Starting in 607AD, the Japanese envoys to China (Kenzuishi to the Sui Dynasty and Kentoshi to the Tang Dynasty) used a sea route along Iki, Tsushima and Gotoh Islands off the coast of Nagasaki and finally through mainland China. Nagasaki, because of its proximity to China and the Korean Peninsula, had always played the role of Japan’s front door for diplomacy and foreign trade.
In 1550, the first foreign ship to reach Nagasaki was a Portuguese ship that sailed into Hirado harbor in the northern part of Prefecture. The Portuguese then started to preach Christianity in the Nagasaki area and other areas of Japan.
In 1571, the Japanese government opened a port in Nagasaki for trading with Portuguese ships. After that, many western goods were introduced into Nagasaki.
Traders from the Netherlands and China were also doing business in Nagasaki in those days. The Bakufu (the Japanese government in those days), however in its closed door policy known as sakoku, closed all Japanese seaports to overseas ships. Nagasaki was designated as the only port where trade with foreign countries was permitted. The closed door policy continued until its abolition more than 200 years later.
Traces of foreign culture, introduced in those days, remain in many places in the prefecture.
There are fewer flatlands than hills in Nagasaki Prefecture. The surrounding coastline is complicated by peninsulas, promontories, bays and coves. The total length of the coastline in Nagasaki Prefecture is 4,175 km, which is the longest among the prefectures in Japan.
There are many 588 isles in the prefecture. The sea area under the control of the prefectural government is about 25 times the land area, as large as the Kyushu region. Because of the wide land area, three regions, based on weather, can be found in the prefecture. The regions are Iki and Tsushima, Nagasaki City and Gotoh, and Unzen and the mountainous regions.
The marine climate is warm and rainy except for the mountainous regions.The average annual temperature is 16.6°C which is high as the climate is influenced by the warm current off the seacoast. The prefecture also has a narrow temperature range.The average annual rainfall is 2000mm, making Nagasaki one of the prefectures with the highest rainfall in Japan.
Because Nagasaki Prefecture opened its doors to overseas countries, several historical and cultural assets remain in the prefecture. These assets, found in several places in town are found by Japanese and foreign visitors to be interesting. Influenced by European and Chinese culture, the exotic appearance of the streets creates its own unique atmosphere.
Nowadays, Nagasaki is one of Kyushu's most interesting places to visit, thanks to its history, geographical location and foreign influence - as well Chinese as Western. Although its population is just under half a million, it can compare easily to other cosmopolitan port cities like Kobe and Yokohama.
Many visitors to Nagasaki come to learn more about or pay homage to the victims of the Atomic Bomb. A simple memorial reminds of the visitors of the site above which the bomb exploded. Next to it is the instructive A-bomb Museum (8:30am to 5pm, ￥200). North of the hypocenter site is the Peace Park with numerous commemorative sculptures from around the world, dominated by the Nagasaki Peace Statue. From behind the statue, one can see the reconstructed Urakami Cathedral, which was the largest Christian church in Asia when the A-bomb was dropped in 1945. South of the A-bomb Museum is the the Suwa-jinja Shrine, with its half stone torii left as a reminder of the A-bomb.
A few hundreds meters south of Nagasaki Station is the old Dutch district of Dejima. The settlement was an island from the 17th to 19th centuries, but has since become part of the city center due to land reclamation. Many of the original buildings have been reconstructed using authentic materials. On the other side of Dejima is Nagasaki's small China Town, a good place to sample the local culinary speciality "champon" (noodles with meat and seafood).
Just south of Chinatown, don't miss the Confucian Shrine. It claims to be the only the only Confucian Shrine built by Chinese people for Chinese people outside China, and is on Chinese territory directly managed by the Chinese embassy in Tokyo. Originally constructed in 1893, it was entirely rebuilt after the A-bomb. The grounds used to host a primary school, which was demolished in 1982 and replaced by the Museum of Chinese History (same ticket as shrine). The museum has outstanding objects of all periods of Chinese history directly borrowed from top museums in China. Exhibits at the time of writing included a skull of the Peking man, first-rate Bronze-age objects, a gold crown of a Chinese emperor, world-renowned terracota soldiers from the ancient capital of Xi'an, the world's first seismometer, and 18th-century clocks made in Britain and China. The shrine itself is remarkable for its collection of white stone statues of Chinese sages. Each statue is unique, depicted with great details in postures and facial expressions.
The neighbouring hills of Higashi-Yamate to the East and Minami-Yamate to the South were settled by Westerners after the Meiji Restoration. Although dubbed "Dutch Slopes", its inhabitants were mainly British expatriates. The most famous of them was the Scottish entrepreneur Thomas Blake Glover (1838-1911), who has given his name to the Glover Garden of Minami-Yamate. The Garden commands magnificient views on the city and comprises 7 Western-style residences from the Meiji era. Admission to Glover Garden is ￥600 and includes the also interesting Nagasaki Traditional Performing Arts Museum. The white Oura Catholic Church is at the foot of the garden.
Immediately east of Nagasaki Station is the 26 martyrs memorial, dedicated to Christian missionaries and converts executed under the Tokugawa shōgunate. Not far from there is the Fukusai-ji Temple, easily distinguishable from the big statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, on top of the turtle-shaped temple. Other attractions include the Shofuku-ji, Sofuku-ji and Kofuku-ji temples.
The Dutch history of Nagasaki is still alive in the theme park Huis ten Bosch, one hour by train north of Nagasaki. It is a reconstruction of a Dutch town with plenty of tulips, romantic canals and beautiful brick architecture so rare in Japan.
Nagasaki Prefecture is located at the northwestern part of Kyushu, which is at the far west end of Japan.
The prefecture is located near the Korean Peninsula and China. The location is 860 km away from Shanghai, China and only 53 km away from Pusan, Korea. Nagasaki has been Japan’s gateway to China and Southeast Asian countries.
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