Nagasaki, Japan

Nagasaki City on Kyushu Island in southwestern Japan is most remembered for its destruction by an atomic bomb in 1945 resulting in the end of World War II. Day-trippers are encouraged to first visit Peace Park to experience this horrific event. The balance of this travel guide is a walking tour of highlights in close proximity to the cruise terminal.

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1 Megami Ohashi Bridge in Nagasaki, Japan

As you sail from Nagasaki Bay into the harbor, your ship passes below Megami Ohashi Bridge. This impressive cable-stayed bridge is 558 feet tall and nearly a half mile long. The Venus Wing, as the locals call it, has connected the south and west ends of the city since opening in 2005. Welcome to Nagasaki, the “City of Peace.”

Nagasaki Megami Ohashi Road, Nagasaki, Japan
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2 History of Nagasaki Port in Nagasaki, Japan

Nagasaki Port was established in 1571 to accommodate Portuguese merchants who were active trade intermediaries between China and Japan. The port’s founding by a Jesuit missionary lead to an influx of Catholics until 1614 when Catholicism was banned by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the powerful defacto ruler of Japan. This sparked a period of intense religious persecution and martyrdom. Then, in 1633, the Tokugawa shogunate adopted a closed country policy called kaikin or sakoku. This self-imposed isolationism existed until 1858. Nagasaki was Japan’s only port allowed limited international trade during this time. With the advent of the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), Nagasaki fortunes returned with heavy industry and shipbuilding. It abruptly ended on August 9, 1945 when the world’s second atomic bomb was dropped. Today, the city of 425,000 people plus the port and its shipbuilding have fully recovered. The harbor also welcomes about fifty cruise ships annually to its Matsugae International Terminal.

Matsugae-machi, Nagasaki, 850-0921, Japan
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3 Atomic Bomb Hypocenter at Peace Park in Nagasaki, Japan

On August 9, 1945, three days after the Hiroshima bombing, a squadron of B-29s was diverted by smoke over Kokura to the alternative target of Nagasaki. At 11:02 a.m., Major Charles Sweeney’s crew released “Fat Man” from the bay of Bockscar. When the atomic bomb exploded at 1,650 feet, it released a blast reaching 7,050° F, a windstorm of 620 mph and a mushroom cloud that rose 45,000 feet. This Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Monument at Nagasaki Peace Park marks the position of greatest impact. Behind it is a pillar from the ruins of Urakami Cathedral.

6 Matsuyamamachi, Nagasaki, 852-8118, Japan
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4 Peace Statue at Peace Park in Nagasaki, Japan

Most foreigners know little about Nagasaki except its tragedy as the second – and fortunately the last – city to suffer from an atomic bomb. So visitors are drawn to the free Nagasaki Peace Park. After riding an escalator from Route 206 to the top of Nagasaki Peace Hill, they first see the Fountain of Peace. The open greenspace is then accented by statues and monuments encircling the foundation of a former prison decimated by the explosion. At the north end is this 32 foot Peace Statue by Seibo Kitamura. The raised hand represents the ongoing threat of nuclear war. The horizontal left hand symbolizes peace. The closed eyes indicate a prayer for Nagasaki’s victims.

9 Matsuyamamachi, Nagasaki, 852-8118, Japan
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5 50th Anniversary Commemorative Monument at Peace Park in Nagasaki, Japan

There are about 50 monuments for peace in Nagasaki. Many of them are located on Nagasaki Peace Hill. The 50th Anniversary Commemorative Monument by local sculptor Naoki Tominaga is especially poignant. According to the plaque, the sickened child represents Japan after the atomic bomb and the somber yet compassionate mother are other countries who provided support. This image is also a reminder that 70% of the approximate 70,000 who died were women, children and seniors.

9 Matsuyamamachi, Nagasaki, 852-8118, Japan
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6 Atomic Bomb Museum at Peace Park in Nagasaki, Japan

Adjacent to the Peace Park are two buildings. One is the Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. The other is Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. Its displays chronical the bomb’s damage by the blast and radiation plus the stories of survivors (hibakusha) and their appeal for peace. Another floor chronicles WWII, the Manhattan Project that developed the bomb plus the proliferation of nuclear devices since 1945.

