To many of us in the west, the word Nagasaki is almost synonymous with the dropping of the second atomic bomb during World War II on the 9th of August 1945, only three days after the first bomb hit Hiroshima. The Nagasaki atomic bomb museum, memorial monuments, and peace park stand as powerful reminders of those events and are must-sees for any visitor.
But Nagasaki is more than its tragic World War II history. The city is both charming and vibrant, with a fascinating centuries-old history, beautiful European colonial areas, churches, parks, lovely canals with atmospheric bridges, colorful shrines, and temples, and a vibrant China Town.
The Nagasaki cuisine is pretty unique too, and a delicious mix of East meets West. And any visit to Nagasaki is not complete without tasting the famous Castella cake, a specialty of this area of Japan.
Nagasaki has an interesting and colorful history, as it was the only port in Japan where trade with Europe and China was allowed for two centuries from 1637. No foreigners were allowed in Japan during this period called “Sakoku,” meaning national seclusion. The only exception was a small artificial island in the middle of Nagasaki harbor – Dejima.
Dejima Island was the only place in Japan where Europeans (mostly Dutch) traders were allowed to live and trade. Today, Dejima is a fascinating museum where you can wander around and look at how the Europeans lived and worked on this tiny island.
Glover Garden is another one of our favorite attractions in Nagasaki. The green and lush hillside garden filled with beautiful European colonial-style buildings have a fantastic view overlooking the city and harbor.
From nearby Mt Inasa, you can enjoy what has been described as one of the world’s top three nighttime views (declared in 2012), along with Hong Kong and Monaco. The ropeway trip to the top of Mount Inasa is spectacular and is a must when visiting Nagasaki!
Nagasaki Travel Guide
Here we give you our ultimate Nagasaki travel guide, with all of Nagasaki’s top attractions and sights organized in a 2-day Nagasaki itinerary.
A Brief History Of Nagasaki
An International Trade Port
In 1543, the first Portuguese ship with explores arrived in Nagasaki. The word spread around the world about this new promising land Japan and trade grew. By 1570, Nagasaki was a large, wealthy, and fashionable international port with Portuguese traders and ships shuttling between Japan, China, and Korea.
This led to Nagasaki becoming an international trading port importing western goods like tobacco, bread, textiles, and the Portuguese sponge cake Castella soon became popular within the Japanese culture. Castella is a popular cake even today in this area of Japan.
The popular Japanese dish tempura is another dish inspired by the Portuguese. Tempura is inspired by the popular Portuguese dish Peixinho-da-Horta, and its name comes from the Portuguese word “tempero,” which means seasoning.
The 26 Martyrs Of Japan
Simultaneously, as the European traders settled in Nagasaki, Catholic missionaries arrived, starting to spread Christianity in Japan. The shogun disapproved of the introduction of Christianity to Japan. He reclaimed Nagasaki as a Buddhist area and expelled the Jesuits.
As a warning to show that he meant business, he crucified twenty-six European and Japanese Christians in Nagasaki on the 5th of February, 1597. These twenty-six people have been declared martyrs and are called the 26 Martyrs Of Japan.
Christianity was officially banned in Japan in 1614, although some stayed hidden Christians, and was called Kakure Kirishitan in Japanese. Twelve sites where the Christians practiced Christianity illegally during this period were declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2018.
To learn more about this tragic history, visit the 26 Martyrs Museum and Monument (it is on day 1 of this itinerary).
You should also watch the movie “Silence” (2016) directed by Martin Scorsese. In the movie, Liam Neeson plays one of two Portuguese Jesuit priests who traveled to Nagasaki in the 17th century to locate their missing mentor and spread Catholic Christianity. The film is based on the novel “Silence” from 1966 written by Shūsaku Endō. The movie is set in Nagasaki, but the film was shot in Taiwan.
National Seclusion – Sakoku
In 1637, the shogunate expelled all foreigners from Japan, and it was forbidden for foreigners to enter Japan and for Japanese people to leave the country. This period is called “Sakoku,” or national seclusion, and lasted for more than two centuries.
There was only one exception for this national seclusion in the entire Japan – Dejima. Dejima, a small artificial island in the harbor of Nagasaki, became the only place where European traders could live and work. The Europeans were no longer allowed to interact or socialize with the Japanese people.
When Japan reopened its borders in 1850, Nagasaki became an important international trade port with a major economic force. Nagasaki quickly became successful in shipbuilding, an industry that sadly contributed to the city being targeted during World War II.
The Atomic Bombing Of Nagasaki
9th of August 1945, at the end of World War II, was the devastating day when Nagasaki was bombed by the American bomb flight USAF B-29 “Bockscar.” The main target was supposed to be Kokura on the northeast coast of Kyushu. But as the visibility was poor that morning in August, the bomber went for the second target on the west coast of Kyushu – Nagasaki city.
Nagasaki was chosen as the target because of its Mitsubishi Arms Factory and its big shipbuilding industry. The 4,57 ton “Fat Man” bomb exploded above Nagasaki at 11:02. The bomb had an explosive power similar to 21,3 kg tonnes of TNT and was almost twice the power of “Little Bomb” which exploded above Hiroshima three days earlier.
But the bomb missed the arms factory, which was its main target. Instead, it exploded 3 km northwest of the planned hypocenter right above the largest Catholic church in Asia – Urakami Cathedral. Within a couple of seconds, it wiped out the church and the entire suburb of Urakami in the northern part of Nagasaki. About 74 000 people were killed, almost 1/3 of Nagasaki’s 240 000 inhabitants. Everything with a radius of 1,2 km from the hypocentre was destroyed as the ground temperatures reached between 3000 (5432 °F) and 4000 °C (7232 °F).
Most men were at work or away at war, mostly women, the elderly, and children were among the casualties. About 58% of the Mitsubishi Arms Plants were damaged, and about 78 % of the Mitsubishi Steel Works were destroyed. Luckily, the mountains surrounding the narrow Urakami Valley, where the bomb exploded, stopped the effects and protected the surrounding suburbs from greater damages. 1/3 of Nagasaki city burned down from the bombing.
On the 12th of August, the Japanese Emperor decided to surrender, and a capitulation announcement was broadcasted to the Japanese people on the 15th of August.
Today, Nagasaki is fully restored and is a vibrant, modern city, and there is no nuclear radiation to worry about. It is safe to visit Nagasaki.
What To Do In Nagasaki –
The Ultimate 2-Day Nagasaki Itinerary
The map above: Our recommended 2-Day Nagasaki Itinerary.
Day 1 = Purple, Day 2 = Black, Other Things To Do In Nagaski = Brown.
Nagasaki has a surprising number of attractions and sights, so we recommend that you spend at least two days in this city. Here we have put together Nagasaki’s highlights and top attractions into a 2-day Nagasaki itinerary.
If you only have one day in Nagasaki, you can do day 1 of this itinerary as it covers the most important and famous attractions in Nagasaki, like the atomic bomb museum and peace park.
