Live it up Japan's far west
An experience of the sea, mountains, history, and culture
that stimulates all of your senses
Nagasaki Prefecture is in the westernmost part of mainland Japan, in the northwest region of the island of Kyushu.
Surrounded by the sea on three sides and being home to numerous islands and peninsulas, Nagasaki offers a wealth of nature and beautiful scenery, as well as history and culture all its own.
Tsushima offers visitors an opportunity to see timeless landscapes by sea kayaking along its varied coastline and hiking in the mountains where cultural heritage can be found.
Shimabara Peninsula is a peninsula formed by volcanic activity, and visitors can feel the rich blessings and power of the Earth brought by the volcano.
Goto, with its beautiful sea and mountain scenery, offers a sense of openness and nature that can be enjoyed through cycling and glamping.
Hirado boasts a unique blend of Japanese and Western cultures, as well as a thriving fishing industry where you can have an authentic fisherman’s experience.
Every area of Nagasaki has its own unique characteristics and atmosphere. So, where do you wanna have your fun?
Come on down to Nagasaki, the westernmost land in Japan!
*Article about Adventure Travel in Nagasaki is also on the website of The Japan Times!
Tsushima: Sea Kayaking & Culture Hiking
What kind of place is Tsushima?
Tsushima is an island in the Tsushima Strait between Kyushu and South Korea. In addition to numerous cultural assets that illuminate its history of trade and diplomacy with the Korean Peninsula, there are many other sights to see, including a mountain fortress that highlights the tensions between the nations. Surrounded by the sea, the island is not only a place to have “sea experiences”, but also a “mountain island” with 90% of its area covered by forests. It is a place where you can enjoy the nature of its seas and mountains to the fullest.
Explore the sea, then make your way to the entrance of the mountain ruins. The excitement begins.
Your adventure begins at Aso Bay, with its intricate rias coastline and beautiful seas spreading out before you. From here, you will travel by sea kayak to Shiroyama, the starting point of the trekking portion of your journey.
The view of the calm waves of Aso Bay right at sea level is superb. The experience of using your own power to navigate the emerald green waters will surely be a memory that lasts a lifetime.
The countless large and small islands that dot the sea and the overlapping coves and capes create truly beautiful scenery. As you proceed along the water and feel the gentle breeze, you will see a precipitous cliff known as Nokowaki Rock. It looks as if a mighty tower is rising up from the water, and with a height of more than 40 meters, it is a sight to behold, especially when viewed from the sea, as it makes you feel as if you are one with the sea, the sky, and the great outdoors. And now, you have finally arrived at Shiroyama. This experience that takes you both on the sea and through the mountains can only be had in Tsushima.
Trekking through several eras of history
Shiroyama was once the location of Kaneda Castle, which was built roughly 1,350 years ago to protect the area from invaders from mainland Asia. The magnificent stone mounds that still remain are one of the highlights of your trek.
In fact, Kaneda Castle is also designated as a National Special Historic Site, the highest level of historic sites designated by the national government under the Cultural Properties Protection Act, and is recognized as having the same value as a National Treasure.
In preparation for the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), gun batteries were set up on Shiroyama and a military road that extended nearly to the top of the mountain was built. The remnants of the important role this mountain played in protecting the country from mainland aggression leave a striking impression. The opportunity to visit battle sites that transcend time is another one of the features that Tsushima has to offer.
An encounter with untouched nature and heartwarming scenery
Of course, history is not the only thing you can experience during your trek. There are many ways to enjoy this area, including encounters with various wild birds and observing seasonal plants. On your trek of Shiroyama, there is a trail that leads to the top of the mountain, allowing visitors to fully appreciate the history and scenery of this National Special Historic Site along the way. Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded with a spectacular view that encompasses the vast Aso Bay, the horizon in the direction of the Korean Peninsula, and the sacred mountain Shiratake.
The feeling of openness and fulfillment you get from this view makes you feel as if you were looking out on it from the sky. The whole of the Tsushima experience, from its sea and mountains to its history and culture, is sure to be an enchanting one.
Shimabara Peninsula: Geo-Trekking
What kind of place is Shimabara Peninsula?
The Shimabara Peninsula is located in eastern Nagasaki Prefecture, with Mount Unzen, which is made up of more than 20 volcanic mountains, rising at its center.
Unzen Jigoku, which tells the story of volcanic activity, is also famous as a tourist attraction, and the hot springs there have long been a popular destination for foreign visitors as a summer retreat. The topography and geology of the area are unique, including Heisei Shinzan, which has grown and collapsed several times since the eruption of Fugendake in 1991, and the Chijiwa Fault, an active fault where dynamic fault landforms can be observed. The entirety of Shimabara Peninsula is designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark.
Become captivated by the beauty and power of the Earth through geo-trekking
When visiting Unzen, feel the vitality of the Earth by going on a guided geo-trekking excursion of Mount Unzen.
