World Facts Index > Japan > Nagasaki

The first area you will encounter on entering Nagasaki City is likely to be the station area, called Daikoku-machi. Although cluttered and busy, it contains dozens of shops and restaurants of interest, as well as a handful of hotels that are popular for their convenience. Within several minutes walk of the station, you will also find the 26 Christian Martyrs Memorial, in Nishizaka-machi, and Honren-ji in Chikugo-machi. This somewhat central area is the ideal place to start your tour of the city. Almost one thing, however, is certain: because of Nagasakis dramatic relief, you will be making your way among hills and inclines of often physically challenging grades.

Should you continue south, you will soon reach the Ohato tram stop. Reaching out into the bay to the west is Motofuna-machi, where, besides a few hotels with good views of the bay, you will find the Nagasaki Terminal and port area. From here, boats run tours of the bay and carry passengers to such destinations as Iojima. Pass over the Nakashima River, and you have arrived in Dejima-machi, an area of considerable world fame. Here you will find the park and museum dedicated to the former Dutch outpost of the same name.

From this point, the tram veers west toward Shinchi-machi, an area more colloquially known as China Town. The core of it obviously features excellent Chinese restaurants and a few specialty shops, but there are also some rather nice hotels around the two intersecting streets that define China Town. From Tsuki-machi, the nearest tram stop, you can then head south, toward the Glover Gardens area. If you have an extra day, you will certainly want to visit this quiet and incredibly scenic area. Besides the Gardens with its many historical buildings, you will find the Oura Cathedral and the famed Holland Slope in Higashi-yamate-machi, which requires your taking a walk, albeit an inclined one.

Trams north of Tsuki-machi arrive in one of the livelier parts of the city. The first stop is Hamanomachi, where Nagasakis most famous arcade (of the same name) is located. Follow the tram a little further east, past the Kanko-dori stop, and you have arrived in Nagasakis entertainment district, Shianbashi. The action here only begins to wind down well after midnight, if then.

From the west end of the Hamanomachi arcade, a tram line continues north and gradually begins to veer northeast. At your first tram stop, Migiwai-bashi, you may want to step down to visit the Spectacles Bridge, just a block or so to your west. Another couple of blocks beyond, you will find Temple Row. You could continue on the tram line northeast, but if you have the strength and time, the road along Temple Row runs parallel, and provides quite a scenic stroll. Either way, you will eventually arrive in Shindaiku-machi. Not far from this residential shopping district is Suwa-jinja, another frequent destination on Nagasaki itineraries. Travel due east and you will arrive back at the Nagasaki Station area, ready to explore what lies north.

Northern Nagasaki is perhaps the most frequented part of the city, due in no small part to its Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum. Even though a flood of visitors pass through Heiwa-machi everyday, there is a seemingly greater semblance of calm in this part of the city. No doubt, the educational institutions and residential districts effect this to some extent. Just west of the Peace Park also lies Urakami Cathedral, from whose name the general area and local JR station draw their own names.

Two final areas of Nagasaki deserve your attention. One is the Mt. Inasa, located to the west, across the Urakami River from the Nagasaki Station area. This peak provides arguably the best views of the city, not to mention some of the finer hotels. A few kilometers in the other direction, to the east, you have another elevation, on which the Kazagashira Park is located. If the views from this residential area are not as lofty as those on Inasa-yama, then they are certainly more intimate and peaceful. Here, it is quite possible to enjoy a stunning sunset on Nagasaki Bay in the company of your own breath alone.

History of Nagasaki

For a city that would experience a momentous 500 years, Nagasakis early existence was remarkably mundane. There was some limited contact with China in towns to the north, but Nagasaki itself was basically a secluded harbor village. Its people lived in historical obscurity until contact with European explorers in the mid-16th century.

Following the accidental landing of a Portuguese ship in 1542 at Kagoshima Prefecture, the zealous Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier arrived in another part of the territory in 1549. Xavier left for China in 1551 (dying soon after departure), but his followers who remained converted a number of daimyo (warlords), the most notable of whom was Omura Sumitada. His conversion was to prove profitable; through a deal, he would receive a proportion of the trade from Portuguese ships at a port that the two parties established in 1571--Nagasaki.