Nagasaki’s attractions are spread out all over the city, but once you are in one area, it is easy to walk around from one attraction to the next. Here is an overview of the 2-Day Nagasaki itinerary:
Northern Nagasaki – Urakami Suburb and the atomic-bomb hypocentre (2,5 km north of JR Nagasaki Station)
A. Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
B. Nagasaki Peace Park
C. Urakami Cathedral
D. Nagai Takashi Memorial Museum
E. One-Pillar Torii Gate
F. 26 Martyr Museum And Monument
G. Mount Inasa Night View – Nagasaki Ropeway
Central Nagasaki – Nagasaki harbor (around JR Nagasaki Station)
A. Suwa Shrine
B. Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture
C. The canals of Nagasaki with Maganebashi Bridge
D. Sofukuji Temple
F. Chinatown Shinchi
Southern Nagasaki (2 km south of JR Nagasaki Station)
G. Dutch Slope
H. Oura Cathedral
I. Glover Garden
J. Nagasaki Seaside Park
Enjoy, and have two fun days in Nagasaki! ♥
If you want to explore Nagasaki with a knowledgeable local guide, you should consider booking this customized Nagasaki Guided Tour (2-6 hours). The guide will customize the tour based on your interests and what you want to see and do. You can even give the guide a link to our recommended Nagasaki itinerary, and do exactly this itinerary.
Day 1 – Nagasaki Itinerary
Atomic Bomb Museum, Peace Park & Nagasaki Ropeway
The map above: Day 1 Nagasaki Itinerary.
Day 1 of this 2-day Nagasaki Itinerary takes place in Northern Nagasaki, in the suburb of Urakami, where the atomic-bomb hypocentre was.
You will visit the most important and biggest attraction in Nagasaki – Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum & Peace Park. You will then walk over to Urakami Cathedral, visit the small museum in honor of Dr. Nagai Takashi, who made a heroic effort to save the lives of the atomic bomb victims and end your walking tour of the atomic bomb area at the symbolic one-legged Torii gate.
You will end day 1 up in the sky, taking the Nagasaki Ropeway up to Mount Inasa to enjoying the amazing panoramic night view of Nagasaki and its harbor at night. This view is ranked as one of the top three nighttime views in the world.
From Nagasaki Station (tram stop no. 27), take tram line no. 1 (blue) or 3 (red) to the tram stop no. 20 – Atomic Bomb Museum Stop (a 10 min tram ride). The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum (A) is only a short walk away.
A. Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
- Estimated visiting time: 1-2 hours
Only three days after Hiroshima got hit by the world’s first atomic bomb, the world’s second nuclear weapon was detonated over Nagasaki on the 9th of August 1945.
This atmospheric and somber museum tells the story of this tragic and devastating incident in Nagasaki’s history. Here you get to see photos and artifacts from this fatal nuclear attack, like a clock that stopped at the exact time of the bombing, 11:02 am.
Hearing the firsthand accounts from survivors of the nuclear blast was to me the most heartbreaking. The photos and videos where survivors tell their personal stories and loss was very moving. You can read about this nuclear attack in books, but it never comes near hearing survivors tell about it.
Although this museum is smaller than the atomic bomb museum in Hiroshima, it is well-laid out with nice displays and good English explanations. The whole museum has a strong message of Peace.
I particularly loved how they have managed to capture such an atmospheric vibe at this museum. The old wall and statues from the close-by cathedral Urakami Cathedral hit by the atomic bomb make quite an impression.
I also like how they connected Nagasaki’s fatal history in 1945 with today’s situation on the nuclear side. They have, for instance, a chilling illustration of the countries that have nuclear weapons today. I found it quite upsetting and sad to learn that so many nations still have nuclear weapons even today when they know its impact if they are ever used.
At the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, you can also see the Nobel Peace Prize on display, given by my home country Norway in 1995 for their work to eliminate nuclear weapons:
The Nobel Peace Prize 1995 was awarded jointly to Joseph Rotblat and Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms.
The exhibits are in Japanese, English, Korean, and Chinese. You can also rent an audio guide (Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese, and Spanish) for 157 JPY = US$ 1,5.
If you prefer a human guide instead of an audio guide, two volunteer guides work at the museum from 10:00 until 16:00. They are called “Peace Guides” and work for free.
There are lockers at the reception of the museum, where you can store your luggage. And if you get hungry and just need a break and sit-down, the museum has a cafe, library, study room, and a shop.
Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims
Next to the museum, you will see the huge and minimalistic memorial piece Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, made by the famous artist Kuryu Akira in 2003.
The artwork consists of 12 pillars of light reaching up into the sky, with a hall below, containing shelves of books of the deceased’s names from the atomic bomb. Here you can hear messages from survivors of the atomic blast and even leave your own peace message if you want.
A walkway connects this memorial hall and the atomic bomb museum. Come here to pray, meditate, and reflect. It is free to visit the memorial hall.
Atomic Bomb Hypocentre Park
A small park close to the Atomic Bomb Museum is where the atomic bomb went off. The park houses a smooth, black stone column that marks the point above where the bomb exploded. You can also see some relics from the bomb blast, like a section of the wall from the destroyed Urakami Cathedral.
- Opening hours Atomic Bomb Museum: 08:30 am – 18:30/ 5:30 pm (May 1 – August 31), until 20:00 August 7-9, and until 17:30 September 1 – April 31
- Ticket price Atomic Bomb Museum: 200 JPY = US$ 2 (adult), children free
- How to get there: Take the Nagasaki Tram Line no. 1 or 3 to the Atomic Bomb Museum Stop/ Genbaku Shiryokan, a 10 min tram ride from Nagasaki Station. The museum is only a five min walk away.
- Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum’s Official Webpage
From Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum (A), walk north along the canal until you reach the Nagasaki Peace Park (B). Cross the walking bridge across the canal, and you are right in the middle of Peace Park. Walking time: 5 min.
B. Nagasaki Peace Park
- Estimated visiting time: 1 hour
The Peace Park of Nagasaki, called Heiwa Koen in Japanese, is a lovely and peaceful green park with memorial statues, a fountain, and green open spaces with walking paths. Even the staircase leading up to the park is fantastic, with its sea of flowers. The park is a nice place to go for a stroll.
Fountain Of Peace
The huge circular Fountain Of Peace was constructed by Nagasaki City and the National Council for World Peace and the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons with donations from Japan. It is dedicated to offering water to all the victims who suffered terrible burns and died lacking water after the atomic bombing. It is a prayer for their souls.
The fountain sends up two sparkling water columns in the shape of a pair of wings, as a symbol of the dove of peace and the crane. The fountain has a diameter of 18 meters, and the water columns are 0,5 to 6 meters high. It was completed in August 1969 and went through a reconstruction in August 1985.
Nagasaki Peace Statue
The real star of the Peace Park is the huge and iconic Nagasaki Peace Statue. It is made of bronze and weighs 10 tonnes, designed by Seibo Kitamura in 1955.
The 10 m tall sculpture shows a man sitting with his right hand and finger pointing towards the sky, towards the atomic bomb. His left hand is pointing out to the side, pointing to peace.
There is also a beautiful sculpture garden inside the park, the Peace Symbol Zone, with several sculptures from all over the world dedicated to peace.
- Opening hours Peace Park: 24/7
- Ticket price Peace Park: Free
- How to get there: Take the Nagasaki Tram Line no. 1 or 3 to the Peace Park Stop/ Heiwa Koen, a 10 min tram ride from Nagasaki Station.
