Glover Garden is a lovely hillside landscaped garden and open-air museum with a breathtaking view overlooking Nagasaki harbor. The green and lush garden sit on top of the Minami-Yamate hill and houses the former homes of the European tradesmen and their families who lived in Nagasaki during the city’s Meiji period in the second half of the 19th century.
Glover Garden is, in my opinion, one of the best attractions in Nagasaki. Walking along the pathways through the beautiful Glover Garden is a must when visiting Nagasaki. It is a great way to learn about the European influence of Japan and its modernization after the end of Japan’s era of seclusion that lasted for more than two centuries and ended in the 1850s.
The old houses in Glover Garden have a unique architecture, a mix of traditional Japanese and Western-style. You are welcomed to enter the houses where you can explore their well-preserved rooms and furniture and get a feel of how the wealthy foreigners lived in Japan at this time.
The Ultimate Guide To Glover Garden
A Brief History Of Glover Garden
At the end of the Edo period (1603 – 1868), after a two-century period called Sakoku, meaning national seclusion, Nagasaki became an important trading port with the West and opened its port in 1859.
European tradesmen, mainly from the Netherlands, Great Britain, and Portugal, moved to Nagasaki with their families. But only certain areas in the city were open for the foreigners to settle down in. There were eight areas in Nagasaki altogether, and it got the district name “Nagasaki’s Foreign Settlement”. Storehouses, trading posts, houses, hotels, banks, hospitals, recreational facilities, churches, consulates, just about everything they needed, were built in this district.
One of these areas was the hillside of Minami-Yamate, where Glover Garden is today, which became a small town of European homes, where the tradesmen lived with their wives and children.
In 1899, however, Nagasaki’s Foreign Settlement was put to an end, and foreigners could finally move and live wherever they wanted in Japan. Many of the families who had lived in these areas of Nagasaki moved to other cities in Japan, but the European-inspired houses remained in Nagasaki.
In 1970, the Nagasaki government decided to preserve these Western buildings in order to tell this European part of Nagasaki’s history. Many of the remaining Western houses were moved to Minami-Yamate hill, restoration began, and Glover Garden was established.
Today, the old European houses have been beautifully restored and put back into their original shape and turned into an open-air museum. It offers a fascinating glimpse into this part of Nagasaki’s history and shows how the Europeans lived in Nagasaki.
Who Is Glover?
Glover Garden is named after Thomas Blake Glover (1838 – 1911) and built around his old house. Thomas Blake Glover was a merchant from Scotland who moved to Nagasaki in 1859.
After arriving in Nagasaki, Glover soon became friends with some young Japanese samurais and encouraged them to travel overseas to study in the West. He helped a group of 19 young samurai to secretly leave Japan to go to Great Britain. When they returned, they joined Glover in building a shop dock in Nagasaki which is a World Heritage Site today. Glover also established Japan’s first modern coal mine and founded the Japan Brewery Company where he became president in 1894.
Glover introduced western technology to Japan and thus contributed to the huge modernization of Japan that took place in the latter half of the 19th century, after the Edo period (1603-1868). Glover built for instance Japan’s first railway line. But also industries like steel, iron, shipbuilding, and coal mining benefited a lot from Western technology. Japan was the first country outside of the West who went through the Industrial Revolution.
Glover built his house in 1863, and it is the oldest wooden Western-style building in Japan. Today, it is beautifully restored back to its heydays and well worth a visit.
Walking Tour & Attractions Of Glover Garden
In addition to Glover’s house, you will find several other historical Western-style houses in Glover Garden. The houses are tucked away among colorful flowers and trees, perfect for an afternoon stroll. Along the way, you get a breathtaking view over Nagasaki harbor.
Halfway down the park, you will notice the beautiful Madame Butterfly Statue of the famous Japanese opera singer Tamaki Misura. The garden also has two cafes: Cafe Jiyutei and Glover Cafe where you can have a rest and pitstop and have something to eat and drink.
To get started, take the moving walkways to the top of the hill, and work your way back down along the pathways through Glover Garden.
Or do like us, take a taxi to the top of Glover Garden, and walk your way down from there. You get a detailed map and can rent an informative audio guide at the ticket office.
It takes about 40 min to walk through the garden, depending on how much time you spend inside each house, and of course more if you stop at one of the cafes.
Here is a detailed DIY walking tour of Glover Garden, starting from the top of the garden. You will see the following houses/ attractions along your walking route of Glover Garden:
The map above: Walking tour with all the highlights of Glover Garden in Nagasaki (A-I)
A. Mitsubishi No 2 Docking Building
This hilltop building has a fantastic panorama view over Nagasaki harbor and the city from its 2nd floor.
Constructed in 1898, this house used to be an accommodation for ship crews while their ship was in dock at Nagasaki harbor for repairs.
B. Nagasaki District Court Building
This house, from around 1883, is the only Western-style government building left in Nagasaki, constructed outside the foreign settlement of Dejima. It used to be the official residence of the Nagasaki District Court.
C. Walker House
This was the home of Rober Walker Jr. (1881-1958), who had a British father and a Japanese mother. He got Japanese nationality as an adult.
His father, Robert N. Walker, was a ship captain who contributed to Japan’s shipping industry as the captain of a steamship. He also established a soda factory in Nagasaki, producing a soft drink called “Banzai”.
