The time had come. With state of emergency restrictions lifted in Japan and over 70% of the country vaccinated, the time had come for us to go on a real, proper trip again!!
We decided to have another go at our trip to Kyushu (the large main southern island of Japan) which we had originally planned to go on over a year ago, before restrictions forced us to cancel it. We decided to focus on Nagasaki and surrounds for this first big trip back.
Starting in Nagasaki, we caught a morning flight down to Nagasaki, navigated the buses (the buses straight into Nagasaki are right outside at the airport), dropped our bags at the (very beautiful, perched atop a hill) Luke Plaza Hotel and headed back into town for a quick lunch before picking up our hire car from Toyota.
Huis Ten Bosch was our destination. An Amsterdam-inspired amusement park-ish place about an hour’s drive from Nagasaki central. (We would definitely recommend hiring a car if you can because it takes over 2 hours by public transport.)
Wow, oh, wow, did Huis Ten Bosch not disappoint! Not really knowing what to expect, our socks were definitely blown off by the sheer size of the place. Endless streets full of international cafes, restaurants, illuminations and Christmas cheer. We had some delicious hot choccies from ‘Chocolate House’ to warm us up and a cheese-themed assortment from Cheese Waag for dinner.
We got the ‘after 5pm’ tickets, which gives you about 3 hours to explore the park before everything starts closing. If you have time, definitely go for the ‘after 3pm’ or ‘whole day’ tickets so that you’re not rushing to see the whole park, because that thing is HUGE.
Starting with breakfast overlooking Nagasaki from the dining room of the Luke Plaza Hotel, we had a leisurely morning before checking out, returning our car and dropping our bags in some coin lockers for the day.
With a few hours to kill before checking in for our Gunkanjima tour, we headed to Glover Gardens, named after Thomas Glover, one of the most important foreigners in bridging the gap between Japan and the world. Glover gardens is home to Glover’s former home, complete with furniture and belongings, as well as the first western restaurant.
We went with Gunkanjima Concierge for our tour of Hashima Island. Although the tour is in Japanese they give you an English script of the tour in English which is incredibly thorough. There is also a PowerPoint presentation on the boat on the way over that gives you some more context. Gunkanjima means ‘battle ship island’ in Japanese and is so called because of its shape. The island’s official name is Hashima.
Hashima is the site of a former coal mine which was operational during the 1900s. The island is tiny at a mere 480m x 160m and at its peak housed over 5000 residents. The island was home to a school, a shrine, hair salons, a pool and izakaya (Japanese pub). When TVs became accessible for Japanese citizens, the highest concentration of TV ownership was on Hashima because the workers earned significantly more than mainland workers and had very little to entertain them while living there.
The miners at had to keep digging kilometres under the ocean to find more coal and eventually the Mitsubishi Corporation closed the mine. Some say it was because of the coal drying up and some say it was because of some accidents that had happened.
Recently, Hashima has been home to filming for James Bond and is now be open to the public for visiting on boat tours. Before you book try to check the weather because the boat cannot land on the island if the weather is rough.
It’s a very cool place to visit with a fascinating history and we would highly recommend making the trip!
It was absolutely bucketing with rain on day 3 and as a result, this was allocated as our museum day. We made our way to the Atomic Bomb Museum for a solemn morning of recognising the suffering of generations of Nagasaki people due to the A-bomb. Devastatingly, Nagasaki was not the original target for the bomb, but was the secondary target. Additionally, the cloud cover was almost too thick for the bomb to be released, but a short break in the cloud cover meant the load could be released and the lives of Nagasaki people changed forever.
The museum was similar to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in that it calls for peace and an end to the use of and testing of nuclear weapons.
After the museum, we headed to the Peace Park where there are a number of statues and monuments donated by countries from all over the world. There was even a monument donated by the city of Fremantle in Australia in conjunction with Indigenous communities of South Australia in memory of the survivors of atomic war and testing throughout the world, including that which took place in South Australia. The inscription on the monument was written in Anangu language (an Indigenous language of Australia).
We sincerely hope that everyone who travels Japan visits one of the museums in Hiroshima or Nagasaki as the more people to witness the horror of these tragedies, the stronger the voices against nuclear weapons can be.
Jumping on a ferry to the Goto Island of Fukue was our next adventure. A 3-hour journey on the normal ferry (¥5000 one way) or a 1.5 hour journey on the Jetfoil ferry (¥9000 one way). We jumped on the normal ferry and it was quite a fun experience. There are large, raised, carpeted areas where you can grab a blanket and a pillow and lie down to sleep for the 3 hours. It was quite rough on the way over so if you’re a seasick Sally like me, grab some seasickness tablets at the pharmacy before you go. (Tell the pharmacist you have 船酔い funeyoi (foo-neh-yoi) (sea sickness)).
When we got to the island we walked over to Toyota rent-a-car to grab our hire car, had a quick look in the Fukue museum and then headed off to find some lunch. We ended up at Cafe Yumin, run by a delightful local woman who gave us lots of suggestions for the island and the name of a local American who lives there and gives tours.
We spent the night at a cute little Airbnb called J-House. Our hosts, who lived in the main house, spoke English and gave us some suggestions for the island.
We spent the next day driving around Fukue. We did a hike to Osezaki Lighthouse where the views of the coastline are absolutely stunning. It’s a roughly 1 hour hike (round trip), but allow time for pictures and stopping to look at the view every 2 seconds. We did a quick walk along Takahama Beach, but being winter it was freezing so we would highly recommend visiting in the summer.
Lastly, we visited Dozaki Church. You pay ¥300 entry and the church is part museum with historical artefacts from the hidden Christians era of Japan.
After our adventures around the island it was time to catch our ferry back to Nagasaki. We saw our Airbnb hosts at the ferry terminal! They were heading to the mainland for the night. The return trip was thankfully very smooth.
We absolutely loved Fukue, but we would definitely recommend going in the warmer seasons. We were pretty much the only tourists there and lots of things were closed. In the summer it’s a very popular beach destination with lots of restaurants and cafes serving local food that are only open in the summer.
Stays in Nagasaki
|Type of stay||Name|
|Fancy||Luke Plaza Hotel|
|Affordable hotel||Grand Base Nagasaki City|
|Hostel||Hostel Casa Noda|
|Airbnb on Goto Island||J-House 2|
To do in Nagasaki
- Take the cable car up Mt Inasa at night for night views of Nagasaki
- Head out to the Goto Islands and meet some beautiful locals who would
- Visit Glover Gardens for an insight into Nagasaki’s history as the only port open to the world for 220 years and then it’s role in Japan’s opening
- Drive out to Huis Ten Bosch for a magical Christmas illuminations wonderland
- Visit the Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park
- Half-day tour to Gunkanjima (Hashima Island) the former mining island and where James Bond: Skyfall was filmed
To do on Goto Island – Fukue
- Takahama Beach – one of the most beautiful beaches in Japan
- Dozaki Church – One of the original Catholic churches built after the 260 persecution of Christians in Japan
- Osezaki Lighthouse – A stunning little hike out to a lighthouse with beautiful views of the coastline
- Eat some Goto Udon at cafe 遊民 (cafe Yumin)