The second city on our Kyushu trip after Fukuoka was Nagasaki!
We spent 2.5 days in Nagasaki, and while it sounds short, we actually visited almost everything we wanted to see, so it worked out quite well.
Ready to dive into our Nagasaki adventures? Let’s go!
✥ DAY 1 ✥
HUIS TEN BOSCH STATION
We left Fukuoka and took the train, not to the heart of Nagasaki, but to Huis Ten Bosch, which is located about an hour north of Nagasaki City!
What is Huis Ten Bosch? It’s a Dutch-inspired theme park! It translates to “House in the Woods”, and the theme park recreates elements of Netherlands, including buildings found there – all to scale!
Thanks to their excellent marketing, Huis Ten Bosch a place I’ve been wanting to visit for the longest time because in the posters the place look so dreamy, like a wonderland! (I’m a sucker for themed-anything in Japan, because seriously, if anyone in the world can do themes, it’s the Japanese!)
When we got out of the station, we were greeted by…
HEN NA HOTEL
We had to go dump our luggages first since we weren’t sure if there were coin lockers big enough at the theme park. So we headed to our hotel: Hen na Hotel.
No, not henna, the intricate body art designs. Hen na Hotel literally translates to “Strange Hotel”. It’s strange because…
It’s a hotel run by robots!
That’s right; no human staff! (or at least, there’s so little you will hardly run into any)
We arrived before the check-in time, and the robots were… off duty! We certainly didn’t see that coming. But well, I suppose even robots need to recharge their batteries…
Fortunately, not all robots were
lazy tired and we saw a hardworking fella diligently cleaning the carpets:
We deposited our luggages and quickly made our way back to the theme park!
HUIS TEN BOSCH
ISN’T THIS PLACE GORGEOUS?! They are all real tulips! (although there are fake ones too outside of the picture, for lighting up at night haha)
At night, it transforms into a kingdom of light (just like Nabana no Sato in Mie).
I like this place a lot! It’s a beautiful place, no matter whether it’s day or night!
We stayed in the park all the way till closing, grabbed dinner from the conbini (99% sold out of food because Huis Ten Bosch is in a super ulu area and there’s no other food apart from convenience stores!) and headed back to our hotel.
✥ DAY 2 ✥
I was awoken by my alarm at 8.23am – for some reason I don’t like to set alarms in typical or round numbers – and thought to lie in bed for just a couple more minutes. I don’t snooze either because I hate hearing the alarm, and once is more than enough. People who chain-snooze is beyond me. How can they stand hearing the alarm so many times?! Ok wait, I think I’m going off on a tangent here. Ahem.
Right. So I closed my eyes for just a minute (it was just a while, I swear!) and the next time I opened them, it was 9.15am.
I looked at the time and blinked once. And again. Hmm? How did 23… move backwards to 15…?
A few more blinks later, the grogginess faded and comprehension set in. Then panic swiftly took over.
We were due for breakfast at 9am, and breakfast closes at 9.30am!!!
I yelled at Carys to get up, and she barely stirred, so deep in sleep she was. But she finally processed my yelling somewhere at “WE’RE LATE!” and quickly sat up.
Both of us never dressed more quickly and we flew down the steps to the restaurant. I think we actually made it there at 9.20am. I don’t know how.
It was a buffet spread so we carted most of everything we wanted to eat because they started keeping everything at 9.30am sharp.
After breakfast, we went back to the room to pack up, making sure we didn’t miss the 10.30am shuttle bus to the station. We hurried and ran to the entrance, with about 1 minute to spare. But 10.30am came and went, and there was still no sign of the bus.
We CANNOT miss our 10.44am train because the next train would result in us arriving at Nagasaki an hour later, and we would consequently miss the tour of a major highlight of our trip! No way in hell were we missing it!
We had 10 minutes left to make it to the station.
