Nagasaki made for a great day trip from my base in Fukuoka. It’s one of the southernmost major cities in Japan, situated on the island of Kyushu. Nagasaki is one of the largest port cities in the whole of Japan and was actually one of the very few operational ports during Japan’s ‘period of isolation’ which saw Japan cut nearly all ties with the outside world. Nagasaki is rich with culture and diversity due to its traveller and trade nature, which was very apparent during my visit. Nagasaki continues to operate as a port, and in recent history, was sadly deeply affected by the second atomic bombing in Japan on 9th August 1945.
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- Visa – As a British National I was exempt from requiring a visa to visit Japan for less than 90 days, however, some nationalities will require a visa. For the most up to date information visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
- Immunisations – some are required, check out my go-to website for up to date information: https://nathnac.net
- Safety – Just like London, Nagasaki is a very safe place to visit. You should use usual common sense, around protecting valuables to avoid pick-pocketers, and staying safe at night.
- Currency – Japanese Yen
- Language – Japanese
I decided to stay in Fukuoka and use this destination as my base, from which I could explore Nagasaki as a day trip, and then later fly out from Fukuoka Airport to Manila, Philippines when I moved on and ended my 4 week trip around Japan. The journey from Fukuoka to Nagasaki is very straight forward. I boarded the JR Ltd Exp Kamome from Hakata in Fukuoka and arrived in Nagasaki after around 1 hour 45 minutes. You can also visit Nagasaki from Hiroshima however the journey will take around 3 hours, so quite a long journey just for a day trip. I would advise either staying in Fukuoka or even staying in Nagasaki overnight.
My accommodation in Fukuoka was a simple Hostel, Guest House Yasuragi Hakataekimae. It’s a small homely place, with friendly staff and a backpacker feel. It was well placed for the nearby train station so it was a breeze getting into Nagasaki and then also later reaching the airport. I found it online using booking.com, and always recommend checking this site first for all the best deals and prices.
Nagasaki can be explored in a. day thanks to the streetcar system which serves the city and takes you to most attractions.
I mostly used the excellent streetcar network for getting around Nagasaki. As soon as you arrive at the train station head to the tourist information desk where you will be able to pick up a day pass to use as many times as you like across the streetcar network. I found that for 500 yen it saved me only a little bit of money as opposed to paying for individual fares (130 Yen) but it made life a lot easier just being able to show my pass each time I wanted to board a streetcar. You’ll also be provided with a handy map so you can plan your route for the day. Also, just like with buses in Japan, board towards the back of the cart, press the button for your stop and then exit at the front of the cart, showing your pass or paying the fare to the driver.
In between some of the stations, there was a little walking involved but most of the time, I was able to use the streetcars.
Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
Three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, on August 9th 1945 at 11:02 AM, an atomic bomb exploded in the air above Nagasaki, most of the city was destroyed and a tremendous number of lives were lost. For those who narrowly escaped immediate death in the blast, suffered physical and psychological injuries, even in the present day some survivors are still suffering at the hands of this atrocity.
In 1955, just ten years after the atomic bombing, the multipurpose international cultural centre was constructed by the people of Nagasaki in the hope for everlasting world peace and determination to rebuild their destroyed city. Following the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombing, the facility was rebuilt and reopened in 1996 at the Atomic Bomb Museum. The museum exhibits photographs, artefacts, and objects which depict the lead up to this tragic event, the aftermath, history of the development of nuclear arms, and Japan’s desire for peace.
If you’re visiting Nagasaki or can take a day trip here I highly recommend paying a visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum. A harrowing museum with tragic and awful images and information, but such an important part of Japan, and the wider worlds history. An important point in time to recognise, and remember those who were lost, and also demanding and ensuring that this sort of event cannot ever be repeated.
Bas-relief in front of Nagasaki atomic bomb museum
Statue of a teacher and students sacrificed in the atomic bombing
The atomic bomb devastatingly took the lives of 5,800 elementary school children who were at home when the bomb exploded, as well as around 1,900 mobilised students who were working in factories and around 100 teachers. Many of whom were killed instantaneously in the blast followed in quick succession by those who suffered the effects of radiation. This statue was erected by teachers from Nagasaki and surrounding prefectures to pledge that this tragedy would never happen again.
