A town with an ocean view, we visit Nagasaki’s port and the famous Mount Inasa16 March, 2014 by Chad
Today we would be exploring some of the popular destinations at Nagasaki, including Dejima and Mount Inasa. The day started with some light rains again, but according to the weather report, would let up later in the day. But before that, we had to return to the train terminal to see if we could recover the towel Gage left on the train yesterday.
The train station was too small to have a dedicated lost and found area, so after asking at the information counter, was pointed to the main control station. After explaining our case, she went over to a bunch of carton boxes are emerged with the lost plastic bag, and a weight lifted off our shoulders.
One amazing thing about Japan is that regardless of what you lose, you have a fair chance of getting it back. I had left my wallet in a bus at Kyoto with a fair amount of cash inside a few years back and managed to get it back untouched too.
We were kind of hungry this morning. Contrary to what I expected, our reservation at the hotel didn’t include breakfast. Since it was still early, we took the time to grab something to eat at the food court at AMU Plaza, the mall built over the station. Gage tried breakfast at KFC, while I got some pastry from Mister Donut. It’s worth noting that the mall above Hakata Station was also under the AMU name. Guess it was linked to JR somehow in this part of the country.
It was surprisingly crowded this Saturday morning. Since other than the food court, the mall shops had yet to open, lots of people were gathered at either the food court or in front of closed off escalators waiting for the mall to open.
At this point Gage realised that he had left the batteries to the camera in the hotel room. Since we had to backtrack to that direction anyway, we stopped back at our room to drop off his recovered item and to pick up the batteries. Since we’d be visiting touristy destinations today, it wouldn’t be a good idea to be without a camera.
Just across the road from our hotel was a large Bunmeido shop selling castella. Castella is kind of sponge cake introduced to Japan by the Portuguese, but since the later has stopped making them, they’ve somehow become a speciality of Nagasaki. Bunmeido is household name for castella. Thanks in part to their old commercials which involve an annoying catchy jingle. Would definitely need to try some later.
Just behind the Bunmeido store and past a river was Dejima Wharf, which we would be visiting this morning. The island was originally created by the East India Company back in the 17th century and was the only place where foreigners were permitted to trade with the closed off Japan back then. When trade fully ceased, the island was reclaimed into the mainland and disappeared. The Dejima today is a modern restoration that has taken decades to rebuild.
Entry to Dejima is affordable, at just 300 yen. While it’s most a reconstruction, visiting Dejima is still a worthwhile learning experience. Original artifacts and parts of the buildings that could be recovered are displayed here, while the rest of the island has been painstakenly recreated to faithfully follow the original blueprints. While it’s part of the main land now (quite a bit of Nagasaki rests on reclaimed land), for whatever reason, the local government seem to have plans to split it off as an island again.
There weren’t many people around this morning, perhaps in part due to the gloomy weather. Just us and a few other locals. We took our time looking through the various buildings to minimize the time spent out of shelter. The rain would slowly stop though and more people would eventually emerge.
Most of the early buildings at the front of the wharf were recreations of the original houses where the Dutch traders lived. Others served as a more informational function housing exhibits and artifacts recovered from the wharf.
Unlike the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum which were strictly preservations or restorations, the traditional and (relatively) modern came together at Dejima. The interiors of some buildings were converted into exhibition areas to inform about life back in the 17-19th centuries. Computer screens in each building showed animations of the activity performed at the different rooms, granted the computers were running DOS and the animations dated. Personally, I enjoyed the exhibits more than the recreated rooms. One raw building showed how the buildings were built, which was interesting.
Some parts of Dejima went full touristy though. You could rent a kimono for 1,000 yen in one building. The caretaker at Dejima also dressed up as a samurai while he patrolled the grounds. We managed to stop the samurai so that Gage could take a picture with him.
There was a theater building with a film about life in Dejima, unfortunately we couldn’t enter since it was being used for “English Exchange Day”. A bunch of white people were invited to Dejima today to mingle with students interested in English. The staff there informed us that us Asians could watch the video in one of the other buildings instead.
Past the middle of the wharf, some of the buildings were still in the process of being restored. One building stood out of place with its air-conditioning and sliding doors. It served as Dejima’s museum, housing precious objects recovered from the island.
