Staff Guest Post: Sophia
But after returning from my second trip to Japan, my opinion of the country is even better than before. This time I did a different "classic triangle" - Nagasaki city (which I'll cover in this post), Hirado Island and Shimabara Peninsula. All part of Nagasaki Prefecture, and a great place to experience a different pace of life.
Nagasaki is the slow side of Japan. There's easy access to the blue sea, beaches and virgin forests teeming with animals, peaceful age-old shrines with no camera-wielding tourists, Buddhist temples mixed with Christian churches, and friendly local people. The food is local, fresh and delicious, and the history is intriguing, nostalgic and sombre.
You will find more than 200 churches in the Nagasaki prefecture as the city is closely linked to the history of missionaries and Catholicism in Japan. Oura Tenshudo Catholic Church is a national treasure, and is also known as the Church of the 26 Martyrs and the church that discovered the hidden Christian followers after years of religious persecution in Japan.
About a 15 minute walk away is the graceful Urakami Tenshudo Catholic Church which stands on a hill. We didn't enter this church, but our guide told us this brick church was built after the long ban on Christianity was lifted and took over 30 years to finish. It was the biggest cathedral in the eastern hemisphere in 1895. Part of the Urakami Church was also destroyed by the atomic bomb blast but the Angelus bell was fixed by the locals and still rings every day.
Personally, the streetcars (old style trams) were very interesting to me. My parents told me that such streetcars were a common sight in old Shanghai, but now you only see a replica on East Nanjing Road which is mostly used for tourists. Nagasaki people call their streetcars "ding-ding trains" because of the sound the bells make.
We took the streetcar and then a cable car to reach the summit of Mount Inasa. This is the city's most popular lookout point where you can see the much talked about night views of Nagasaki city which lights up after dark.