Before traveling to Nagasaki, I had always connected this Japanese city with the catastrophic World War II atomic bombing. I was unaware that the city had more to offer than one of its main attractions — the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. While the city will always be linked to World War II, I encourage visitors to seek out other aspects of Nagasaki’s past such as its beautiful temples and parks.

Chinese Temples and Shrines

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I learned about the Chinese expat community by taking a stroll along the Nakashima River, a man-made canal built during the late 16th century. I passed by numerous 17th century stone bridges that were designed as entry points for different Chinese temples and admired the archaic Megane Bridge, the oldest stone bridge in Japan.

Chinese immigrants who settled in Nagasaki during the Ming Dynasty built these temples and their numbers eventually grew to approximately 15% of Nagasaki’s population. These expats constructed beautiful temples with gardens and cemeteries to emphasize their Buddhist faith.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]I didn’t experience any issues using public transportation or navigating my way through the streets of Nagasaki. [/pullquote]

With a city map, I was able to easily find the Kofukuji Temple, the Sofukuji Temple, the Koei-zan Choshoji Temple, the Kotaiji Temple, and the Daikoji Temple. If you’re fascinated by Chinese architecture and love Asian flower gardens, hunt down these amazing gems.

I’d also recommend walking a bit further to the Confucian Shrine. I was impressed by the fact that almost all of the notable features of this 19th century site were imported from China and constructed with Chinese workers. However, I was disappointed that the onsite museum only showcased a small number of Chinese pieces.

 Glover Garden and Peace Park

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To gain an understanding of how 19th and 20th century British merchants influenced the industrialization of Japan, I would certainly recommend a visit to Glover Garden. This attraction sits on a slope that offers lovely views of the harbor. Thomas Glover (1838-1911) was a Scottish entrepreneur who played a pivotal role in Japan’s shipbuilding and railroad industries. Ironically, it was Nagasaki’s shipbuilding prowess that made it a prime target for the Allies at the end of World War II.

I couldn’t leave the city without reflecting on the events that led up to the dropping of the atomic bomb as well as its aftermath. As I walked through Peace Park, I was immediately overtaken by the fragrant floral scents. Colorful spring flowers were in full bloom amid the variety of statues that promoted world peace. The main focal point was the symbolic Fountain of Peace, which offered a great photo opportunity.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]I stood solemnly at the Epicenter Monument, trying to comprehend the magnitude of the bomb that leveled the surrounding 2.5 square miles.[/pullquote]

Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

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I was flooded with mixed emotions upon reaching the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. Having always understood the American rationale for dropping the bomb, it was still hard to read about the enormous loss of life as well as the physical destruction of the city. It was easy to understand why the museum chose to include a multitude of displays that promoted a nuclear-free world.

RELATED: Check out this article on 7 unique museums around the world that you have to visit.

The oversized timeline at the museum provided an incomplete picture of the events that led up to the dropping of the bomb. For instance, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and other pertinent details were purposely excluded, which was a bit surprising.

At the end of my journey through Nagasaki, I was glad to have discovered a city that not only cherishes its diverse history but also reminds people about the dangers of nuclear weapons.

Which part of Nagasaki’s history do you find most fascinating? Let us know in the comments section.

About The Author

Sandy Bornstein

Sandy Bornstein lived as an expat in India. Her award-winning memoir, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life, highlights what she learned as the only American teacher at an international Bangalore school. After living abroad, Sandy continues to explore the world and write about her travels. You can follow Sandy's adventures at www.sandrabornstein.com.

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2 Responses

  1. Lindsey

    This article says the three main attractions are “the atomic bomb museum, the atomic bomb museum, and the peace park.” It then says there is much more to see, such as…the atomic bomb museum, the peace park, and Chinese shrines. This is really poor reporting. Do better.

    Reply
    • Morly Cowan
      Morly Cowan

      Hi Lindsey,

      Thanks for bringing this to our attention (the mistake has been corrected). And, yes, we should have caught this we’ll do better next time. 🙂

      Reply

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