From Nagasaki Peace Park (B), walk east, and you will soon see the iconic red Urakami Cathedral (C). Walking time: 5 min.
C. Urakami Cathedral
- Estimated visiting time: 15 min
The beautiful European-style, red brick-stone Urakami Cathedral was once the biggest Catholic church in Asia, founded in 1914 and completed in 1925. The sad irony is that it took three decades to build the church but only a few seconds to knock it down. The church was completely leveled to the ground by the atomic bomb in August 1945 as it was located only 500 meters from the hypocenter.
The Urakami Cathedral that you see here today is a smaller rebuild completed in 1959 on the original church’s ruins. You can see the remains of the old church in front of the present one.
Inside the church are several relics from the original cathedral, like the surviving head of a Saint Mary statue, recovered after the blast, and one of the original church bells.
- Opening hours Urakami Cathedral: 09:00 – 17:00
- Ticket price Urakami Cathedral: Free
- How to get there: Take the Nagasaki Tram Line no. 1 or 3 to the Peace Park Stop/ Heiwa Koen. The cathedral is only a ten-minute walk from the Nagasaki Peace Park.
- Urakami Cathedral’s Official Webpage
From Urakami Cathedral (C), walk north through the residential area of Urakami until you reach the small Nagai Takashi Memorial Museum (D). Walking time: 6 min.
D. Nagai Takashi Memorial Museum
- Estimated visiting time: 15 min
This small museum is dedicated to the courage and faith of Dr. Nagai Takashi, a national hero of Japan and an honorary citizen of Nagasaki.
After having worked in radiology and treating many tuberculosis patients with poor equipment, Dr. Nagai, who had leukemia, lived in Nagasaki with his wife and two children when the atomic bomb hit the city and his home. His wife died from the bombing while he survived. He devoted himself to the treatment of bomb victims until he died in 1951, at 43.
Even up to his last days, he continued to write letters to ask for donations for survivors and orphans, from where he got his well-earned nickname “Saint of Nagasaki.” Even today, Dr. Nagai’s spirit is a symbol of peace and love.
Upstairs is a library where you can learn about Dr. Nagai and his work, including watching a movie about him (in English).
Next door to the museum buildings, you find the tiny simple hut Nyokodo, meaning “love thy neighbor as thyself,” where Dr. Nagai worked and lived with his two children.
- Opening hours Nagai Takashi Memorial Museum: 09:00 – 17:00
- Ticket price: 100 JPY = US$1
From Nagai Takashi Memorial Museum (D), walk south again (past the Peace Park and Museum and Nagasaki University Hospital) until you see the monumental One-Pillar Torii Gate (E) at the top of some stairs. Walking time: 20 min.
E. One-Pillar Torii Gate
The one-legged Torii stone gate has become a monument to the power of human strength. It was once a normal Torii gate marking the entrance arch to Sanno-Jinja Shrine, but half of it was knocked down from the blast of the atomic bomb. The gate was 800 m from the hypocentre.
The One-Pillar Torii Gate (E) marks the end of this walking tour of Nagasaki’s atomic bomb hypocenter area. It is time to head up into the sky to Mount Inasa with the Nagasaki Ropeway (F).
From the One-Pillar Torii Gate (E), you can either walk (about 25 min) or take tram line no. 1 (blue) or 3 (red) to the Yachiyomachi Stop (tram stop no. 26) to the 26 Martyrs Museum & Monument (F).
F. 26 Martyrs Museum & Monument
- Estimated visiting time: 1 hour
The 26 Martyrs Memorial Monument is a memorial wall with reliefs of the 26 Catholic Christians who were crucified on the 5th of February 1597 in Nagasaki by the Japanese shogunate. The big bronze monument is designed by the Japanese sculptor Yasutake Funakoshi, and it took him four years to finish.
The four Spanish, one Mexican, one Portuguese, and twenty Japanese Christians were officially canonized saints in 1862 by Pople Pius IX. The youngest were young boys of 12 and 13 years old.
You will find a museum in the back of the monument where you can learn more about Christianity in Japan and the tragic history of the 26 Martyrs. Don’t let the plain outside of the museum building put you off; the interior is much better and has some nice displays.
The monument and museum, constructed in 1962, stand on the Nishizaka Hill at the actual location of where the martyrs were crucified. You get a lovely view of Nagasaki city from the museum.
There is a collection of important historical articles on display from both Europe and Japan. The displays are chronologically arranged: the early Christian propagation, the martyrdom, and the hidden Christians.
You can see original letters from the Jesuit priest St. Francis Xavier. You can also see several small Maria Kannon statues, the Virgin Mary disguised as the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Kannon, used for worship by Hidden Christians. The Martyrs’ altar is beautiful with the image of plum blossom in the middle. The plum trees blossom in February, around the time of year when the martyrs were killed.
To fully get the story of what happened, I recommend that you watch the movie “Silence” from 2016, directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a great movie and tells the story of the 26 martyrs of Japan.
Close to the 26 Martyr Museum, you will find the St. Philip Church, which is a memorial church of the twenty-six martyrs. It carries the name of Saint Philip of Jesus, a Mexican Christian and one of the 26 Martyrs crucified in Nagasaki. The church was in 2012 designated as a national pilgrimage site. The church has a pretty unique design and looks a bit like the Familia Sagrada in Barcelona if you ask me.
- Opening hours 26 Martyrs Museum: 09:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm
- Ticket price 26 Martyrs Museum: 500 JPY = US$ 5 (adult), 150 JPY = US$ 2,5 (child)
- How to get there: You can walk from JR Nagasaki Station (a 10-min walk). Or you can take tram line no. 1 (blue) or 3 (red) to the Yachiyomachi Stop (tram stop no. 26).
From the 26 Martyrs Museum & Monument (F), you can either walk (about 22 min), take bus no. 3 or 4 to “Ropeway-Mae” bus stop, take the tram line no. 1 (blue) or tram line no. 3 (red) to tram stop no. 25 Takara-machi, or take a taxi (4 min drive) as we did to the lower station of Nagasaki Ropeway (G) – Fuchi Shrine Station.
G. Mount Inasa Night View – Nagasaki Ropeway
- Estimated visiting time: 1 hour
Ranked as one of the top three nighttime views in 2012, together with Hong Kong and Monaco, a trip with the Nagasaki Ropeway is spectacular and a must when visiting Nagasaki!
The Nagasaki Ropeway runs from Fuchi Shrine Station and takes you up to Mt Inasa/ Mount Inasayama, 333 m high (a 5-min cable car ride one way). Riding on the glass gondola gives you a fantastic panoramic view of Nagasaki and its harbor.
The two glass gondolas are designed by the famous designer Kiyoyuki Okuyama, who also worked as a Ferrari and Porsche designer. Each gondola takes 31 passengers, and there is a modern waiting room building (from 2016) at the start station of the ropeway, Fuchi Shrine Station, with seating areas and toilets. There is free parking at the ropeway station.
The walk from the ropeway’s top station to the observation tower is pretty cool, too, through the Hikari Tunnel, where the roof is decorated with thousands of dazzling led lights. Also, inside the observation tower, the floor is covered by sparkling led lights giving it an atmospheric otherworldly vibe.
