Drives in Nagasaki
With breathtaking sights, stunning photo opportunities, and the freedom to travel at your own pace, traveling by car is one of the best ways to experience Nagasaki Prefecture. If you're looking for anything from a day-trip to a short vacation, here are three of the best drives in Nagasaki.
Journey to the South : The Nomozaki Peninsula
Perfect for a quick day trip or a weekend away, the stunning Nomozaki Peninsula is just an hour south of Nagasaki City. Take in the ocean views and get a glimpse of the world-famous Gunkanjima (Battleship Island)!
What to See
From Nagasaki City, take Route 499 south past the Nagasaki Megami Ohashi Bridge, the longest cable-stayed bridge in Kyushu. With a total length of 1289 meters, the bridge is quite a sight when lit up at night.
Nomozaki is famous for its daffodils, which bloom in late January. Every year, the Nomozaki Sports Center is dotted with countless yellow daffodils during the Daffodil Festival. Be sure to make a stop and enjoy the irresistible floral fragrance of daffodils.
The peninsula's other famous landmark is the World Heritage-listed Gunkanjima (Battleship Island). A former coal-mine, this abandoned island looks like a battleship, and can be seen in the distance from the Nomozaki Peninsula. For a closer look at the island's history, visit the Gunkanjima Museum in Nomozaki Town.
In the summer months, Nomozaki is the place to go for surf and sun, with an array of great swimming beaches. These include Takahama Beach in the west, Wakimisaki Beach in the south, and Kawahara Beach in the east. With its white sand and calm waters, Wakimisaki Beach has been selected as one of the top 100 beaches in Japan, and is also a popular windsurfing spot. Canoe and kayak rental is available at Takahama Beach, and on a clear day, one can enjoy the spectacular view of Gunkanjima from the beach.
Great photo opportunities are also in store! Located by the sea along Route 499, the paired Meoto Rocks are located side-by-side and represent a married couple. At the tip of the peninsula, the sweeping views of the ocean from the Mt. Gongen Observatory Park are well worth the trip.
The latest attraction to arrive is Island Lumina; a multimedia night walk created by a Canadian company (Moment Factory). Located on Iojima, take a walk through the enchanted and beautifully-lit forest, and follow the magical route for yourself.
What to Eat
A meal by the water at one of Nomozaki's beach cafes is the perfect way to top off a day at the beach. At Takahama beach, enjoy pizzas cooked in a brick-oven, and topped with homemade tomato sauce at Bremari Pizza. Alternatively, have a casual meal or coffee at the modern and stylish Nomon's Cafe. With barbeque equipment available for rent at the beach house, why not bring your own food to cook, or take advantage of the pay-per-head barbeque packages?
Where to Stay
Have a relaxing weekend away by combining your road trip with an overnight stay at a hot spring hotel. Located near the top of the peninsula, Alega Gunkanjima offers accommodation, great food, and hot springs with the view of Gunkanjima. Further to the north of the peninsula is Iojima Island; connected to the mainland by a road bridge. After extensive renovations, the island's resort re-opened in April 2018, with hot springs and a variety of accommodation options.
Words by Dominic Balasuriya
Photo: Nomozaki Daffodils in Bloom by Dominic Balasuriya. All other photos by NPTA.
Town and Country : Sasebo and Hirado
A serene balance of both town and country, Sasebo and Hirado in northern Nagasaki are perfect for a weekend getaway! With delicious food, photo opportunities, and a multitude of ways to get active, these two cities will never disappoint!
From Fukuoka, take the Nishi-Kyushu Expressway to the Sasebo exit, and then follow Route 35 to access central Sasebo. From Nagasaki City, the slightly faster route to Sasebo is via north-bound Nishi-Kyushu Expressway. Alternatively, take the scenic Route 206 through Saikai, and cruise along the beautiful Saikai Bridge next to Saikaibashi Park; a sight not to be missed during spring and summer seasons!
What to See
Huis Ten Bosch theme park is Sasebo's main tourist attraction, drawing crowds from all over Asia year-round. The park is a Dutch-inspired homage to the long friendship between Nagasaki and the Netherlands that stretches back to the 17th century; complete with windmills and tulips!
With themed attractions such as bungee jumping, haunted houses, beer festivals, and live music performances, there really is something for everyone! The park offers special events for each season – tulip festival in spring; water park and rainbow festival in the summer; Halloween related events in autumn; and Christmas themed events in winter. Furthermore, be sure to stay until the evening for one of Huis Ten Bosch's prime attractions - its endless illuminations! Experience luminous fields of light and lose yourself in a mystical wonderland.
After spending the day at Huis Ten Bosch, drive along Route 35 through Sasebo. Be sure to stop by Sasebo Station to enjoy the picturesque port before heading north to Hirado. Located at the north-western tip of Kyushu, Hirado is known for its rich history in trade and its link with the West. Discover the area's feudal roots at Hirado Castle, which contains a museum that features historical artifacts related to Hirado and its clans. At the top, take photos of the breathtaking ocean view, and enjoy the beautiful view of Hirado port!
After spending time in the castle, head down to the Hirado Dutch Trading Post. Learn about the rich history of trade between Japan and the Netherlands that took place in Hirado before it was moved to Dejima in Nagasaki City.
Want to stretch your legs after a long drive? Take a hike along the Kawachi-toge Pass for a panoramic view of the ocean as well as the far-off islands of Iki and Tsushima on a clear day! Kawachi-toge Pass is a part of the Hirado Olle Trail; a relaxing 4-5 hour trail course that takes you to some of the most interesting and beautiful locations in Hirado, including the Saikyoji Pagoda and St. Francis Xavier Church.
