Travelling from Fukuoka to Nagasaki is a simple and convenient affair, with both express trains and buses running between the two cities at regular intervals.
We used the 3-Day Northern Kyushu SUNQ Pass we previously purchased and exchanged at the QTIC in Tenjin, Fukuoka. Presenting the pass at Hakata Bus Terminal, we got our tickets for a 8:46 non-stop bus to Nagasaki Station, and were there in 2.5 hours. The bus ride was one of the smoothest I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing; I dozed for most of the journey, lulled by the gentle cruising and hum of the bus on the highway.
Arriving at Nagasaki Station, we checked into Hotel New Nagasaki, conveniently located a stone's throw away, before embarking on four of the best things to do and see in Nagasaki.
1. Eat Sasebo Burger
As the name suggests, Sasebo Burger hails from Sasebo City in Nagasaki, mostly noted for its Dutch-styled theme park Huis Ten Bosch. The burger was surprisingly hard to find around Nagasaki Station, with tourist information staff making a difficult face as she said, "Sasebo Burger is from Sasebo City, not Nagasaki City, so..." In the end, there was one place she could suggest to us: Royal Host.
Amused that she had recommended us a family restaurant, I asked, "How is the burger at Royal Host?"
She smiled, catching my nuance, and said "It's actually good."
And so to Royal Host we went. We found that the Royal Host had a Nagasaki Only menu, which local dishes limited to stores in the prefecture. Sasebo Burger was on this menu, and so we ordered it.
Sasebo Burger are huge, juicy burgers that originated in the 1950s outside the US Navy base in Sasebo, when the American soldiers taught the locals how to make a real burger. It consists of a beef patty with bacon, eggs, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, cheddar cheese and a generous dollop of mayonnaise.
It is genuinely delicious, and will more than satisfy a craving for Western food.
2. Visit Gunkanjima
With our stomachs full of burger and fries and beverages, we headed over to a Nagasaki Port, a 10-15 minute walk from the station. We had originally purchased tickets for the 13:00 ferry to Gunkanjima on JAPANiCAN, so all that was needed was a simple exchange and signing of a consent form.
For those unaware, Gunkanjima (also known as Hashima Island), is one of the most famous haikyo (abandoned ruins) spots in Japan, and can only be visited as part of a tour. "Gunkanjima" translates to "Battleship Island" and gazing at its form from across the waters, it's not hard to see how it earned that name.
The island was once used to mine undersea coal from 1887 to 1974, but residents abandoned the island once the coal neared depletion. For many years it lay untouched, and now serves as symbol of the casualties of industralisation and stark reminder of its dark history. It was formally approved as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015. In recent years, the island has gained a worldwide reputation after being featured in the James Bond movie Skyfall. It is also where certain scenes of Battle Royale II: Requiem and Attack on Titan was filmed.
The boat ride took around 45 minutes, and we were blessed with good weather and calm seas, so we docked without any issues. The boatful of people were broken up into 3 groups according to the language of the guide - that day Japanese, English and Chinese were available.
Staff from the tour conducting ferry company carefully herded us around to three spots on the island, as the guide gave a brief explanation of the crumbling buildings we saw before us, and the people who used to reside there. We spent just under an hour on the island, and at no time were we allowed to wander the island unassisted due to safety issues. However, seeing the decrepit buildings, bare structures, rotting wires and fallen brickwork was even more impressive up close and definitely worth the trip.
3. Experience Shippoku Cuisine
For dinner, we had a course of Shippoku, a fusion cuisine of Japanese, Chinese and Western dishes that Nagasaki is famous for. One of the defining features of this style of dining is the communal nature of it - unlike traditional Japanese kaiseki courses, where each diner gets their own set of dishes, in Shippoku the food placed in a large dish in the middle and shared, reminiscent of Chinese-style dining. The flavours are delicate and the ingredients varied.
4. See the Famous Night View atop Mt. Inasa
The night view from Mt. Inasa is famous as one of the Top 3 Best Night Views in Japan (the other two being Mt. Rokko in Kobe, and Hakodate in Hokkaido). Having now seen it for myself, I can understand why. The view is, true to its reputation, absolutely stunning.
A quick 15 minute drive from Nagasaki Station, the summit is accessible via taxi, bus, or ropeway. Alternatively, guided tours are also available, such as this 3-Hour Taxi Plan: Nagasaki City Night View Spot Tour Course (Round-trip from Nagasaki)
Model: Takuya Komatsu is an actor/singer active in Asia. Originally from Kanagawa Prefecture, he has starred in dramas such as Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo 2013 and Fire Boys (2004), as well as released an album in Taiwan.