Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Nagasaki 3-Day Itinerary: Day Two

Read Day 1 here - Peace Park, Atomic Bomb Museum, Mount Inasa
Read Day 2 here - Gunkanjima, Chinatown, Glover Garden, Nagasaki Seaside Park
Read Day 3 here - Spectacle Bridge, Former HSBC Building, one legged torii

In the morning, we purchased a one day tram pass for 500 yen. They are not sold on the trams but are available at hotels and the tourism centre according to the poster we saw. We bought ours from the underground parking lot office next to Matsuyama-machi station (松山町).

We booked a tour for Gunkanjima (Battleship Island 軍艦島) online a few weeks before our Nagasaki trip. Make sure to do so because spots fill up quickly! Its official name is Hashima Island but it is well known as Gunkanjima for its appearance. The boat tour company told us to meet at their office by Dejima Port (出島) between 8:10 to 8:40am for the 9:10am tour. It cost 3900 yen total which included the 300 yen admission fee required by the local government when landing on the island.

Dejima Port
Ticket for Gunkanjima
The weather was superb with blue skies and sun so we were lucky because in poor weather the boat won’t land on the island due to rocky seas. On the website it warns that when the wind velocity is over 5 metres, wave height is above 0.5 metres or when visibility is below 500 metres that the boat won’t land. On this particular day, our boat ride was very smooth and I didn’t even feel floaty when I stepped onto land again.

On the boat
Takashima Island
The boat stopped at Takashima Island (高島) before Gunkanjima for us to see a museum about the history of the mining island. Mitsubishi (三菱) bought the island for its coal and mining was active until 1974 when the company closed down the mines. Over 5000 people lived on this small island and they had everything from a pool to schools. They only didn’t have parks and cemeteries due to the space limitation. The population density was 9 folds that of Tokyo at the time. When the mines were closed everyone left the island, leaving it a desolate place. The harsh weather and typhoons further damaged the empty buildings to the rubble of today. The island was important to the industrialization of Japan by providing coal.

Souvenirs sold at Takashima Island
Model of Gunkanjima
Demonstrating the mining past of Gunkanjima
Gunkanjima really looked like a battleship from afar and when we got on the island we were only allowed to walk a small part of the perimeter due to safety in case the buildings collapse some more. It was so beautiful in a broken kind of way. I stared at the crumbling concrete apartment buildings and wondered what life was like there. There was one man sitting on the edge of the stone wall surrounding the island and the guide told us that he received special permission from the city to fish there.

Finally Gunkanjima is in sight!
Exploring Gunkanjima
Exploring Gunkanjima
We got back to land around noon and we took the tram to Chinatown which is one of the three biggest ones in Japan alongside Kobe (神戸) and Yokohama (横浜). We had the famous butaman (ぶたまん) which is a steamed bun with a slice of fatty pork belly sandwiched in the middle. We also ate chanpon (ちゃんぽん) in Chinatown which is a Nagasaki dish of noodle soup but I wasn’t a fan of the one we had with its strong MSG taste.

Nagasaki Chinatown
Eating Chanpon
We went to Glover Garden next which was on a hill with escalators to transport visitors. It was made up of some of the oldest western style houses in Nagasaki and Japan. The houses were built and owned by some of the most influential foreigners in Nagasaki after Japan reopened to the world. Walking around there felt like we weren’t in Japan anymore because the structures were so different. The view was absolutely gorgeous overlooking the port into the sea. There were cherry blossom trees, flowers and well kept bushes everywhere. It was such a charming place and I wish we had more time to slowly explore.

Souvenir street on the way to Glover Garden
Outdoor escalator at Glover Garden
Glover Garden

View from Glover Garden
Following Glover Garden, we went to Nagasaki Seaside Park for hanami (お花見) where we had a picnic under the cherry blossom trees and admired the scenery while we ate. The park was very pretty with many cherry blossom trees and green grass by the glittering sea. It was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. I felt lucky to have come at such a good time.

Nagasaki Seaside Park
Hanami under cherry blossom trees
In the evening, we went to Nagasaki Station to take the free shuttle bus for Fukunoyu Onsen. The outdoor onsen portion overlooked the city’s night view and there was even a cherry blossom tree by the glass partition. The facility played mellow music and I felt so grateful for the beauty I got to experience on this trip. Plus it was soothing to the limbs after all the walking we did and the best way to end the day. 

Nagasaki Port nearby the seaside park
Nagasaki Station
Read Day 1 here - Peace Park, Atomic Bomb Museum, Mount Inasa
Read Day 2 here - Gunkanjima, Chinatown, Glover Garden, Nagasaki Seaside Park
Read Day 3 here - Spectacle Bridge, Former HSBC Building, one legged torii
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