Unzen is an area very rich in nature, and has the distinction of being named Japan’s first national park in 1934. Nita Pass, the starting point of the trek, is a great place to take in Unzen’s breathtaking natural beauty throughout the four seasons. The scenery offers azaleas in spring, fresh greenery in summer, autumn leaves in fall, and hoarfrost in winter.
Once on the mountain, you can see the trees that died as a result of the 1991 eruption are starting to grow again, and a forest is slowly taking shape once more.
The view from the summit of Fugendake, the main peak of Mount Unzen, is spectacular indeed, but another highlight of geo-trekking on Mount Unzen is being able to feel the pulse of the Earth with your body. Here, you can trace the changes in volcanic activity all at once, from mountains formed by eruptions 20,000-30,000 years ago to some of the world’s newest mountains, which have only existed for roughly 30 years. This experience will make you feel that the Earth is truly alive, and you cannot help but feel the sheer grandeur of nature.
If you listen to your guide, you will be able to enjoy the beauty of nature in a different way and hear the voice of the Earth.
Hitting the highlights of nature, history, and sightseeing in comfort
The living nature of Japan’s first national park can also be fully enjoyed on an e-bike.
These electric bicycles are equipped with powered assistance, allowing for easy cycling even on routes with lots of changes in elevation. A brisk bike ride while feeling a pleasant breeze is a very refreshing feeling. The route from the Unzen hot spring area, 700 meters above sea level, to the Obama hot spring area on the western coast of Shimabara Peninsula can be easily traversed on an e-bike. Along the way, the beautiful townscapes and scenery surrounded by the mountains and the sea, and orderly rows of terraced fields that can be seen throughout the area will also give you a sense of the way of life of people living on this land nurtured by volcanoes, and leave a lasting impression on you from a new and different perspective you have not experienced before.
You can also feel the power of the living Earth when you see the pure white steam rising from the fumaroles of Unzen Jigoku, and interacting with the local residents and other visitors to the Unzen hot spring area is fun as well.
Activities that will cleanse, move, and soothe your heart
Volcanic activity brings many benefits to people’s lives. One of those benefits is spring water. It is said that underground water from Mount Unzen gushed out from the ground as a result of crustal movement caused by the eruption of the mountain in 1792, and today spring water flows throughout the city, and thus Shimabara is often called the “City of Water”. Kanzarashi, a traditional Shimabara confection made from this spring water, is a chewy dumpling that also uses special honey to give it a simple sweetness that is very delicious.
Fully experiencing the sights, feelings, and tastes of the Earth, and then calming your agitated mind with a Zazen Buddhism experience might be just what you needed. You can have a Zazen experience at a temple called Gyokuho-ji Temple in Minamishimabara City.
Breathe in a relaxed manner and examine yourself with a calm, clear mind. The feeling of emptying your mind while surrounded by the silence of the temple environment is sure to be a fulfilling experience. The head priest of Gyokuho-ji Temple has traveled the world as a backpacker and speaks fluent English, so interactions with him will surely be a priceless experience.
An experience that lets you feel and enjoy firsthand the wonder and mystery of geology. An experience that lets you feel the grandeur of the Earth and reflect on yourself. That kind of special experience can be found right here.
Goto: Island Cycling
What kind of place is Goto?
Goto City is located at the westernmost edge of Kyushu, about 100km off the western coast of Nagasaki Prefecture. It is located in the southwestern region of the 140 islands of various sizes that make up the Goto Islands, consisting of 11 inhabited and 52 uninhabited islands.
Nearly the entire area of Goto is designated as Saikai National Park, where visitors can enjoy rich natural scenery such as the beautiful seas and their white sand beaches, complex coastlines, and beautifully shaped mountains.
It is also a place where many Christians in hiding moved during the Edo Period (1603-1867), and is home to the “Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region”, which was registered as a World Cultural Heritage Property in July of 2018.
Feel every bit of Goto as you travel on your bike!
Fukue Island, the largest of the Goto Islands, is a great place for activities, with its gently undulating terrain, rich nature, and extensive transportation system, and is even the site of triathlons and marathons. Cycling around this lovely island gives you the opportunity to enjoy the spacious nature of the blue sea and green mountains in all its glory.
There is a wide variety of courses to enjoy, with skill levels ranging from beginners to advanced, to suit your ability and experience. With accompaniment by a guide, you can discover trails, attractions, spectacular views, and healing spots that are otherwise known only to the local residents.
As you dash along the coastal road, you can feel the breeze from the sea as you pass by through rice fields and forests. A beautiful river where you can stop for a little coffee break awaits you down the road. At Takahama Beach, said to be the most beautiful beach in Japan, you will be dazzled by the white sand and the amazingly clear water, and if you stop by the old-fashioned shopping street, you can also enjoy chatting with the locals.