7-8 Hirano-machi, Nagasaki, 852-8117, Japan
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7 Former Hongkong and Shanghai Bank in Nagasaki, Japan

After Hongkong and Shanghai Bank was founded in 1865, the financial institution quickly expanded across Asia Pacific. Japan’s first branch opened at Yokohama in 1866 and in Nagasaki in 1896. This neoclassical building by architect Kikutaro Shimoda was finished in 1904 and closed in 1931. The former HSBC office is a historic landmark and been a museum since 2014. The first floor recreates the bank. The second floor tells the story of Sun Yat-sen, the head of the Chinese Revolution and founder of the Republic of China in 1911. The third floor explains Nagasaki history as a seaport

4-27 Matsugaeda-machi, Nagasaki, 850-0921, Japan
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8 Suka Gogodo Art Museum in Nagasaki, Japan

In 1858, Japan was forced to sign the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the United States. After this Harris Treaty opened Nagasaki to free trade in 1859, an influx of foreigners moved into the city. They established self-governing settlements near the port with Western-style architecture. One of those Meiji period buildings was 9 Minami Yamate-machi otsu, built for a Russian manager of dockworkers name G. Napalkov. Since 2002, it has been the Suka Gogodo Art Museum, celebrating the black and white drawings of an artist who fused Japanese and Western painting techniques. Suka Gogodo died in 2008 at the age of 95.

3-17, Minamiyamatemachi, Nagasaki, Japan
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9 Inori-No-Oka Picture Book Museum in Nagasaki, Japan

In 1981, Children’s Story Company was founded with the mission of encouraging children to read. Since then, Children’s Library Group has amassed 10,000 titles in their Children’s Book Store, managed a distribution network sending a book a month to children across Japan (Fairy Tale Puck Club) and become a publisher of 240 reprinted and original works. Their Inori-No-Oka Picture Book Museum features artwork from popular stories.

2-10 Minamiyamatemachi, Nagasaki, 850-0931, Japan
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10 Oura Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan

In 1597, during the suppression of Catholicism in Nagasaki, a daimyō (war general) named Toyotomi Hideyosh ordered a mass crucifixion of missionaries and steadfast laity on Nishizaka Hill. The religion was forbidden for over 250 years. In 1864, the Oura Cathedral was built and dedicated to the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan. The opening prompted Christians to publicly renew their faith. Fifteen years later, this larger, Gothic-style co-cathedral was constructed. In 1933, Japan’s oldest Catholic church was declared a National Treasure. In 2016, Ōura Church became a basilica.

5 Minamiyamatemachi, Nagasaki, 850-0931, Japan
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11 Staircase Leading to Glover Garden in Nagasaki, Japan

In 1859, Scottish-born Thomas Glover arrived in the city at the age of 21. He quickly became one of an influx of foreigners who converted Nagasaki’s liberated port into a major business opportunity. His Glover and Company evolved into shipbuilding, coal mining, a brewery (predecessor of today’s Kirin Beer Company) and international tea trade. He is credited with helping to industrialize Japan during the Meiji period (1868 – 1912). His 1863 home has been converted into Glover Garden. Its position on top of Minami-yamate Hill provides outstanding views of Nagasaki’s harbor.

8 Minamiyamatemachi, Nagasaki, Japan
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12 Tranquil Waterfall Glover Garden in Nagasaki, Japan

As you stand at the entrance of Glover Garden, this serene waterfall signals the historical oasis waiting for you inside. The centerpiece is the Glover Residence, an elegant 19th century wooden structure combining Georgian and Japanese elements. It is believed to be the inspiration for the 1898 story “Madame Butterfly” by John Luther Long. Also on the property is the former home of Fredrick Ringer (a business associate of Glover’s) and William Alt (shipbuilder and exporter). After the park opened in 1974, additional Western-style buildings were relocated to the hill. Collectively, they represent Nagasaki’s rise to international success from 1859 through the early 20th century thanks to the entrepreneurism of foreigners.

8 Minamiyamatemachi, Nagasaki, Japan
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13 Gimon Gate at Confucian Shrine in Nagasaki, Japan

Confucius was a Chinese philosopher whose teachings prior to his death in 479 BC are still revered today. In 1893, during the Qing dynasty (also called the Manchu dynasty), the local Chinese built the Nagasaki Confucian Shrine patterned after the Temple of Confucius in Qufu, China. The Gimon Gate (rebuilt in 1967) is the most elaborate of three gates. It was traditionally reserved for the passage of gods and the emperor. The property also contains the Historical Museum of China exhibiting national treasures supplied by Chinese museums.

