Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Winter Holiday 2015: Nagasaki + Vlog!

Good morning, friends! First of all, I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who has liked the Origami Kiwi facebook page recently. I've been writing this blog on and off for a long time - since before I even left New Zealand - and yet somehow it never seemed "ready" to share. Despite that, a few months ago Origami Kiwi started getting more and more views, and I began to think it really could be interesting and informative to some people. I felt encouraged to shared the blog with more people, and I've been so happy with the response - so thank you, everyone!

Peace Statue, sculpted by Seibo Kitamura from Nagasaki.
For today's post, I'd like to share part of my winter holiday. Like last year, my parents came to visit me in Japan for Christmas. I'm so grateful to them for making it over here again, and organising a lovely trip for us all. We went to many fun and interesting places together, including some of our favourites from last year's trip, as well as some new destinations. One of the new places we visited was Nagasaki.

You can see Nagasaki highlighted in red.
Nagasaki is a prefecture on the west of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands. Outside of Japan, it is most well-known for being the landing site of the second atomic bomb deployed in World War II, but Nagasaki also plays an important part in the history of foreign trade in Japan. From about 1633 to 1853, travel in and out of Japan was strictly controlled and largely banned in a policy called "sakoku". In English, this is often called Japan's "period of isolation". However, a small number of international trade operations were permitted, mostly in Nagasaki. There, Japan's only contact with Europe, in the form of a Dutch trading post, flourished. Nagasaki quickly developed a reputation as a place of internationalisation and Western learning, the echoes of which you can still experience today. My parents and I spent one day in Nagasaki, but we managed to see a lot. I'll show you where we went!

The beautiful port of Nagasaki.
We took a very early shinkansen (bullet train) from Hiroshima to Nagasaki, which took about 3 hours. It had already been snowing in Hiroshima when we left, but it was also snowing lightly in Nagasaki when we got there. At the station, we went to the tourist information center, and got a map and a day pass for the trams, which run to many of the popular sites in the city.

Our first stop was Nagasaki Peace Park.

Peace fountain.
There are lots of statues and sculptures in the park, many of which were donated by other countries.

These are the ruins of a prison which was destroyed by the impact of the bomb. The Japanese staff, and prisoners from Japan, China, and Korea, were all killed instantly.
After walking around the peace park, we visited the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Museum. This museum is very moving. Photos were not allowed, so I'll try to describe it. As you first walk in, you pass a clock, its face cracked, its hands stopped at the time of impact. You come into large room, surrounded by fallen bricks, steel girders twisted from heat, and the very striking facade of a church, half in ruins. The room is dim, and red light casts a soft glow on the walls. There are videos showing the sheer scale of death and destruction. That first room is designed to give you an idea of what the city was like in the wake of the bomb. Of course it can't come close to the reality of that situation, but it's still a very memorable experience.

Ground zero in the Nagasaki Peace Park. It was snowing on and off all day.
From there on, you can explore other rooms and exhibitions. A life-size model of the bomb itself is on display, as are many saved artifacts such as clothes, homewares, letters, and so on. Some of the hardier things, such as melted metal, are outside of glass cases, and there are signs inviting you to touch them. There is a lot of very interesting information about the radiation sickness victims suffered from, and some frightening statistics about how many countries have nuclear weapons today. I was most surprised to learn that of all the countries in the world, the U.S.A holds the most active nuclear warheads. Russia is a close second, and the U.K, France, and China are far behind (Israel may be in the top 5, but official statistics about them are unavailable).

The Peace Memorial Museum is a great place to learn a lot, and a must-see for anyone visiting Nagasaki, in my opinion. However, you definitely feel a little drained after going there. We had lunch, and chose a more lighthearted place to visit in the afternoon: Glover Garden.

We were greeted by plenty of these guys!
The view from one of the houses at Glover Garden.
Glover Garden is named for Thomas Glover, a Scottish merchant and businessman who built his home on the hills of Nagasaki harbour in 1863. This house is now the oldest Western-style house in Japan (although it also has some unique Japanese features). If you're a fan of Madame Butterfly, you may know that is set in Nagasaki - but in fact, it's also believed that Glover's house was the setting and inspiration for the iconic short story/opera.

Glover's house. I can see how this kind of place could inspire a story as great as Madame Butterfly, can't you?
Another huge house in Glover Garden.
These days, Glover's house takes pride of place in Glover Garden, a large park filled not only with beautiful flowers, but also many more old reassembled Western-style homes. There is some information inside the buildings about things such as Thomas Glover's life and family, and other early immigrants to Japan. You can also see an amazing view of Nagasaki harbour whilst walking through the park. Because we went in winter, we were lucky enough to see the Glover Garden illumination, which featured many colourful lights strung around flowers, trees, and houses.

Lovely illuminations - it would have been nice to sit down, if only it hadn't been so cold!
Nagasaki was a very beautiful and memorable place to visit, and I really hope to visit it again soon. There are many more attractions I'd like to see there, including the site of the old Dutch trading post, and a unique Chinese temple. I made a short vlog of the scenes we took in on our trip to Nagasaki - check it out below:

Would you like to visit Nagasaki, or have you been? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!



  1. I hope to get back Japan sometime and see more than just Tokyo, its a beautiful country and so much history and culture to learn about.

    1. I couldn't agree with you more! I hope you can explore more too, it's so easy and convenient with their wonderful train system.

  2. Your blog is very interesting! I have only visited japan as a tourist and have never been to Nagasaki. I didn't know the connection with Madame Butterfly. Gonna follow your blog ^_^

    { sparklesideup.com }

    1. Thank you so much! I didn't know much about Nagasaki before I visited it, but it is such a tourist-friendly city, it was easy to get around and learn lots about it even in just one day. I saw Madame Butterfly as a ballet a few years ago, and once I heard about the connection, I could really picture it there at Glover Garden.


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I've been a high school English language teacher on the JET Programme since August 2013. Read about my experiences, advice on being accepted into the JET Programme, and travel tips around Japan on my blog:


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