Day One: Peace Memorial Hall, Dejima and downtown
Visitors to the Hiroshima Peace Museum will know that the experience of reading about what happened to the victims of the bombing went through on that fateful day. Although not as well known and not as often visited, the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Hall is a chilling but special place too. One of the most interesting parts of the museum is the recreations of the damage to buildings and the watch stopped at the exact time of impact. There are also video booths where you can listen to the stories of those who were there that day including American POWs. Leaving the museum you will probably feel a little bit saddened but luckily there is a nice Peace Memorial Park just around the corner with an iconic sculpture which is a symbol for peace with uplifting messages.
On the same day you could easily make your way to Dejima, which was an island built by the Japanese to house foreign traders from Holland. The island is a recreation of the tiny living quarters which these Dutch traders lived in and has a collection of artefacts and stories about their lives. We arrived a little late and were allowed to enter for free but there was not as much of a buzz in the air as there might have been earlier in the day.
From here you are not far from the shopping area in and around Kankodori station. You can walk around and browse the many shops, restaurants and cafes around here and see how the locals go about their day. There is also a landmark bridge called “Megane Bashi” which basically translates as “Eye-Glasses Bridge” and it is set on a very picturesque street and really does look like a pair of glasses. Plus Chinatown is in this neighbourhood too. Why not get some delicious Chinese dumplings to eat along the way.
Day 2: Battleship Island, Clover Gardens, Nightview
One place that is definitely worth a visit is the Battleship Island (Gunkanjima) officially named Hashima Island. This spooky place offers visitors a chance to see an island which was abandoned only 40 years ago. It was one a densely populated place for mining workers and their families. Now it’s filled with crumbling ruins. The coolest thing about visiting this island by boat is the fact that it looks like a massive battleship as you approach. There is one company offering tours with English translations but otherwise tours are in Japanese so you might want to read up on the place before hand. Also they seem to book out fairly fast so you will want to reserve in advance if possible. We did one with a company which offered a little piece of coal and a certificate to prove we had visited too. The journey by boat is about 30mins each way but note that if the weather is not good the journey can be rough or it might just get cancelled. So if this is on your must do list, check the weather reports!
Glover Gardens is a place which will make you feel like you are not in Japan at all. This place is a collection of the mansions built by foreign tycoons of the 19th century in Japan. The area is very pretty and has great views of the city too. The approach to the area also is very touristic with plenty of shops and quaint little streets too. We were tired from a long day of looking around so took a rest at this point as we had our most anticipated event that night.
One of the nicest experiences I had in Nagasaki was the night view over the city from Mount Inasayama mountain peak. The unique geography of the city seemingly has hundreds of little valleys all with what looks like rivers of light streaming through the hills. It’s really hard to describe but really worth the journey.
There is public transportation there, but some people opt for the hotel pick up offered by several bus services. There were only four people on our huge bus but it seems that it might be worth it to pay the extra just for the convenience. Either way all the buses stop at a station just below the peak and a smaller shuttle bus takes you to the top.