10-36 Ouramachi, Nagasaki, 850-0918, Japan
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14 72 Sages Statues at Confucian Shrine in Nagasaki, Japan

At Confucian Shrine (Kōshi-byō) at Nagasaki are life-size figures of Confucius disciples. The 72 Sages reached the state of perfection by mastering the Six Arts, the core of Confucian teachings. The 1.8 ton statues stand in front of two corridors called Ryobu. Inside are the Marble Stones of the Analects with the inscriptions of the famous philosopher’s written words. The lion is one of two guarding the stairs leading to Taisei Hall. Each shíshī (stone lion) weighs 2.4 tons. This female is depicted playing with a cub; the male version has his paw on a sphere.

10-36 Ouramachi, Nagasaki, 850-0918, Japan
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15 Inside Taisei Hall at Confucian Shrine in Nagasaki, Japan

The main wooden structure of Nagasaki Confucian Shrine has stood since 1893. At the center of Taisei Hall is a 6.5 foot seated statue of Confucius, the largest in Japan. Flanking it are the encased mortuary tablets of the Four Sages: Zengzi, Zisi, Mencius and Yan Hui, the favorite disciple of Confucius. In Chinese culture, vermillion (red) is considered to be the color of life

10-36 Ouramachi, Nagasaki, 850-0918, Japan
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Puppy in Baby Stroller in Nagasaki, Japan

“Isn’t that adorable” is your first reaction to seeing this Norfolk Terrier wearing a hat and being pushed in a baby stroller. Although treating dogs like a member of the family is as old as cave dwellers, anthropomorphizing is a growing trend worldwide as Baby Boomers become empty nesters and the Echo Boomers (Millennials) are waiting longer to get married and have children. According to a 1996 survey by the American Animal Hospital Association, 75% of pet owners consider their dogs as children. Well, at least this pampered puppy will never have to go to college.

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16 Former British Consulate in Nagasaki, Japan

At the end of Japan’s isolationism in 1859, the British Consulate established their first Nagasaki office followed by a move in 1865 to Higashi-yamate, one of the primary foreigners’ settlements. In 1906, the embassy hired architect William Cowan to design a large waterfront property. This elaborate complex contained several buildings, including this brick one used as an employee residence. The consulate remained open until 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Ferdinand Greatrex, the last British consul, was arrested. It remained empty until 1955 when it was occupied by a museum and then an art gallery before being abandoned again in 2007. The fate of this Important Cultural Asset is unclear.

1-37, Ouramachi, Nagasaki, Japan
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17 Shinchi Chinatown in Nagasaki, Japan

Nagasaki is home to Japan’s oldest Chinatown. This is not surprising because Nagasaki was the country’s only city to allow the Chinese (and Dutch) to conduct trade from their port during the period of isolation (1633 – 1858). Their residences were restricted to the Tojin Yashiki neighborhood and their business was conducted on a reclaimed island near the harbor. Today, Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown is a one-block square area bustling with shops and restaurants. Shinchi means “new land.”

10-13 Shinchimachi, Nagasaki, 850-0842, Japan
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18 Dragon Guarding Shinchi Chinatown in Nagasaki, Japan

This dragon guards the northeast chukamon (entrance gate) of Shinchi Chinatown at the base of a pedestrian bridge named Schinchi-bashi. The mythology of the Chinese dragon began around 250 BC when the mother of Liu Bang (later Emperor Gaozu of Han) took shelter from a rainstorm under a bridge and was saved by a dragon. Ever since, it has symbolized imperial power. The dragon has also evolved into more than two dozen types, each with its own characteristics and powers.

10 Shinchimachi, Nagasaki, 850-0842, Japan
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19 History of Dejima in Nagasaki, Japan

In 1609, the Dutch East India Company arrived in Nagasaki to compete with Portuguese shippers and help fill Japan’s growing desire for European products. In an attempt to control Western influences, Tokugawa Iemitsu signed the Sakoku Edict in 1635 and then interned the Portuguese at Dejima (name means “exit island”). After they were banished four years later, Dejima became a Dutch trading post in 1641 until 1853. For two centuries, foreigners could not enter the city nor could the Japanese go onto the 3.7 acre, artificial, fan-shaped island. Slowly, Nagasaki is reconstructing this National Historic Site with Edo period structures as a growing tourist attraction. This is the Dejima Seminary, built in 1878 during the Meiji period.