Let’s do the math: Yesterday, it took around 8 minutes for us to walk to the theme park. The train station is even further than the theme park, probably + 5 minutes. Therefore, we had 10 minutes to cover a 13-min walk, with 2 luggages weighing more than 20kg in total.
We. were. so. screwed.
So we did the only thing we could: RUN.
We ran like people who were escaping a mental institution, and trailing behind us were our deafeningly noisy luggages, the wheels clearly at war with the pavement. It sounded like I was dragging a string of misfiring machine guns behind me.
My adrenaline started to run out and I slowed my pace to a jog. My lungs burned as I struggled to cram as much oxygen as I could in every breath. I looked at the time and cursed.
There was only 3 minutes left and I still had half a bridge to go. And don’t forget the stairs down to the train platform. Ughhh. I summoned the strength to run a few more steps.
By some stroke of miracle, we actually made it on to the train! We were so sure we were going to miss it, because less than a minute to departure and we weren’t even on the platform. Thank our lucky stars the train actually left late! (by late, I mean like one minute late)
Whew. I feel tired just recounting this. I think I have to go catch my breath before continuing writing.
So from Huis Ten Bosch, we headed straight to Nagasaki station. We were hoping to drop our luggages in coin lockers at the station, but no such luck. The lockers were all full!
We couldn’t very well drag our luggage around with us on the tour, so we did something I almost never do in Japan… take a cab! We took a cab to the hotel, and again to the tour meeting point. It actually wasn’t that bad, because the starting fare was 510 yen in Nagasaki (it’s 660 yen or more in Tokyo) and a coin locker would have set us back about 600 yen each anyway.
We arrived at the meet up point with time to spare! Phew, at last; an end to the running theme (pun intended) for the day!
GUNKANJIMA (BATTLESHIP ISLAND)
Yes! This was one of the highlights of our Nagasaki trip – visiting Gunkanjima!
The original name is actually Hashima Island, but because of the way the buildings were built on the island, it started to resemble a battleship, and was given the nickname Gunkanjima (literally battleship island).
Random: It’s the same “gunkan” as in gunkan sushi. The sushi with seaweed wrapped around it resembles a battleship, no? Ok, fine. Please ignore me then. /random
Surprisingly, many people I spoke to have never heard of Gunkanjima. To give a quick introduction, although Gunkanjima is now an abandoned, it was serving as a coal mine up until 1974. Miners and their families lived on the island and it grew so populated that it resulted in the highest population density ever recorded in the entire world.
We wanted to see it because it was such an interesting piece of history that was still accessible to us! The tour was very interesting and I recommend it to anyone visiting Nagasaki! No, wait, let me revise that statement. I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in history, because when I sent Fu what I thought was an awesome photo of Gunkanjima, his reaction was “HUH. What’s so interesting about some rocks?” Sigh. (for the record, I sent him this photo)
Carys and I both enjoyed it though, and were very glad we made it!
How to get to Gunkanjima: Via tours only. We went with Gunkanjima Concierge. Recommended!
After the tour, we could finally travel like normal people and had the leisure to take the local tram!
“Isn’t it basically just a bus running on predefined tracks on the ground?” I hear you say.
No! Make no mistake; it’s listed on Tripadvisor as the #5 most popular thing to do in Nagasaki!
Seriously though, it’s mostly for the experience where we got to squeeze ourselves on the sliver of pavement serving as a waiting area, and hoping we don’t get run over by the tram when it comes by.
It was time for food, and the obvious choice was… CHAMPON!
As far as possible, I try to save my first experience eating meibutsu (famous local foods) until I visited the place it originated from. To me, it makes the first taste of it even more memorable and special! Of course, on the downside, I may be forever ruined since I will always compare it to what I had at THE SOURCE.
This was the case for champon; even though it’s widely available in Tokyo, I have never ordered it. I wanted to eat it first in Nagasaki!
Carys made an interesting remark when I told her this; she said I was spoiled enough to be able to even think of doing this. Haha! I never thought about it that way, but I suppose she’s right!
