow. Don’t forget to visit the mountain park in the evening, the Japanese promise a “10 million dollar night view”.
On August 9, 1945 at 11:02 a.m., the United States dropped history’s second atomic bomb on the Japanese port city of Nagasaki. At this museum, the visitor is allowed to start his museum tour at that very moment, and then, as if through a story, follow the events leading up to the bombing, the reconstruction of Nagasaki up to today, the development of nuclear weapons in the world and the hope for a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons . Through talking pictures, writing and stories, the museum almost feels like entering another world. Since much of Nagasaki’s history revolves around this event, the museum is definitely worth a visit.
The bridge at Meganebashi is one of several bridges spanning the Nakajimas River in central Nagasaki. What makes it so remarkable is that the shape resembles a pair of glasses when reflected in the river water, hence the nickname; the glasses river. Along the river bank there is a nice walking path with a nice view of both water and bridges.
During the 90s, the bridge was destroyed in a violent tidal wave that in its advance washed away the original stones of the bridge, since then the bridge has been restored to its original glory. A stone’s throw away from the bridge are 20 heart-shaped stones where both people thirsty for love and those in love go to wish for eternal love.
Oura Church, The Church of the 26 martyrs, or Ō ura Tensud ō as it is called in Japanese is the oldest Christian church in Japan. The church is dedicated to nine European priests and seventeen Japanese Christians who were crucified in 1597 for their Christian faith. The church was originally a small wooden church with three entrances and three octagonal towers, nowadays it is a large, white Gothic cathedral with basilic architecture.
In 1933, the church became a Japanese national treasure and no wonder, the church is magnificent and an excellent example of good architecture. Oura became known as the church that discovered “the hidden followers”, meaning the Christian people who survived the Japanese religious persecution.
Huis Ten Bosch or “The House in the Forest” if you will is a crazy, and slightly bizarre theme park that celebrates Japan’s lifelong friendship with the Netherlands. The park is set up like a mini version of the Netherlands in the middle of Japan! Here you wander into a world filled with windmills, tulips, famous Dutch buildings in life size and incredible evening lighting. There are also playgrounds, shops, theatres, hotels and restaurants here.
Just like in Amsterdam, canals run through the fictional city and you can take a boat ride along the colorful houses. Not to be forgotten, the park is filled with Dutch tulips in all the colors of the rainbow. You can spend many hours here and a tip is to stay over at one of the “Dutch” hotels.
If you are here between February and May, the park also offers a breathtaking evening illumination. This place is insane and not to be missed!
Nagasaki is no worse than the rest of Japan. Of course, there is a famous Chinatown here, which is also Japan’s oldest. There are lots of Chinese restaurants, shops and bars here. Obvious menu choices are Sara Udon or Champon, Chinese-influenced noodle dishes with roots in Nagasaki.
During Japan’s period of isolation in the 19th century, Nagasaki was the only major port open to foreign trade and, along with Holland, China was the only one allowed to trade with the country. The name Shinchi means “new country” and refers to the period when many Chinese traders settled in the area.
Take advantage of visiting this historic area during the Chinese New Year, when Chinatown turns into a colorful and lively party.
Urakami Cathedral, or Urakami Tensudō is a Catholic church in Nagasaki with a very tragic and interesting history. When the atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki during World War II, almost the entire church was destroyed, as it was located only 500 meters from the impact of the atomic bomb.
Today, the cathedral is rebuilt with a red brick facade in European style. Various relics are preserved here that bear witness to the past, such as the head of a Saint Mary statue and one of the church’s original bells.
But the church has more history than that, as it stands on the site that was historically used for image-trampling ceremonies. Namely, in an attempt to eradicate Christianity from Japan’s culture, people were forced to step on biblical images to discover who was a Christian and who wasn’t.
For those who enjoy Japanese and Spanish art, head to the Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum. This modern, bright and spacious complex includes Spanish medieval and contemporary art by the likes of Picasso, as well as local and Nagasaki-inspired artworks from around the world.
The museum is divided into two separate buildings, with a rippling river running in between. Made of glass and stone, the museum invites you to an airy and bright atmosphere. Don’t miss the roof garden with its beautiful panoramic view over Nagasaki harbor. Remember that all the information about the artworks is written in Japanese, but what does that do when the painted art is the focus?
The Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium was established with the aim of teaching today’s children to think about the harmony between animals, nature and humans. Namely, penguins are one of the best animal species available to indicate how the earth’s nature is really doing.
Here at the aquarium, you can both pet and watch the penguins that throw themselves on their stomachs and then slide into the water. As many as 18 different types of penguins live here, including the Rockhopper and Macaroni penguins, with their distinctive and punkish cock’s comb hairstyles. There are also other aquatic animals such as fish, shellfish and insects and a lot of plants.
Nagasaki’s Peace Park is a place of peace and quiet. The purpose of the park is to commemorate the city that was destroyed, and the people who lost their lives when the US atomic bomb fell during World War II. In the center of the park stands a black monolith marking the epicenter of the explosion, not far away stands a damaged pillar from the destroyed Urakami Cathedral, and in the middle of it all a statue of peace surrounded by a beautiful fountain.
