17 Best Things to Do in Nagasaki

Nagasaki Skyline
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Located in a prefecture of the same name, the city of Nagasaki serves an important role in Japan’s history.

Serving as a port city when all other areas of Japan closed themselves from the rest of the world, Nagasaki became a sponge of culture influenced by the people who entered its harbor.

From buildings and food with European or Chinese influences to monuments dedicated to significant events in Nagasaki, you can find that you have a lot to discover when you come here.

Planning to witness a melting pot of cultures in Japan?

Check out these 17 best things to do in Nagasaki.

Witness a National Treasure at Sofuku Temple

Sofuku-ji Temple in Nagasaki
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One of the places worth visiting in Nagasaki is Sofuku Temple, an Obaku Zen Buddhist temple founded in 1629 by Chaonian, a Chinese monk.

It houses a couple of noteworthy buildings designated as some of Japan’s national treasures.

Peak of First Gate Sofukuji
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The temple features red gates and several architectural features reflecting the style prevalent in South China at the time.

Apart from having a beautiful exterior, the temple also serves as the venue of the Chinese Bon Festival held annually in Nagasaki between July 26 to 28.

Witness a Gorgeous View from Mount Inasa

View from Mount Inasa
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Bask in the beauty of Nagasaki’s cityscape by paying a visit to Mount Inasa.

Locals and tourists would deem this place as the best location to witness the beauty of the city.

Many people even describe the night-time cityscape from this vantage point as a “10 Million Dollar View,” with some considering it as the best nighttime view in Japan.

If you plan on going here, you have two ways to do so: via a ropeway to the summit or by walking up.

Pay a Visit to Gunkanjima

Ruins on Gunkanjima
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A product of the country’s rapid industrialization, many know Gunkanjima as one of Japan’s many abandoned islands.

Formally known as "Hashima Island," Gunkanjima or “Battle Ship Island” got its moniker due to the shape it gained as a result of all the concrete buildings constructed from this previously inhabited island in Nagasaki.

View of Gunkanjima
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Intended to be utilized for a mining operation during the rapid industrialization of Japan, concrete buildings were constructed to house a community of miners, many of whom lost their lives here.

No one has lived in Gunkanjima since the 70s.

Because of this, nature has started to reclaim the land, giving it something close to a post-apocalyptic feel.

Ruins on Gunkanjima
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Featured in several Hollywood movies, tourists can still visit Gunkanjima by booking at one of the many travel agencies in the city.

If you want to see this abandoned community's unique landscape,  get in contact with a tour company and check this interesting place out.

Find the Focus of a Local Legend at Urakami Cathedral

Outside of Urakami Cathedral
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Another interesting church to visit in Nagasaki is Urakami Cathedral.

Like many structures in the city, Urakami Cathedral suffered major damages during the World War II bombing.

Before that, it held the title of the largest church on the continent.

Currently, many tourists visit Urakami Cathedral, as it houses the Virgin Mary's statue that incurred damages from the bombing.

More people may know the said statue for being the centerpiece of a local legend, saying that it sheds tears because of the devastation that the bombing caused to Nagasaki.

Try out Turkish Rice at Tsuruchan

While you can find a lot of traditional Japanese food, you must also try Turkish rice, a dish that could probably well-represent the cultural diversity that influenced Nagasaki.

This dish includes rice curry pilaf with a fried pork cutlet on top, served with some Neapolitan spaghetti.

When people first hear about this, they may think it weird, but many locals and tourists who’ve tried it described it as delicious.

If you want to try out the best Turkish Rice in Nagasaki, head over to Tsuruchan, a restaurant with a long history.

Discover the City’s History at Nagasaki Museum of History

Outside View of Nagasaki Museum of History
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Nagasaki is one of the most beautiful places in Japan, and one can describe its history as eventful and rich.

While the city needs no introduction, you may want to get to know it more closely.

If you are looking for places to visit, consider the Nagasaki Museum of History as one of your first stops in the city.

The people who run this museum dedicate themselves to sharing the city’s history.