The road trip isn't over yet! Drive north onto Ikitsuki Bridge, a beautiful truss bridge that connects the small island of Ikitsuki to Hirado. On Ikitsuki island, be sure to drive north to Sunset Way; a location where many car commercials have been filmed. This beautiful road is situated next to the ocean and in the middle of the greenest part of the island, and thus perfect for photos! As the name suggests, drive along this road while the sun is setting for a stunning view.
What to Eat
When hunger strikes mid-trip, there's no better fix than one of Sasebo's finest creations, the Sasebo burger! With an American military base established in Sasebo after WW2, local restaurants in Sasebo began to offer made-to-order American-style hamburgers, which gradually turned into the current American-Japanese fusion Sasebo Burger as we know it today. Each shop has its own recipes and specialties, but wherever you go, the large portions are sure to satisfy!
Swing by Kaya Burger in Hiu for a "special burger" with delicious sauce and a toasty bun. With outdoor seating, enjoy classic American rock while devouring burgers. Still hungry? Sasebo Big Man, located in Central Sasebo's shopping arcade is the most popular burger spot in town! Eat in with celebrities and check out the many autographs that proudly line the walls. Another great option is Log Kit, just off the expressway leading to Hirado and Matsuura. Take a break and enjoy some of the quirkier burgers, like the delicious avocado cream cheese burger!
If you work up an appetite on the way to Hirado, Hirado Beef (known for its tender and succulent taste) is a delicacy found in restaurants and izakayas all over the city! In the summer, there is even a festival where local beef can be sampled along with fresh vegetables and fish.
Where to Stay
Getting tired on the road? For an option with a touch of class, consider staying at one of Huis Ten Bosch's upscale hotels and enjoy luxury at its finest. Huis Ten Bosch is also famous for its "Henn-na Hotel," which is operated by robot staff. If you're looking for something out of the ordinary, Huis Ten Bosch recently announced a new floating capsule hotel experience, which gives visitors a chance to float and travel across Omura Bay to one of Nagasaki's many uninhabited islands! This service is expected to be available in the near future.
For an authentic experience of life in the countryside, Matsuura and Hirado offer homestay experiences. See how the locals live as you stay with a family from the area, and choose from experiences including kayaking, horseback riding, or fishing with professionals. You can even learn how to navigate the waters, catch octopus, and practice the intricate methods of net-fishing! Those who prefer the indoors can learn how to cook local food like sushi and soba!
Words by Cassandra Fegert.
Night view of Huis Ten Bosch ©Huis Ten Bosch
All ohter photos from the NPTA
Tea and Pottery – Higashi Sonogi and Hasami
Just touched down at Nagasaki airport? Hit the road immediately and take in some of the best countryside that Nagasaki has to offer! With endless photo opportunities and interesting places to visit, this 30km drive can easily fill a whole day trip.
What to See
Route 34 is the main road that follows the bay north from Omura – but the real delights of this drive are hidden in the mountains. Take the Omurawan Green Road, and a breathtaking view of Omura Bay and the beautiful mountains of Saikai await you.
Continuing along this road with the bay to your left, you will soon find yourself in the tea fields of Higashi Sonogi. The tea from this area is highly prized around Japan and is available to sample in the many cafes dotted around the leafy hillside.
For a particularly photogenic detour, consider driving down to Chiwata Station. The station with its platform merely meters away from the bay is a local hotspot for photographers, especially at sunset.
The Green Road will take you as far as Higashi-Sonogi – from there, rejoin Route 34 and make your way to Kawatana before heading inland on Route 4 towards Hasami. The traditional rural scenery is beautiful throughout all seasons, and each season brings a new palette of colors.
This road finally winds its way into Hasami, a town renowned for pottery. Home to a seemingly endless number of studios and workshops, there are hidden delights everywhere. Consider visiting during one of the bi-annual pottery festivals (in May and October), and spend the day huntng for bargains along the 4km main street.
For those wanting to learn more about the history of Hasami, visit the Museum of Ceramic Art to learn more about the history and traditions of Hasami-style pottery.
What to Eat
There are fantastic places to eat all along this route! シュシュ (Shushu), located in the hills just above Omura, sells some of the best homemade ice cream in the prefecture. Descending to Chiwata is particularly rewarding for those of a gastronomic inclination – Chiwata Bakery has a huge range of delicious cakes to accompany the local tea. Nearby, Sorriso Riso is a quirky leather workshop and vintage clothes shop that also serves up local green tea. Japanese curry enthusiasts should consider stopping at the café in Chiwata Station for a truly memorable experience – the menu changes depending on the day of the week, and the seating is just meters from the station platform.
Where to Stay
Higashi Sonogi offers a range of homestays where you can learn all about the production and brewing of local tea. Learn about the precise science of brewing the perfect cup – It's a much more involved process than you might think! This experience also offers a fantastic chance to meet and interact with local families and learn all about life in rural Japan.
Words by Will Tiley.
Photos of Chiwata Station and Sorisso Risso by Dylan Nordstrom. All other photos by NPTA.
The Nagazasshi is Nagasaki's No. 1 English language magazine. You can read it online at www.nagazasshi.com
The Nagazasshi is also on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/nagazasshi
Like the page to keep up to date with all the best news and views from the international community in Nagasaki.