Nagasaki City Guide

The wonderful port city of Nagasaki is one of the great cultural treasures of Japan’s Kyushu Island.

Revered for its openness, the city has been at the centre of Japan’s trade and foreign relations for centuries – earning it the affectionate title of ‘the gateway to the world’.

Yet, for all Nagasaki’s noteworthy cultural highlights, there’s no getting away from the city’s dark moments. It was here, in 1945, where an atomic bomb killed thousands of people, and decimated much of the city’s historic architecture. Since then, the city has been rebuilt and its population has recovered, which is a great testament to the strength and resilience of its people.

Today, Nagasaki has retained its welcoming atmosphere, with the legacy of the atomic bomb bringing locals and visitors together in a collective hope for peace. Encircled by mountains and coastline, the city is beloved for its serene natural beauty – making it the perfect place to revel in picture-postcard Japan.

If you’re counting the days until your visit to the land of the rising sun, discover the highlights of Nagasaki in our in-depth visitor guide, where we’ll be exploring the city’s architecture, culture, history and food.

Architectural Highlights

Despite suffering widespread damage in the bombing of 1945, Nagasaki has retained a distinct skyline where the old and the new intermingle. Discover some of the city’s best-loved buildings and architecture below.

Dejima

Dejima port

Established in the 17th century as a trading post for overseas business, Dejima is an artificial island on the edge of Nagasaki’s influential natural harbour. The island comprises of many historic buildings, several of which have been lovingly restored to reflect how they might have looked in the 17th and 18th centuries. One of the most prominent of these heritage buildings is the Dejima Protestant Seminary, a two-storey building constructed in 1877 that remains one of the foremost Christian centres in Japan.

Suwa Shrine

Suwa Shrine, Nagasaki

Established in the 17th century as a trading post for overseas business, Dejima is an artificial island on the edge of Nagasaki’s influential natural harbour. The island comprises of many historic buildings, several of which have been lovingly restored to reflect how they might have looked in the 17th and 18th centuries. One of the most prominent of these heritage buildings is the Dejima Protestant Seminary, a two-storey building constructed in 1877 that remains one of the foremost Christian centres in Japan.

Oura Cathedral

Oura Church

One of the great Christian monuments of Japan, Oura Cathedral was built in 1865 under the instruction of French priest, who was dispatched by the Foreign Missionary Church of Paris to erect a Christian monument in homage to the saints martyred at Nagasaki’s Nishizaka Hill. Inspired by the Gothic style cathedrals and palaces of Europe, Oura is distinct among the city’s traditional Japanese buildings, and features stained glass windows which have been restored since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. The church was designated a National Treasure of Japan in 1933, and is now one of the great cultural mainstays of the city.

Cultural Features

From its golden era during the Age of Discovery to its poignant WWII legacy, much has influenced the culture of Nagasaki.

Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

The Atomic Bomb Museum is a poignant reminder of the darkest hour in Nagasaki’s history, when a nuclear bomb killed or injured 150,000 people, and all but wiped the city from the map. The museum documents the fateful day in which the world’s most powerful bomb was dropped, as well as the aftermath and how, through great strength and a remarkable spirit of survival, local people were able to recover and rebuild what was lost. It showcases a fascinating and essential part of Nagasaki’s history, demonstrating the horrors of war and the remarkable spirit of human endurance.

Nagasaki Peace Park

Built close to the centre of the atomic bomb blast zone, the Nagasaki Peace Park is an important monument which both commemorates those who died and represents Japan’s collective hope for world peace. The park features several statues and sculptures from local artists, including the Peace Statue, whose designer, Seibou Kitamura, claims the work was inspired by the divine love and peace of Buddha. The park is a poignant and emotional place to visit, and it’s difficult not to picture the destruction which once engulfed the area. An essential heritage site to experience on your visit to Nagasaki.

Mt. Inasa Observation Platform

Rising to a height of 333 metres in the heart of Nagasaki, the Mt Inasa Observation Platform is a wonderful place to enjoy 360° views of the city and its surrounding mountainous landscape. Beloved by locals for its springtime blossom, the observation deck lies in the Mount Inasa National Park, one of Nagasaki’s most beautiful outdoor spaces. From the glass viewing deck, visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the city, as well as its coastline and mountains.

Culinary Delights

From the delicious local favourite of okonomiyaki to the colourful customs of izakaya; discover some of the exciting cuisine and local flavours that you can expect in Nagasaki.

http://eat-nagasaki.info/at.php?lang=en

 

Izakaya

Like most cities in Japan, Nagasaki has its fair share of Izakaya – a type of small, comfortable eatery that’s similar to the pubs and bars we have in the UK. This is a place where local people come to relax and unwind after a busy day, socialising over a bottle of beer and, of course, a plate of delicious local cuisine. Expect everything from sashimi, tempura and udon in these intimate and cosy eateries – it’s the ultimate local dining experience during your visit to Nagasaki.

Where to try it

It doesn’t matter which izakaya you choose, because a warm welcome and delicious food are all but guaranteed. If you’re keen to try this local favourite on your visit to Nagasaki, take a look at the city’s recommended list of local izakaya restaurants.

Anywhere

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is a delicious savoury dish that’s often translated as a ‘how-you-like-it -pancake’, with a variety of different toppings available including octopus, kimchi, pork and shrimp. It’s a local favourite for a lunchtime treat, and is usually enjoyed in special restaurants dedicated to okonomiyaki. The dish is prepared on special iron griddles called ‘teppan’, and is often compared to a pizza in that it’s not folded like a regular pancake, but served flat with the fillings arranged on top.

Where to try it

Okonomiyaki is hugely popular in cities across western Japan, and Nagasaki is no exception. You’ll find many restaurants specialising in this regional classic, but if you don’t get the opportunity to try it, you can always have a go at making it back home with this delicious and faithful recipe.

Try it at home

Ramen

Despite being one of Japan’s most popular dishes, ramen was actually imported from China. It’s a noodle soup dish that’s beloved by locals and visitors alike for its fragrant flavour and street-food affordability. There are lots of different types of ramen to choose from, including shoyu, shio, miso and tonkotsu, and you’ll find restaurants and vendors throughout Nagasaki serving up their take on this Asian classic.