The best and easiest way to travel around the beautiful bay city of Nagasaki is by tram. The logical place to begin is central Nagasaki in the station area, known as Daikoku-machi, which although cluttered and busy, contains dozens of shops and restaurants of interest, as well as a handful of popular and moderately-priced business hotels, including the
Continuing south, you will soon be at the Ohato tram stop. Reaching out into the bay to the West is Motofuna-machi, where, besides a few hotels with good views of the bay, you will find the Nagasaki Terminal and port area. From here, boats run tours of the bay and carry passengers to such destinations as
From this point, the tram veers west toward Shinchi-machi, an area more colloquially known as
Trams north of Tsuki-machi arrive in one of the livelier parts of the city. The first stop is Hamanomachi, where
From the west end of the Hamanomachi arcade, the tram line continues north and gradually begins to veer northeast. At your first tram stop, Nigiwai-bashi, you may want to step down to visit the
Northern Nagasaki is perhaps the most frequented part of the city, due in no small part to
Two final areas of Nagasaki that deserve your attention are located in Minami-Yamate. One is
For a city with such a momentous recent history, Nagasaki's early existence was remarkably mundane. There was some limited contact with China in towns to the north, but Nagasaki itself was basically a secluded harbor village. Its people lived in historical obscurity until contact with European explorers in the mid-16th Century.
Following the accidental landing of a Portuguese ship in 1542 at Kagoshima Prefecture, the zealous Christian missionary Francis Xavier arrived in another part of the territory in 1549. Xavier left for China in 1551 and died soon after departure but his followers converted a number of daimyo (warlords), the most notable of whom was Omura Sumitada. His conversion was to prove profitable, as a deal was struck in which he would receive a proportion of the trade from Portuguese ships at a port that the two parties established in 1571. This port was Nagasaki.
It would not take long before the little harbor village bloomed into a diverse port city. Its cosmopolitan fame spread quickly, with people all over Japan craving things Portuguese, such as tobacco, bread, tempura, sponge cake and European clothing. The Portuguese also brought with them many goods of Chinese origin.
The port's prosperity was threatened, however, in 1587, when a new Japanese shogun, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, came to power. His anxiety over the extent of Christian influence in southern Japan caused him to order the expulsion of all missionaries. Nagasaki's administrative control, which had been given in part to Jesuits by Omura, returned to imperial control. Nevertheless, Portuguese traders were not ostracized, and the city's culture continued to thrive.
In 1596, the captain of a Spanish galleon crashed in Shikoku, only to have his ship impounded. He boasted that with the increased numbers of Christians, he could oust the shogun. To discourage such threats, Hideyoshi lost no time in marching the captain around the country in disgrace. Later, in Nagasaki City he would crucify 26 Christians, including Franciscans and a few Japanese, as a further deterrent.
Under the rule of Tokugawa Ieyasu almost two decades later, conditions hardly improved. Christianity was banned in 1614, and all missionaries who did not going into hiding, as well as daimyo who would not renounce Jesus, were deported. An incredibly brutal persecution campaign followed, and thousands across Nagasaki and other parts of Japan were killed and tortured. The Christians, however, did put up some initial resistance. In 1637, in the Nagasaki enclave of Shimabara, vagabond Christians joined together to create Japan's most startling rebellion. The numbers quickly swelled to 40,000, capturing Hara Castle and humiliating local daimyo. In retaliation, the shogunate dispatched 120,000 soldiers to quash the uprising, thus ending Japan's brief "Christian Century." Christians still remained, of course, but all went into hiding, still the victims of occasional inquisitions. The Christian presence never died out and even increased dramatically in numbers after the war with temples such as Temple Row, and churches such as Oh'ura Catholic Church and Urakami Cathedral.
During this time, the Dutch had been quietly making inroads into Japan. Although the shogunate's policy called for ending foreign influence, the Dutch demonstrated that they were interested in trading alone. In fact, during the Shimabara rebellion, the Dutch were ordered to fire on the Christians in a test of loyalty. In 1641, their grudging (if not damning) loyalty won them Dejima, an artificial island in Nagasaki Bay, to which their activities would be confined. From this date until 1855, Japan's contact with the outside world was limited to Nagasaki.
The port continued to exist as an exotic place. Chinese influence, due to what traders brought, began to appear in festivals, foods and architecture. Then, in 1720, the ban on Dutch books was lifted, causing hundreds of scholars to flood into Nagasaki to study European science and art.
