Stepping into the area where Glover Garden is located is a bit like stepping into another country. European-style architecture line the streets, leading up to a sprawling open-air museum located up a hill. I hadn’t been able to read up about Glover Garden beforehand so I didn’t know what to expect, but certainly not a little Western garden paradise that is perfect for a springtime stroll.
Glover Garden is name after a Scottish merchant named Thomas Blake Glover. In 1863, he built his home on the Minami-Yamate Hill. Nagasaki as a port town had become a center of commerce and new ideas brought in by the many foreigners that landed on its shores. It had become a hub where foreigners who wanted to share their knowledge for innovation would meet with Japanese students and patriots who dreamed of using the said knowledge to make a brighter future for Japan.
When Thomas Blake Glover first arrived in Japan in 1859, his focus was really on trading Japanese green tea. Eventually though, Glover used his resources to aid the Meiji Restoration government in toppling the Tokugawa Shogunate by providing them with weapons and warships. However it was after the war that his contributions are considered to have a lasting effect. His contributions were in fact big enough to have a whole place named after him. Glover Garden is the proof.
In 1865, Thomas Blake Glover brought in Japan’s first steam locomotive, alongside several cars which he proceeded to demonstrate in the nearby Oura district in Nagasaki. This was the first time Japan became aware of the magic of railway transportation. After that, he commissioned the building of several naval ships. By this time, Glover had become a key figure in the industrialization of Japan. He was actually one of the original founders of what we now know as Mitsubishi Corporation, as well as the brewery company we now know as Kirin Brewery Company, Ltd.
Before his death, Glover was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun for his contributions to the development of Japan. Although he died in Tokyo, he was buried in Nagasaki, a place he had considered his home and where he had built his European manor.
Because Glover Garden is situated on a hill, it gives one a stunning view of Nagasaki Harbor on one side, and the cityscape on the other. Standing at the veranda on the second floor of the manor, the views are absolutely gorgeous. The Manor itself is well-maintained and houses a gallery retelling the story of Japan’s industrialization and Glover’s participation in it. There are also some bits and bobs of old things that belonged to the Glover family inside. (He married a Japanese woman and had a child.)
The entire Glover Garden is a romantic and picturesque place to stroll. What’s interesting to me is the fact that the Glover house was believed to have inspired Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera ‘Madame Butterfly‘. There are even statues of Puccini and the award-winning diva who played Cio-Cio-san from 1915 to 1920, Miura Tamaki, within the garden grounds as a sort of homage. The story of ‘Madame Butterfly‘ is a tragic one, and yet it is one of the most iconic operas that has ever been made. The other name of the Glover house is actually ‘Madame Butterfly House‘.
Even without knowing the history of Glover Garden, it is possible to enjoy exploring this place just taking in all the beauty of nature, the cherry blossoms, and just the general loveliness of the place. However, knowing even just the basics about why Glover Garden is significant to Nagasaki as a tourist spot in the first place makes the experience more meaningful. That’s what I think anyway.
I personally wish I had researched a little bit before coming here. I feel like I would’ve seen this place in a different light. So many interesting stories are attached to Glover Garden! And what a gorgeous place it is, truly.
Before you fully exit Glover Garden proper and arrive at the Glover Garden Street, you pass by this audiovisual area located right before the gift shop. This is the Museum of Traditional Performing Arts where you get to see displays of different traditional costumes and things used in the annual Kunchi Festival. You are encouraged to learn about it through the video shown here, although the festival is actually held in October.
Glover Garden Street & Seifudo
Stepping out of Glover Garden, you will feel like you’ve stepped into yet another European village, this time filled with eateries standing side by side. We spent a good amount of time here trying out different things, from pumpkin-flavored soft-serve ice cream to steamed buns filled with juicy chashu. Every purchase funnily comes with a disclaimer: If a seagull snatches up your food, then sorry! Remember that this place is near a port/wharf, so there are many food-grabbing seagulls flying around. Proceed eating out on the street with caution!
One thing that I highly recommend having in Nagasaki is the castella cake. It was first introduced to Nagasaki by Portuguese settlers (thus you will find Portuguese egg tarts also quite popular here) but it has since been embraced by Japan and is now widely associated with Nagasaki.
Normally, I am not a fan of that super sweet cake, but Nagasaki does castella really well. You can actually buy castella ice cream sandwiches, which are pretty dang good because the creamy ice cream does a great job cutting through the sweetness of the cake, but if you only have time to hit up one place, make it Seifudo.
Seifudo is an old shop that specializes in castella cake. You can literally go crazy with their flavor options. You can taste as much of the different flavors as you want, and then make a decision which to buy. OR you can buy the assorted set that comes in a very pretty box with a drawing of Madame Butterfly on it.
It’s the perfect souvenir gift, though you will probably want to keep most to yourself. That’s what we ended up doing. We popped the castella cakes in the freezer to keep them for longer and enjoyed them for many months after our trip to Nagasaki!
All the flavors- from classic, chocolate, orange, to matcha- are in that box. Unfortunately, my favorite flavor does not come in the set for some strange reason. I suppose because it’s a more expensive one? It’s actually their Earl Grey Castella Cake. My second favorite would be the matcha. The best thing about these cakes is that they are nuanced. The sweetness does not overpower the flavors of the cakes, and the crumb is super soft and fluffy and delicious. Frankly, Seifudo have the best castella cake I have tried on all my trips to Japan. They pair well with hot tea, but really, as a coffee addict, I eat their castella cake with coffee.
I don’t really have too many photos from Nagasaki to make dedicated posts for each location we went to, but I could not resist writing this one for Glover Garden. It’s too pretty there not to snap photos, and I would have felt bad keeping said photos to myself. I hope you guys enjoyed this post. I didn’t want to make it too wordy because I wanted to highlight the photos and the feeling of being there through them. Until my next travel diary!
This post is part of my ‘6 Things to Do on a Daytrip to Nagasaki’ list. Read more on that here.
8-１ Minamiyamatemachi, Nagasaki, 850-0931,
Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan
Hours: 8 AM to 6 PM
Contact No.: +81 95-822-8223
Tickets: Adult- 610 yen / Children- 180 yen
2-6 Minamiyamatemachi, Nagasaki 850-093,
Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan
Hours: 9 AM to 6 PM
Contact No.: +81 95-825-8541
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