It’s always nice when you get to travel to a place like Japan, where all the different prefectures and cities are interconnected by trains. It pushes you to explore more because it almost becomes too easy. Without a doubt, this convenience in traveling is one of the things I love most about Japan. You can go to places on a whim if you wanted to! Our day-trip to catch spring in Nagasaki was sort of on a whim too. Being there felt totally different compared to the places we visited in Fukuoka.
[READ: 5 Places to see cherry blossoms in Fukuoka]
Nagasaki is famous for being the last city in the world to experience an atomic bombing during World War II. While I believe that this part of its history is something that is important to learn, there is also so much more to Nagasaki than this label. Spring in Nagasaki also means gorgeous cherry blossoms in various parks and gardens, albeit in a more solemn setting than anywhere else I’ve ever visited in Japan.
Cherry blossoms aside, I will now share with you some other highly recommended things to do on a day-trip to Nagasaki. We’re not going to stray too far from Nagasaki Station with this one, but not to worry, there are still lots to see and appreciate, as you can probably tell from the video below. Keep scrolling for more information about the different activities I mentioned in the video!
Nagasaki is just a little over 150 kilometers away from Fukuoka, which makes it a very feasible option for a little day-trip from Fukuoka City.
- By train: From Fukuoka’s JR Hakata Station, take the JR Limited Express Train to Nagasaki Station. The trip will take about 2 hours, with 1 to 2 trains available every hour. Regular tickets cost 4,190 yen one-way (unreserved seating). You can also avail the group tickets which cost around 6,180 yen for 2 travelers and 11,000 yen for groups of 4 (one-way).
- By bus: From Fukuoka’s Hakata Station Tenjin Bus Center, take the Nishitetsu Highway Bus to Nagasaki Station. The trip will take about 2.5 hours, but is a little cheaper at 2,570 yen one-way. Buses run every 15 minutes.
- By arranged tour: You can also take an arranged tour like this one from KKDay. Tours like these will transport you to and from Fukuoka, although you obviously have no control over the amount of time spent in each location of your trip. (Usually starts and ends at Hakata Station.)
1. Visit solemn Nagasaki Peace Park
The first place to hit up on your day-trip would be the Nagasaki Peace Park to see the iconic Peace Statue. This memorial park is dedicated to the victims of the atomic bomb explosion. Apart from the most iconic one, it is filled with may other statues donated by different countries as a symbol of solidarity and peace.
The main sculpture at the park’s northern end is a 10-meter-tall work created by Seibo Kitamura from Nagasaki. The statue’s right hand is pointed up to refer to the threat of nuclear weaponry, while his left extended in this way symbolizes eternal peace. His closed eyes mean he is in prayer for the souls of the bomb victims. His folded leg represents meditation, while the extended leg represents his desire to stand and protect the people. He is sitting atop a stone platform where a black marble vault containing the names of the atomic bomb victims may be seen.
The rest of the park is filled with peace symbols, mostly of statues lined up like in a museum. Here you may see beautiful works of art from Portugal, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Germany, The Netherlands, and so on. It’s always nice when people come together despite their differences in the name of world peace. You can spend a good amount of time looking through all the sculptures carefully. While many of the bigger statues are concentrated in one area, there are monuments in other areas of the park as well. My favorite sculpture is ‘The Maiden of Peace’ from China.
One of the most interesting and dreadful things here is the Fountain of Peace. Although we see it now as a beautiful fountain dedicated to the victims of the bombings who died searching for water, the engraving at the front is what hits the hardest. It says: “I was thirsty beyond endurance. There was something oily on the surface of the water, but I wanted water so badly that I drank it just as it was.” These words were taken from the poem written by a young survivor of the bombing, who had been so thirsty she settled for drinking the oil that sprouted from the ground in this very area because it was all she could find.
If there is one very important thing this trip to Nagasaki has done to me, it’s that it grounded me very much.
Location: Can be easily accessed from JR Nagasaki Station via Tram lines 1 or 3. Closest tram stop is Peace Park or Heiwa Koen.
2. Learn history at the Atomic Bomb Museum
If you are not the type of person who is able to handle horrific images of war, it might be very difficult for you to see the photographs in this museum. This city does not make itself forget. It remembers the exact time and it remembers all the lives that were lost during that terrible atomic bombing that saw over 200,000 people dead. I’m not here to argue about whose fault it was and whether it was responsible to drop that missile for the greater good or whatever, because I firmly believe, whichever side you are on, there is no arguing that this bomb ruined the lives of so many civilians— these people, these… women, these children, who were simply trying to go on with their lives despite the war.