After United States Commodore Matthew Perry's landing in 1853, and the subsequent crumbling of the shogunate, Japan opened its doors again, and Nagasaki became a free port in 1859. Modernization began in earnest in 1868, and the city was swept along with the rest of the country.
With the Meiji Restoration, Nagasaki quickly began to assume some economic dominance, though its main industry of shipbuilding would eventually make it a target in World War II. On August 9th, 1945, the American B-29 "Bock's Car," looking for the shipyards, spotted the Mitsubishi Arms Works, and dropped the second nuclear bomb on Japan. At 11:00AM, 75,000 of Nagasaki's 240,000 residents were killed, followed by the death of at least as many from resulting sickness and injury.
The city, of course, rose again from the charred waste, albeit dramatically changed. Some of the rubble was left as testimony, such as the damaged Torii gate, and the stone arch near the epicenter. New structures were also raised as memorials, such as the Atomic Bomb Museum. Most importantly, however, the port city itself, with its continued ship industry, stands today as a testament to peace.
Although Nagasaki is not a huge city, there are plenty of accommodations available in this popular tourist destination. An added bonus is that hotel room rates tend to be lower than in other major cities across Japan, which means it is not difficult to find a room for under JPY10,000.
Daikoku-machi, otherwise known as the station area, is along a major thoroughfare. The area is cluttered and busy, so those choosing to stay here usually do so for convenience. Most of the hotels in this area are business-style, including such moderately-priced options as the Hotel Wing Port Nagasaki, one minute from Nagasaki Station, and the Nagasaki Orion Hotel, which offers extra-wide beds, unlike most other Japanese hotels. Another very inexpensive but comfortable, option is the Apa Hotel Nagasaki Ekimae. For those with plenty of money, however, the Hotel New Nagasaki, is a perfect option. This extremely prestigious hotel is complete with large rooms, excellent views of the bay and even a sports club (one of the few in Nagasaki). The suites here are among the best in the entire city, and are often used by VIPs for conferences and meetings.
Just five minutes to the north of the station by foot, in Takara-machi, is another fine hotel called the Nagasaki Prince Hotel. The prices for rooms are comparable to those of the Hotel New Nagasaki, although the suites and deluxe Japanese-style rooms cost up to twice as much. The Prince is appropriate for the most esteemed visitors to the city, and guests will appreciate the Internet service plans offered in many rooms of the hotel.
Another centrally located hotel worthy of mention is the main branch of the Nagasaki City Hotel. Although not nearly as luxurious as the previous two hotels, the rooms are still nice, and its location (just five minutes east of the station on foot) adds to its appeal. There is minimal station noise here, and there are numerous attractions such as the Fukusai-ji temple nearby. The hotel has branches in other parts of the city, as well. The Best Western Nagasaki is also a good option in this area for those looking for fine accommodations and are willing to pay a premium for them.
For inexpensive accommodations in Takara-machi, try the Ajisai Inn 2, located within a reasonable distance of the popular Urakami area.
Unlike most cities, where hotels tend to be clustered in certain areas, Nagasaki hotels are more scattered. One major cluster, however, is in Shinchi-machi, otherwise known as China Town. The hotels here are located around the edges of this small neighborhood. They include the Nagasaki Bus Terminal Hotel, the Hotel Minato Park Nagasaki, the Nagasaki Washington Hotel, the Shinchi Business Hotel and the Hotel JAL City Nagasaki. The Nagasaki Toei Hotel is also just a block away. All of these hotels are extremely popular, not only because of their proximity to China Town, but because they are within walking distance of the famed entertainment district, Shianbashi Gourmet Street and the Hamanomachi Arcade. All things considered, it is hard to think of a better place to stay in the city, especially because none of these hotels are very expensive. The Nagasaki I K Hotel, for example, has cheap double rooms for those traveling in pairs.
Other hotels are located near popular tourist destinations, such as the Glover Gardens area in Southern Nagasaki. These include: the Hotel New Tanda, the Hotel Monterey Nagasaki, the Loisir Hotel Nagasaki, Nagasaki Tokyu Hotel, and the Hotel Majestic. The Hotel Majestic is the most expensive of these, but in exchange for the price you get great accommodations and a location close to Glover Gardens. Another popular choice is the Hotel New Tanda, because of its beautiful bay views.
Two other good choices on this side of the city are the Inasa-yama Kankoh Hotel and the Luke Plaza Hotel. Both of these are positioned on the slopes of the Mount Inasa, and besides having pleasant rooms, they include some of the best views of the city and harbor.