From the observation tower, you can see all of Nagasaki harbor and the city, as well as Hashima Island/ Gunkanjima Island (the famous abandoned “battleship island” from the James Bond movie Skyfall), Taka-Shima Island, and lots of other islands. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Goto Islands (a group of 140 small and big islands).
There is a restaurant at the observation tower’s rooftop, the Hikari Restaurant, perfect for a romantic dinner or lunch with amazing 360-degree views.
The panoramic view from the top of Nagasaki Ropeway, Mount Inasa, is also one of the Three Major Night Views of Japan, called Nihon Sandai Yakei. In addition to Nagasaki Ropeway, Hakodate (seen from Mount Hakodate), and Kobe and Osaka Bay ( seen from the Maya Mountains) are on this top three best night views of Japan list. These three are also called the ten million dollar night views.
- Opening hours Nagasaki Ropeway: 09:00 – 22:00 all year round, every day. Departs every 15-20 min.
- Ticket price Nagasaki Ropeway: 730 JPY = US$ 7 (adult, one-way), 1250 JPY = US$ 12 (adult, return), 410 JPY = US$ 4 (child, one-way), 620 JPY = US$ 6 (child, return)
- How to get there: You can get from Nagasaki Station to the lower station of the Nagasaki Ropeway (Fuchi Shrine Station) by bus. Take bus no. 3 or 4 from the “Nagasaki Eki-Mae” bus stop to the “Ropeway-Mae” bus stop, a 7 min bus ride. Or you can tram. Take the blue tram line no. 1 or red tram line no. 3 to tram stop no. 25 Takara-machi. Or take a taxi to the Fuchi Shrine Station of the ropeway as we did.
- Nagasaki Ropeway’s Official Webpage
Mount Inasa, with its magnificent skyline view of Nagasaki, marks the end of day one of our Nagasaki itinerary. Head back to your hotel for a good night’s sleep, or grab something to eat and drink in, for instance, Nagasaki’s Chinatown Shinchi.
Day 2 – Nagasaki Itinerary
Shrines, Temples & Old European Quarters
The map above: Day 2 Nagasaki Itinerary.
Day 2 of this 2-day Nagasaki Itinerary takes you to the central and southern parts of Nagasaki.
On day two, you will visit two of Nagasaki’s most prominent shrines and temples – Suwa Shrine & Sofuku-Ji Temple, the historic Oura Catholic Cathedral, and the areas where the European traders lived and worked from 1543 until 1850 when Japan reopened its doors to the world – Dejima, Dutch Slope & Glover Garden. You will end this day with an evening stroll along Nagasaki’s harbor through Nagasaki Seaside Park.
Take the tram line no. 3 (red), no. 5 (green), or no. 4 (yellow) to tram stop no. 39 Suwa-Jinja Shrine. Suwa-Jinja Shrine (A) is only a short walk from the tram stop.
A. Suwa Shrine
- Estimated visiting time: 1 hour
The atmospheric Suwa Shrine or Suwa-Jinja, called in Japanese, is located up a long and steep staircase, on a hilltop surrounded by forest. It might be the shrine in Japan with the longest staircase, 277 stone steps in total! Puh! Felt like a good workout walking up those stairs! 🙂
This huge and impressive shrine was established in 1625 and is the main Shinto shrine of Nagasaki. The shrine’s vast temple ground contains lots of statues of protective dogs called Kappua-Komainu. The water sprite dogs, Kappa-Komainu, are enjoyable as you pray to them by pouring water onto the plates on their heads.
The turntable dogs, Gankake Komainu, used to be particularly popular among prostitutes. They would pray that heavy storms would arrive so that the seamen had to stay at port for a bit longer.
Kunchi Matsuri Festival
At the beginning of October, the shrine really comes to life. The energic festival Kunchi Matsuri is celebrated every 7. – 9. October featuring colorful Chinese dragons who dances through the city streets of Nagasaki and at Suwa Shrine.
The festival is colorful and fun, with costumes, cymbals, giant dragon puppets, fireworks, and big floats reflecting Nagasaki’s Dutch and Chinese influences. It is a spectacular show and a must-see experience if you happen to be in Nagasaki in October.
However, we visited this shrine at the end of November and missed the Kunchi Matsuri Festival. But we were lucky and got to see a beautiful Japanese wedding taking place at the shrine. I love these elegant Japanese wedding clothes!
Shichi-Go-San/ Seven-Five-Three Celebration
We were also lucky to be at this temple when the traditional “Shichi-Go-San“, meaning “Seven-Five-Three“, was celebrated. This festival day is something that happens all over Japan, celebrating girls being three and seven years old and boys being five years old. It is held annually on the 15th of November, or usually the nearest weekend. The children are dressed up in beautiful kimonos and visit shrines where they pray with their family and get photographed. The children look absolutely adorable!
These Shichi-Go-San children also get special candy on this day, called “Chitose Ame“, meaning “Thousand-Year Candy.” The candy is long and thin, like the size of a pen. It is in the color of red and white, symbolizing healthy growth and longevity. The candy is put in a bag decorated with a crane and a turtle, representing long life in Japan. We have unfortunately not tried Chitose Ame candy yet, as we are not three, five, or seven years old. 😉 But the candy looks delicious!
- Opening hours Suwa Shrine: 09:00 – 22:00 all year round, every day. Departs every 15-20 min.
- Ticket price: Free
- How to get there: Take the red, green, or yellow Nagasaki Tram Line and get off at the Suwa Jinja Stop (no. 39).
- Suwa Shrine’s Official Webpage
From Suwa Shrine (A), walk southwest to Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture (B). Walking time: 7 min.
B. Nagasaki Museum Of History & Culture
- Estimated visiting time: 1 hour
Nagasaki has a large museum, Nagasaki Museum of History & Culture, where you can learn about the proud history of this coastal and trading city, from the samurai Edo-period and the European and Chinese influence and trading.
During the Edo period, Japan closed its borders for foreigners, and Nagasaki was the only port where international trade was permitted, which meant with China, Korea, and the Netherlands. This turned Nagasaki into the only Japanese city with international influence, making Nagasaki a rich city both in money, wealth, culture, and history.
The exhibitions are beautifully made and detailed, with lots of beautiful porcelain, lacquerware, and blue shell works. I felt like being a real tradesman when entering the Nagasaki Magistrate’s office from the Edo-period, controlling all foreign trade and diplomacy on behalf of all of Japan.
To fully explore the museum, make sure to grab the free English audio guide. Temporary exhibitions are held on the third floor; check their webpage to see what is on. The museum also has a cool shop where you can buy Japanese souvenirs and gifts to bring back home. We also had to try out the teamLab Camera Photo Booth at the museum entrance, which was great fun.
- Opening hours Nagasaki Museum: 08:30 – 17:00, last admission 16:30
- Ticket price: 630 JPY = US$ 6 (adult)
- How to get there: Take the red Nagasaki Tram Line no. 3 and get off at the Sakuramachi Stop (no. 44). Or you can walk to the museum from Nagasaki Station, a 15-min walk.