Houses Nearby Nagasaki Museum of History
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Primarily, the museum focuses on telling how Nagasaki became one of the country’s major international trading ports.

The museum features a huge, permanent exhibition housed on two floors, with sections discussing different facets of the city’s history.

Apart from historical artifacts, it also houses arts and crafts that showcase the city’s heritage and identity.

The third floor, meanwhile, serves as the venue for the temporary exhibits this place houses.

Learn About Christianity in the Country at the Site of the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints of Japan

Outside view of Twenty-Six Martyrs Christianity Museum
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Given its reputation as an important trading port in Japan, while the entire country closed itself to foreign powers, many international influences came through this city.

One of which is Christianity.

However, in the 1600s, while this religion entered the city, the local government opposed it and punished anyone who practiced it.

Inside View of Twenty-Six Martyrs Christianity Museum
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This particular site stands to honor the 26 Christian missionaries and converts who were crucified at the time.

These 26 people were martyred in the 17th century and were made saints in the 19th century.

This destination features a monument depicting the 26 martyrs.

It also has a museum considered one of the city's largest, dedicated to showcasing Christian antiques and memorabilia.

Born out of Europe’s influence on Nagasaki, a lot of people know Castella as arguably the most popular delicacy to come out of the city.

Locals make this delicious sponge cake by using fantastic ingredients, like honey and chestnuts, and by steaming it to get its distinct, delicate texture.

If you want to try it out while you visit this town, get it at Bunmeido, one of the most popular Castella shops around.

Explore the City’s Wartime History Nagasaki Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum

Outside View of Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall
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A lot of significant historical events in Japan happened in Nagasaki, whether good or bad.

In World War Two, the United States decided to drop atomic bombs on two Japanese cities: Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

To know more about this significant, devastating event, pay a visit to the city’s Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum.

Inside View of Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall
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These two places are dedicated to the 40,000 individuals who perished during the bombing.

Known as one of the most tranquil sites in the city, a walk at the Peace Park would let you have a quiet stroll while learning and paying respect to those who died here at that time.

Just a three-minute walk from the park is the Atomic Bomb Museum.

Inside View of Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall
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There, you will find artifacts, images, and information about what the city was like back in that wartime era.

You can even find items, such as clothes and furniture, collected after the bombing.

You can also learn about the stories of those who survived by paying a visit here.

Spend a Day at Dejima

Dejima Wharf in Japan
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Dejima is another historical island in Nagasaki.

This island at Nagasaki Harbour has a history that dates all the way back to 1641.

Dejima serves as the place where foreign nationals entering Japan at the time lived.

Dejima Wharf in Nagasaki
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Because of this, it became the hub for Dutch trading companies.

When you visit Nagasaki, make sure to spend some time exploring this island.

An Old House in Nagasaki
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It has many recreated model buildings with designs from the 1600s.

You can also find a miniature model of the island at the open-air Dejima Museum.

Appreciate Chinese Architecture at the Kofuku Temple

Traditional Kofuku Temple
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Known as one of the oldest and most significant Chinese temples in the city, Kofuku Temple served as the birthplace of the Obaku School of Zen Buddhism in the country.

Founded in 1620, this temple initially served as a place where overseas Chinese traders would pray for safe maritime travels.

Kofukuji Temple architecture in Nagasaki
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The temple building itself uses Chinese architectural features, making it one of the unique temples in the country.

The complex has several buildings, including the main hall that showcases Chinese-style architecture.

If you want to check out the many temples in Nagasaki that still stand today, add Nagasaki’s Kofuku Temple to your list.

Drink Local Brews at Tenjin Coffeehouse

If you come to Nagasaki and need your daily coffee dose, head over to Tenjin Coffeehouse.

But what’s so special about this coffee house?

Apart from being known as one of the first coffee houses in the city, this cafe also features a display of coffee-making equipment brought to Japan by the Dutch.

Of course, you also get to taste their fantastic local brew.

Japan has recently become known for its coffee culture, and you can enjoy a cup at Tenjin Coffeehouse to experience it while also getting to know the city’s history.

