Fusion and fire in Japan's international gateway
Looking out to the East, Nagasaki prefecture has long been the gateway between the outside world and Japan.
A flourishing port of international exchange in the 16th and 17th centuries, Nagasaki prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu was the only place in Japan to continue to welcome foreign trade during the country’s 200 year period of isolation. As a result, Nagasaki became a keyhole to the world’s modernization and has played an important role in Japan’s cultural and economic development ever since.
Nagasaki prefecture is marked throughout by this distinct meeting of cultures.
Shippoku, a fusion of Japanese, Chinese and Western dishes, is the prefectural cuisine while Portuguese castella are a popular souvenir. There are a large number of Christian sites that survived the religious persecution of the Edo period, and that continue to welcome Japanese worshippers today. You can even take a trip to Holland via Huis Ten Bosch, a theme park which recreates a Dutch town complete with canals, red brick architecture, tulips and windmills.
But Nagasaki prefecture’s relationship with the outside world is also marred by the WWII atomic bombing which devastated much of its capital, Nagasaki city. Nagasaki’s recovery is a testament to the Japanese spirit of ‘gaman’, or perseverance, and a rewarding experience for any visitor. Witness the optimism in its cosmopolitan hills, colorful temples and lively festivals held during the year.
Across from Nagasaki port is the abandoned Gunkanjima (Hashima Island), which inspired the villain’s lair in the 2012 Bond film Skyfall.
Nagasaki prefecture also encompasses the sweeping Shimabara Peninsula. Shimabara is home to Japan’s first ever National Park, with the fiery Mount Unzen at its center. Hot springs through the mountains relentlessly pump out steam which makes hiking around the area feel like a prehistoric adventure – you can even steam or boil your lunch in some of the baths – and there are dolphin watching cruises that depart from various points along the coast.