- Nagasaki Museum of History & Culture’s Official Webpage
From the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture (B), walk south until you reach the canal Nakashima River and follow it till you get to the beautiful Maganebashi Bridge (C). Walking time: 11 min.
C. Maganebashi Bridge
One of Nagasaki’s most picturesque areas is along the Nakashima River/ Nakashima-Gawa that runs through the city center. The river is crossed by a collection of ten romantic 17th-century stone bridges. When they were built, each bridge led to a temple, but the temples are sadly all gone now.
The most famous of these bridges are the Maganebashi Bridge, which dates back to 1634. This is a stunning double-arched stone bridge, whereas the other nine bridges are single-arched.
Chirin-Chirin Ice cream
In the area around Nakashima River and Maganebashi Bridge during the summer months, you will find several ice cream carts selling Nagasaki’s specialty – Chirin-Chirin. Chirin-Chirin is flavored shaved ice and is delicious and a must-try! I love Chirin-Chirin! ♥
A visit to Nagasaki is not complete without tasting the famous Castella cake. Castella is a yellow brick-shaped sponge cake that is hugely popular in Nagasaki both as a treat among the locals and as a souvenir among visitors. The cake is believed to have originated from the Portuguese who settled in Nagasaki to do trading.
You can get Castella cakes with different flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and matcha green tea. We visited Nagasaki during autumn (November), and we loved the special autumn variant of the Castella cake with maple taste.
Fukusaya is one of the oldest castella bakery shops in Nagasaki and has been serving castella since 1624. Shokando castella bakery shop is close to Meganebashi Bridge and is the castella cake supplier to the Japanese imperial family.
From Maganebashi Bridge (C), walk southeast to the Sofuku-Ji Temple (D). Walking time: 4 min.
D. Sofuku-Ji Temple
- Estimated visiting time: 30 min
What struck me most about the Sofukuji Temple was its fantastic bright red colors. The entrance gate, called Ryugumon/ Gate of the Dragon Palace, is magnificent, with beautiful ming-dynasty style architecture and painted blood red. It is different from other temples in Japan, as it is built in a Chinese style.
It is an atmospheric temple located on a hillside surrounded by forest. I loved how the light fell onto the buildings through the tall trees, making walking around it a bit mysterious and magic.
Sofukuji Temple was built in 1629 by a Chinese monk named Chaonian as a family temple for the Chinese from Fuzhou, Fujian Province in China, who settled in Nagasaki. Today it is the temple of the Obaku sect, the third-largest Zen sect after Rinzai and Soto.
The main hall was designed and cut in China before shipped to Nagasaki in pieces. It is one of the oldest buildings in Nagasaki.
The temple houses many interesting items, like a gigantic kettle used to make food when the hunger hit Japan in 1681. You can also see a statue of Mazu/ Maso, the goddess of the sea. There are well-explained posters all around the temple, also in English.
In the hillside behind the temple, you find an atmospheric old graveyard with great views of Nagasaki city.
- Opening hours Nagasaki Museum: 08:00 – 17:00
- Ticket price: 300 JPY = US$ 3
- How to get there: Take the blue or yellow Nagasaki Tram Line no. 1 or 4 and get off at the Sofukuji Stop (no. 35, the last stop).
From Sofuku-Ji Temple (D), walk west to the lovely open-air museum Dejima (E). Walking time: 12 min.
- Estimated visiting time: 1 hour
During the Edo-period, the Tokugawa Shogunate banned all foreigners in Japan from 1641 until the 1850s, totally isolating the country. There was only one exception in the whole of Japan – Dejima Island in Nagasaki.
Dejima is a tiny fan-shaped artificial island in Nagasaki harbor, only 15 000 m² in size. The island functioned as a Dutch trading post and was the only place in Japan where westerners (mainly from the Netherlands and Portugal) were allowed to live during the isolation period that lasted for two centuries.
Today, Dejima is not an island anymore. The area has been turned into a lovely open-air museum, where the seventeen old Dutch houses and the church have been beautifully restored and reconstructed. They look great on the outside but step inside too as they are filled with nice exhibitions depicting how the Dutch lived and worked here.
We visited Dejima after dark, and the small village was beautifully lit up and made it even more atmospheric. I totally fell in love with Dejima, and it was great fun to see how the Europeans lived and worked and how they managed to mix Japanese and European culture into a perfect blend. Dejima is one of the best attractions in Nagasaki, in my opinion, and a must-visit.
- Opening hours Nagasaki Museum: 08:00 – 21:00, last entry at 20:40
- Ticket price: 520 JPY = US$ 5
- How to get there: Take the blue Nagasaki Tram Line no. 1 and get off at the Dejima Stop (no. 30).
- Dejima’s Official Webpage
From Dejima (E), walk a couple of blocks till you get to Shinchi Nagasaki Chinatown (F). Walking time: 4 min.
F. Nagasaki Chinatown Shinchi
Nagasaki has a small Chinatown, called Shinchi Chinatown. It is a vibrant area with Chinese restaurants, bars, and shops. This is the perfect place to grab some lunch and have a break.
While the Duch was only allowed to stay on the small Dejima island during the seclusion era, the Chinese were freer, at least at first. Eventually, they were confined to stay in the Tojin Yashiki quarter, close to where you will find Chinatown today. There are still some preserved streets and buildings in the Tojin Yashiki quarter from this historical era where you can see how the Chinese lived during the seclusion that lasted for over two centuries.
There are three beautiful Chinese temples and shrines in Nagasaki worth a visit: Sofuku-Ji Temple (which is on this itinerary), Kofuku-Ji Temple, and the Koshibyo Confucius Shrine.
Nagasaki Lantern Festival
During the Chinese New Year celebration (around mid-January/ mid-February), a lantern festival occurs in Nagasaki Chinatown. The lantern festival is great fun and very popular. Chinatown is beautifully lit up for a couple of weeks, and the illumination is a great photo opportunity.
After lunch in Chinatown (F), walk southwest to Dutch Slope (G). Walking time: 7 min.
G. Dutch Slope
- Estimated visiting time: 20 min
A bit south of Dejima lays a historic street named Oranda Zaka/ Holland Zaka, Dutch Slope, or Hollander Slope in English. The cozy cobble-stone-paved street was once lined with wooden European houses, residents of the Dutch tradesmen who lived here with their families. Dutch does not necessarily mean that they were from the Netherlands, as Dutch referred to everyone being from the West. The houses date back to 1859.
Several of these old houses have been restored and gives you a fantastic insight into how life might have been for these Europeans in Japan. They really tried to make their home a European oasis in what must have felt like a very foreign and different country and culture.
Some of the houses are open to the public, like the Higashi Yamate 13, where you can walk inside and see how they lived. The house has a balcony upstairs, with a lovely view of the Dutch area. The house has a cafe on the ground floor.
Go for a lovely stroll among these houses, and pop into the Ko-Shashin-Shiryokan/ Museum of Old Photographs and the museum Maizo-Shiryokan.
- Opening hours Museums: 09:00 – 17:00 Tuesdays – Sundays.
- Ticket price Museums: 100 JPY = US$1
- Opening hours Higashi Yamate 13 House: 10:00 – 17:00 (it is free to enter)
- How to get there: Take the green Nagasaki Tram Line no. 5 and get off at the Medical Center Stop (no. 47).