The unexpected encounters with spectacular scenery and island life that cannot be found in any guidebook will be a treasured experience that will stay with you forever.
A “Mecca for Fishing” that enthusiasts of any ability can enjoy
The Goto Islands are a famous sea fishing spot known to all virtually every Japanese fishing enthusiast. It has become a “Mecca for Fishing” and a coveted destination for those who enjoy angling. The Fukue Island, in particular, attracts anglers from both Japan and abroad, as the area is dotted with many famous reefs and beaches that provide excellent fishing grounds.
You can enjoy a fishing experience in this “Mecca for Fishing” with the help of fishermen who know the local waters inside and out. The boat will take off from the shore, and the captain will guide you to the recommended points based on the day and time of year. Once you arrive at a spot, the excitement will not relent once you start fishing. There is a feeling of genuine enjoyment that comes from sensing the fish pull strongly on your fishing pole and the focus on reeling it in. There are ways to enjoy fishing to the fullest in styles suited to any skill level, from rock fishing and boat fishing experiences for intermediate and advanced anglers, to embankment fishing experiences ideal for beginners.
A moving and inspiring experience to be had at the stay accommodations as well
Glamping amidst the rich nature of Goto combines the three concepts of “outdoors”, “vacation”, and “lifestyle” to give you a relaxing experience where time flows gently.
These glamorous cotton tents are air-conditioned and provide comfort to let you enjoy a luxurious lifestyle even while outdoors in all four seasons. In addition to tents, you also have the option of staying in a renovated schoolhouse that was once an old elementary school.
The meals offered are special barbecue and hotpot meals that allow you to enjoy the abundant local produce such as seafood, meat, and vegetables to your heart’s content. Cooking meals at an outdoor community kitchen is sure to create new opportunities to interact with people.
Hirado: Fisherman’s Experience
What kind of place is Hirado?
Hirado City is located at the northwestern tip of the island of Kyushu. The city consists of Hirado Island, a long, narrow island that stretches from north to south, and roughly 40 islands of various sizes scattered around it. Surrounded by the sea, the fishing industry has long flourished here.
It is also known for being the place where Japan’s first port for trading with Western countries was opened. The town has developed through its exchanges with Western countries, and the castle town around Hirado Castle offers a unique atmosphere that combines cultures from both Japan and abroad.
An extraordinary “genuine fisherman’s experience” that gives you a sense of freedom and accomplishment
The start time for this “genuine fisherman’s experience” is 6:00 am. The experience begins at a fishing port in the northwestern part of Hirado Island near Ikitsuki Island. You board the fishing boat with the fishermen, and after a 10-minute trip, you arrive at the fishing grounds where the fixed nets are set. This is when the fishing begins. This is a traditional Japanese fishing method known as fixed-net fishing, in which nets are set at fixed locations in the sea to catch fish. When these nets are pulled out of the water, they contain large amounts of fish.
Everyone pulls the nets together, and they are quite heavy, which gives you a chance to have a “genuine fisherman’s experience”. It is precisely because you are so absorbed in the experience that you feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction after catching the fish. The sight of the morning sun rising as you head back to the port after fishing is also very dazzling, beautiful, and moving.
After you return to the port, you can have the freshly caught fish prepared and served at the fisherman’s restaurant for breakfast. There are about 50 species of fish that can be caught, and some of them may be fish that you have never eaten before. Hirado is known for its delicious fish, but the fish you catch yourself are especially tasty.
The wonder of being surrounded by nature and feeling the wind
The daytime activity is cycling on an e-bike.
Guided tours on which you can trace the magnificent nature, history, and culture of this town are available. Stopping by stores and enjoying interactions with the locals will surely create some precious memories.
The trekking portion of your journey begins when you arrive at the start of the trail to Mt. Yasumandake, which has long been revered as a sacred mountain by local residents and is part of the World Cultural Heritage Property “Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region”. Listening to descriptions of the nature, history, and customs along the way as you approach the summit is sure to make it a deeply moving journey. Once you finally reach the top, a spectacular view awaits you.
Experience over 400 years of Japanese aesthetics by spending a night as the lord of a castle
If you spend the night at Hirado Castle, you can also experience what it is like to be a lord of the castle.
Hirado Castle was built more than 400 years ago, and the accommodations which were created by renovating the castle’s turrets take you to another world far removed from everyday life in a luxurious space that conveys Japanese aesthetics to the modern age. The creative cuisine made with fresh, seasonal ingredients, including the delicious seafood that Hirado is known for, is also excellent. It’s possible that this overnight stay experience, which uses the full potential of the history, art, and cuisine of Hirado, could change your outlook on life. A stay in this castle, with its history, tradition, and culture, will pique your intellectual curiosity with an overwhelming sense of the extraordinary.