This museum, to me, exists as a reminder that war brings nothing but grief and destruction. Whichever side you are on. Whether you were the victor or the loser, war is death. Any time I have to be in a place like this I can’t help but feel heartbroken. Until now, looking at the photographs and sifting through my memories of being here, I get chills. Learning about the aftereffects, it’s not hard to understand that World War II was one of the darker ages in human history. And yet, I still think that learning about the past, though depressing, will help us shape a better future– hopefully one that does not see a repeat of this.
I felt really weird taking pictures inside the museum so I don’t have many to share, but I was really struck by this little collection of student artworks about peace and love.
Location: The Atomic Bomb Museum is located at the top of the hill above the Hypocenter Park, across the street from the Nagasaki Peace Park.
3. Stroll around Glover Garden
The Glover Garden compound is made up of a series of buildings and gardens that are obviously influenced by Western architecture. Sitting atop a hill, it offers a gorgeous view of Nagasaki Bay, as well as of the city itself. Named after Scottish businessman Thomas Blake Glover, the structures here in Glover Garden were built around his house. It is the same house that is believed to be the inspiration for the opera Madame Butterfly. Regardless of whether you come here knowing about Glover Garden’s history, it is a stunning place to be.
Believe it or not, we actually met a man claiming to be a descendant of Thomas Blake Glover right by his bust.
[READ: Snapshots from Glover Garden]
Location: Closest tram stop is Ouratenshudo, via Tram line 5.
4. Enjoy snacking along Glover Street
Glover Street, or Glover Garden Street, is a long stretch of shops situated right along the main street leading to Glover Garden. Although there are some souvenirs being sold along this road, the highlight for me was definitely the food shops. You get options for both sweet and savory snacks here. Funny thing the shopkeepers remind you about if you choose to eat your snacks outside: BEWARE OF SEAGULLS! They apparently have a habit of snatching up unsuspecting tourists’ snacks!
One of the specialties not to be missed, especially if you have a sweet tooth, is Nagasaki’s castella cake. It’s a sweet and fluffy chiffon cake that comes in various flavors. The best that I tried here in Nagasaki is from a shop called Sei-fu-do. The classic isn’t quite my favorite because I find it a bit too sweet, but their matcha and earl grey castella cakes are fabulous!
If you’re in the mood for ice cream, there are also shops beside Sei-fu-do that sell castella ice cream sandwiches! Yum!
Location: Right outside Glover Garden
5. Bask in the evening views at Inasayama
Mount Inasa or Inasayama is probably the closest mountain to the Nagasaki city center you can visit for an evening view. Actually, the view from up here has been ranked among the top three in Japan, so I do think it’s worth a visit especially if you enjoy watching the sun set over a cityscape. One by one, the twinkling lights of the city turn on until it’s all that you can see. I’m a bit of a sucker for these kinds of views admittedly, so I quite enjoyed my time here. There is also a short light show up here that was fairly enjoyable.
You can get to Inasayama by ropeway, bus, or car. We came up here by bus and were dropped off pretty close to the observatory building. It’s not a long climb to the top actually.
Location: The closest bus stop to Insayama is Insayama Station. Buses run 1 to 2 times per hour from Nagasaki Station.
6. Enjoy Nagasaki specialties like Champon
Even though Nagasaki had been occupied by the Portuguese, its status as a major Japanese port city allowed it to have open contact with many different trading countries all over the world. Specifically, Nagasaki became a hub for Chinese traders and Chinese students who came to Japan for education. Restaurants started serving Chinese dishes and Nagasaki eventually became known as the home of the Nagasaki champon, a noodle dish said to have originated in Fujian, China.
The champon is actually quite a filling dish, mostly because it is made up of a large assortment of things aside from the noodles. It can be any mixture of chicken, pork, seafood, and vegetables, in a broth that is lighter than that of ramen noodles. The soup is even milk actually.
It’s not very rare to see restaurants serving up some Portuguese egg tarts either. You can certainly see the jumble of influences in the regional cuisine offered by Nagasaki!
Location: You can try some Nagasaki champon from this restaurant recommended by Will Fly For Food!
I hope this post was helpful in convincing you to pay a little visit to Nagasaki should you find yourself in Fukuoka one day. I actually made a little sample 4-day Fukuoka itinerary that includes a day allotted for Nagasaki. It’s just to give you an idea of what you could do in the area. Nagasaki has its own unique charms, and I definitely learned a lot more than I expected after a trip here.