After Dutch/ Hollander Slope (G), walk south to Oura Church (H). Walking time: 9 min.
H. Oura Church
- Estimated visiting time: 20 min
Oura Church is Japan’s oldest and most famous Catholic church, built by French missionaries in 1864 towards the end of the Edo period. The church was built to service the growing community of European tradesmen settling down in Nagasaki.
The church is dedicated to the twenty-six Christians, both foreign missionaries and Japanese Christians, who were executed on the 5th of February in 1597 by Japan’s ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He had banned Christian missionaries in Japan, and the execution was his way of expressing a warning.
The twenty-six Christians who were killed are called the Twenty-Six Saints of Japan. Oura Church is also called the “Church of the Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan.” The Japanese government lifted the ban on Christians and missionaries in 1873.
If you want to honor and learn more about the twenty-six martyrs, you can visit the Nishizaka Hill in Nagasaki, where the saints were martyred. There are a museum and a monument here (see Day 1 of this itinerary, section F). Around the 5th of February every year, a memorial mass for the Twenty-Six Martyrs is held at the Oura Church.
The atomic bomb heavily damaged the church in August 1945, and two priests and 18 faithful died. Pope John Paul II visited Oura Catholic Church in 1981.
The bright white Oura Church is stunning, where it lays on a hilltop with lovely views and is a perfect example of the European architecture of the day. Walking up the stairs to the church entrance, you will be able to study the stunning white statue “Our Lady of Japan,” standing in the middle of the staircase. The statue was imported from France and arrived at Oura Church on the 2nd of June 1867.
Step into the church, and you will immediately notice the beautiful stained glass window depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. You will also see the lovely and very life-like statue of the Holy Mother and Jesus Child.
The church has a bell tower housing a bronze bell with a height of 82 cm and a diameter of 97 cm, made in France. It luckily escaped the metal collections all over Japan during World War II to make ammunition, so this is the original church bell of Oura Church from 1864.
The bell has an inscription (translated from French): “My name is Clotilde Adolphe Louise. I was blessed by Monseigneur Charles-Jean Fillion, bishop of Le Mans, France, in 1865. My godfather is Mr. Adolphe Charles Joseph Camille, Count of Rouge, and my godmother is Anne Clotilde Renee Loriere. Bolle Father and Son, Bell Founders and Tuners of Le Mans.”
If you happen to be in this area of Nagasaki at noon or 18:00/ 6 pm, you will hear the church bell ring.
The church also has a museum, Nagasaki Oura Church Christian Museum, where you can learn about Christianity in Japan and its brutal history of the Anti-Christina and Hidden-Christian period.
Oura Cathedral and other Christian sites in Nagasaki were added to Unesco’s World Heritage Sites list in 2018.
- Opening hours Oura Church: 08:00 – 18:00 (last entry at 17:30)
- Ticket price Oura Church: 1000 JPY = US$11 (both the church and museum)
- How to get there: Take the green Nagasaki Tram Line no. 5 and get off at the Oura Cathedral Stop (no. 50).
- Oura Church’s Official Webpage
Oura Church (H) stands right by the entrance to Glover Garden (I). Walk over to Glover Garden next. Walking time: 2 min.
I. Glover Garden
- Estimated visiting time: 1-2 hours
Glover Garden is a beautiful hillside garden built around the house of Thomas Blake Glover (1838 – 1911), a merchant from Scotland who moved to Nagasaki in 1859. Glover had a huge impact on the industrial modernization of Japan in the latter of the 19th century. He built the first Japanese railway line and introduced western technology to Japan.
Glover built his house in 1863, and it is the oldest wooden Western-style building in Japan. Today, it is beautifully restored to its heydays and well worth a visit. The Glover House is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
In addition to Glover’s house, you will find several other historical Western-style houses in Glover Garden. The houses are tucked away in the landscaped hillside garden among colorful flowers and trees, perfect for an afternoon stroll.
Along the way, you get a breathtaking view over Nagasaki harbor. Halfway down the park, you will notice the beautiful Madame Butterfly Statue of the famous Japanese opera singer Tamaki Misura. The garden also has two cafes: Cafe Jiyutei and Glover Cafe.
Take the moving walkways to the top of the hill, and work your way back down along the pathways through Glover Garden. Or do like us, take a taxi to the top of Glover Garden, and walk your way down from there. For more information see our full Glover Garden guide including a recommended walking tour of Glover Garden.
- Opening Hours Glover Garden: 08:00 – 20:30 (until 21:30 during summer and peak seasons) every day
- Ticket price Glover Garden: 620 JPY = US$ 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
After Glover Garden (I), it is time to walk back to the center of Nagasaki city. Walkthrough the lovely Nagasaki Seaside Park (J) on your way back. Walking time: 9 min.
J. Nagasaki Seaside Park
A lovely park by the seaside of Nagasaki harbor, right where the old trading port used to be. The park won the “Good Design Award” in 2004. It is a great place to go for a seaside walk and get some fresh sea air.
A canal runs through the middle of the park and splits the park into three sections: Aqua Garden, Land Plaza, and Canal Promenade. It is a green and lush garden with trees and flowers with nice walking paths. The park is beautifully lit up in the evenings.
The Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum is located right by the park, where you can see both arts from the Nagasaki area and Spanish art.
Dejima Wharf has nothing to do with Dejima (the open-air museum where the Dutch lived); they have just adopted the name. The land here did not even exist during that time.
Dejima Wharf is a lovely harbor-side row of restaurants serving all sorts of food. You will find Italian, seafood, noodles, Chinese and lots of other delicious food here. Here is also some bars and galleries. Some restaurants have outdoor seatings as well, the perfect place to enjoy the sunset over the bay.
We had dinner at Babake (close to Dejima Wharf), making the most fantastic homemade noodles and tempura. The bowl of ramen was awesome and just what we needed after a long day of sightseeing and walking around in Nagasaki.
- Opening Hours Nagasaki Seaside Park: 24h
- Ticket Price Nagasaki Seaside Park: Free
- Nagasaki Seaside Park’s Official Webpage
- Babake Homemade Noodles on Tripadvisor
That’s it, our ultimate 2-days Nagasaki itinerary where you will explore and learn about the rich and colorful history of Nagasaki. This itinerary takes you to the best attractions in Nagasaki with all the best things to do and see in Nagasaki.
Nagasaki took us by surprise with all its fantastic sights and attraction. If you have more than two days in Nagasaki, check out our section Other Things To Do In Nagasaki below. Also, make sure to check out what else you should not miss when going to Japan in our recommended 2-weeks Japan itinerary.
Other Things To Do In Nagasaki
Ghost Island Hashima / Gunkanjima
Hashima Island, located outside Nagasaki, looks like a battleship; therefore, it is also called Gunkanjima, meaning “battleship island.” The island is a closed-down coal mine, and walking around the ruins of the mine feels like walking around on earth after an apocalypse. The island is a Unesco World Heritage site and appears in the James Bond movie Skyfall (2012).
Coal was first found on Gunkanjima in 1810 and became an industrial coal mine at the end of the 1800s, owned by the Mitsubishi Corporation. It was a huge coal mine, and over 5000 people lived on this small island, only 480 m long and 150 m wide. This was the world’s highest population density in history. The island had schools, tall apartment buildings, restaurants, shops, a hospital, and even a public bath. The coal mine was shut down in 1974, and the island was abandoned.