For 300 yen, there’s actually quite a bit to see at Dejima. There’s even a kid friendly hands on area where visitors can play around with recreations of technology from the era. The restoration isn’t fully complete either, but rather an ongoing process, so it might be worth a repeat visit again down the road.
There’s a particularly grand looking building at the center of Dejima, the captains room, that used to serve as the base of operations for the island. It’s probably the largest building at Dejima other than the club building. According to the information boards inside, the balcony of this building once overlooked the ocean. These days, it just looks over across the road. Quite a bit of land reclamation must had been done in Nagasaki since then.
At the back of Dejima, there was a small flower and herb garden, along with a large model of the island. Even the locals were amused that the place was littered with coins. One guy wondered out loud how much money there was here and went closer to inspect the piles. His wife pointed out that they were just 1 and 5 yen coins.
At the far end of Dejima was the chapel-like club building that we had seen yesterday on our way to Chinatown. The upper floor housed a restaurant while a souvenir store occupied the ground floor. The souvenir store sold mostly castella and other Portuguese themed goods. There were castella variations of all the usual famous mascot characters like Hello Kitty and Chopper, but nothing really specific to Dejima. We didn’t buy anything in the end.
Having fully covered ever nook and cranny in Dejima, we continued onward, turning towards the seaside this time. We found Nagasaki Port, and the ferry terminal just across the road, where a beautiful ship and a small ferry for the famous Gunkajima Island was parked.
Really nice scenery from the port. From here you could see the entire sheltered coastline that made up the main city area in Nagasaki. We also spotted the nearby Mount Inasa, which we would be visiting later this evening. There’s something really likeable about seaside towns like this. After staring out at the sea for some time, it was time to take shelter. It had begun to drizzle again and the strong winds here were freezing.
There wasn’t much inside the small ferry terminal, just a couple of souvenir stores and exhibits about Gunkanjima, but in the short time inside the rain had subsided a little. We wouldn’t be visiting the island this time round but it might be interesting to visit some other time. Prices for a tour (which are the only way they will let you onto the deserted island for your own safety) are pretty steep though.
The wharf area beside the port was lined with restaurants. I had remembered reading about some recommendable food nearby but didn’t have the sense to take note of it. There wasn’t much connection even from B-Mobile’s 3G line over at this end of Japan, so couldn’t refer to the list of stuff I had noted on Google Maps either. All of the restaurants at the wharf ended up looking pretty touristy, so we opted to find food elsewhere. The random bouts of rain meant that we didn’t get far though before having to take shelter again at the nearby museum.
Looked around the museum shop for a few moments while waiting for the brief rain to subside. Didn’t know at the point that entry to the normal exhibits within were free, or we could had taken a look inside too. The Nagasaki Prefectural Museum had a nice modern design. It was split into two halves, with a river running through the center of the museum.
Once the rain subsided, we took a look at the adjacent park and promenade. Not too many people around today on account of the weather, thought some were starting to arrive in their cars. One of the things we noticed about Nagasaki was that as with these other cities, car ownership was far more common. But there was also a clearer distinction between the better dressed in their cars and the rest of the pedestrian bound people.
There wasn’t much past this point south, so we headed back towards the port. There was a large shopping mall beside the ferry terminal called YouMe we had spotted earlier. It was an all in one family style mall not unlike the neighborhood malls you’d find in Singapore. Some kids from a school swim team were requesting for donations in front of the mall.
Being a weekend, it was quite crowded. There was a washoku styled restaurant with affordable prices that looked promising but had a long waiting list. In the end we opted to have lunch at a chain type tonkatsu place. It’s seasonal special featuring Nagasaki oysters looked like a good choice. Gage went with the oyster only set, while I went with one with both tonkatsu and fried oysters. Prices were affordable and you could refill your rice for free. Before our meal started, they passed us some bowls with sesame seeds inside for us to pound to your own preference.
After lunch we looked around the mall for a while. The weather was getting colder at this point so hoped to pick up some thermal inners from Uniqlo, but for some reason there was a really long queue at the outlet here this afternoon.
There was a large bookstore and Namco Land amusement center at the top floor of YouMe where the restaurants were located. Wanted to pick up some storybooks to revise my Japanese, but decided to wait until Tokyo before adding onto my luggage. At Namco Land, the usual arcade machines were mixed together with pachinko and medal pushers.