In the park there is also an area where broken roof tiles, bricks and pieces of glass remain from the explosion. On a small hill above the park you can visit “The Atomic bomb museum” and an associated memorial hall in beautiful architecture.
Shinto is a Japanese religion that primarily revolves around the veneration of nature and the cult of nature spirits. Suwa Shrine is Japan’s largest Shinto shrine and was built back in 1614. Here you walk up 277 steps to reach the various buildings that make up the great shrine.
The purpose of the shrine was an attempt to stop the progress of Christianity in ancient Japan. The place is perhaps best known for its two stone lion statues. It is said that the lions can help stop unwanted behaviors or addictions. All you have to do is tie a strip of paper around the lion’s front legs and ask for their help.
In addition, there is the opportunity to be foretold with the help of the Shinto religion’s Omikuji, when you pull a piece of paper from a box that is said to be able to predict what the future will look like.
Nagasaki Bio Park is an animal lover’s dream. If you want to escape the busy noise of the city for a while and get close to animals and nature, this park is the place for you. There are more than 200 animal species and 1,000 different plants here.
Buy a bag of animal food from one of the park’s candy machines and feed both giraffes and kangaroos, as well as water pigs and llamas. The pride of the park is the famous guinea pig bridge – where you can see guinea pigs running after each other in a line to move between different places. The beauty of the park is that most of the animals are not caged, but are instead enclosed by water in their natural habitat. This really is a cozy little break on your trip and well worth a visit.
Nagasaki is truly proud of its loving friendship with the Netherlands. Oranda Zaka, as the street is actually called, is a cobbled street leading up a hillside where many foreign traders lived after the city’s port opened up to foreign trade. The area is characterized by its western architecture and several well-preserved 19th-century residences still stand. Among them, Hogashi Yamate. This old house was once home to a well-to-do European family, and many of the old furniture, wallpaper and accessories remain today.
Although not all the houses are in a typical Dutch style, the area is still called the Dutch slope. Namely, during the era of foreign trade, the Dutch were the only Europeans allowed to trade with Japan, and Dutch culture was thus seen to reflect everything that was Western.
Nagasaki Koshibyo is an authentic Chinese-style mausoleum dedicated to the Chinese philosopher Confucius. The philosopher who valued showing respect upwards and benevolence downwards and believed that all men are born equal. Here you are invited to a colorful and atmospheric place by passing a bridge with an associated lady and a beautifully decorated garden. The buildings are in Chinese style and stand out with their yellow roofs.
There is also a history museum here, and in the courtyard you will find 72 stone statues representing Confucius’ disciples. Shrine employees usually encourage visitors to try to find a statue that resembles a relative. A fun and appreciated feature in the otherwise serious surroundings.
Don’t worry, we got you covered with the most important information below.
Nagasaki’s international airport is called Nagasaki Airport (NGS) and is located 4 km west of Ōmura and 18 km northeast of Nagasaki.
Address: 593 Mishimamachi, Ōmura, Nagasaki 856-0816, Japan
Phone: +81 957-52-5555
You don’t have to worry about holding tight to your valuables or walking around with larger sums of cash. Japanese are a very loyal and well-behaved people with very few thieves and the like. Watching younger children ride the subway by themselves home from school alone is not an uncommon sight to see in Japan. Of course, there are everywhere, but Japan has very few of them.
Order a JR pass if you plan to move to other cities. If you are only going to be in Osaka, you can do well to pay for your transport at a time. But most visitors take a week in Tokyo and then move on to Kyoto, Osaka and other popular cities. These train distances are quite expensive without JR passes, we therefeore recommend getting one before your departure to Japan. Getjrpass.com is an official ravel agent and seller of these Japan Rail Passes with no middle man.
The metro is well-functioning and cheap – a recommended means of transport. Tickets are very easily purchased by machine on site before entering or via pre-loaded Suica card. Most distances are combined with JR lines and Metro lines to reach your destination in the city.
Suica card – a fantastic IC card that can be preloaded with money to easily blip beverage machines, subway and other machines for a cashless and fast payment. Alternative to the card is Icoca Card & Pasmo Card.
Taxis are everywhere, but are quite expensive. The metro is so functional that Taxi is not needed.
The city has lots of beautiful parks. Enjoy good food and take it easy, enjoy your visit to Japan.
Japan uses Japanese Yen – JPY.
We recommend a smaller exchange before the trip at Forex or another currency exchanger to be able to pay for transport from the airport if you have decided to activate your Japan Rail Pass at a later date, for food and drink on site upon arrival and so on.
Safe ATMs for cash withdrawals can be found around the city. You don’t have to worry about walking around with larger amounts of cash as the country is very safe. Of course there are jerks in the country, but Japan has extremely few of them.
7-eleven usually has a very good exchange rate at their machines. When withdrawing larger sums such as thousands of euros, it can differ up to hundreds of euros against what you get at Forex if you exchange before the trip. We therefore recommend only bringing a smaller amount and withdrawing more cash on site.
Do not exchange at the airport. Visit a bank or 7-eleven in town.
Tips are not appreciated by the staff and can sometimes be considered disparaging.
If you want to tip, ask the staff beforehand if it is okay. Most likely, you will get a no, as tips are not part of their everyday life.
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