20 Recommended Sightseeing Spots in Nagasaki Prefecture From the Standards to Hidden Gems
If you visit Kyushu, then you should not miss Nagasaki. This article will showcase the attractions and charms of this prefecture, split in to four distinct areas. Among these selections, you will will learn about everything from must-see townscapes that exude an air of exoticism, to beautiful natural landscapes, and must-try local dishes!
Where is Nagasaki?
Kyushu is the name for the island located at the southwestern tip of the Japanese archipelago, and at the northwestern part of Kyushu lies Nagasaki Prefecture. Given its history of flourishing as a port for international trade, Nagasaki is a place where heavy traces of Western culture still remain intact. For example, Nagasaki City is filled with retro Western-style buildings, churches, and other structures with an international essence. In this article, Nagasaki Prefecture will be divided into four areas, and there will be sightseeing spots introduced for each. The areas are the following: Nagasaki City, which is the cultural center of the prefecture, Shimabara Peninsula, which is dotted with hot spring districts, Northern Nagasaki, which has the city Sasebo at its core, and Goto Archipelago, a group of islands floating about 100km west of Nagasaki Prefecture.
How to Get There
It takes about 2 hours from Haneda Airport in Tokyo and about an hour and 15 minutes from Kansai International Airport or Itami Airport in Osaka to get to Nagasaki Airport, respectively. If you will be coming from Fukuoka, the best way to reach Nagasaki is via railway. From Hakata Station, you will arrive at Nagasaki Station in roughly 2 hours. You can also catch a direct flight to Nagasaki Airport from Incheon Airport in Seoul or Pudong Airport in Shanghai.
Nagasaki City is located in the southern portion of Nagasaki Pref. This port city boasts a long, rich history and is full of spots that are overflowing in an international atmosphere, such as Dejima, which served as the window of trade with the West, Nagasaki Chinatown, one of the biggest Chinatowns in Japan, and the Glover Mansion and other old-fashioned Western buildings. Nagasaki is the second city in Japan, after Hiroshima, where the atomic bomb was dropped during World War II, so it also plays the role of conveying the preciousness of peace to the world, as it was last inhabited area in the world to be bombed with an atomic weapon. It is about a 40-minute bus ride to Nagasaki Station from Nagasaki Airport.
Learn History at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum at Peace Park
On August 9th, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped in Nagasaki City, causing the loss of lives of around 150,000 people. The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum inside Peace Park, which is sprawled in an area centered on the epicenter of the atomic bomb, will let you feel the threats of nuclear weapons, horrors of war, and the preciousness of peace through a reproduction of the city after it was bombed, the display of items that were actually struck by the atomic bomb, and the showcase of photos and videos from that time in history. There are audio guides (150 JPY per unit) for Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean, and Spanish available for rent.
Admission fee: General: 200 JPY, elementary, junior high school and high school students: 100 JPY
Visit Mt. Inasa – One of the Best Three New Night Views in the World
The famous spot Mt. Inasa (Inasa-yama) is a Nagasaki landmark where you can gaze at a truly beautiful nighttime view. The view from this mountain, which as been recognized as one of the World’s New Top 3 Night Views alongside Hong Kong and Monaco, is so beautiful that it is nicknamed the “10-million dollar night view.” To get to the summit that is 333m above sea level, you need to ride in a ropeway gondola that is run by Nagasaki Ropeway (round-trip fare is 1,230 JPY for adults). When you stand on the observation deck at the summit, you will get to marvel at a spectacular night scene while being enveloped in a romantic atmosphere created by the play of lights that seem to magically rise from below.
Check out Gunkanjima Island – A Symbol of Japan’s Modernization
Gunkanjima (official name: Hashima) is an uninhabited island that is floating around 19km southwest of Nagasaki Port. This island used to be the site of a very prosperous seabed coal mine, and was home to around 5,300 full-time residents at its peak. Surrounded by a seawall, it resembles a warship (“gunkan” in Japanese) with its rows of high-rise apartments made of reinforced concrete, so it has come to be known as “Gunkanjima” (Battleship Island). It has been registered as a World Heritage Site for being an industrial asset that supported the modernization of Japan. You can also explore the island if you join the tours (priced at around 4,000 JPY, with guests required to pay a separate fee for using the Hashima tour facilities (300 JPY for adults)) operated by shipping companies. Get on the ship and you will be able to observe the remnants from the time when the island flourished.
