Tour Nagasaki in One Day
Nagasaki is a medium-sized Japanese city of about 450,000 people. It is located on the western coast of Kyushu Island, the southern most of the three main islands of Japan. The city is well-known for being the sight of the second atomic bomb dropped during the Second World War, but Nagasaki has a long, rich and fascinating history which gives it a unique character among Japanese cities.
During the Tokugawa period of Japanese history (16th-19th centuries), the rulers of Japan practiced a national isolationist policy. Most trade with outside nations was expressly forbidden. Nagasaki was one of the few ports open to such trade, and it was serviced mostly by Dutch traders. In the early 20th century, as East Asia was in the midst of modernizing, Chinese businessmen sought to strength ties with Japanese businesses in Nagasaki. They established a number of businesses and banks in the area. This international influence from the Dutch and Chinese can still be seen throughout Nagasaki.
For a city of its size, Nagasaki is an amazingly walkable city. It's possible to walk from one end to the other in a matter of hours, but it is often faster to take a ride on the historic streetcars which run along many of the main thoroughfares. Using the streetcars or taxis, it is possible to comfortably take in much of what Nagasaki has to offer over the course of one day following a recommended course.
Starting in the morning, the first recommended stop on the tour is the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park. Located next to one another, these two destinations tell about Nagasaki bombing and the horrors of the aftermath. The museum contains a large number of artifacts which show the devastation caused by the atomic bomb. Exploring the history and seeing these artifacts really helps one understand the event in more depth.
The Peace Park includes many sculptures dedicated from artists around the world for the promotion of peace. Perhaps the most captivating pieces in the park are a tall black sculpture depicting the hypocenter of the explosion (where the bomb exploded) and the lone standing corner of an old church building close to the hypocenter. This really makes one really that had they been standing there all those years ago, then they would no longer be around today.
Returning to the center of the city, Dejima Wharf provides a nice place along Nagasaki Bay to relax, grab a bite to eat, and reflect upon Nagasaki's past. The wharf was to be a Dutch trading post in the mid-17th century until the mid-19th century. Today it's a collection of shops and restaurants arranged along the side of the bay. After a quick meal and browsing the shops, a walk through the large bayside park adjacent to the wharf can prepare you for the Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum.
The museum is located directly adjacent to Dejima Wharf and the park. The building was featured in Architecture Week, and it is constructed in two main wings with an indoor bridge crossing over one of the small canals. The museum has permanent collections of Spanish artwork and works related to Nagasaki, and it occasionally hosts touring exhibits.
A short hop from the art museum is Glover Street. This is where the Dutch heritage of Nagasaki is most alive. The street climbs a small hill, and it's lined with builds that have a clear Dutch influence in their architecture. There are shops along the street selling Dutch related memorabilia to sightseers, and at the top of the hill sits Glover Garden. These gardens were built for the Scottish entrepreneur, Thomas Glover, and contains the Glover Residence -- Japan's oldest surviving Western home.
If one is still feeling energetic after taking the tour above, which can easily be completed in a day at a leisurely pace, it's possible to visit any number of other destinations throughout the city. There is a large shopping arcade, a Chinatown, many temples, a beautiful river through the city with many interesting bridges across it and koi swimming along, and at Nagasaki Station there is a medium-sized shopping mall with a movie theater.
With many other destinations, a trip to the city could easily extend to 3-5 days and there would be plenty to do. But, the tour outlined above will give one a great grasp of what this beautiful and diverse city has to offer.