Nagasaki is located on the island of Kyushu in western Japan. As the only trading port open to the outside world during the national isolation period in the Edo era, it was heavily influenced by European culture. Today, it is known as Japan’s most international city, with an exotic East-meets-West culture, evident from its architecture, landscape, and even cuisine. Accessible within 2 hours by train from Fukuoka, visit Nagasaki for a perfect day trip. Read on for the best itinerary to complete Nagasaki in a day:
Getting to Nagasaki from Fukuoka
From Fukuoka’s Hakata Station, the fastest way to reach Nagasaki Station is by JR limited express train. The first train departs Hakata Station at 5.58 am and arrives at Nagasaki Station at 8.01 am, with 1 or 2 trains departing every hour. It costs 4,190 JPY (40.70 USD) for an unreserved seat and about 4,500 JPY (43.70 USD) for a reserved seat. Save some money by travelling with others, because there are discounted sets for 2 (Ni-mai-kippu) and for 4 (Yon-mai-kippu). These discounted sets cost 6,180 JPY (60 USD) and 11,000 JPY (106.85 USD) respectively. If you hold a Japan Rail Pass or Kyushu Rail Pass, do note that the trip is fully covered.
Alternatively, if you are travelling solo or wish to opt for something cheaper, take the Nishitetsu highway bus instead. The buses operate every 15 minutes between Fukuoka (Hakata Station, Tenjin Bus Center) and Nagasaki Station, with hourly connections to and from Fukuoka Airport. One or two buses also depart Hakata Station every hour and the first bus departs at 5.59 am and arrives Nagasaki at 8.29 am. For an additional 30 minutes on your journey when compared to the train, the fare is lower, at 2,570 JPY (25 USD).
Once you reach the main Nagasaki Station, the city is best explored by tram and by foot. As you can see from the map, major attractions are located close to one another, about 5 minutes away by tram from the main station. Do remember to pick up a tourist map at the tourist information office when you arrive at Nagasaki Station. Let’s set off now for an exciting day in the international city!
1. Visit Gunkanjima (Battleship Island)
Gunkanjima, which means Battleship Island in Japanese, is a small deserted island of concrete ruins about 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) from Nagasaki Port. It used to be home to over 5,000 residents, serving as a coal mine until April 1974. Due to lack of care for deteriorating structures caused by typhoons, the island has looked eerie since then. It was closed to the public because of the danger of collapsing structures until April 2009.
Now, you can visit the ruins of Battleship Island with a sightseeing boat tour. There are a few boat tour companies that you can sign up with, with prices ranging from 3,600 to 4,600 JPY (35 to 44.70 USD) for a 3-hour round-trip tour. For everyone’s safety, you can only visit the island if you join a tour group because of the risk of crumbling buildings. Furthermore, tours may be cancelled on bad weather days because Gunkanjima is surrounded by treacherous waters. Keep your fingers crossed that you will get to witness this fascinating island with your own eyes!
Address: 11-22 Motofunamachi, Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture
Price: 3,600 JPY (35 USD)
Opening Hours: 8.30 am - 5 pm. Closed on public holidays
Duration: Around 3 hours required
Access: 2-minute walk from Ohato tram station, 2 stops away from Nagasakieki-mae (line no. 1)
Contact: +81 95-827-2470
2. Have a scrumptious lunch at Nagasaki Chinatown
It’s time for lunch after the intriguing 3-hour Gunkanjima cruise. Make your way to Nagasaki Chinatown, also known as Shinchi Chinatown, for the popular local noodle dishes, champon and sara udon. Although Shinchi Chinatown is not as big as Yokohama’s or Kobe’s, it is Japan’s oldest Chinatown, established since the 17th century.
As a local saying goes: “People in Nagasaki eat Champon in the afternoon, just like how people in the Kanto region eat Ramen, Udon and Soba”. So tuck into a delicious bowl of champon, featuring thick noodles and a variety of ingredients like pork, seafood, and vegetables! While every restaurant in Shinchi Chinatown serves great champon, get the best from the birthplace of this dish at Shikairo. There is even a museum showcasing the champon history in the restaurant.
