Japan destinations – Nagasaki

Nagasaki is small enough to be explored on foot, but taking the tram would help a lot. We arrived on an evening and did walking for the rest of the day. Fujiwara Ryokan, where we put up in, was a mere 10 minutes from Nagasaki station, though there was a bit of slope to negotiate. This was one of the best Ryokans i’ve stayed in.

Fujiwara Ryokan
The room with ensuite bathroom was super cozy. Hot green tea, fridge, Yukata, coin operated washing machine/dryer and super friendly owner. All check.

I love the minimalist Japanese style rooms. The room is so comfortably spacious, yet also functional. It makes me wonder about the rationale behind our choice, in our part of the world, to clutter our rooms with all kinds of furniture.

Meganebashi (spectacles bridge)
Meganebashi (spectacles bridge)

Meganebashi was along the way to our dinner place (i planned it so), and the Nakashima river over which it arches, reminds me of Cheongyecheon in Seoul. The river, like most rivers in Japan (check out Kamo river in Kyoto), is clean and organized. They are not treated as dumping ground, which is the fate of many rivers across Asia. The rivers need zero investment for beautification (the investment, if any, would have been made decades or centuries ago), unlike Cheongyecheon. I think the Japanese have a lot of wisdom in this – respect for the environment. Unfortunately, i don’t have more photos to show you because i accidentally deleted them!

This was unplanned for, but we happened to walk through Hamanomachi, which is apparently the main shopping district in Nagasaki on the way to dinner
This was unplanned for, but on the way to dinner, we happened to walk through Hamanomachi, which is the main shopping district in Nagasaki. The shops close early.

Osakaya Hamamachiten was my choice for our very first meal in Japan. Wagyu beef is the highest priority food we wanted to try in Japan. Apparently in Kyushu, Black Wagyu is the most famous. This was an awesome meal!

So looking forward to this - Nihhonshu (sake)
We missed this so much – Nihonshu (sake)
There is one page in the menu that recommends special cuts. At 1800 Yen per platter, it is not really expensive for the quantity given.
There is one page in the menu with five types of special cuts. At 1800 Yen per platter, it is not expensive for the quantity given. This (2nd one on the list) is the fattest and softest among them.
The waiter would tell you the recommended doneness
No 3 on the list. The waiter would tell you the recommended doneness.
Grilling in progress
Grilling in progress
Recommended doneness was rare for this one, and it really made a lot of difference!
Recommended doneness was rare for this one (No 4 on the list), and it really made a lot of difference (yes, unfortunately we found out the hard way)!
We ordered this special beef-topped rice for the kids and they loved it. Very tasty beef of course.
We ordered this special beef-topped rice for the kids and they loved it, so much so we had to order a second bowl.
Bought 2 cans of beer for consumption back at the Ryokan. I continued having 2 cans of beer for each and every subsequent day in Japan. There are just too many of them to try. The premium beers are mostly quite nice.
Bought 2 cans of beer for consumption back at the Ryokan. We continued having 2 cans of beer each and every subsequent day in Japan. There are just too many of them to try. The premium beers are mostly quite nice.

I was torn over the choice of whether to go to Gunkanjima. First of all, i was worried that if i pre-booked the tour, and the weather was bad on the day of visit, they may not allow you to land on the island, or the tour may be cancelled, and it would be a wasted effort. Also, the areas you’re actually allowed to walk on the island offer very limited view. For these reasons, i decided against going. The weather turned out to be mighty fine, though, and i can’t help but feel a sense of loss.

Anyway, instead of Gunkanjima, we went to the Atomic Bomb Peace Park, which i felt had at least equal, if not more significance to Gunkanjima. We had already been to Hiroshima last year, and a visit to the Peace Park would complete the picture. By the way, if you’re wondering where to get a one day tram pass, Tip #2 you can get it at the tourist information centre at Nagasaki station, located inside the Seattle’s Best Coffee cafe, just next to the ticket gates. Do remember though, that it takes more than 4 trips to be worthwhile.

Hypocentre
Hypocentre
Peace. Pigeon resting on the remains of a prison building which collapsed when the bomb fell, killing everyone
Peace. Pigeon resting on the remains of a prison building which collapsed when the bomb fell, killing everyone

There are many restaurants offering Champon and Sara udon, the two Chinese style noodle dishes that represent Nagasaki cuisine. Despite having chosen a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown to sample the double dishes, i was wary about stepping into a tourist trap. I relied on Google Maps to find an alternative, and i found one with relatively good reviews in the Shianbashi area (which is an extension of Chinatown).

It was a comforting sight, upon entering the restaurant, to find that all the patrons were locals who looked like they were familiar with the place. The portion was huge – one of each of Champon and Sara udon was more than enough to feed two adults and two kids. I don’t know how this restaurant compares with the others, but the noodles were pretty good!

Champon. The soup was very thick and rich.
Champon. The soup was very thick and rich.
Thick noodles underneath
Thick noodles underneath
Saraudon, with thickened gravy
Sara udon, with thickened gravy
Surprise - it's thin crispy egg noodles (Cantonese style "Sang Mee") underneath, not udon noodles
Surprise! It’s thin crispy egg noodles (Cantonese style “Sang Mee”) underneath, not udon noodles

Glover Garden is the must-see attraction in Nagasaki. Prior to this, i had no idea that Nagasaki had been an important part of Japan’s industrialization, and that a Scottish national had made an important contribution there. The history, the views over Nagasaki and the overall charm of this place made it a very pleasant visit.