Another popular tourist precinct is the Urakami area, with attractions such as the Peace Park, the Atomic Bomb Museum and the Urakami Cathedral. Of the surprisingly few hotels available here, several are low-budget business types. The two big exceptions are the Nagasaki Park Side Hotel and the Nagasaki Royal Chester Hotel, where the rates are much higher than those of other hotels in the area, but for sheer comfort they excel.
For those wanting accommodation beyond the city limits, one additional recommendation is the Renaissance Nagasaki-Iojima, located on Iojima Island. Despite being a resort hotel, the prices are quite reasonable. In addition, there are also a number of onsen, or hot springs, in small towns a short distance from Nagasaki City. Two places to consider are Unzen and Obama-cho.
Entertainment in Nagasaki generally takes place on a small scale. It is, after all, a provincial city. This means that there are not any huge blowout concerts, frenzied sporting events in mega-stadiums, or unbridled parties in public parks. Do not be discouraged however, as there is plenty of fun to be had in Nagasaki.
Some of the best things to do in Nagasaki for free are provided by the major festivals. During these times, the citizens, and numerous visitors as well, turn out en masse for celebrations. The Kunchi Festival, with its origin rooted in Chinese culture, runs for three days in October and is perhaps the largest and most anticipated. The others, while smaller, are hardly less energetic or inspiring.
The Nagasaki Chinese Lantern Festival, held each winter, is similar to the Kunchi Festival in its demonstration of Chinese influence, celebrating the Chinese New Year with dragon dances and lantern displays in China Town. Similarly, the O-Bon Festival is a stunning celebration that fills the waters of Ohato Harbor with small boats that are adorned with paper lanterns, and fills the sky with fireworks in homage to the deceased.
Another exciting festival that reflects the European influence is the Peiron Regatta Championships (a type of boat race), the final race of which is held in late-July. For a romantic winter stroll the Glover Garden Winter Festival is sure to please.
Sports & Outdoor Activities
Although Nagasaki does not hold any huge sporting events, there is a public sports area, Matsuyama Park, which encompasses a baseball stadium, a track, a rugby and soccer field, several pools and numerous open areas for sporting activities. If you are looking for athletic entertainment away from the city, pay a visit to the Ikoi no Mori grass ski park or the Nomozaki cycling road. Those with less active interests might try one of the city's several golf courses, such as the Nameshi Golf Course. Alternatively, about an hour east from the city lies Nagasaki Prefectural Unzen Golf Course.
For those who love the 'great outdoors', Nagasaki Prefecture has a vast array of excellent beaches, which draw swimmers, surfers, scuba divers, fishermen and simple pleasure seekers. Takahama and Kojima are two fine beaches, while Iojima has reason to boast as well. If you do not mind traveling a fair distance from the city, Gotoh also has wonderful stretches of sand. At the other end of the spectrum, you have the elevations. Hikers will most definitely want to try the ridges of Mount Unzen, while less ambitious trekkers can confine their activities to Ryoma Road in the city.
For indoor entertainment, especially the type appropriate for families, movie theaters are an obvious choice. United Cinemas has recently opened a multiplex in Amu Plaza, the Nagasaki Station shopping center, but there are many others to choose from as well. Another popular activity in Nagasaki is bowling. In fact, the first bowling alley in Japan was opened in Nagasaki. There are not too many alleys nowadays but one that comes recommended is Nagasaki Lucky Bowl. Similar leisure activities that attract large numbers of residents and visitors include billiards, karaoke, and of course, video games. All of these pastimes are catered to at the Nagasaki Golden Bowl Shinkan.
Perhaps Nagasaki's most famous entertainment attraction; however, is Huis Ten Bosch, the Dutch resort city nationally famous for its distinct architecture and European flair. While most would not consider this a "must-go" destination, it does make for a pleasant side trip. Boat rides and the town's numerous amusement sites and shopping areas should provide entertainment for every member of the family.
Another entertainment option is the musical variety. Several of Nagasaki's friendly bars double as live houses, with talented local acts performing on certain nights. Panic House, Fanfan, Music Inn JJ, and Music Theatre Roxy are all places to check out for rock and roll gigs. For something a little more hip, Ayer's Rock and Bajamut frequently have live Japanese rappers, DJs and MCs. Both of these are great places to go to get your groove on, assuming of course that the dance floor is not too crowded (i.e., avoid weekends). For more traditional musical entertainment, find out what the Nagasaki City Public Hall is sponsoring. Here, you may encounter a wide range or artistic endeavours such as ballet, Japanese dance and classical concerts.