Category Archives: Nagasaki (長崎)


Today I had an eight hour tour scheduled of Nagasaki.  The weather forecast was determined to make the tour and unpleasent one and predicted rain all day.  However, there was nothing I could do about the weather, so I took my sturdy umbrella and set off into the hard rain with my guide.  Our first stop was Glover Garden.  As I mentioned yesterday, Nagasaki is well known as the only port city open to foreigners for a long period of Japanese history.  Because of this, there are several foreign settlements around the city.  Glover Garden was built for Thomas Blake Glover who was a Scottish businessman that greatly advanced Japanese industry in the middle 1800’s.

Glover had his hand in just about everything.  He helped found shipbuilding and coal mining facilities in Japan.   Even though Glover supported the Imperial revolution, he sold fire arms to both the Shogunate and Imperial forces.  He met with many revolutionary samurai in secret here in the garden.  In additon, Glover even was one of the original founders of the Japanese Brewing Co.  This is the company that would go on to produce the ever so popular Kirin beer.  Glover was enormously successful and settled down with a Japanese wife in his own house in the garden.  Glover’s house, like all the rest in the Garden, have a mix of European and Japanese achitecture.  The house is built in a Western style, but covered with typical Japanese roof tiles.

Interestingly enough, many people say that Glover’s wife was the model for Chocho-san in the play Madama Butterfly.  The play is enormously popular around Nagasaki since the events are said to have actually occurred in the city during the late 19th century.  The Japanese singer, Tamaki Miura won international fame for her performances of Chocho-san and has statues constructed in her honor all around Glover Garden.

When we left Glover Garden, the rain defied the weather report and actually stopped.  I was very glad for this because eight hours in the rain was not going to be fun.  The next stop was Dejima.

Dejima which literally means ”exit island” was an island which house a Dutch merchant house and several Dutch citizens.  As time went on and Nagasaki expanded, the water around the island was filled in until Dejima was no longer an island.  However, now there is work to restore the original boundaries and embankments which separated Dejima from the main city.  Once the US Navy forced open the doors to the West in 1854, the Tokugawa Shogunate rallied to strengthen relations with Dejima in order to learn as much as it could about the outside world.  Dejima became extremely important in the final years of the Shogunate as the site of the Nagasaki Naval Training Center.  This was a center sponsored by the Shogunate and taught by Dutch sailors in order to produce Japanese pilots who knew as much about the seas as Westerners.  While the center was only open for a few years before the Meiji Revolution, it produced several prominant Japanese Admirals.

From Dejima, it was only a short walk to the Confucious Shrine.  The shrine is the only Confucious Shrine built by the Chinese outside of China.  The original shrine was built in 1893 as a place of worship and learning.  The shrine was destroyed in the atomic bombing and not rebuilt until 1967.  Now the shrine houses a Chinese history museum.  Since the land that the shrine occupies is technically owned by the Chinese and run by the Chinese embassy in Tokyo, the museum has several very interesting pieces of history on loan from the prestigous Beijing Palace Museum. 

As I’ve mentioned before, Kyushu was the center of the spread of Christianity in Japan through missionaries like St. Francis Xavier.  The seeds of Christianity were very tough to spread in Japan.  Rulers like Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Tokugawa signed and enforced the Christain Expulsion Edicts fearing foreign invasions through missionaries.  In 1597, twenty six Christians (six Western Franciscan missionaries and twenty Japanese converts) were captured around Kyoto and Osaka and were marched to Nagasaki where they were crucified.  These twenty six have since all been cannonized as Saints by Pope Pius IX.  There is a memorial and museum near Nagasaki Station to commemorate their martyrdom.

From what my guide told me, the museum is actually very well known.  The last curator worked very hard to research each one of the martyrs.  Through his work, several previously undiscovered relics were found and now stored in the museum.  He helped to bring to light some of the stories behind these brave men.  One thing in the museum that I found interesting was a fumie.  This was a small image of Jesus during the crucifixtion which Christians were ordered to trample on.  In this way, the Shogunate Inquisitors could determine who was Christian and who wasn’t.  The fumie is an important part of a Japanese novel that I really enjoyed called Silence by Endo Shusaku.

In the distance was a good view of Fukusaiji Temple.  Originally, this was an exemplary Japanese style Buddhist Temple.  However, like many other buildings in Nagasaki, it was destroyed in the bombings.  The temple was reconstructed as a giant turtle with an aluminum Kannon, or Buddhist diety, on its back.  Inside the temple are the remains of 16,500 Japanese who were killed in WWII.

Next, the guide took me to the Nakashima River which is host to dozens of stone bridges.  The most famous is Meganebashi, or ”Spectacles Bridge”.  This is said to be the oldest stone bridge in Nagasaki and got its name from the fact that it looks like a giant pair of glasses from the side.  This bridge was built in 1634 and survived the atomic bombing.  It can be seen in its origninal form.

From the Nakashima River, we walked to Sofukuji Temple which was built by a Chinese Monk from Fuijan Province in 1629.  The temple is easily identified as Chinese through its use of vibrant colors.  The main gate and inner temple have been designated as national treasures and both still exist in their original form.

Once we left Sofukuji, it was around 3 PM.  Since we had seen everything really touristy around where we were, my guide suggested that we go to the Nagasaki Peace Park.  We skipped the museum as I had seen the museum in Hiroshima and was not ready to be that depressed again, but my guide and I took a walk through the park.

From the park, the was a good view of Urakami Cathedral.  This cathedral was built right after the ban on Christianity was finally lifted in the Meiji Period.  During WWII, the atomic bomb was detonated only 500 meters from the church and it was completely destroyed.  There was debate on whether or not to rebuild the church or to save the foundations as a memorial, somewhat like the A-bomb dome in Hiroshima.  However, many Christians demanded it be rebuilt in its original location and it was.  Today, the church stands as a reminder of the Christian persecution and suffering during the feudal era.

After that, I felt very satisfied that I had seen most of Nagasaki so my guide showed me the way back to the hotel.  Tomorrow, I fly all the way up north to Sapporo in Hokkaido.  Hokkaido will be a change of pace from the touring I have been doing in the other three main islands as Hokkaido was not part of Japan for most of the feudal era.  Instead, I will get a taste for the indigenous Ainu people’s way of life.  See you soon!


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