Most famous for the catastrophic nuclear bombing on August 9, 1945, Nagasaki is home to two memorials that attract hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. The Atomic Bomb Museum offers heartfelt testimonials of the devastation brought from war. There are also displays of photographs and artifacts as well as videos detailing this tragic event in world history. Just below the museum grounds is a green space along the river marking the hypocenter of the bomb that killed over 80,000 people on impact in an almost three-mile radius. Many more would die over the next few months. Another mandatory stop is Peace Memorial Park where a 33-foot-tall and massive “Peace Statue” dominates fountains and other sculptures from artists around the world.
There are several other must-see attractions while visiting Nagasaki. Perhaps nowhere more evident of the city’s international feel is Glover Garden, Nagasaki’s most-visited tourist attraction and the location of Japan’s oldest Western-style house. Besides the mansions and museums, it’s a tribute to Thomas Blake Glover, the spectacular Scottish visionary who helped modernize Japan in the 19th century.
Glover is forever immortalized in the 7th-most performed opera of all time, Madame Butterfly. The famous opera by Puccini was fashioned after Glover and events in 1890 in Nagasaki. In the Glover Garden rests the statue of actress Tamaki Miura, who became an international superstar for her performance as Cio-Cio in Madame Butterfly. The Japanese opera singer debuted in London in 1915 and became a touring sensation throughout Europe and America.
From the hilltop of Glover Garden, one can enjoy panoramic views of Nagasaki Harbor just beyond the beautifully landscaped grounds. Our ship, the Sapphire Princess, which was docked in the harbor, was manufactured in 2004, right here in the Mitsubishi Shipyard, located in Nagasaki.
While not used as a house of worship any longer, the Oura Catholic Church is the oldest remaining church in all of Asia. It is also known as the Church of the 26 Martyrs, named after the Christians who were persecuted because they were seen as a threat to the royal governing system of Japan. The church was built by the French in 1597 and was the first Western building dubbed a National Treasure.
From its roots in the 1100’s as a sleepy fishing village, Nagasaki has emerged as an international and beautiful city. Because it rests on a series of hills, overlooking the bay, it is often compared to San Francisco. Both cities also have similar street cars.
In 1543, a Portuguese merchant vessel began to change the landscape, opening up trade between Japan and Europe. Later, the Dutch would set up regional trading quarters here. Europeans brought many benefits, but also were changing the face of Nagasaki culture. That’s how Dejima came into being. Dejima literally means “protruding island.” In a superhuman engineering feat, this fan-shaped land mass was constructed by hand in 1643. Originally, it was a center at first for Portuguese clerics, then, later, a residential and business center for Dutch merchants. Today, it’s a National Historic Site where visitors can tour old warehouses and European living quarters.
Nagasaki is the largest city and capital of its prefecture, Nagasaki, which means “long cape.” It sits on the southwestern tip of the island of Kyushu. With a population of almost one-and-a-half million, Nagasaki is the wettest major city in Japan, getting about six feet yearly.
In addition to benefitting from an abundance of seafood and local delicacies, Nagasaki boasts a unique cuisine that benefits from Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese influences. Besides introducing tempura to Japan, the Portuguese also brought panko, Japan’s traditional crispy breadcrumb coating. A popular Japanese light sponge cake made of sugar, flour, eggs and starch syrup, Castella makes a popular souvenir gift and is readily available at virtually every souvenir stand.
Hamano-machi is the biggest shopping street in the city and is within walking distance of the port. We strolled the picturesque narrow pedestrian lane and shopped after lunching at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on a menu of traditional sushi and tempura. Then we took a taxi to see the famous Spectacle Bridge, which looks like a pair of eye glasses due to the reflection of the double semi-circles in the water. Taxi doors are automatic and are operated by the driver. After a short walk through Chinatown, we made our way back to our ship.