Many of the structures and skyscrapers have collapsed due to typhoons and are unsafe, so you can only access the island by joining a tour. On these guided tours, you get to walk on specific walkways on the island that are safe.
If you don’t have the time to visit Ghost Island Hashima, you can check out the Gunkanjima Digital Museum (near the Oura Church) to see the island through video presentations and VR experiences.
Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum
The building that houses Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum is a cool eco-friendly building designed by Kuma Kengo, who also designed the Olympic Stadium 2020 in Japan. The museum is located next to the lovely Nagasaki Seaside Park in Nagasaki harbor. You can see a wide collection of both arts from the Nagasaki area and Spain. They also have special international exhibitions.
You will find a nice cafe inside the bridge that runs over the canal.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 am – 18:00/ 6 pm, until 20:00/ 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Closed every second and fourth Monday every month.
- How To Get There: Take the tram to the Dejima tram stop or the Medical Center tram stop.
- Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum’s Webpage
Kofuku-Ji Temple in Nagasaki was the first Obaku Zen temple in Japan, established in 1620 by a Chinese priest. The temple was built to pray for the safety of Chinese traders and seafarers.
The temple is a typical Chinese temple in beautiful Chinese architecture, painted in bright colors like red with decorative red and yellow paper lanterns giving the temple a lovely atmosphere.
The temple is quite big, consisting of seven buildings. Daio Hoden, the main hall, dates back to 1632, although the building you see here today is from 1883. The main hall is of Chinese architectural style and unique in Japan. The building has beautiful circular windows, and a nice Ruri-to glass lantern is hanging from the roof inside, originally from Shanghai.
Maso-Do, Mazu Hall, is the main hall’s neighboring building, and a covered walkway connects these two. Mazu Hall is dedicated to honoring Mazu – the goddess of the sea. All Chinese ships had small portable Mazu shrines onboard, which they would store at the Mazu Hall when the ship was in the Nagasaki harbor. When they sailed out again, they would pick up the shrine from Mazu Hall and bring it back on board the ship.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm
- How To Get There: Take tram no. 3 (red), no. 4 (yellow), or no. 5 (green) to the Civic Hall stop (tram stop no. 38 on the yellow or green line, and 45 on the red line). It only takes about five minutes to walk from the Civic Hall tram stop to Kofuku-Ji Temple.
- Kofuku-Ji Temple’s Official Webpage
Koshibyo Confucius Shrine
Nagasaki Confucius Shrine, or Koshi-Byo, was constructed in 1893 in honor of the revered Chinese philosópher Confucius. His teachings are called Confucianism and one of the three traditional Chinese religions next to Taoism and Buddhism. The temple is painted in bright colors of red and with a yellow roof.
At the center of the shrine is a courtyard where you will find 72 white life-size stone states which depict Confucius disciples. The main hall has a seated statue of Confucius himself. There is a museum at the temple grounds, the Historical Museum of China, where you can see artifacts from China like Chinese pottery, arts, and sculptures.
- Opening Hours: 09:30 am – 18:00/ 6 pm
- Ticket Price: 660 JPY = US$ 6
- How To Get There: Take the green tram line no. 5 to Ouratenshudo tram stop. It is at the foot of the Dutch Slope.
Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium
If you love penguins as much as I, then a visit to Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium is a must. Nagasaki Aquarium has over 180 penguins and a beautiful Nature Zone/ beach area where the penguins swim in the sea. Here you can see and get up close to eight different penguin species, like Little Penguins and the King Penguins (can be up to 1 m tall). Make sure to be at the aquarium during the penguin feeding time which is four times a day (check their webpage to see when).
The aquarium is a 30-min bus ride or a 20 min taxi-ride outside downtown Nagasaki. It is not the biggest aquarium, but you can easily spend a couple of hours here.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 am – 17:00/ 5 pm every day
- Ticket Price: 520 JPY = US$5 (adult), 310 JPY = US$3 (child from 3 years old), free for children under 3 years old, and elderly over 60 years old.
- How To Get There: Take the bus from the “Eki-Mae Minami-Guchi” bus stop just outside the JR Nagasaki Station (walk across the pedestrian bridge). Jump on the bus bound for “Aba-Kasuga Shako-Mae”. Get off at the bus stop “Penguin Suizokukan-Mae”. The bus ride takes about 30 min. Or take a taxi (20 min drive).
- Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium’s Official Webpage
What To Eat In Nagasaki
As Nagasaki has a long history of being a European and Chinese trading port, the food is also influenced by this. These are some of the Nagaski specialties that you must try when visiting Nagasaki:
- Champon Ramen Noodles
A ramen dish typical for Nagaski. It consists of perfectly cooked thick noodles in a milky, salty based broth, with squid, pork, and vegetables.
Where: To taste the original Champon dish, head to Shikairou Restaurant. They are credited with the invention of Nagasaki’s champion dish and opened in 1899. The restaurant is located opposite Oura Cathedral.
A Chinese dish of delicious steamed buns filled with pork belly in a sweet sauce. You can often find this dish at street stalls in Nagasaki. We bought Kakuni-Manju at Nagasaki Station and had it for lunch onboard the train. It is perfect to bring with you.
Where: Iwasaki Honpo Restaurant is famous for its Kakuni Manju (located close to the Nagasaki Chinatown entrance).
Fried noodles, either thick or thin noodles, served in a soup. The noodles are topped with different toppings like seafood, cabbage, bean sprouts, and vegetables.
- Sasebo Burger
Nagasaki has its own twist to the regular hamburger, influenced by the American Navy Forces stationed in Sasebo in the 1950s. It usually has bacon and egg along with salad, tomato, and so on. Where: Hikari Restaurant, which opened in 1950, is said to have the best Sasebo burger in Nagasaki.
Turkish rice that combines spaghetti, rice, and pork meat, topped with curry sauce.
Where: Head to Tsuruchan Restaurant, which has been serving Toruko since 1925.
- Whale Meat
You can find all kinds of delicious seafood in the coastal city of Nagasaki, like whale meat. Whale meat is delicious and a must-try! Whale meat is common in our home country Norway and I love it.
- Shippoku Ryori
Nagasaki’s variant of a traditional Japanese Kaiseki dinner – A selection of different traditional dishes from Japan, China, and Western. It typically consists of 8-10 courses, and it is the perfect choice to taste the fusion dishes that Nagasaki is famous for. You can find Shippoku Ryori at traditional Japanese Ryotei restaurants.
Where: A great place to eat Shippoku Ryori is at Ryotei Kagetsu Restaurant (reservations only). Kagetsu has been serving Shippoku Ryori since 1642, and the restaurant has a lovely garden. Or head to Shippoku Hamakatsu for a cheaper option.
- Chirin-Chirin Ice Cream
Shaved ice with different flavors. You can buy this kind of ice cream from small carts around Nagasaki’s streets during spring, summer, and autumn.
Where: Carts around downtown Nagasaki, or at Glover Garden cafe.
