Not surprisingly, the spirited southern Japanese city of Nagasaki’s recent history still casts a pall over its present-day vibrancy. As a WWII atomic bomb target, one of its main attractions is the Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. But once you’ve paid your respects, move on – because the rest of this city is too beautiful to ignore.
The brighter side of Nagasaki starts at Glover Garden, a fetching park area home to the incongruously Western Glover Mansion. The Confucius Shrine is just as famous, and the world’s only Confucian shrine built outside China with Chinese hands. Even the land it sits on is technically Chinese territory. So now you’re as confused about the terrain as you are sad about the history? Head to Chinatown to drown your sorrows in a steaming bowl of Nagasaki champon noodles, the city’s tastiest attraction.
Nagasaki's Top 10
10. Nomozaki Marine Land Check out Nagasaki’s most eclectic and colourful residents.
5. Koshibyo Shrine This brightly coloured shrine houses a museum of Chinese history.
9. Inasa-Yama This mountain has a lookout with the best views of the city.
4. Oura Catholic Church The oldest Gothic-style church in the country is remarkably well preserved.
8. City Science Museum So learning about science actually can be fun…
3. Nagasaki Bomb Museum A touching tribute to the nation’s biggest tragedy.
7. Kofukuji Temple The first temple to be built for the O Baku sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism.
2. Suwa Shrine Come to be blessed with good health, good fortune and good views.
6. Seiyoh-kan Three storeys of shops and eateries, plus an art gallery and amusement centre.
1. Urakami Cathedral Lovingly rebuilt after the blast, this church features an emotive angel at its apex.
- Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum - As Nagasaki was one of the two cities hit by the atomic bomb in World War II, this museum shows us the destruction and the rebuilding of the city.
- Dejima - During the age of isolation, this island was constructed to hold Dutch workers. It now has a museum and historical buildings.
- Oka Masaharu Memorial Nagasaki Peace Museum - This museum is dedicated to Oka Masaharu, a crusader who was determined to make Japan acknowledge its war crimes.
- Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture - There is an exhibit about the bomb, but also the history and culture of the city.
- Nagasaki Kameyama Shachu - A museum concerning the Ryoma.
Nagasaki Arts & Culture
- Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum - The building is as interesting as the art inside.
- Nagasaki Museum of Traditional Performing Arts - Here you can see the dance and the music of traditional Japan.
- Museum of Shusaku Endo Literature - Offers a fascinating look at this literature.
- Sōfuku-ji - This Zen temple was built in 1629 and features a huge cauldron, which was used to feed the people.
- Dutch Slopes - This street features many restored Old Dutch buildings from when the Dutch had a presence in the city.
- Kinokuniya - This bookstore in Nagasaki has hundreds of titles in both English and Japanese. You will also find a collection of music and movies.
- Daikoku-machi - Shop for local arts and crafts.
- Bunmeido Sohonten - This specialty shop is known for it sponge cake.
- Amu Plaza Nagasaki - This mall has shops, a food court and supermarket and is attached to the Nagasaki Train Station.
- Mirai Nagasaki Coco Walk - In addition to the shopping, this place is fun just to explore.
Gay & Lesbian Nagasaki
- Ban Ban - A gay bar in the Nagasaki area.
- Sympathy - A gay venue that features live entertainment and events.
- Nagasaki Washington Hotel - This is a gay-friendly hotel in Nagasaki.
- Inasayama Kanko Hotel - Another gay -friendly hotel in Nagasaki that is very popular.
- Kiraku-Kaisan - This is a gay bathhouse and sauna.
- Mt Inasa - Climbing this mountain will give you a breathtaking view of the city.
- Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium - This is the place for all penguin lovers to go, with the largest penguin exhibit in the world.
- Gunkanjima Island Offshore Sightseeing Boat - Afabulous trip that allows you to see the whole area.
- Nagasaki Peace Park - This lovely park was established to commemorate the survivors of the bomb. There are a number of statues and memorials throughout the park.
- Spectacles Bridge - You'll be amused at viewing this bridge from a distance, because it will look like a pair of glasses.
- Golf at the 19-hole Nameshi Golf course just outside the city.
- Catch a baseball game by the Nagasaki Saints.
- See gymnasts practice in Nagasaki.
- Volleyball is played by many, and some schools have teams.
- Watch sumo wrestling, the national sport of Japan; several champions have come from Nagasaki.
The Nagasaki Lantern Festival celebrates the beginning of the Lunar New Year in February with colourful lanterns, pounding drums and ear-splitting fireworks.
The sky comes alive more quietly for April’s Nagasaki Kite Competition, hosted at Tohakkei Park.
The O-Bon is a Buddhist tradition in July that welcomes and appeases the souls of ancestors. Apparently the ancestors are really into fresh fruit and veg.
October’s Nagasaki Kunchi Festival brings traditional music and dance to the Suwa Shrine. There’s also a big parade (naturally) with floats, flowers and costumes.
One of the most emotional events on the city’s calendar is August’s Nagasaki Peace Ceremony. This solemn tradition pays tribute to all those who lost their lives in the blast, with a secondary, significant aim of promoting world peace.
When To Go
- Visiting Nagasaki in June is a rather drizzly experience. This is the city’s wettest month.
- Nagasaki’s warmer seasons are lovely, with temperatures around 22°C (72°F) in spring and 29°C (85°F) in summer.
- Nagasaki is cold in winter, but not torturingly so. Temperatures stick to just below freezing.
- Buses and trams/streetcars are convenient, cheap (a flat ¥120) and efficient, but stop running at around 11pm.
- Taxis are plentiful but a little expensive. However, they are definitely the best way to get around for night owls.
- More adventurous travellers may want to hire an electric bike. The rates are pretty reasonable and they can be found at several places around the city.