With its predominant place in the history books, Nagasaki is one of the most impressive places to visit in all of Japan. The scenic beauty of the city sprawling over the mountains, the contrasting themes of a successful trading post town and devastation of the atomic bomb blast, and the intricacies of a culturally open-minded society, make this port city a jewel for travelers, and one of our top destinations in Japan.
To the south, the city’s historical success as a trading and ship-building mecca is evident. Thanks to its ideal coastal location and proximity to other parts of Asia, Nagasaki has played a significant role for centuries as a trading post, and the connection between Japan and the world. The Portuguese loved trading in the city and introduced castella cake and tempura to Japan. During the Edo Period the island of Dejima was created as the only port in Japan open to Dutch tradesmen; this left a clear mark on the city’s industry, its architecture, and society. From a traveler's perspective, this is one of the main themes to explore in the city. Places to visit here include the Glover House, the Dutch Slope, Dejima, and the harbour area.
To the north, a more somber historical aspect has shaped the character of Nagasaki. The district of Heiwamachi (Peace Town), the location where the second atomic bomb fell in Japan in 1945, is built around this shocking moment in history. As shocking as it is though, it is a beautiful area filled with parks and monuments that serve as a reminder of the devastating event but also of the peaceful future ahead. As a visitor, you’ll want to dedicate at least half a day to this part of town. To get a full sense of the impact the bomb had in the city, you must visit the Peace Park, Nagasaki’s Atomic Bomb Museum, and the Atomic Bomb Epicenter.
Aside from the trading and war aspects, Nagasaki has other equally appealing and beautiful sites to offer. Using the quaint tram system, visitors can explore the city’s downtown and the Hanamachi areas. Here, Nagasaki shows off its more traditional side as well as the influence of the old Chinese settlement. Sites to visit here include: Chinatown, the Megane Bridge, and Sofukuji Temple, a rare Chinese zen temple. At night time, the Shianbashi and Doza districts are the go-to places for a slow drink. Out of the city and into the water, the iconic Gunkanjima or Battleship island awaits.
Nagasaki is a city that slowly pulls you in. The more you take the time to explore its slopes and its narrow streets the more you want to see. And when you finish exploring, take the ropeway up to Mount Inasa and enjoy the beauty of Nagasaki as a whole laid out before you.