Learn More About the Man-Made Dejima Island
Dejima was the only trade port in the country that was allowed to trade with the West during the time when exchange with other countries was heavily restricted in Japan. This artificial island was built at the tip of a cape and was shaped like a fan, with an area of 15,000 sq.m. at the time that it was constructed. There were as many as 49 buildings on the island at its peak, including residences, cooking rooms, warehouses, and guard houses, and there is currently an ongoing project to restore 25 of those buildings. As of August 2018, six restored buildings were opened to the public, along with the Dejima Omotemon Bridge, which was cross-linked for the first time in 130 years.
Fee: General: 510 JPY, High school students: 200 JPY, Elementary/junior high school students: 100 JPY
Tour the Exotic Glover Garden
In the late 16th century, many foreign merchants crossed the seas to get to Nagasaki. Glover Garden is a spot that houses the foreign settlement of those times. The important Western-style buildings that dotted Nagasaki City were transferred and restored in this area, including the three residences designated as Nationally Important Cultural Assets, such as the former residence of the Scottish trader Thomas Blake Glover. You will also love its location with its cobblestone paths and stone stairways that are left over from that time, as well as a panoramic view of Nagasaki Port.
Admission fee: Adults: 610 JPY, High school students: 300 JPY, Elementary/junior high school students: 180 JPY
Buy Nagasaki Castella for Souvenir
Castella (a kind of sponge cake) is a baked pastry that is made by mixing eggs, flour, and sugar. A confection that originally came to Nagasaki from Portugal in the mid-16th century, castella came to be made at Japanese-style confectioneries and then eventually evolved into becoming Nagasaki Castella. There are hundreds of shops in Nagasaki Pref. that make castella today. One of the more famous stores is Fukusaya, a well-established confectionery that continues to preserve its tradition of making pastries by hand. Take a bite and enjoy the delicate and moist texture of the cake and the crispy sensation of the sugar crystals at the bottom.
Taste Nagasaki Champon in Chinatown
When you talk about the specialty dishes of Nagasaki, you can never leave out Nagasaki Champon. Made by sautéing vegetables, seafood, and other ingredients, and then cooking them in soup of chicken bones and pork belly and bones together with special thick noodles, this dish began more than 100 years ago. It is said that the dish was originally created by founders of the veteran Chinese restaurant Shikairou for Chinese exchange students, at which point it was very well received, and then before long it became a representative dish of Nagasaki. For those who want to taste this dish, consider going to the Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown area that is packed with restaurants serving Nagasaki Champon.
Go to Oura Cathedral – A National Treasure Associated with Hidden Christians
Nagasaki is a place where a lot of spots related to Hidden Christians (people who kept their faith secret at a time when Christianity was outlawed in Japan) have been preserved to this day. One of the most important spots here is Oura Cathedral, which has been registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site for being associated with the Hidden Christians in Nagasaki and Amakusa. The church was rebuilt for the sake of foreigners roughly 250 years after the enactment of the edicts banning Christianity, and it has come to be known as the location for the discovery of Hidden Christians* that is said to be a miracle in the history of world religion. This church is also notable for being the first Western-style building in Japan to be designated as a National Treasure.
*It was presumed that all believers of Christianity had disappeared in Japan due to severe oppression and persecution, but the Hidden Christians professed their faith to priests of this church, thus revealing their existence.
Admission fee: Adults: 1,000 JPY, Junior high school/high school students: 400 JPY, Elementary school students: 300 JPY
Observe the Annual Grand Nagasaki Kunchi Festival
Nagasaki Kunchi is a traditional festival that boasts history spanning about 400 years. It is a major autumn festival at Suwa Shrine in Nagasaki City that is held from October 7th to 9th each year. This festival is characterized by its unique and dynamic performances that are heavily colored with the influences of China, Netherlands, and Portugal. There are four odoriba (performance areas) in the main venue (all of which have paid seating) where you can properly watch dance performances such as the Dragon Dance, Kujira no Shiofuki (blowing of the whale) and Kokkodesho (drum dance), which have all been listed as Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties. In addition to Suwa Shrine, dance performances are also held at offices in the city, government administration offices, private homes, and other locations in order to share the good fortune, so you will have many opportunities to observe the so-called Niwasaki-mawari dance celebrations.