6 Dejimamachi, Nagasaki, 850-0862, Japan
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20 Hamanomachi Arcade in Nagasaki, Japan

For a shopping adrenaline rush, walk along the covered, interconnecting streets collectively called Hamanomachi Arcade. Nagasaki’s largest shopping district includes over 700 retailers. They range from the Hamaya and Daimaru department stores to Western chains like Starbucks and McDonalds. There are also plenty of locally-operated boutiques. When you need a break, venture into one of the 40 cafes, restaurants and bars.

Hamanomachi, Nagasaki, 850-0853, Japan
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21 Sanmon Gate at Sofukuji Temple in Nagasaki, Japan

Up a slight hill near the eastern exit of Hamanomachi Arcade is Sofukuji Temple. This Ōbaku Zen Temple was founded by Chinese from Fuzhou in 1629 during the late Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). Sanmon Gate is the entrance. Its unique style (called ryugumon or dragon palace) has three portals along the plaster base plus an ornate, hipped roof over the second tier. Three Gates was reconstructed in 1849.

7 Kajiyamachi, Nagasaki, 850-0831, Japan
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22 Daiippomon Gate at Sofukuji Temple in Nagasaki, Japan

One of two National Treasures at Sofukuji Temple is Daiippomon Gate. It was designed and fabricated in Ningbo, China (south of Shanghai), shipped to Nagasaki and then assembled in 1695. Also known as the Karamon Gate, it was originally the main entrance. Similar to most of the complex’s buildings, it is painted in red lacquer. This is referred to as aka-dera (meaning red temple). Sōfuku-ji is one of three Buddhist temples established by the Chinese in Nagasaki during the 1620s. Collectively, they are called sanpukuji meaning “three temples of good fortune.”

7 Kajiyamachi, Nagasaki, 850-0831, Japan
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23 Main Hall Altar at Sofukuji Temple in Nagasaki, Japan

The second National Treasure at Sofukuji Temple is the Main Hall. It was constructed in 1646, making it one of Nagasaki’s oldest structures. The central figure inside is Shaka Nyorai. Also called Shakyamuni Tathāgata, this is the Japanese historical Buddha. The two standing figures are Saint Kasho (right) and Saint Anan (left). The statuary was created by Xu Runyang in 1653. On either side of the altar (butsudan) are 17th century sculptures of the Eighteen Arhats, the disciples of Buddha who reached Nirvana.

7 Kajiyamachi, Nagasaki, 850-0831, Japan
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24 Cemetery at Sofukuji Temple in Nagasaki, Japan

While visiting Sofukuji Temple, do not miss exploring the cemetery. The terraced grounds are an enchanting and serene maze of monuments, stone lanterns (ishi-dōrō) and carvings of figures and animals. Most are bespeckled with moss, no doubt from their age and shaded position beneath mature trees.

7 Kajiyamachi, Nagasaki, 850-0831, Japan
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25 Scenic Bridges Across Canal in Nagasaki, Japan

After a day of sightseeing, reserve time before returning to your ship to relax and enjoy Nagasaki Seaside Park adjacent to the cruise terminal. This 16 acre greenspace features the Aqua Garden, Land Plaza plus a front row bench to the passing ships in the harbor. The best way to reach the park is from the waterway parallel to Ourakaigan-dori and across from the MetLife building. Enjoy your stroll over the the Higashiyamate Bridge (on the right) or the Umiterashi Bridge behind it, through Flower Islet and then the Ajisai Bridge (on the left). Then follow the scenic Canal Promenade. This entire area is called Tokiwa-machi.

Tokiwamachi, Nagasaki, 850-0843, Japan
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26 Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum in Nagasaki, Japan

Located next to Nagasaki Seaside Park and along a canal is the Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum designed by Kuma Kengo. Since it opened in 2005, the exhibits have included works by contemporary Nagasaki and Japanese artist. Nagasaki-ken Bijutsukan also displays the Suma Collection. These are 2,000 pieces of Spanish art donated by a former Japanese Ambassador to Spain, Suma Yakichiro. One of the museum’s best features is the rooftop garden overlooking the port.

2-1, Dejima-machi, Nagasaki, Japan
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