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 continue to welcome Japanese worshippers today. You can even take a trip to Holland via Huis Ten Bosch, a theme park in Sasebo which recreates a Dutch town complete with canals, red-brick architecture, tulips, and windmills.
Unfortunately, all of Nagasaki’s relationship with the outside world isn’t as positive. It’s marred by the WWII atomic bombing which devastated much of its capital, Nagasaki city. Learn more about the city’s harrowing history at the Nagasaki Peace Park.
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! End your trip with a dolphin-watching cruise departing from various points along the prefecture’s coast.