National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims
Opened in 2003, this facility memorialises the tragedy of atomic bombing, and lives lost, as well as hopes for eternal world peace. Above ground you will find a large water feature, showcasing a basin filled with 70,000 fibre optic lights which are illuminated at night, symbolising the number of victims affected by the atomic bombing. Following down some steps you’ll find underground a large space, filled with memorabilia, notes, memoirs and testimonials, along with the names of the atomic bomb victims.
There are more than 50 monuments and statues in Nagasaki Peace park, many of which were commissioned by Japan and it’s residents but also several which have been donated by many other nations across the world to symbolise their unity in the fight against nuclear weapons and the importance and drive towards World Peace.
The Peace statue
This sculpture is one of the most iconic statues in Nagasaki, symbolising prayer for everlasting world peace and supreme hope for human beings. It was unveiled in 1955 for the 10th anniversary of the atomic bombing. Its construction took a total of five years to complete and was made possible by donations from the public in Japan and around the world. The right hand of the statue points skyward to warn of the threat of nuclear bombs, and the left stretch out horizontally to symbolise world peace and the lightly closed eyes show the statue in prayer for the repose of the souls of the atomic bomb victims.
The Fountain of Peace
Atomic bombing 50th Anniversary Commemorative Projects Monument
Twenty Six Martyrs Museum
After the atomic bombing in 1945, the Martyrs site was made into a park in 1956. Some years later in 1962, the famous Japanese sculptor Yasutake Funakoshi erected a beautiful monument to the 26 martyrs on this site also. Following this, the museum was erected to present the history of the 26 martyrs from a Christian viewpoint. The introduction of Christianity to Japan began with St. Franciz Xavier, who arrived in 1549 to spread gods word. However, the Japanese authorities did not want Christianity in Japan which lead to the persecution of Christians and ultimately lead to the death fo the 26 martyrs. 20 of the martyrs were Japanese, 4 Spanish, one Indian and one Mexican.
Christianity was prohibited from around 1640 and the Christians of Japan faced persecution for around 250 years, having to conceal their faith and practice Christianity in secret. However after 1985 whether Oura church was built much of this dispersed and Christians became free to openly practice their religion. The museum contains several relics and sacred items. Such as hidden statues and buried Christian symbols which had to be hidden from the authorities. As well as old maps, letters and artworks.
Museum of History and Culture
Nagasaki has a rich and diverse culture and interesting history. This museum provides a great overview and understanding of how Nagasaki came to be and all the influences it has experienced over the years. The museum holds around 48,000 precious objects and artefacts including historical documents and artworks. During the middle of the 16th century, Japan experienced its first encounter with European traders and the advent of Christianity.
In the years following, Japanese authorities forbade Christianity and limited the trade with Europeans to Nagasaki port only. So as you can imagine this area became a concentrated melting pot for cultural exchanged between various nations, including Korea, China, and Holland. Goods such as gold, silver, copper, marine products, and pottery were exported from Japan to China, Asia and Europe.
After visiting the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture, and learning about the importance of this port town, and the trade processes that took place here, it was important to me to visit Dejima Island. It all began in 1571 when Portuguese ships arrived at the harbour looking to trade with the Japanese.
With exposure from the west came Christianity, and several churches were built in Japan, however by 1587 Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned Christianity and Catholicism, and started tightening the movements of foreign nationals to Japan. This resulted in the traders residing and trading via the man-made Dejima Island, which was constructed in 1636.
By this time Christianity was all but wiped out in Japan, however tight restrictions on trading were still in place and the main traders on Dejima Island were the Dutch. By 1859 trade between Japan and other countries became more widespread and ports in Yokohama and Hakodate opened up, so the need for Dejima Island dwindled. It was later restored just after the end of World War II and serves as a living museum.
This district is the oldest chain town in the whole of Japan. The area covers one city block interrupted by different lanes and alleyways, and you’ll find several different shops and restaurants here. Along with the Dutch, the Chinese were the only other traders allowed in Nagasaki to trade during Japan’s period of isolation. Just like with Dejima Island for the Dutch, the Chinese traders were also isolated to their own island during this era, although over time the water surrounding the sailed has been filled in and so no longer exists.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my day trip to Nagasaki, and that I’ve given you some inspiration or tips for your own visit. If you have any questions or queries I’d love to hear from you.
There is also a really good film, called ‘Silence’ which encapsulates a lot of history of Nagasaki during the Edo period when Christianity was banned and existing Japanese Christians had to conceal their faith. The film is directed by Scorsese, and has a great cast including Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano and Ciarán Hinds. If you have a chance check it out!
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