It would not take long before the little harbor village bloomed into a diverse port city. Its cosmopolitan fame spread until people all over Japan began craving things Portuguese: tobacco, bread, tempura (yes, it is Portuguese!), sponge-cake, and of course fantastic styles of clothing. The Portuguese also brought with them many goods of Chinese origin.

The ports prosperity was threatened, however, in 1587, when a new Japanese shogun, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, came to power. His anxiety over the extent of Christian influence in southern Japan caused him to order the expulsion of all missionaries. Nagasakis administrative control, which had been given in part to Jesuits by Omura, returned to imperial control. Nevertheless, Portuguese traders were not ostracized, and the citys culture continued to thrive.

In 1596, the captain of a Spanish galleon crashed in Shikoku, only to have his ship impounded. He boasted that with the increased numbers of Christians, he could oust the shogun. To discourage such threats, Hideyoshi lost no time in marching the captain around the country in disgrace. Later, he would crucify 26, Christian Franciscans and a few Japanese, in Nagasaki City as a further deterrent.

Under the rule of Tokugawa Ieyasu almost two decades later, conditions hardly improved. Christianity was banned in 1614, and all missionaries who did not going into hiding, as well as daimyo who would not apostatize, were deported. An incredibly brutal persecution campaign followed, and thousands across Nagasaki and other parts of Japan were killed and tortured. The Christians, however, did put up some initial resistance. In 1637, in the Nagasaki enclave of Shimabara, vagabond Christians and local peasants mired in penury erupted into Japans most startling rebellion. The numbers quickly swelled to 40,000, capturing Hara Castle and humiliating local daimyo. In retaliation, the shogunate dispatched 120,000 soldiers to quash the uprising, thus ending Japans brief 'Christian Century.' Christians still remained, of course, but all went into hiding, still the victims of occasional inquisitions.

During this time, the Dutch had been quietly making inroads into Japan. Although the shogunates policy called for ending foreign influence, the Dutch demonstrated that they were interested in trading alone. In fact, during the Shimabara rebellion, the Dutch were ordered to fire on the Christians in a test of loyalty. In 1641, their grudging (if not damning) loyalty won them Dejima, an artificial island in Nagasaki Bay, to which their activities would be confined. From this date until 1855, Japans contact with the outside world was limited to Nagasaki.

The port continued to exist as an exotic place. Chinese influence, due to what traders brought, began to appear in festivals, foods and architecture. Then, in 1720, the ban on Dutch books was lifted, causing hundreds of scholars to flood into Nagasaki to study European science and art.

After US Commodore Matthew Perrys landing in 1853, and the subsequent crumbling of the shogunate, Japan opened its doors again, and Nagasaki became a free port in 1859. Modernization began in earnest in 1868, and the city was swept along with the rest of the country.

With the Meiji Restoration, Nagasaki quickly began to assume some economic dominance, though its main industryshipbuilding, would eventually make it a target in World War II. On August 9th, 1945, the American B-52 'Bocks Car,' looking for the shipyards, spotted instead through the cloudbreak the Mitsubishi Arms Works, over which it dropped 'Fat Man' the second nuclear bomb exploded over Japan. At 11:02 am, 75,000 of Nagasakis 240,000 residents were killed, followed by the death of at least as many from resulting sickness and injury.

The city did, of course, rise again from the charred waste, albeit dramatically changed, as any city would be. New temples were built, and new churches as well, since the Christian presence never died out and even increased dramatically in numbers after the war. Some of the rubble was left as testimony, like the one-legged torii gate, and the stone arch near the epicenter. New structures were also raised as memorialssuch as the Atomic Bomb Museum. Most importantly, however, the port city, with its continued ship industry, stands today as a testament to peace, with its civic leaders and members of government providing a moral voice in the nuclear age and raising a cry of protest against any sort of testing that might compromise peace or human safety.


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