So, stop by, and relax with a cup of coffee here.

Learn About Shintoism at Suwa-jinja

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If you want to find more shrines worth checking out, pay a visit to the beautiful Suwa-jinja.

Built in 1614, this shrine stands atop a beautiful hill overlooking the city.

To get here, you and your companions would have to walk up a series of staircases.

Sacred horse in Suwa
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However, the breathtaking views of Nagasaki will serve as a reward for your hard work.

You will find intricate sculptures significant in the Shinto religion at the complex, including guard dogs (komainu).

If you want to visit one of Japan’s many shrines, definitely check out this place.

Uncover Chinese Influences in Nagasaki at the Koshibyo Confucius Shrine

Outside Koshibyo Confucius Shrine
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Another shrine built due to a merge of cultures in Nagasaki, the Koshibyo Confucius Shrine has the distinction of being the only shrine of its kind found outside of China’s mainland.

Dating back from 1893, it forms a part of a bigger museum focused on the history of Nagasaki’s Chinese community.

Get to know more about Nagasaki’s diverse culture by visiting this shrine.

Appreciate Regional Art at the Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum

View of Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum
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Apart from an interesting history, Nagasaki also serves as an art hub in Japan.

To learn more about the art scene in this beautiful city, head over to the Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum.

Located near the harbor, the museum houses various exhibitions showcasing some of the finest masterpieces from the region.

Outside of Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum
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It also hosts rotating galleries featuring art pieces from other countries.

Appreciate the region’s best masterpieces at this museum.

And if you get tired of walking around, spend some time at the museum’s roof garden, where you can find a marvelous view of the city and the harbor.

Delve Deeper into the City’s Christian Influences at Oura Cathedral

Outside of Oura Cathedral
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In Nagasaki, you can find several churches borne out of the European influences that took root in the country.

Oura Church, a Catholic church established by French missionaries in 1886, is one worth mentioning.

Apart from its architectural style, many people know it as one of the oldest Catholic churches in Japan built at the end of the country’s ban on Christianity.

Now considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this church featured vaulted ceilings and a beautiful octagonal tower.

Experience more of Nagasaki’s diverse heritage by visiting this beautiful Cathedral.

Stroll Across Glover Garden

Glover Garden in Nagasaki
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Take a stroll through time by exploring Glover Garden.

In Nagasaki, you can find a distinct group of homes, collectively known as "Glover Garden."

Houses that served as homes of European diplomats and other workers from abroad stand in this area of the city.

The homes located here date back to the 19th century, and you can visit this place to learn more about how people, both Japanese and foreign nationals, lived in Nagasaki during the period.

Eat and Shop at Shinchi Chinatown

Shinchi Chinatown Nagasaki
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Some of the foreign people who shaped modern-day Nagasaki are Chinese traders.

You can find their influence in many Temples in the area.

However, you can also witness how their culture took root at Nagasaki’s own Chinatown.

Arguably the oldest Chinatown in Japan, Shinchi Chinatown has a history that dates back from the 15th century, with Chinese sailors and traders serving as its first inhabitants.

Today, you can go shopping, discover Chinese culture, and try out sumptuous street food by visiting this area in Nagasaki.

Watch Marine Life at the Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium

A Penguin  in Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium
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If you want to take your entire family out on a tour of Nagasaki, consider the Penguin Aquarium as one of your stops.

Here, you can find a large number of penguins that you and your family can watch through underwater aquariums.

Apart from lollygagging on land, this place also lets you view the penguins while they swim underwater.

Penguins  in Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium
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If you want to watch the penguins eat, you can also come here during the dedicated feeding times, which the aquarium hosts during the weekend.

You and your kids can even feed them yourselves!

Apart from the penguins, the aquarium also houses other forms of marine life that you and your family can learn about.

Final Thoughts

Given the external influence that shaped Nagasaki, you will find that this city has a lot to offer.

Experience both traditional Japanese and cosmopolitan culture when you visit this gorgeous city

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