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3-Day Model Trip Day1 / Nagasaki - Kumamoto

3-Day Model Trip Day1 / Kyushu / Nagasaki - Kumamoto

The port of Nagasaki was opened in the latter half of the 16th century as Japan's only gateway to the outside world. After that, various kinds of contact thrived between western countries such as Portugal and Holland.

Because of this history, Nagasaki has been heavily influenced by Christian culture, and is famous for having many historic Christian churches, including Oura Tenshudo Catholic Church, which is a National Treasure. In addition to churches, there are still many western buildings and foreign graveyards, which together create an exotic atmosphere. Dejima Island, which was the window for contact with foreign countries, is being restored to its past appearance, and there is a wonderful harmony between old western culture and the Japanese town. There is also a strong influence from Chinese culture. As well as Shinchi Chukagai (China Town), which is lined with Chinese restaurants and general stores, the Chinese influence can be seen in temples like Kofuku-ji Temple. Nagasaki was also the tragic stage for the suppression of early Christianity after the ban of that religion at the beginning of the 17th century, and for the dropping of an atomic bomb during World War II. The city has been full of historical and cultural events, both light and dark.

Nagasaki is served by streetcars known as "chin chin densha" (ding-ding trains) because of the sound their bells make, and these are convenient for sightseeing. So I boarded a streetcar and visited Heiwa Koen Peace Park. Heiwa-koen is close to the blast center of the atom bomb dropped in 1945, and at the time was the location for a prison. The park was constructed in a desire for peace. Inside the park is a peace memorial with arms raised high in the air, as well as a fountain containing monuments sent from different countries. The park is still visited by lots of people, and is a place where you can feel for yourself once again the importance of peace.

From here we are going to walk to Urakami Tenshudo Catholic Church. This is a brick church that stands on a hill. It is a very graceful building with two towers, one on the left and one on the right. The church was built by believers over the course of 30 years starting in 1895, and at the time was the biggest cathedral in the eastern hemisphere. It was destroyed by the atomic bomb blast, and the current structure was built in 1959. While digging up the destroyed building, the Angelus bell was discovered, and rings even today.

After renewing my thoughts about peace, it was time to jump back in time to the era when Japan was closed to the outside world, by heading for Dejima Island, which was then Japan's only trading post. Now, the sea around it has been filled in on all but one side, so it is an island only in name, but in the past in was clearly a manmade island. The island was shaped like a fan, and for 200 years after a Dutch trading post was established in the middle of the 17th century, it was the only place in Japan that foreigners were allowed to live. A 15-to-1-scale model called "Mini Dejima" gives an idea of what the island was like in those days. From 1996, a plan to reconstruct Dejima has been in progress, and five buildings including Dejima Omotemon (front gate) and Ichibansen Sendo-beya (room for the captain of the number one ship) have been restored. The inside of the room and items in it have been restored to their original state. The furnishings and decoration in the dining room and the Dutch ship's captain's room are a strange compromise between Japanese and Western styles. You can imagine the confusion over cultural differences on both the Japanese and Dutch sides. The schedule is to restore 25 buildings to their original form and the island to its original fan shape by 2010, in order to bring back the look of 19th century Dejima.

Since we've been walking all over the place, I expect you are hungry. One of Nagasaki's specialty dishes is a noodle dish using plenty of vegetables, meat and seafood, which is called either "chanpon" or "sara-udon". This can be found easily, and is just right for lunch. Shinchi Chukagai China Town is just a short walk from Dejima Island, and has lots of Chinese restaurants. So let's go into one of these and order chanpon. The cloudy soup looks thick at first, but it in fact tastes surprisingly light. It tastes so nice because it uses the stock of all sorts of shellfish. Chanpon is also quite filling, so you should feel satisfied.

Now we're full up, let's go to Oura Tenshudo Catholic Church. Oura Tenshudo was built in 1864 by a French missionary, and was Japan's first catholic church. It is currently designated a National Treasure. It consists of a chalkstone building atop stone steps, and has an octagonal spire on its roof. It looks very graceful from the outside, but the stained glass window has a fantastic appearance from the inside. This stained glass is said to have been made 100 years ago in France, and it looks most beautiful on a sunny day between 2 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when the sun streams through.

After enjoying the stained glass, I went next door to the Glover-en Garden. Oura Tenshudo and the Glover Garden are in an area called Minami-yamate, which became the foreigners' quarter after the country was opened in the mid-19th century. Inside the garden are nine buildings that were in the area at the time, which have since been moved and restored. One of these, the former Glover residence, was built in 1863, and is Japan's oldest wooden building in the western style to be preserved in its original form. European-style furnishings and decorations have been reproduced inside, and as you look around, it is easily to forget that you are in Japan. The former Glover residence stands on a piece of high ground, and from in front of it you can see a view of the whole city and the port that should not be missed.

After looking around here, it is time to go back to Nagasaki Station, and get on a JR Limited Express for Kumamoto. The Kamome ("Gull") Limited Express Train that takes us to Tosu, where we change trains, has a chic monotone interior like an urban hotel. You will be able to enjoy a pleasant train journey.