It didn't occur to me then, but this flower is often featured in brochures. Don't you think it looks Japanese?
It didn’t occur to me then, but don’t you think it looks Japanese? Interesting that only 3 of the 6 petals have the red coloured patch.
Oura church
Oura church. Took a photo without visiting inside.
Mitsubishi second dock house
Mitsubishi second dock house

I have an important tip to offer here, regarding the Mitsubishi second dock house. Tip #1 In the room on your left upon entering the Mitsubishi second dock house, documentaries on Gunkanjima are screened in 4K high resolution video. The documentaries are the next best thing to being on Gunkanjima itself, and you should probably take a look even if you did visit Gunkanjima. It takes you through various locations on the island, which you wouldn’t have been able to visit, and also gives you snapshots from the past.

The view from the balcony
The beautiful view from the balcony of Mitsubishi second dock house
Lotus. Next to Glover House.
Lotus. Next to Glover House.
Greenhouse inside Glover House
The greenhouse inside Glover House

I read from this article that it was possible to enjoy Castella – the Nagasaki specialty sponge cake, with tea, in Bunmeido’s flagship shop. And so i did. But it wasn’t as i envisioned it to be, a cafe setting. There was just a very small two-seater coffee table inside. We sat down, and were immediately served a small slice of Castella each, with tea.

Bunmeido Castella
Bunmeido Castella

I was not impressed with Castella. I think it was because of the warm weather, and we were feeling rather thirsty, and the cake did not help at all. Anyway, i really didn’t think it was that good, so we bought only two more slices of cake instead of a full-sized cake like most people would when they step into the shop. It was a little embarrassing, to be honest, but it can’t be helped.

Not having been satiated with our yearning for real dessert and coffee, we went across the road to the Yumesaito (You Me) mall, and picked Cafe Mercard on level 2, located inside the departmental store.

Waffles with a very nice eggy taste, very different from the Korean ones, but this is a very nice
Waffles with a nice eggy taste, very different from the Korean ones, but this is a very nice
Mille crepe is a very common dessert in Japan, and obviously they do it well
Mille crepe is a very common dessert in Japan, and obviously they do it really well
Japanese coffee tends to be acidic and somewhat diluted, but this was still satisfying enough. Very cute miniature milk frother jug.
Japanese coffee tends to be acidic and somewhat diluted, but this was still satisfying enough. Very cute miniature milk frother jug.

Our final item of the day was to see the Nagasaki night view from Inasayama, said to be one of the top 3 in the world. I have an important tip to offer you about getting to the observation deck. Tip #3 The cheapest way to Inasayama and back is via a public bus. It costs 340 Yen round trip, whereas the ropeway costs 1200 Yen (and you’ll still need to take a bus, or walk 15 minutes to get to a tram station). There are private buses that bring you up there as well, but the cost is probably similar to the ropeway.

There is very little information about this in English on the web (which may be why you landed here), so i’m going to give you enough details to pull it off. Catch bus number 5 from the bus stop in front of Nagasaki station. The destination indicated on the bus reads “稲佐山” which is Inasayama. There are also buses with the same number 5 that goes to other destinations stopping at the same bus stop, and the destination indicated might have the wording “稲佐” but not precisely “稲佐山”. Anyway, you can ask the driver (mention “Inasayama”) if you’re unsure. The bus schedule is available from here, click on the first link under number 5.

This is how you read the bus schedule: look for the column that reads “稲佐山”. When you see a figure inside that column, it means there is a bus that will arrive at Inasayama at that timing, e.g. 1836 and 1906. On the same row, find the figure under the column “長崎駅前”. This is the timing the bus arrives and departs from Nagasaki station, e.g. 1820 and 1850 (corresponding to the arrival time at Inasayama 1836 and 1906). So it is a half hourly bus, terminating at Insayama. From where you alight, you will have some steps to climb, but it is nothing difficult.

600m to the observation deck
600m to the observation deck

For the return trip, you take the bus from where you have alighted. The bus number changes to number 10. There is a sign (in Chinese only, sorry, but you can still read the figures) that tells you the bus departure timing. If my memory doesn’t fail me, it is 2020 and 2105. Anyway, the savings you get (860 Yen) when you take the bus instead of the ropeway is enough to pay for a meal, totally worth it. By the way, this is how you pay for the bus fare – grab a ticket when you board from the rear of the bus. When you alight, throw the ticket inside the fare collection box. Throw your coins inside too. Use the change machine if you need to.

Sun setting towards the west
Sun setting towards the west
At dusk
At dusk
Day 11DSC_0242-01
360 degrees views from the deck
The night scene
The night scene

It was close to 9pm by the time we got back to Nagasaki station, and most restaurants around the alleys across the road from Nagasaki station would have stopped taking orders by this time. Those in AMU plaza might stay open a little longer, but we were lazy to walk across to the Nagasaki station side, so we opted for Ramen for dinner. Ramen eateries tend to stay open later, i think.

Day 11DSC_0345-01
Nothing fanciful, but filling
Day 11DSC_0344-01
With thicker noodles and heavier broth
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