Destination Inspiration: Nagasaki, Japan

Destination Inspiration: Nagasaki, Japan

Plotting a trip to the just-reopened Japan? Make the fascinating city of Nagaski your base for its ridiculously chic ryokans, culture-rich shokudos and stunning coastal landscape


Nagasaki, Japan.

Why now?

Bordered by Isahaya and Saikai, the port city of Nagaski is
located on the tranquil island of Kyushu. Japan’s largest trading
hub during the 15th and 16th centuries, its streets are home to a
unique cultural blend. It was in 1570 that the Portuguese sailed
into what was then a sleepy fishing village with a dinky population
of just 1,500, bringing with them fabrics, textiles and precious
delicacies from Europe. Before long, Nagasaki was home to Catholic
churches, western-influenced architecture and a dynamic food scene.
Fast forward to 2022, and the city is yet to be taken over by
big-name chains or hip hotel groups – this remains a destination
that honours its heritage. As Japan reopens its borders, we take a
tour to bring you the inside scoop on where to eat, stay, drink and
play when in town.

Don’t miss

There are 552 named mountains in Nagasaki prefecture, the
highest and most recognisable of which is Heisei Shin’yama. Keen
hikers should take the challenging 8.4km Mount Fugen-dake trail,
which takes an average of four hours to complete. The unparalleled
views from Nagasaki’s highest trekkable peak make every step worth

Saving your visit for 2023? The legendary Nagasaki Lantern
Festival takes place in the second half of February. The two-week
celebration of Chinese New Year sees more than 15,000 ornate
lanterns light up the city. Our favourite places to watch the
spectacle from are Kanko-dori Arcade and Central Park.

The devastation of Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War
has not defined the modern-day city, but is remembered at the
Nagasaki Atomic
Bomb Museum

Nagasaki, Japan Boat
Nagasaki, Japan Laterns

A fishing boat, left, and Chinatown Latern Festival. | Photo
credit: Hiroyoshi Urushima & EFRD / /

Where to stay?

Tsuki to
. Located in the port town of Motegi, this sea-facing ryokan
exudes Japanese creativity. All 14 individually designed rooms
carry the same minimalist palette: clean-lined expanses of light
woods, brushed-concrete walls, matt-black accents and neutral
linens. Finer details such as potted dried plants, bed frames with
fixed pendant reading lights and coffee tables stacked with
hand-picked reading materials make for a calming oasis. Our
favourite feature? The enormous windows, which showcase
uninterrupted views of the ocean. Leave your curtains open and wake
gently to coral-hued sunbeams tickling your face. Slip downstairs
to the dock-shaped lounge to enjoy an early-morning brew, or take a
pre-breakfast wander through the nature-filled courtyard.

Where to go for dinner?

Dining in a former brothel might not sound like the most
appetising of scenarios, but hear us out. Housed within the
Hiketaya brothel, Kagetsu opened in 1642, when courtesans were
the only Japanese citizens allowed to enter the Dutch settlement in
Nagasaki Bay. These women were responsible for shippoku, a new kind
of banquet dining that fused elements of Chinese, Dutch and
Portuguese cuisine – a culinary heritage that Kagetsu’s menu pays
tribute to in its sublime tempura and braised pork dishes. The
location is worthy of a visit in its own right, with nine unique
rooms dating back to the Genroku period and a serene Japanese
garden that changes with the seasons – think cherry blossoms,
azaleas and vividly coloured leaves.

And for a drink…

There isn’t exactly an abundance of drinking dens in Nagasaki:
plenty of local watering holes are all gritty interiors,
spirits-only menus and old-school locals propping up the bar. Not
so at basement club Panic
, which is loved by local musicians thanks to its
superb soundtrack, or the slick Bar Nagare, which serves snacks, cocktails and
more than 80 kinds of craft beer.

Nagasaki, Japan Street Stall
Japanese Food

A street-food stall, left, and tradtional Japanese cuisine.
| Photo credit: Christian Chen & Paulo /

Who to take with you?

Other than someone who’s been surfing flight websites hourly
since Japan’s borders reopened? That mate who has an entire Notes
page dedicated to the best ramen spots in London. They’ll be
delighted to participate in noodle-hopping across the city.

Essentials to pack

Coat season is well and truly underway, and we can’t think of
any better staple to take us from ryokan to shokudo than this
Frankie Shop cotton-canvas trench coat.
Nagasaki’s subtropical climate makes for seriously humid
conditions, so we recommend packing lighter linens and breathable
fabrics – and checking the forecast first, obvs.

How to get there

There are no direct flights from the UK to Nagasaki. We suggest
flying from London Heathrow to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport with British
Airways, then jumping on a two-hour connecting flight to Nagasaki.
It’s a 40-minute drive from the airport to the city centre.

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