At 11.02 a.m. on 9 August 1945, 500 metres above Nagasaki, an atomic bomb exploded. 70,000 inhabitants were killed immediately, another 70,000 people died from illness, among other things. But it could have turned out worse! Fat Man was bigger and more powerful than the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, but did not end up where it should have been. And also the surrounding hills have prevented worse. But Nagasaki was largely destroyed.
75 years later, there’s no sign of this devastation. Nagasaki is a port city on the island of Kyushu and has 500,000 inhabitants. Unfortunately, many tourists skip this city during their holidays. And that in itself is quite logical! It is located in the west of Japan and if you have seen Hiroshima then you already know everything about the atomic bomb? But Nagasaki has much more to offer than just a museum about the consequences of this destructive weapon…
Nagasaki or Hiroshima? If you can do both, because both Hiroshima and Nagasaki have interesting sights. Read more about Hiroshima in Hiroshima Travel Guide | 5 historical sights
Nagasaki Travel Guide – Content
- History Nagasaki – A journey through the past
- Accommodation – Where to stay in Nagasaki?
- Sights – 10 historical sites in Nagasaki
- Transportation – How to get to Nagasaki?
History Nagasaki – A journey through the past
If only Nagasaki could turn back time when the atomic bomb exploded over the city on 9 August 1945. But unfortunately, that is not possible. Therefore a short chronology with important events from the history of this interesting city. A history that only really begins in the 16th century.
Foreigners arrive in Nagasaki
The Chinese and Portuguese are landing in Nagasaki. From that moment on Nagasaki would become an important gateway for the rest of Japan.
(Source Photo: Wikimedia – Chinese traders in Nagasaki)
Say goodbye to the Catholic faith
26 Catholics were executed at Nishizaka Hill under the strict order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, at that time the ruler in Japan. Japan isolated itself from the rest of the world and the Christian faith was suppressed.
Japan isolates itself, except…
The Dutch are the only Western power allowed to continue trading with the Japanese. Then they do it from the small island of Dejima. Until 1853 the Dutch were the only European partner, under strict conditions that they came only to act and not to convert people to Christianity.
(Source Photo: New York Public Library Dejima)
Thomas Glover, influence of a Scottish merchant
Scottish trader Thomas Glover leaves Shanghai for Japan. He founds his own company (Glover&Co) and has an important role in the industrialisation that Japan underwent at the end of the 19th century.
(Source Photo: Wikimedia – What Nagasaki looked like in 1865)
Atomic bomb on Nagasaki
On 9 August 1945 at 11.02 am an atomic bomb exploded over one of the suburbs of Nagasaki. This bomb was bigger and heavier than the one above Hiroshima. 70,000 inhabitants were killed immediately. And to think that the Americans actually wanted to throw an atom bomb at the city of Kokura. But because of bad weather they moved to Nagasaki.
(Source Photo: Wikimedia – Nagasaki Atomic bomb)
Reconstruction of Nagasaki
Surprisingly, it was possible to rebuild the city in the 1950s. That process went well and there was no question of radioactive radiation anymore.
Was it really necessary, dropping the atomic bomb?
Historians have long thought that the atomic bomb was mainly used to force a final surrender from the Japanese. In fact, of course, that’s the case. Former president of the United States Truman (1884-1972) wanted to end the war as soon as possible. But it was also an important means for the American side to impress the Russians. And indeed, Stalin was impressed by the power of the atom bomb. Eventually, with the help of espionage and scientists, Russia managed to produce a devastating bomb in 1949. The Cold War, the period of armed peace between capitalist and communist countries, only really started…
Accommodation – Where to stay in Nagasaki?
Nagasaki is not a big city. The best place to stay is in the center of it. It is located just east of the train station JR Nagasaki. A hotel/hostel around China Town is a great place to spend a few days exploring the city. The place where the atomic bomb struck is located 2 kilometers north of the train station.
Below you will find a number of options for accommodations around train station JR Nagasaki. Only the Mezame Hostel is located 1.5 km north of that station in the district of Urakami. Accommodation chosen purely on the basis of assessment.
|Budget (up to 60 dollars)|
|Nagasaki International Hostel|
|Casa Blanca Guesthouse|
|Hotel Belleview Nagasaki Dejima|
|APA Hotel Nagasaki Ekimae|
|Luxury (more than 100 dollars)|
|Nisshokan Bettei Koyotei|
|The Hotel Nagasaki BW Premier|
|Setre Glover’s House Nagasaki|
Tip hostel: Hostel Casa Noda (budget) is located 200 meters south of the JR Nagasaki train station. There is a small common room, a kitchen and spacious dormitories. A bunkbed costs about 25 dollars per person.
