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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 60 Nagasaki Part 1

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 60, Nagasaki Part 1
Tuesday February 18th 2014

The weather is overcast and dull as I leave my hotel near the main railway station and head south on my one day exploration of Nagasaki. I've been here before, some years ago, and today I will be revisiting some places but also exploring some of the less visited sights.

Rather than take the busy main thoroughfare which is filled with the roar of 6 lanes of motor vehicles spewing fumes into the air I go a couple of blocks towards the water and take a narrow street that is almost just an alley but feels like a canyon.

Overhead a spaghetti-tangle of cables crisscross the sky like a web of a giant spider. My first stop is something called Dragon Promenade in the port area. It's a long, narrow, concrete warehouse running perpendicular to the water. The roof is a multifaceted membrane somewhat reminiscent of the geometry of stealth planes and boats and at the far end sits a huge, orange sphere. Steps lead up to the covered roof which is public space and I believe sometimes events are held here, but mostly it is deserted and seems a little run down.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 60 Nagasaki Part 1.

Can't figure out the orange globe but supposedly the design of the building is meant to reflect the dragon used in the Dragon Dance at Nagasaki's Kunchi Festival. It is the kind of place I love to take photos. Almost next door is the new Ferry Building designed by Shin Takamatsu, an architect whose whimsical and geometric buildings are somewhat passe but again make for the kind of photography I most enjoy making.

Moored in front of the terminal is a ship I had not seen before, the Kanko Maru. It's actually a replica of Japan's first modern warship. Primarily a sailing ship she also had paddle wheels powered by steam. She was built in Holland in 1852 and served briefly with the Dutch navy before being given to the Shogun in 1855 whose government had recently "opened" the country following the return of Perry's Black Ships.

This replica was built in the same shipyard as the first Kanko Maru following the original plans. Last I heard she had been operating out of the theme park Huis Ten Bosch but maybe she is now based here.

A little further down along the waterfront I come to the Prefectural Museum of Art. When I first came to Nagasaki it was not yet fully built and hidden behind hoardings, but approaching along the canal the Prefectural Museum of Art is quite striking.

It is two buildings with the canal running between them and a connecting glass walkway between the two parts. The area along the canal is a public promenade with sculptures. Even though is is overcast the combination of glass walls and the water of the canal offer me plenty of photo opportunities. I forgo the opportunity to go in even though they just open as I am there.

Unless there is something specific I want to see in a museum or gallery I will often save myself the entrance fee, coming as I do from a country where entrance is free to most museums and galleries. Not far away is Dejima, the island where the Dutch traders lived in isolation during the Edo Period of Japanese history.

No longer surrounded by water but by city, it is somewhere else that was still under construction when I last came here. I do decide to fork over the entrance fee. It was interesting enough, though being a new reconstruction the newness of everything was kind of distracting.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 60 Nagasaki Part 1.

From here its just a short walk to Chinatown. I'm not sure when the Chinese New Year was this year, but I seem to have just missed the festival that celebrates it here in Nagasaki's Chinatown as there are still some of the large, brightly colored floats used then sitting in front to the entrance to the shopping street of said Chinatown. I walk quickly through as I am not interested in the restaurants and gifts shops that to my untrained eye look just the same as at any of the dozens of Chinatowns around the world.

What I am interested in is the hillside behind Chinatown which is actually where the Chinese quarter, known as Tojin Yashiki, was located during the Edo Period. It is a pretty decrepit and run down area now, and I'm not sure how many Chinese now live here, but dotted around the area are some small shrine-temples built by the Chinese residents back then.

I'm surprised to find them made out of brick, and while they are not grand like the nearby well-known Chinese temples of Sofukuji and Kofukuji, which were built later for the Chinese community here, it's nice to see the statues and decorations which are most certainly Chinese and not Japanese. Next I head towards the line of temples flanked by the aforementioned Sofukuji and Kofukuji.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 59

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