Welcome to Nagasaki, Japan!
Most westerners familiar with this city probably know it because it was one of two major targets in WWII--the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The history of the city, however, is much more than that, and Nagasaki today remains one of the most interesting cities in Japan. This city opened itself to other cultures and people in a period when Japan was largely secluded. This gave it a distinctly international feel that is quite unlike anywhere else in Japan.
Nagasaki is an interesting city that many people traveling to Japan often overlook in favor of bigger cities like Tokyo or Osaka. A worldwide local knows that the size of a city doesn’t matter, especially for one as unique as Nagasaki.
Worldwide Local Tip: Japan underwent a period of seclusion for a large part of its history only allowing some Europeans, primarily the Dutch, to visit and trade with the country. As a result, the area known as Huis Ten Bosch was built. This weird little area is modeled after a traditional Dutch town, complete with windmills and canals. It’s a little piece of the Netherlands in Japan; it’s quirky and well worth a visit.
Nagasaki’s history is interesting because it is practically the only city to have any sort of European influence. During the Sakoku period of isolation, Japan kept almost all foreign influence out of its country, with the exception of maintaining the port around Nagasaki. European businessmen and missionaries settled in some areas around the city. Nagasaki even had a substantial Catholic community, founded by French missionaries. The Oura Cathedral is worth a visit; a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is interesting because it was built in the period when Christianity was banned in Japan.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you’re interested in other aspects of Nagasaki’s history, there is also the Urakami Cathedral, which houses a statue of the Virgin Mary damaged by the atom bomb. Another interesting site is Clover Garden, where there are a series of homes that would have been used by European diplomats in the 1850s.
Experience the Delicious Nagasaki Restaurants
Japanese food is world renowned for being delicious, and you can’t visit Japan without trying some of the local specialties. A worldwide local knows that getting a taste of the local delicacies is what makes a place special, so check out local dishes like champion, a dish made of up of noodles in a pork broth topped with seafood, bacon, and crunchy vegetables. For something a little more on the odd side, there’s Turkish Rice. It’s a dish made up of a pork cutlet, placed on top of a bed of rice which has been tossed in a dry curry, and is served with spaghetti. No one’s really sure why the dish is called Turkish Rice, but locals insist it is a delicacy.
Worldwide Local Tip: For some of the best street food in Nagasaki, head to Chinatown and try some amazing Japanese/Chinese fusion dishes. Here, you can sample things like kakuni-manju, a pork marinated cutlet served in a steamed bun, or marakao, which is steamed pound cake served with nuts or chocolate. Purchase a sampling of local favorites and chow down as you wander the lively streets, enjoying the Nagasaki weather.
Take a Day Trip into Nature
Locals know that sometimes it is best to get out of the city. Luckily, there are options if you’re in Nagasaki and want to spend a moment or two in nature. The nearby Mount Inasa is said to have a “10 million dollar view” and at night, the scenery over the city is beautiful. Visitors can take a ropeway up the mountain, or walk up if you feel like punishing yourself. Either way, once you reach the top, you won’t regret it. Views here encompass a 360-degree view of the city. You will absolutely want to bring your camera along.
Worldwide Local Tip: If climbing mountains aren’t your thing and you wanted to get out into nature for a bit, check out Iōjima Island. Located just fifteen minutes away by boat, is the island that is super secluded and is home to an onsen (resort).
Enjoy Your Visit
Nagasaki is a city with an interesting past that many visitors to Japan don’t get to experience. Its long history with Europeans and its unfortunate history with war, has made it a truly unique city that any worldwide local should see and experience.