One Day In Nagasaki City: A Guide On What To See, Do and Eat | CoolJapan

Nagasaki City is most well known for its tragic past, as one of the two cities impacted by the dropping of the atomic bombs in 1945 during World War II, along with Hiroshima. This event often overshadows its importance as one of Japan’s main port cities that sits closely to the Asia mainland: in the Edo period (1603 - 1868), Nagasaki City continued operating as the only port for international trade, despite Japan closing its doors to other countries. The city played an important role in fostering Japan’s relation with other countries, and through trade with its exclusive partners, China and the Netherlands, it built a unique culture all its own — this can be felt immediately in its surroundings, its architecture and food once you step foot into the city. We explore what are the main sites you should visit for a one-day itinerary here:

Viewpoint at the Glover Garden

A view of Nagasaki City from Glover Garden

Houses on the hill around Glover Garden in Nagasaki City. (Photo from: Jerome Lee)

An important and stunning attraction in Nagasaki city, Glover Garden is an open-air museum consisting of mansions previously settled by the city’s former foreign residents. Even if you don’t end up forking over the entrance fee to enter the museum, the view from the area surrounding Glover Garden isn’t too shabby as well — look out and you’ll see Nagasaki harbourfront in one direction, and multiple houses stacked like a staircase in another!

The Former Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, Nagasaki Branch Museum

The Former Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, Nagasaki Branch Museum building facade

The former Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, Nagasaki Branch Museum. (Photo from: Jerome Lee)

One of the largest Western-architecture influenced buildings in Nagasaki City, the Former Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank was a special exchange bank that traded foreign currencies in London, Shanghai and Hong Kong and foreign exchange for clients such as foreign residents, particularly traders. Attached to the venue is the Nagasaki Museum of Modern-Era Exchange, which introduces Nagasaki’s history as an international trade port, and details the friendship between Sun Yat-sen, father of the Chinese revolution, and Shokichi Umeya, the Nagasaki entrepreneur who supported the revolution. Take some time to explore the history and watch the short video in the museum that comes with it.

Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown (長崎新地中華街)

Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown and chanpon collage

Left - The Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown. (Photo from: WikiCommons) Right - Enjoy a steaming hot bowl of Nagasaki chanpon while you’re at Chinatown. (Photo from: Jerome Lee)

It’s been already established that Chinese and Dutch traders were the only ones allowed into Nagasaki during Japan’s Era of Isolation, and with a large settlement of Chinese traders comes the building of their own community throughout the years: the result is Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown, the oldest Chinatown in Japan, and with ‘shinchi’ referring to Chinatown being a reclaimed island in the past (it’s not anymore). Don’t forget to give Nagasaki champon a taste while you’re there — one of Nagasaki’s main cuisines, a comforting bowl of champon comes with springy noodles, fresh vegetables and seafood stewing in a creamy broth that will surely rejuvenate you after a day of exploring!


Dejima at Nagasaki City

The man-made island of Dejima. (Photo from: Jerome Lee)

Besides Chinese traders during Japan’s Era of Isolation, the Dutch were the other primary group of traders that settled in Nagasaki, and were moved from Hirado to Dejima. Similar to Chinatown, Dejima was once a reclaimed island but is now connected with the rest of the mainland, and many of the historical structures still remain. We recommend going here to learn more about the history of the Dutch settling here and how this has influenced Nagasaki city’s history and architecture.

Attractions related to the bombing of Nagasaki in WWII

Nagasaki WWII Attractions collage

Left - Nagasaki Peace Statue. (Photo from: Jerome Lee) Middle - Site of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki during WWII. (Photo from: Jerome Lee) Right - Entrance to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. (Photo from: Jerome Lee)

Probably the most sobering experience for a one-day itinerary in Nagasaki, the various venues that make up the experience of learning about the fateful day that the atomic bomb, nicknamed ‘Fat Man’, was dropped in the city. First-time learners of Nagasaki’s place in WWII would be surprised to know that the second atomic bomb was meant to be dropped on Kokura city in Kitakyushu, but due to cloudy weather it was decided that the ‘Fat Man’ would be dropped on Nagasaki instead. Circumventing the perimeters of the attractions here, one will learn about the many accounts provided not just by survivors, but also by those involved in the war, scholars, etc, and occasionally there will also be an in-utero survivor present at the ground, giving their account of what happened on that fateful day.