There is no denying that Nagasaki’s intense and turbulent history has forever marked it as a distinct destination. Exploring the city grants you an important opportunity to learn first-hand about the city’s previous struggles however there is so much more to Nagasaki today. You will also find it to be a vibrant and compelling city full of diverse charm, with modern energy that embraces the past while looking toward the future. With so much on offer, it’s fair to say Nagasaki is a treasure chest of international history, and the best place in Japan to explore Japan’s meeting with the western world. Here’s how you can make the most of two days in one of Japan’s most dynamic destinations.
Day 1 - Morning
Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nagasaki_Atomic_Bomb_Museum_Library_ac_(3).jpg
Start your adventure off right by grabbing some deliciously soft and springy pork dumplings from the Shianbashi branch of Butamon Momotaro. This is a family-run Nagasaki restaurant that opened its first store in 1960, and now boasts five popular locations across the city. From there, you can hop on a tram bound for Matsuyama-Machi. Take time to relax on the short tram ride and take in the sights of the city as you make your way towards the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, located right beside the stop. This is a must-visit place as this somber museum offers a stark and gripping account of the destruction that the city endured on 9 August 1945 when the bomb was dropped, as well as the aftermath that occurred. Then take a gentle stroll in the nearby Nagasaki Peace Park that commemorates the day the atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki.
Day 1 - Lunch
Photo credit: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champon#/media/File:Shikairo_Nagasaki_Japan05s.jpg
Next stop, the 26 Martyrs Museum. This museum is dedicated to 26 Catholics who were crucified in Nagasaki in 1597. The museum tells the story of Christianity in Japan, and how it was banned and it’s followers prosecuted. There are also a large number of original artifacts and relics on display inside, including a number of Maria figures disguised as Buddhist Kannon figures. Feeling hungry after all that history? Head over to the nearby Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown for a hearty bowl of Champon Noodles or snack on Goma Dango as you explore what used to be home to Chinese traders during the Edo period.
Day 1 - Afternoon
Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nagasaki_Dejima_4.jpg
Time to explore Dejima. This is a former island where first the Portuguese, and later the Dutch, were permitted to conduct business with the Japanese during the isolation era. It was through this island that Japan imported all its western knowledge and products. Today the area functions as a sort of large museum about the Dutch trade with Japan and it’s a great place to explore with the whole family. There is so much to learn about the Dutch culture here and how western science, engineering, medicines spread into Japan
Day 1 - Evening
Take in the picturesque views from Mount Inasa located on the western side of the city. Mount Inasa is relatively close to downtown Nagasaki and is easily accessible by a scenic ropeway. The ride itself is breathtaking and when you reach the summit you’ll be able to marvel at the magnificent twinkling night scene below. The observation deck is the perfect place for a date night with the romantic atmosphere created by the play of lights that seem to magically rise from below. The 333 meters high Mount Inasa is located very near Nagasaki‘s city center, providing a perfect view of the city both at day and at night. The night view from Mount Inasa Observatory is so good, that it’s listed as one of the best night views in all of Japan, along with the night view from Mount Hakodate in Hokkaido and the Maya Mountains in Kobe. After enjoying the breathtaking scenery head to the city center to enjoy Nagasaki’s delicious cuisine.
Day 2 - Morning
Start your second day in Nagasaki with a stroll along Meganebashi Bridge over the Nakashima River. Also known as Spectacles Bridge, this is one of the older bridges which cross the Nagashima River. This stone arch bridge was first constructed in 1634 and it’s said to be the oldest stone arch bridge in Japan. Then head over for a bite to eat at Café & Bar Umino, their fruit sandwiches are delicious and it’s the perfect place to grab a cup of coffee before you set off to explore more of the best things to do in Nagasaki.
Day 2 - Lunch
Time to explore some of the temples, first up Kofuku-ji. This temple is located in Nagasaki’s temple town district. It was the first Obaku Zen temple in Japan and was established in 1620 by a Chinese priest, as a place to pray for the safety of seafarers. Its Chinese architecture makes Kofuku-ji stand out among the Japanese temples and shrines. Then head over to somewhere like Unryutei for a dish of delicious gyoza or a scrumptious Sasebo burger from Hikari.
Day 2 - Afternoon
Spend the afternoon exploring a rather unusual place in Japan that will make you feel like you’re walking down a street somewhere in England or Europe. The Dutch Slope, or The Hollander Slope, is a specific paved street leading up a hillside in Nagasaki‘s Higashiyamate neighborhood. The surrounding area was inhabited by wealthy western merchants after Japan opened its ports for foreign trade in 1859. The area still has a few original residences from that time, some of which can be visited. It’s a great place to explore if you’re looking for unusual things to do in Nagasaki or that picture-perfect moment.
Day 2 - Evening
End off your two days in Nagasaki with a visit to the oldest Christian church in Japan. The Ōura Church was built towards the end of the Edo Period in 1864 by a French missionary for the growing community of foreign merchants in the city. The church is dedicated to the memory of the 26 Christians who were executed in the city in 1597 and today, the working church stands as an attractive example of contemporary European architecture. The church was the first Western-style building in Japan to be designated as a national treasure and is an unusual sight among the traditional Japanese buildings.
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