- Castella Cake
A Portuguese sponge cake that looks like a yellow brick-stone. You can find this at cafes and kiosks all over town and at the train station.
Where: Two of the most famous Castella shops are Fukusaya (which has been making Castella cake since 1624), and Shokando (the supplier of Castella cake to the Japanese imperial family).
How To Get To Nagasaki
Getting To Nagasaki By Train
You can easily get to Nagasaki by train. The main train station in Nagasaki is called JR Nagasaki Station and is centrally located in the city. The direct high-speed Shinkansen bullet train line to Nagasaki is expected to be finished in 2023, and it will then be even easier to get to Nagasaki.
You can, however, take the Shinkansen line to Fukuoka city (Hakata Station). And from Fukuoka (Hakata Station), you can take an express train line to Nagasaki (a 2 hours train ride), covered by the JR Pass.
From Tokyo, you can take the JR Tokaido/ Sanyo to Fukuoka’s Hakata Station. At Hakata Station, you must transfer to the JR Kamome Limited Express Train to Nagasaki. The entire train journey from Tokyo to Nagasaki takes about 7-8 hours.
From Kyoto, it takes 5-6 hours to get to Nagasaki. It takes 5 hours from Kyoto Station to Nagasaki Station via Hakata Station in Fukuoka with the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen.
From Osaka, it takes 5-6 hours to get to Nagasaki. The shortest is about 1 h 54 min with Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station, via Hakata Station in Fukuoka to Nagasaki Station.
From Hiroshima, it takes 3-4 hours to get to Nagasaki. The shortest is 3 h with Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen from Hiroshima Station, via Shin-Tosu Station, to Nagasaki Station.
Getting To Nagasaki By Air
Nagasaki Airport is about 40 km (a 45 min bus or taxi ride) outside the city center of Nagasaki.
There are flights to and from Nagasaki Airport to a wide range of cities around Japan: Tokyo (both Haneda and Narita Airport), Osaka (both Itami and Kansai Airport), Fukue, Kobe, Naha, Nagoya, Tsushima, and Iki. There are also some international flights to and from Nagasaki Airport, like to/ from Shanghai and Hong Kong.
The flight time between Tokyo (Haneda or Narita Airport) is about two hours. However, it might be cheaper to fly to Fukuoka Airport instead of Nagasaki, as the competition is fiercer at to/ from Fukuoka. From Fukuoka Airport, you can take the bus to Nagasaki (departs every hour and takes 1,5 hours).
If you are arriving at Nagasaki airport, why not take away the stress from travel and enjoy the comfort, safety, and reliability of a private transfer between Nagasaki Airport and your accommodation in Nagasaki city center (45 min drive).
Getting To Nagasaki By Bus
Nagasaki’s main bus station, Kenei Bus Station, is just opposite Jar Nagasaki Station. From here, you can take the bus all over Japan. There is a night bus that takes you to Osaka in 10 hours.
How To Get Around Nagasaki
The best, easiest, and cheapest way to get around Nagaski is by tram. There are four tram lines in Nagasaki:
- Tram Line 1 – Blue
- Tram Line 3 – Red
- Tram Line 4 – Yellow
- Tram Line 5 – Green
You might wonder why there is no tram line no. 2, but this is only reserved for special events. It is easy to take the tram as all stops are signposted in English. The trams run until around 23:30/ 11:30 pm in the evenings.
It costs 130 JPY = US$ 1,3 for an adult and 70 JPY = US$ 0,7 for a child to travel anywhere in town on the tram. Or you can opt for the unlimited all-day tram pass, which costs 500 JPY = US$ 5 for an adult or 250 JPY = US$ 2,4 for a child.
Nagasaki City Bus
There are city buses that take you to the wider area of Nagasaki city, but they are not user-friendly if you don’t speak Japanese as all signposts are in Japanese.
An airport bus departs from the Shinchi bus terminal that takes you to Nagasaki Airport in 45 min.
You can rent bicycles at the JR Nagasaki Station, at the Eki Rent-a-Car. The bikes are electric. As Nagasaki is a pretty hilly city, it is not ideal for exploring on a bike, but it is doable. If you have a JR Pass, you can a 20% discount when renting a bike.
Where To Stay In Nagasaki
Nagasaki does not have that many amazing hotels, they are all just very standard Japanese chain hotels with nothing extra or unique about them. The city lacks luxury five-star hotels and those special, cozy, and charming ryokans and boutique hotels.
To tell you the truth, we actually struggled with finding a decent place to stay in Nagasaki. It was the city in Japan where we found it most difficult to find a place we wanted to stay. After a lot of research, we ended up staying at Richmond Hotel Nagasaki which turned out to be okay.
Richmond Hotel Nagasaki Shianbashi
We stayed at Richmond Hotel, a modern and comfortable hotel that is ranked as no. 1 on TripAdvisor. The hotel has a central location in downtown Nagasaki, only a short walk from Chinatown, Dejima, and the harbor. The Shianbashi tram station is only a couple of min walk from the hotel, very convenient for getting around the city. The rooms are of decent size, although I think we probably got the smallest room at the hotel. 🙂
The room has everything you need like an electric kettle, TV, and a fridge. We also liked that the hotel has coin washing and drying machines, luggage storage service, vending machines, and microwaves for the guests to use. There are lots of restaurants, bars, and cafes in the area around the hotel.
Or you can eat at the hotel restaurant which we did one night, and the food was delicious. The hotel restaurant serves several local must-try dishes typical for Nagasaki, like Sara-Udon noodles, Kakuni-Man (pork in a steamed bun), Chirashi-Sushi, and Goto-Udon noodles.
Click here for the latest prices
JR Kyushu Hotel Nagasaki
Located right on the central JR Nagasaki Railway Station, on the top floor (just take the escalator up), the Kyushu Hotel has a convenient location for accessing the trains, trams, buses, taxis, and downtown Nagasaki. The train station is also a shopping mall, so you will find convenience stores, restaurants, cafes (like Starbucks), pubs, and shopping right outside the hotel.
There is a great food court on the 5th floor of the station. And you can walk to the center of Nagasaki in 10-15 min. The rooms are comfortable and some have a wonderful view over the bay.
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Nisshokan Bettei Kyotei Ryokan
If you are looking for a unique stay in Nagasaki, you should go for Nisshokan Bettei Kyotei which is a ryokan/ traditional Japanese inn. This ryokan has a beautiful location up on the hillside with lovely views of Nagasaki city. It is only a 5-min drive from JR Nagasaki Station, and the hotel provides a free shuttle for its guests.
Like many ryokans, also this one has a public hot tub bath/ onsen. Here you can soak down in the hot water and relax after a day of sightseeing around Nagasaki while enjoying the spectacular city view. In the morning you get to try a delicious Japanese breakfast consisting of many different small dishes. In the evening you can book a traditional Japanese dinner at the ryokan. The rooms are big and have a small balcony.
Click here for the latest prices
Route Cafe & Petit Hostel
A cute little hipster-like hostel with private single bed cabins and bigger family rooms for a group of friends or family. Some rooms have a kitchen with a microwave, fridge, and a stovetop. The hostel also has a shared kitchen and luggage storage. You can easily walk to JR Nagasaki Station in about 10 min from the hostel.
Click here for the latest prices
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