You’ve got to go to Goto. Try saying that three times fast.
The Goto Islands, referred to as simply Goto or the Gotos by Nagasaki’s foreign population, consist of five main islands set atop the East China Sea. From southwest to northeast, they’re known as Fukue, Hisaka, Naru, Wakamatsu, and Nakadori. Its group name “Goto” literally means “five islands.”
Fukue Island is the primary and largest island of the quintet, as the location of the Goto-Fukue Airport and the Fukue Port Terminal on the eastern part of the island. If pressed for time, you can see some major sites around the port, including Fukue Castle, the Goto Tourist and History Museum, and a samurai neighborhood.
Fukue Island also hosts the Baramon King, an international triathlon and one of the area’s largest events. Held annually in late June, the triathlon includes swimming, bicycling, and long-distance running. The event does have a cap on participants, so you’ll want to be sure to sign up early (typically from December to February).
The islands originally served as a stopover location for ships traveling to and from China. After the events of the Shimabara Rebellion in 1638, the islands became a safe haven for the Kakure Kirishitans (Hidden Christians). The area now has 50 churches, with Dozaki Church in Goto city being one of the most popular. Built in 1907 through the efforts of French missionary Father Peroud, this Catholic church is the oldest western-style church on Goto.
Once you get your fill of local history, be sure to check out the natural sights of Goto city. South of the port, there’s Mt. Onidake, a 315-meter tall dormant volcano that’s now used for kite flying and relaxing. At its base are natural hot springs that produce reddish brown onsen (hot spring) waters to soak in. For beachgoers, you’ll want to take a trip to the western part of Fukue Island for Takahama beach.
A white sand beach that’s considered one of the best in Japan, Takahama is a great place to relax and soak in the rays.
Naturally, the Gotos are teeming in seafood to gorge on. For Goto specialties, try their uni-don, fresh sea urchin atop a bowl of rice, or some Bluefin tuna dishes. Whatever you end up getting, it’ll be some of the freshest fish you’ll ever get the chance to eat. Not keen on shellfish or seafood? Then get yourself a bowl of Goto tenobe udon (or “hand-stretched udon). Or, satiate your inner carnivore and sink your teeth in a locally raised Goto steak.
As illuminated in the 2014 comedic anime series, Barakamon, the Gotos have a very distinct dialect (or “-ben”) when compared to the rest of Nagasaki prefecture. For Japanese learners of any level, challenge yourself to speak to locals and learn some Goto-ben.