Sasebo is the second largest city in Nagasaki prefecture. It’s also home to a U.S. Navy base. So if you’re looking for a brief respite from being the only foreigner in a crowd, central Sasebo has you covered.
Sasebo is a city where cultures cross borders and fuse together in unexpected, but delightful ways.
A major draw to the area is the Dutch-themed amusement park Huis Ten Bosch in southern Sasebo. It’s not strictly Dutch or Japanese but the combination therein is both entertaining and charming.
Then, there’s Sasebo’s signature local specialty – the aptly named Sasebo Burger. It’s traditionally characterized as a beef burger topped with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and a sunny side up egg but each shop offers its own variations. Created in the 1950s, its origin stems from local eateries’ attempts to cater to the appetites of American servicemen stepping off base. Over the years, the burger has become more and more popular. Today, locals and foreigners alike line up to grab one of these scrumptious institutions from joints throughout the city.
Sasebo also contains the Sakai National Park 99 islands, or Kujukushima. This area, despite its name, actually contains 208 largely uninhabited islands. You can take in the islands from three observation towers: Tenkaiho, Ishidake, and Yumihari. Movie buffs out there might want to head to Ishidake; the observatory’s beautiful panoramic views were featured during the opening sequence of the 2003 Tom Cruise film The Last Samurai.
For a more up-close view of the islands, try to gain passage on one of two touring boats operated out of the Kujukushima Pearl Sea Resort. There’s the Pearl Queen, a lovely white ship with a wood interior. Or channel Captain Jack Sparrow and ride the red pirate-themed boat Mirai. Tours are typically 50 minutes in length and cost ¥1,400 for adults to senior high school students, ¥700 for junior high school students to four-year-olds.
For dance enthusiasts, Sasebo hosts one of the largest yosakoi dance festivals in Kyushu. Held over the third weekend in October every year, the festival is spread over several locations where you can watch more than 170 dance teams from across Japan show off their sweet moves.