Nagasaki served as one of Japanâ€™s primary ports for many years, with the result that the city now has a very distinct atmosphere compared to other mainland Japanese cities. Chinese and European influences are easy to observe, largely through cuisine and religion respectively. The Chinatown is one of three in the nation, and one of its notable celebrations, the Lantern Festival, is coming up in February. Beyond this, there are many delights on offer.
Getting There and Around
For once, Peach is not one of the cheaper options, and it has the added detriment that their flight schedule for Friday through Sunday does not line up well with ALTsâ€™ work week. Instead, Skymark is your best bet for flying. Not only are they cheaper and have several options for flight times each day, but they are also based out of Kobe Airport, which is closer than Kansai International. From the airport, you can catch a bus into the city center.
If flying is not an option, you can also take a night bus to Hakata in Fukuoka for about half the price when considering money saved on accommodation. From Hakata, you can take another bus down to Nagasaki. You can make reservations online https://www.highwaybus.com/rs-web01-prd-rel/gp/index, or you can buy tickets last minute at the bus station.
Within the city itself, trams are the best way to get from point A to B. Happily, they are also inexpensive and have a flat fare so long as you stay on the same tram. Unhappily, ICOCA does not work on them. Be prepared with plenty of change.
Where to Stay
There are several places in Nagasaki, though due to poor timing and planning, we had to resort to the Cybac internet cafe. Fortunately, it was really nice and lets you leave for a couple hours as long as you leave a deposit. In addition, their second floor is dedicated to billiards, darts, and karaoke, all of which is included in your price. Though you do have to purchase a member card, it is a mere 300å††. Iâ€™ve found mat booths the easiest to sleep in. I would also recommend an eye mask to block out light if you, too, have trouble sleeping in the absence of darkness.
Should you prove to be more organized, there are many options throughout the city. Akari International Hostel seemed to have a good location, as does Casa Blanca Guesthouse. The latter does not handle reservations through their own website very well, however. I tried to book through them for dates that were said to be available, but they told me they needed to wait until the next week to confirm the reservation. Two weeks later, they said theyâ€™d received too many from other booking websites. Another option is the Catholic Youth Center, located close to the Peace Park. They will ask if youâ€™re Christian (so, presumably, be prepared for conversion attempts if youâ€™re not) and donâ€™t seem to take reservations from their website.
The Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park were my main draws to the city. There is some overlap in information between the Hiroshima museum and this one, but I found it to still be a worthwhile experience. I also appreciated the monument marking where Fat Manâ€™s hypocenter occurred, as in Hiroshima, it is over a rather unremarkable building. The main statue in the Peace Park is beautiful while being both hopeful and sobering: its outstretched hand represents an offering of peace while the one pointing up reminds viewers of the threat atomic weapons pose. We didnâ€™t get the chance to visit them, but the Memorial to the Victims and Sannou Shrine (which houses the half-torn-down torii) both sound interesting.
Chinatown is a relatively small couple of blocks, but it houses some great food and sights. Upcoming next month, from the 8th until the 22nd, is the Nagasaki Lantern Festival http://www.at-nagasaki.jp/event/51795/. Definitely book now if you havenâ€™t already and have designs on going.
For any Kirin Beer aficionados, history buffs, or those who just like to see pretty things, Glover Garden is a great trip. Thomas Glover, after whom the garden is named, helped internationalize Nagasaki, along with Chinese and European immigrants. Some say the Kirin mascot was given its moustache in homage to Glover, who founded the company that became Kirin. Be wary of accidentally kicking cones over here. Nearby are a fantastic champon restaurant and Oura Church, one of many churches throughout the city.
One of my favorite places to relax was Megane Bashi. Watching others take pictures of the bridge and the koi swim up to you is good fun. Donâ€™t fall in if you decide to venture across the stepping stones, though.
-Champon at the restaurant near Glover Garden is good, and thereâ€™s a free Champon Museum on the 2nd floor.
-You can get free samples of pork buns (kakuni manju) from Iwasaki Honpo (we partook whenever we passed one), but other shops in Chinatown have larger/cheaper offerings.
-Castella cake is the omiyage for Nagasaki. I liked the chocolate covered version.
-Yasuragi Iojima onsen on Iojima stopped their ticket deal. You can probably take the free shuttle bus from Nagasaki Station even without a reservation there.
-Paranoia and (especially) Panic Paradise are fun bars, though their patronage is much lower than they deserve.
-It was closed while we were there, but the ropeway up Mt. Inasa evidently offers a fantastic view of the city.
Nagasaki City is great for a weekend trip and you probably donâ€™t need much more time to explore all of the cityâ€™s offerings. However, there are other things in the prefecture which sound cool, such as Sasebo, also known as 99 Islands (there are actually more).