Ride Along the Road! Get on Nagasaki’s Famous Tram
There is a beloved tram in Nagasaki City that has become a symbol of the city. It began operations in 1915, was restored from the catastrophic damage that it suffered due to the atomic bomb, and now serves as an important mode of transportation for the people of Nagasaki. This tram is convenient for going around the major tourist spots in the city, such as Glover Garden, Oura Cathedral, Chinatown, and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. The fare is 120 JPY per ride, and if you will be using it multiple times in one day, then it would be best to buy the one-day train pass (500 JPY for adults) that will give you unlimited rides on the tram for one whole day.
Shimabara Peninsula is an area where you can soak in lush nature and enjoy onsen (hot springs), including the Unzen-Amakusa National Park that has been designated as one of the first national parks in Japan. There are three hot spring districts here: Obama Onsen on the west coast, Unzen Onsen that is found at the foot of Fugen Peak (Fugen-dake), and Shimabara Onsen, where you will enjoy hot springs coupled with a view of the townscape below Shimabara Castle. The quality of water in each hot spring area is different, so it would be a great idea to try them all. It takes about an hour and 45 minutes to get to Shimabara Station from Nagasaki Airport by bus.
Unwind at Obama Onsen Resort
Obama Onsen is a hot spring resort that is located on the west coast of Shimabara Peninsula. It boasts top-class heat value and temperature out of all the hot springs throughout Japan. About 15,000 tons of hot water with temperature nearing 100℃ gushes out at this hot spring resort each day, creating steam everywhere in the hot spring town. It has chloride hot spring water, which is said to beautify skin. There are also footbaths in seaside down, so you can soak while watching the sun setting into the sea at dusk. Meanwhile, there is a kiln nearby that uses the steam from the hot spring to steam the food from the sea and mountain.
Let Your Mind and Body Relax at Unzen Onsen
Unlike Obama Onsen that faces the sea, Unzen Onsen is a hot spring area that is situated in a place that is 700m above sea level and surrounded by mountains, most notably Mt. Unzen. It opened roughly 350 years ago, and then developed as a resort area for foreigners visiting Nagasaki. The water here is milky-white sulfur spring water that creates the smell of sulfur wafting in the air. This kind of water is good for the skin and thoroughly warms the body. Soothe your body of its tiredness from traveling by soaking in the water while gazing at the gorgeous natural views of the highlands that change in appearance every season.
Go on a Stroll in Unzen Jigoku at Mt. Unzen
Unzen Jigoku (Unzen Hell) is a famous sightseeing spot that typifies the Unzen hot spring district. Here, there is a heavy smell of sulfur in the air, and high-temperature hot spring water and fumes are spewed everywhere, creating an atmosphere bound to make you feel like you are in jigoku (under the teachings of Buddhism, it refers to a place where people are punished for evil deeds in their former lives). A walk around the jigoku through the promenade takes about 60 minutes. Throughout the promenade you will get to enjoy the journey with all five senses, thanks to such spots as the rest area where you can experience geothermal energy and fumes when you put your feet down, and the Unzen Jigoku Kobo that sells onsen tamago (100 JPY (incl. tax) per egg), which are eggs cooked using the steam from the hot spring. This spot is also known for being a place where Christians were martyred.
Enjoy an Unobstructed View of the Castle Town from Shimabara Castle
Shimabara Castle was built on the east coast of Shimabara Peninsula in the first half of the 17th century. Its five-level castle tower was reconstructed in 1964, but the stonewall and moat are the original structures. The view from the site of the Otemon Gate is wonderful, with the beautiful white walls looking especially stunning under a blue sky. Inside, historical materials about the region, folklore, and Christianity are on display, while at the top level you will be able to see a 360-degree panoramic view of the town below. The castle town has a waterway for domestic use and old samurai houses that you can explore, so try to go for a stroll.
Admission fee: Adults: 540 JPY, Elementary/junior high school/high school students: 270 JPY
*Also grants entrance to the Tourism Revival Memorial Hall and Seibo Memorial Museum
Northern Nagasaki Area
The Northern Nagasaki area includes Sasebo – the second-largest city in Nagasaki Prefecture. Sasebo contains a U.S. military base, so there is a lot of American influence in the city's culture. You will find bars where people talk in English, and spots where you can enjoy live jazz music. Additionally, this area offers a theme park that resembles a European townscape, a view of large and small islands floating in the sea, and many other attractions. Sasebo Station is about an hour and a half from Nagasaki Airport by bus.
