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Nagasaki (Photo:TOMO/Shutterstock)
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Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Nagasaki

This far west Japanese city of 450,000, located on Kyushu Island, has one of the most complex histories of any in Japan because of the early European influence that resulted in both positive and negative responses by the once-insular Japanese. The earliest contacts between Nagasaki and the West took place in 1543, when the Portuguese arrived, introducing the Japanese to guns and Catholicism. Next came the Spanish, followed by the Dutch. When Western religion came to be seen as a threat, the people of Nagasaki expelled the missionaries, and, in one famous incident in 1597, murdered some two dozen European and Japanese Christians. The Dutch, being Protestants -- and, more importantly, traders -- were allowed to retain a foothold on the nearby island of Dejima, even after foreign contact was banned altogether.

About Nagasaki


Pro

Cruises dock just a short walk from shops, restaurants, panoramic city views and attractions

Con

The Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum are upriver and so a private taxi or tour is needed

Bottom Line

Modern port facilities and an impressive approach through a fjord-like channel


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As the Dutch gained more influence, Western culture and science took hold in the city. In 1859, the city was officially reopened to the outside world. With the establishment of numerous industries, such as brewing and shipbuilding, Nagasaki became the most international city in Japan.

Gradually, the Japanese began to wrest control of these industries from the Western ex-patriots. And, it was Nagasaki's strategically important shipbuilding industry that made the city a target in World War II. On August 9, 1945, the Americans dropped a plutonium A-bomb on the city, three days after the one at Hiroshima.

Today's tourists will find a completely rebuilt city. Although many come to see the Atomic Bomb Museum, the city has much more to offer, including remains of European influence in Glover Garden, two Catholic churches, shrines and temples dotting the hillsides and a thriving and walkable Japanese city center that is close to where the ships dock.

Nagasaki is quite an attractive city, set on a plain between the active harbor and a backdrop of mountains. Where industry does not intrude, the city has developed attractive park promenades -- perfect for a quiet stroll and an escape from the urban hustle and bustle. The city's largely linear layout makes it easy to navigate, and it's well worth exploring the city on your own. The efficient tram system will take you anywhere you want to go.

Where You're Docked

Cruise ships dock at Matsugae Pier in a very convenient location, adjacent to the city center.

Good to Know

The Japanese drive on the left side of the road, like the British, so be careful when crossing the street. Drivers tend to be polite to pedestrians at intersections.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Japanese currency is the yen; check XE.com for current exchange rates. The Japanese use credit cards far less than we do for small purchases, so you'll definitely want to take out yen at ATM machines found around the city, including at the post office where there's also a currency change counter. Additionally, you can get yen at offices of the financial institution called 18 Bank. Currency exchange onboard your cruise ship usually offers a poorer exchange rate.

Language

The official language is Japanese. Younger Japanese men and women are more likely to speak English than the older generations. Signs written out in the English alphabet are incredibly helpful for finding your way.

Shopping

Japanese cotton and silk patterns are just beautiful, and popular items include scarves, shawls, napkins, bathrobes or bolts of material for making your own clothes or sewing projects. If you're purchasing ready-made clothing, know that Japanese sizes tend to be small. Prints, lacquerware and pottery also make authentic souvenirs, as do the popular Mikimoto artificial pearls, which vary widely in size, color and, therefore, price. The best locations for shopping -- including one large department store halfway along and to the right -- are along the long, narrow Hamanomachi arcade. Another location for crafts is opposite Nagasaki's main JR railway station.