Hoped to have a go at pachinko for once and a combined center like that was less intimidating than the fully fledged pachinko palaces. Since our hotel was just down the road from here, we decided that we would return again later tonight. Gage was fascinated by the medal machines too and wanted to give them a try. Namco Land was packed with really young children, some barely 5 years old learning the ropes.
Took some time to explore the large supermarket at the mall’s basement too, but not before sitting down for a breather. Had sprained my ankle at some point while struggling with our luggage, and the hard new shoes didn’t help.
It’s only in the more laid back areas in Japan that you get malls with such large supermarkets. Lots of cheap food and snacks here, many of which were specific to the YouMe house brand, so it was worth a visit again in the evening. On the way out, grabbed a curiously name new drink. Salt & Fruit is a new series of drinks by Kirin. I’ve never had luck with Kirin beverages, since they tend to be cheaper, but worst than the other companies’ counterparts, but this new drink was surprisingly good. It’s basically an isotonic drink with a generous amount of fruit juice (at least by Japanese standards). Refreshing and not too sweet.
It was still a little early, but we decided to head toward our next destination. On the way out, we noticed a different group at the mall entrance. This time some kids from the local school’s basketball team was standing outside the entrance asking for donations so that they could go to Tokyo for a match.
Since it wasn’t too far away, we could walk back to Nagasaki Station to catch a bus there. Along the way we saw a cat going from one motorcycle to another at the nearby parking lot in search for one which engine was still warm. There weren’t any. Motion towards the cat to try to get it to come over but it ignored us. Instead it climbed up a slope and found its way beside the expressway. Who knew where the road took it after.
From the stop in front of Nagasaki Station, we took a bus a short distance up hill through the residential area to the ropeway station for Mount Inasa. The Nagasaki Ropeway was built inside a shrine at the foot of the mountain. After purchasing our tickets, we took a look around the shrine. Two way tickets for the ropeway cost 1,200 yen for adults, but for those interested you can save 120 yen with the discount coupon here. Apart from us, there were just a couple other families waiting for the ropeway to arrive. Since it was fast getting colder, and the shrine was really small, we soon returned to the shelter of the waiting area.
The car up came soon enough. It was definitely the nicest looking ropeway I’ve seen, apparently having been designed by a famous designer ironically called Ken Okuyama. It had a fully transparent design that allowed visitors to look out in all directions. The ropeway station was run by about 3 staff who took turns to operate the ropeway. This tiny young women operated the ropeway on the way up.
Most of the other cable cars we’ve sat so far required complex archaic controls, this one was more modern and could be operated at the touch of a button. It was a nice touch having one of the staff on board personally to explain the sights instead of an automated gondola.
It was a short trip up Mount Inasa on the cable way. Since the cable car station faces the city, you could see the entire Nagasaki harbour area on the way up. Even in the daytime, it’s a beautiful sight. We’d have to wait later to see the famous night time scenery, which holds the prestige of being one of the top 3 night time city views in Japan.
Being one of the few people taking the ropeway, had hoped that it wouldn’t be too crowded at the top. We’d learn later that most of the local visitors would take the road up instead. Fortunately, there was a nice observatory at the top that could accommodate quite many more people than the one at Kobe’s Mount Rokko, another of the best night views. This one was even sheltered, which was a relief. Since the temperature up top was fast dropping.
We took the elevator up to the roof of the observatory, which provided a panoramic view of the city. Since the mountain was located at a corner of Nagasaki, a view of the surrounding ocean was also possible. From before we had arrived, a trio of young adult camera enthusiasts camped out on the rooftop in this weather to reserve the best spot to take a photograph of the sunset, which was still a while away.
Spent some time at the roof admiring the view before hurrying back inside for shelter. I tend to have a pretty good tolerance for cold but thanks to the ocean breeze, it was some of the most chilling weather we’d experience. Now would had been convenient a convenient time to have some of the thermal inners I missed earlier.
Back inside, there was a waiting area on the ground floor with a cart serving some refreshments. Gage grabbed a hot drink from one of the vending machines. It disappeared quickly. The local couples were wise enough to have reserved all of the outward facing seats along the observatory. There was also a western styled restaurant on the top floor with a view.