Robert Walker Jr. built this house in 1915 and lived here all his life. This house was relocated to Glover Garden in 1974 from its original place near Oura Catholic Church.
The house is a beautiful European-style wooden house with coal-burning fireplaces and chimneys, with Japanese roof tiles. Inside, you will see imported European furniture and items that once belonged to the Glover and Walker families.
D. Jiyutei Cafe – Japan’s oldest Western restaurant
Jiyutei used to be a restaurant, opened in 1878, and was the first European restaurant in Japan. The restaurant was very popular and both Japanese and foreigners often gathered here for parties and celebrations.
Today, Jiyutei is a stylish cafe where you can enjoy the stunning view of Nagasaki harbor together with a cup of tea or coffee, delicious cakes, and ice cream. If you haven’t tried the famous Castella cake from Nagasaki, you should definitely try it here. Or if you love ice cream (like I), then you should try the famous and delicious Nagasaki specialty – Chirin-Chirin.
- Opening Hours Jiyutei Cafe: 09:00 – 17:30 every day (last order at 17:00)
- Jiyutei Cafe on Tripadvisor
- Jiyutei Cafe’s Official Webpage
E. Glover House
The home and office of Mr. Thomas Glover himself. It is the oldest Western-style building found in Japan, dating back to 1863.
When Glover first built his house, it was a bungalow-style house in an L-shape surrounded by airy verandas. Later, a dining room was added and he built a hallway to connect the house with the kitchen and other smaller buildings, and the house was turned into what you see today.
The roof is made of ceramic Kowara tiles, and the walls are in traditional Japanese style. When you step inside the house, you will see that the inside of the house and the interior is of typical European design. It is a good mix of Japanese and European. You will also notice the huge mirror in the dining room, and the thin brick floor in the kitchen.
The Glover House is a Unesco World Heritage Site as one of the sites of Japan’s Meiji industrial revolution within iron and steel, shipbuilding, and coal mining.
Sadly we have no photos of Glover House, as it was under maintenance and all covered in scaffolding when we visited Glover Garden.
F. Glover Cafe
A cozy outdoor cafe serving tea, coffee, cakes, and lunch dishes. Sit down and relax in the green open space surrounded by flowers and shaded by tall trees. Try Nagasaki’s famous Banzai soft drink or Tebiki Soda, first produced in the Meiji Period.
- Opening hours Glover Cafe: 10:00 – 17:00 every day (last order 16:30)
G. Ringer House
The home of Frederick Ringer (1838-1907) from England who moved to Nagasaki in 1865. He joined Glover & Co where he worked as a supervisor of tea production and export. He later was engaged in lots of industries like flour milling, fishing and whaling, gas and electric power plants, and wrote a daily English-language newspaper in Nagasaki. He also opened the Nagasaki Hotel with a French restaurant, which was the grandest Western-style hotel in the whole of East Asia at the time.
The bungalow-style wooden house dates back to around 1868. It has a veranda on three sides, paved with granite imported from Vladivostok in Russia, and the columns are made of Amakusa sandstone.
The ringer house is the perfect example of the mix between Western and Japanese architecture that reflects these houses. Inside the house, you can see kitchen cutlery that was in use at Ringer’s Nagasaki Hotel. The Nagasaki Hotel building has sadly been torn down.
H. Alt House
The home of William John Alt (1840-1908) from England who came to Japan in 1859. He was a successful businessman who introduced Japanese tea to the world. William John Alt was famous for his parties and often had international celebrations at his house with both foreign and Japanese guests.
William John Alt later moved to Osaka, and his house was turned into a school before it became the U.S. Consulate until it was bought by Frederick Ringer in 1903.
The house is a stunning Western-style bungalow, dating back to circa 1865. The grand house has a Tuscan-style veranda and columns made from Amakusa sandstone. The supervisor of the house construction, Koyama Hide, also built Outa Catholic Church and the Glover House.
Inside the house, you can see different items and furniture that used to belong to the Ringer family.
I. Nagasaki Traditional Performing Arts Center
You exit the Glover Garden through the Nagasaki Traditional Performing Arts Museum.
Here you will see an impressive exhibition of the dragons and floats used in Nagasaki’s famous and popular Kunchi Matsuri festival held for three days every 7th of October.
There is a souvenir shop inside the museum.
- Opening Hours Glover Garden: 08:00 – 20:30 (until 21:30 during summer and peak seasons) every day
- Ticket price Glover Garden: 620 JPY = US$ 6 (adult)
- How to get to Glover Garden: Take the green Nagasaki tram line no. 5 (Ishibashi) to either Ouratenshudo Stop (no 48) or Ishibashi Stop (no. 51). Or take a taxi to the start of this walking tour, the top of Glover Garden, as we did.
- Glover Garden’s Official Webpage
There you have it, our ultimate guide to Glover Garden in Nagasaki, with everything you need to know to have a great visit to this beautifully landscaped hillside garden and open-air museum. Walking around in Glover Garden gives you an excellent impression of how Nagasaki’s Meji-period Europeans lived with their families. An extra bonus is the breathtaking views of Nagasaki harbor.
The garden gives you a glimpse into an important part of Nagasaki and Japan’s history. Glover Garden is a must-visit when traveling to Nagasaki, in my opinion.
Glover Garden is on our recommended 2-day Nagasaki Itinerary that you can find here.
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