Nagasaki, Japan: More Than You Think

Outside of Japan, the port town of Nagasaki is simply known for one thing – the bombing that ended the second world war. There are plenty of reminders around the city, such as the striking single-legged torii gate (below) whose other half was blown off in the atomic blast, the stirring statues scattered about town and numerous memorials. It’s an important site in world history and worth going to for that reason alone.

Of course, no trip to Nagasaki would be complete without visiting Peace Park or the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, but there is so much more to Nagasaki.Yellow ceramic oragami paper cranes in the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

Yellow origami ceramic cranes in the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.

A monument under where the atomic bomb hypocenter was located.

Peace Park being visited by an elementary school field trip.

Nagasaki played an extremely important role in Japan’s history prior to World War II as well. For over 200 years, between 1633 and 1853, Nagasaki was the only port in all of Japan that was officially allowed to conduct trade with foreign countries. The impact of this role can still be seen today in the city’s food and architecture.

Megane-bashi, the spectacles bridge.

Megane-bashi, Japanese for “spectacles bridge”, is named for the reflection it creates in the water, is a very popular and romantic spot. Visiting around sunset is key and so is finding the heart-shaped brick in the stonework.

Castella, one of Nagasaki’s unique foods.

Today, Nagasaki is probably best known within Japan for its food. The two most popular dishes are castella (above) and champon. Castella is a simple cake that was brought in by the Portuguese. It’s rich with egg flavors and can be purchased virtually anywhere in the city. On the right is the original flavor and on the left is a green tea variation. Champon is a very popular pork and seafood noodle soup that was inspired from Chinese food. There is even a popular chain restaurant called Ringer Hut that sells Nagasaki champon throughout Japan.

The cute streetcars of Nagasaki.

Much like in the U.S., most cities in Japan used to have thriving streetcar networks. Today, most have ceased operation in favor of subways and making more room for cars. However, most of the big cities in southern Japan have held onto their streetcar tradition, including Nagasaki. It’s a convenient and fun way to get around the city and their bright colors are adorable.

Onboard a Nagasaki streetcar.

A row of torii gates at a local Shinto shrine.

Nagasaki is certainly not a main attraction in Japan, and quite a ways from many of the big name sights, but it’s worth it. It’s a quiet and quaint seaside town. It’s a great place to wander around and get lost in, to stumble across small neighborhood Shinto shrines and handicraft stores. There’s an important history to Nagasaki, without a doubt, but there’s a wealth of sights to see and things to do.

[Photo credits: Jonathan Kramer]

Photo of the day (9.23.10)


Some photos beg more questions than they answer. Flickr user Marisoleta snapped this statue in Nagasaki, Japan, and the caption notes that the figure is Kannon atop a turtle-shaped temple, surrounded by little children. Kannon is the Japanese Buddhist goddess of compassion, which may account for the children, but what about the turtle? She is also known as a protector of seamen, which could also extend to sea turtles. Fun fact: camera company Canon is named for the goddess as well. The temple also includes a Foucault’s pendulum, one of the largest in the world, to demonstate the rotation of the earth and a bell that chimes daily to commemorate the atomic bomb explosion.

Capture an interesting shrine on your travels, or any giant turtles? Submit to the Gadling Flickr Pool and it could be our next Photo of the Day.

Las Vegas Atomic Testing Museum

The next time your luck turns bad in Las Vegas, consider a healthy cathartic field trip to the Atomic Testing Museum.

Located just a few miles from the strip, this oddball museum celebrates the nuclear bomb testing that used to be held in the desert just 64 miles northwest of the casinos–close enough that gamblers could occasionally witness mushroom clouds rising in the distance. Yikes!

Today, visitors can pay homage to the area’s nuclear past with a visit to the museum for just $12. According to the website, the museum features “first-person narratives, large iconic artifacts, environmental re-creations, theatrical devices, and interactive elements for personal exploration.”

Not planning to be in Vegas any time soon? You can take the virtual tour here. For something really scary, roll your mouse across the Geiger counter collection. Personally, there is no scarier sound than this!

(via National Geographic Traveler)