Address: 4-5 Matsugaemachi, Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture
Price: 1,000 - 1,999 JPY (1 - 2 USD)
Opening Hours: 11.30 am - 3 pm (lunch) and 5 pm - 9 pm (dinner, last order at 8 pm). Irregular holidays
Access: Short walk from Ouratenshudo-shita tram station (line no. 5)
Contact: +81 95-822-1296
3. Walk your calories off at the Dutch Slope
If you haven’t already realised by now, there is much Western-influenced architecture in Nagasaki, because it was the only window open to the world during the national isolation period. Exit Chinatown from the Minato Park side to burn off the calories you just put on, by going to the Dutch Slope. The Dutch Slope (Oranda-zaka) refers to the steep streets of a charming hillside residential area near Chinatown. In the 19th century, Western merchants settled in the Higashi-Yamate and Minami-Yamate areas. As the Westerners were called “Oranda San” locally, the area that they walked around became known as the “Oranda-zaka”.
Along the steep way up to the beautiful Kassui Slope on top, look out for the lovely Western residences “Higashiyamate-junibankan” and “Higashiyamate-kojusanbankan”. Try to imagine the Westerners in the old days walking alongside you. While they were confined to living in this district, you are able to roam freely anywhere you wished. That is how beguiling history can be!
Dutch Slope (Oranda-zaka)
Address: Higashi-yamate-machi, Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture
Opening Hours: Always open
Duration: Around 1 hour required
Access: 4 minutes’ walk from Shimin Byoin-Mae tram stop (line no. 5)
4. Admire the Western-style landscapes at Glover Garden and Oura Church
Next, head to Glover Garden, the oldest Western-style building in Japan. Built in the 1800s, Glover Garden is a park with 8 other Western-style structures and a garden filled with beautiful flowers. Enjoy a lovely view of Nagasaki Bay from here. Have fun posing for photos among the colourful flower beds.
Just next to the entrance of Glover Garden is the Oura Church, the oldest standing Christian church in Japan. A small wooden church was built for the growing community of foreign merchants in the city in 1863. However, what you see now is a much larger Gothic building in wood and brick that replaced the original one in 1879. Admire the first Western National Treasure as you tour the elegant place of worship.
Glover Garden and Oura Church
Address: 8-1 Minami-Yamate-machi, Nagasaki City (Glover Garden); 5-3 Minami-Yamate-machi, Nagasaki City (Oura Church)
Price: Glover Garden - 610 JPY (5.90 USD); Oura Church - 600 JPY (5.80 USD)
Opening Hours: Refer to official website for Glover Garden’s exact opening hours; 8 am - 6 pm, last admission at 5.45 pm (Oura Church)
Duration: Around 2 hours required for both sites
Access: 8-minute walk from Ouratenshudo-shita tram station (line no. 5)
Contact: +81 95-822-8223 (Glover Garden); +81 95-823-2628 (Oura Church)
5. Visit Dejima - the manmade island with a glorious past
Constructed in 1636, Dejima was an artificial island in the port of Nagasaki where the only foreign trading in Japan was allowed. From 1641 to 1853, Dejima became the Dutch’s restricted trading post during Japan’s long period of isolation. While the isolated trading post no longer exists, great efforts are being made to restore Dejima to its original state as it was back in the 19th century. This is a place you should not miss for the nostalgic Western architecture with stone foundations and Dejima Wharf. It is also one of the best spots in the city for stunning sunset and night views.
Address: Dejimamachi, Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture
Price: 510 JPY (5 USD)
Opening Hours: 8 am - 6 pm (until 7 pm in summer and peak seasons). Last admission: 20 minutes before closing
Duration: 1 tour course takes 1 to 2 hours to complete
Access: Short walk from Dejima tram station (line no. 1)
6. Soak up the stunning night views from Mount Inasa
Can’t get enough of the alluring city views of Nagasaki Bay? Ascend Mount Inasa, a 333-metre-high (1,093-foot-high) mountain for a bird’s eye view of the city. Alongside Mount Hakodate (Hokkaido) and Mount Rokko (Kobe), the night views from Mount Inasa are ranked among the 3 best night views in Japan. So don’t leave Nagasaki without going up Mount Inasa!
Mount Inasa (稲佐山)
Address: 8-1, Fuchimachi, Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture
Price: 1,230 JPY (12 USD) round-trip for the Nagasaki Ropeway ticket
Opening Hours: 9 am - 10 pm
Duration: 5-minute ropeway ride one-way
Access: 5-minute walk from Takaramachi tram station (line no. 1 & 3) to the ropeway station
Contact: +81 95-861-3640
A day full of interesting culture and history at Nagasaki
The last bus and train departing Nagasaki Station for Hakata Station are around 9.30 pm. That should give you ample time to soak up the fascinating Japanese-Western atmosphere in Nagasaki and enjoy the city to its fullest. Nagasaki is a charming destination to explore, and more so if you want to experience an interesting fusion of cultures. Don’t forget to bring the signature Castella sponge cake home as a perfect Nagasaki souvenir!
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