For the record, the champon we had was SO DELICIOUS. We ate it at the popular Kouzanrou. Highly recommended!
Since Kouzanrou was in Chinatown, we explored the area after we finished eating.
Lots of lanterns because it was the lantern festival, celebrating Lunar New Year.
And look what I found!
Yeah, it’s probably no big deal to you, but understand that I haven’t eaten these in AGES! They’re only found in Chinatowns in Japan and I live 2 hours away from the nearest one.
Shinchi Chinatown is Japan’s oldest Chinatown, but it isn’t very big. In no time at all, we finished exploring the area. Not a definite must-see if you’re not already in the area; even more so if you come from a country with a Chinatown.
How to get to Shinchi Chinatown: Google Maps
HAMANMACHI SHOPPING AREA
Without planning to, we wandered over from Chinatown to the biggest shopping area in Nagasaki: Hamanmachi.
Lots of shops (over 700!) and almost completely sheltered! It’s a good place for some shopping, but the shops are pretty standard fare – the general kind you find in modern cities. We didn’t buy anything from here (possibly also because we weren’t in a shopping mood).
How to get to Hamanmachi: Website
In my quest to complete seeing all of 日本三大夜景 Nihon Sandai Yakei (Three Great Night Views of Japan) – I had already seen Mount Hakodate in Hokkaido and Mount Maya in Kobe – I asked Carys to go to the last one, Mount Inasa, with me.
We took a cab up to Mount Inasa because our hotel was already halfway up the mountain and it didn’t make sense to go to the bottom of the mountain to take the ropeway up.
The most flummoxing thing about taking the cab up is the fact that the drop-off point and the carpark share the same entrance/exit so the cab couldn’t enter because the carpark was full, even though we technically didn’t need a parking space.
We asked the cab driver if we could walk in (hello, the meter is jumping?!) and he merely laughed. He then said it was a 15-20 min walk in and there were no lights, so it’s not safe.
I’m glad we listened to him, because he wasn’t lying.
We got in after a short wait, and our cab fare came up to something like 1,200 yen so it wasn’t bad at all.
Now… ready for the million dollar night view?
Nagasaki’s night view is slightly different from the other two in that activity has extended all the way up the mountains, so there are lights dotting the mountains too! It’s quite a cute sight to see!
After a long (long, loooong) day, it was back to the hotel! I booked this hotel at a steal; less than 4,000 yen per person! And it comes with onsen too! The only downside is that it is far from the station (they provide shuttle service) and our room doesn’t have a scenic view.
The scenic view:
Our room view:
Amandi is a pretty nice hotel, and affordable too! But as far as I know, this hotel cannot be booked through non-Japanese sites. However, I’ll include the link anyway, just in case it has use for someone.
✥ DAY 3 ✥
Thankfully, no oversleeping today! The first order of the day was to pick up our rental car!
I’m the main driver for this trip! Fu is usually the main driver and I’ve never driven on long journeys without him, so this will be an adventure! But I made sure to pad our rental car with the most comprehensive insurance possible, so BRING IT ON. (no actually, please don’t.)
Before we left Nagasaki, there was a last stop we wanted to make.
NAGASAKI ATOMIC BOMB MUSEUM
I don’t think we could have left Nagasaki without visiting this place.
I usually take a billion and a half photos wherever I go, but it didn’t feel right to be snapping away here. I did take this photo though, which about sums it up:
We spent about 2 hours in the museum, reading informational panels and watching videos. It was a sobering place to be, and while I won’t say I enjoyed the visit, I did learn a lot about that fateful day, and the events that transpired.
A short distance away from the museum is the Hypocenter Park. In the park, a cenotaph marks the epicenter of the explosion.
ROAD TRIPPIN’ TO KUMAMOTO
With that, we closed the chapter on Nagasaki and head towards the next, and final city of our trip: Kumamoto!