While waiting below, more visitors arrived. A large fleet of tour buses brought along a horde of Korean and some Chinese tourists. True to their reputation, ,any of the Korean tourists wore matching North Face down jackets.
The sun had started to set, so along with everyone else we headed back upstairs to the roof of the observatory. As large as the observatory was, the sheer number of people meant that we’d have trouble getting a clear view until after the sunset, when people had started to disperse, no doubt to take shelter or return back down the mountain since it was even colder now than before.
True to its reputation, the night time view here was great. Mount Inasa isn’t a particularly tall mountain, just 333 meters, but its closeness to the city meant that the city lights spread across our entire field of vision. It must be nice for the locals to have such a place to visit on the weekends. Skylines aren’t nearly as bright in Singapore, and vantage points a scarce, expensive few. Didn’t take too many photos since point and shoots rarely fare well in the dark, though the RX100-2 did perform admirably. Will probably have to look through the photos Gage took on the DSLR at some other time.
Returned to the ropeway station hoping to beat the crowd heading back down. Most of the tourists came by coach, but we’d have to deal with everyone who had taken the ropeway up at once. We arrived just as one ropeway left, so were first in line to wait for the next one, which was 20 minutes later. A confused mother and her daughter arrived behind us and realized that their tickets were only good for one way. The staff there let them top up the difference for the return journey.
Soon more people joined in the wait for the ropeway down. Gage had to run off halfway to visit the toilet. The mountain top station was open air, so it was rather cold. The cold weather tends to make people run to the toilet more often, though for some strange reason it has the opposite effect on myself so I stayed to keep the line. The staff started checking tickets and ushering in people to the platform while he was gone. With the platform completely occupied, was a bit worried that our wait was in vain. The staff went to the platform to check and after getting the people to squeeze in, found space for the two of us.
Caught a bus back to the central area but rather than get off at the JR Nagasaki Station, we continued onward to a further stop for the YouMe mall. Realized while on board that I had run out of change. Previously, I’d always end up with lots of coins when visiting Japan. But after numerous visits, I’m pretty good at using up my coins. Perhaps far too well, since the smallest coin had left was a 500 yen coin, while the bus ride cost only 150 yen.
The buses at Nagasaki didn’t have a separate coin changing machine on board either which was troubling, so I assumed (wrongly) that perhaps the machines here gave change. Such that the bus driver looked at me confusingly after dropping in the 500 yen coin, before explaining that it didn’t. Was a bit depressed that since it ended up being the most expensive bus ride ever. On hindsight, should had alighted earlier, so could had at least footed Gage’s fare should something like this happen, though if we were going on “what ifs” then I really should had kept some coins.
Shopped around a while at YouMe. Ended up picking up a nice collar at a pet shop here for my cat, and also some much need thermal wear for myself at the now empty Uniqlo. We also returned to the amusement center where Gage got to try his hand at the elaborate coin pushers, while I tried to figure out what was the allure of pachinko machines.
Later, we’d return to the supermarket at the basement to pick up snacks for the night. The supermarket’s own swiss rolls were on sale for just 278 yen. They turned out to be really good as the cake was much heavier than the ones we were used to.
We ended up getting dinner at the adjacent food court to the supermarket. It was really large, spanning the entire width of the basement and an uncommon sight in Japan if you were to stick to just the bigger city centers. Gage had wanted to try the McDonalds in Japan, and we found one here. This season’s special was the White Cheddar burger. They had sold out on chicken, so he ordered a beef one.
I ended up getting some udon and tempura. Didn’t occur to me that the udon was the dried kind, so the later was unnecessary. The raw egg and mentaiko udon was good, really tasty, but the tempura was really dry and had probably been left out for far too long.
As we were eating, the supermarket and the rest of the mall started to close. Some of the lights were even shut off. Was a bit worried that we might had been chased out, but the few other locals at the food court didn’t seem to pay any attention. Thankfully, the food court stayed open.
Returned to our hotel at just past 8. One of the nice things about a smaller town like Nagasaki is how much closer everything is to one another, (though it could just be an illusion for having less) for our hotel was just a short walk away. The rest of Nagasaki had already closed for the day and we had done quite a bit of walking this day already. Tomorrow would be our second, and last full day in Nagasaki and we intended to wake up early to make full use of it.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.