Sights – 10 historical sites in Nagasaki
Nagasaki has some very interesting historical sights. And of course most of them have to do with the atomic bomb. These 6 sights are located 2 kilometers north of the center of Nagasaki in the district Urakami. Other historical places are mainly about the role of Nagasaki as a port and trading city.
1. Hypocentre Nagasaki
500 metres above this site, the second atomic bomb exploded at 11.02 a.m. on 5 August 1945. Within a radius of 2 kilometres, almost everything was destroyed and more than 70,000 people were killed immediately. A black monolith now stands on this spot and is part of the Nagasaki Peace Park.
2. Peace Park
This park was built just after the second atomic tree to commemorate all the victims who died. In the peace park you will find a sculpture park where various countries, including the Netherlands, could donate a monument, a peace symbol.
3. Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and National Peace Memorial Hall
Of course, Nagasaki is mainly dedicated to everything that has to do with the atomic bomb. But don’t miss this museum. It gives a good impression of Japan before and after the atomic bomb. Another advantage is that it is not that touristy, since most tourists prefer Hiroshima over Nagasaki (in terms of location also certainly logical). But both the museum and the Memorial Hall are equally impressive.
4. Nagai Takashi Memorial Museum
Nagai Takashi (1908-1951) was a doctor specialized in radiology. In June 1945 he was told that he had leukaemia and had only 3 years to live. On 11 August he discovered that his house had been completely destroyed and that his wife had not survived the bomb. The rest of his life he devoted himself to helping victims and writing books. The museum itself is quite small, but quite interesting because Nagai Takashi is seen as a local hero. In the library upstairs it is possible to watch a video.
5. Shiroyama Elementary School
At the time of the atomic bomb, 1400 of the 1550 pupils of the Shiroyama Elementary School were killed. All that remains is a small part of the remaining school building which houses a small museum. Nowadays there is a new school building here and at the entrance there is a statue where every child bends on arrival. There are also other statues in the schoolyard to commemorate the 1400 victims. It is allowed to go around the school.
6. Urakami Cathedral
This cathedral was built in 1895, after the Catholic faith was no longer forbidden after a long time. Because this church was only 500 meters away from the impact of the atomic bomb, there was almost nothing left of this cathedral. A number of statues, which are standing outside, survived. In 1958 the Urakami cathedral was rebuilt, bigger than its predecessor.
From 1641 to 1853 Dejima was the place where the Dutch stayed to trade with the Japanese. The fact that the Dutch, as the only European power, were allowed to do so was due to the fact that they were not allowed to engage in ecclesiastical activities. Today’s Dejima is a museum, in which as much as possible of that time has been reconstructed.
8. Martyrdom of the 26 saints of Japan
On February 5, 1597, 26 Catholics were murdered at Nishizaka Hill. They came from Kyoto and Osaka and had to walk to Nagasaki, chained and handcuffed as punishment. Once there they were murdered, because the then ruler Hideyoshi wanted to make it clear that they didn’t want anything to do with the Catholic faith. A museum and a monument in honour of those 26 saints have been erected on this present site.
9. Glovers Garden
At this moment Glovers Garden is being restored. But this was the place where Thomas Glover 1838-1911) a Scottish merchant settled in Nagasaki in 1959. He left for Japan to run a British trading post, but also set up his own company: Glover & Co. He played an important role in industrialisation in Japan. He played a major role in the creation of companies such as Mitsubishi and the Kirin brewery. In 1863 he bought this place on the hill with a beautiful view of the bay of Nagasaki and had a number of western houses built there.
10. Haskima: battleship island
Haskima, also known as Gunkanjima, is located 15 kilometres off the coast of Nagasaki. It is a coal mine and Mitsubishi bought this island in 1890 to extract coal from the sea. The island is remotely similar to a battleship and was therefore given the appropriate name. Nowadays it is no longer in use but it is possible to visit the island with a tour. Your hostel/hotel will be able to help you book a tour to this special island.
Tip: For a view of the city of Nagasaki go to Inasa-Yama. A cable car will take you up the 333 meter high mountain and you can enjoy the beautiful view over the city and its surrounding islands until 10 o’clock in the evening.
Transportation – How to get to Nagasaki?
Nagasaki has an airport, 20 kilometres northeast of the city. This airport, Nagasaki Airport is largely used for domestic flights, but also for flights to Shanghai, Seoul and Hong Kong. A domestic flight from Tokyo to Nagasaki costs approximately €40.
The city’s main train station is JR Nagasaki Station. From Fukuoka there is no longer a connection with the Shinkanshen, but with the normal train. The station is located in the centre of the city, close to some historical sights. By tram (lines 1&3) it is possible to get to the Peace Park and the Atomic Bomb Museum, which is located 2.5 kilometers north of the center.
Next to the train station is the Kenei bus station. Buses leave for various cities and places in Western Japan, as well as night buses to Osaka.
And what did you think of Nagasaki? Feel free to leave a message below for more tips and ideas!