Have Fun at the Popular Huis Ten Bosch Theme Park
Huis Ten Bosch is a theme park where the townscapes of medieval Europe are reproduced on the vast grounds. In terms of area, this is the largest independent theme park in all of Japan at 1.52 million sq.m. Here, you will be able to see different beautiful flowers in every season, as well as enjoy various attractions, events, and shows. It is a spot that has so much entertainment and fun to offer that a day probably won’t be enough to see everything. The nighttime illumination, in which the garden gets wrapped in fantastic lights, is also famous and worth seeing!
1 DAY Passport (Admission, plus use of approximately 50 attractions)
Adult: 7,000 JPY, Youth (Middle or Elementary School child): 6,000 JPY, Child (Pre-school age and younger): 4,600 JPY
Taste the Local Dish Called Sasebo Burger
Sasebo City absorbed various forms of American culture thanks to the influence of the U.S. Navy that was stationed there after World War II. One such influence of American culture is the Sasebo Burger, which began to be made based on a recipe given by the U.S. Navy in the 1950s. It was initially meant for U.S. marines only, but it gradually spread to the locals. Its primary feature is that it is made once the customer orders it. It also comes in a jumbo size, so that just one burger will be filling enough for a meal, and the bun and toppings change depending on the specialties of each restaurant. Aside from Burger Shop HIKARU Main Branch that is near the Sasebo U.S. Navy base, there are about 20 restaurants in Sasebo City where you can try this burger.
Buy Hasami-yaki that Embodies a 400-Year Tradition
Hasami-yaki (Hasami ceramic) is a kind of pottery with a history of around 400 years. While it is characterized by the beauty of the almost translucent white porcelain and gosu, which is the cobalt blue (indigo pigment) pattern, there is actually no routine technique to making it. The ceramic is made while being improved constantly according to the changes in the times. There are a lot of modern designs, so this ceramic has been gaining popularity in recent years, especially with young people. You will find Maruhiro and other establishments that display and sell Hasami-yaki around Hasami-cho in Higashisonogi-gun, where this craft originated, so how about searching for one Hasami-yaki item that you like?
Enjoy the Sunset Cruise at Kujukushima Island
Kujukushima, an island with 208 large and small islands in a rias (saw-toothed) coastline, is one of the most spectacular spots in Nagasaki Prefecture. You can enjoy the charms of the islands at Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort, and there are also various cruises available. Among them, the one that is highly recommended is the Sunset Cruise. Go on that cruise and marvel at the gorgeous evening view created by the setting sun, orange-colored sky and sea, and the silhouettes of the islands. This cruise runs on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and National Holidays from March to July, and every day from August to October. The cruise time is about 60 minutes.
Price: Adult: 2,570 JPY, Child: 1,550 JPY
Encounter Dolphins at Umi-Kirara in Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort
Umi-Kirara at Kujukushima Aquarium is a community-based aquarium that reproduces the Kujukushima Sea, where about a thousand species of fish live. Its main attractions are the massive outdoor water tank, the illuminated displays of magical jellyfish, music, and images, and the Kujukushima Dolphin Pool where visitors can interact with dolphins. The program that introduces the intelligence and athletic ability of dolphins through various performances is a must-see. Visitors can rent automatic audio guides (English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese) to use at the guide points of 18 spots in the facility.
Entrance fee: Adult: 1,440 JPY, Child: 720 JPY
Nagasaki is the prefecture with the largest number of islands in Japan. Of the unique islands and archipelagos scattered throughout the prefecture, one of the most famous is the Goto Archipelago, located in the sea to the west of Nagasaki City. It is one of the major spots associated with the Hidden Christians in Nagasaki and Amakusa, which has has been registered as a World Heritage Site. Fukue-jima is the largest and most central of the 140 large and small islands that comprise the Goto Archipelago. It takes 30 minutes to get to Fukue Airport from Nagasaki Airort. Alternatively, you can get to Fukue Port from the ports of Nagasaki and Sasebo in about 1.5 hours to 2 hours by high-speed boat.
World Heritage Site! Around the Settlements and Churches of Hidden Christians
Christians that suffered from oppression and persecution due to the ban on Christianity braved the seas to come to Goto Archipelago in order to profess their own faith. The people who endured various forms of oppression and persecution at that time and kept true to their faith at the risk of their lives took refuge in various villages which remain to this day. Of these settlements, the villages in Nozaki Island, villages on Kashiragashima Island, Egami Village on Naru Island, and villages on Hisaka Island are listed as components of a the World Heritage Site. The churches on the islands were built by hand by local Christian after the ban on religion was lifted. They create a beautiful landscape together with the surrounding natural environment.
Please refer to this article when traveling in Nagasaki.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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