Nagasaki is perhaps best known for being one of two Japanese cities that survived an atomic bonding in World War II. But its charm lies beyond being a war survivor. Open to the world during the Edo period where Japan was largely isolated, it absorbed Chinese and Western influences to become the cosmopolitan and captivating city it is today. I suggest that you visit these three places.
1) Atomic Bomb Museum
No trip to Nagasaki will be complete without a visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum. It gives a comprehensive overview of the events that happened on the actual day, coupled with physical remnants of the bombing and survivors’ interviews. Your heart goes out to the innocent civilians who lost their lives in such a tragic manner. But it's also a place that exudes a sense of calm and resilience as you learn how Nagasaki citizens picked up the pieces and rebuilt their hometown from scratch. You will emerge from the visit with an enhanced understanding of why Nagasaki people proactively push for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
2) Glover Garden
Nagasaki City is easy to navigate via the city tram, and you can hop on it to pay Glover Garden a visit. It showcases a house that belonged to Thomas Glover as well as other old European-style buildings. Here, you can admire in awe these historical landmarks and soak up the nostalgic vibes while learning about how Glover boosted Nagasaki's growth through shipbuilding. Maybe you are not into historical buildings. Fret not. If nothing else, you will be blessed with a spectacular bird's eye view of Nagasaki City. Breathe in the fresh air and enjoy this feast on your eyes.
Due to its past status as a trading port in Japan during the Edo era, Nagasaki absorbed Chinese influences from the Chinese merchants and traders that conducted transactions with the locals. This is best illustrated in Chinatown, in which you can take a leisurely stroll down the streets that are packed with Chinese restaurants. Eat with relish uniquely Nagasaki delicacies that have come into a life of their own after absorbing Chinese influences. They are guaranteed to excite your taste buds. For instance, you can tuck into sara udon ("plate noodles") that comprise crunchy and crispy noodles that are doused with a umami-packed mix of vegetables, meat and seafood!
I hope you enjoyed my beginner's guide to Nagasaki City! All photographs are my own.