Nagasaki Lantern Festival Trip

A kirin lantern at the Nagasaki Lantern Festival.

This weekend we caught a train to Nagasaki primarily for the Nagasaki Lantern Festival, a festival in Nagasaki highly influenced by Chinese culture and Chinese New Year. I had visited Nagasaki before, but only briefly just to see the Peace Park and the one-legged torii, both nuclear bomb related sights. This time I wanted to make sure I saw more of Nagasaki, so I came during its biggest festival, did a little shrine tour to get goshuin, went back to the atomic bomb hypo-center area, tried some food, and walked along the Dutch slope and bay area.

Nami walking along the river.

To start we grabbed a geocache around the station before walking out to Suwa Shrine and Matsunomori Shrine, after which we walked along a river with a variety of old bridges, including Megane Hashi (眼鏡橋/Specatcles Bridge), a double arch bridge, a lot of the festival took place in the area next to Megane Hashi. Walking along the river was a fun way to get there from the shrines. It definitely didn’t feel like we were walking in Japan. Near the bridge was an arcade/shopping street where there were many lanterns on displays as well as a parade passed by.

Nagasaki’s kakuni manju.

We tried a variety of food in the arcade and adjacent China Town. We had some taiyaki, however the local dishes that we tried were kakuni manju (角煮饅頭/pork in a steamed bun), which was delicious (and we got plenty of samples of this at other venues later on at a variety of spots) and hatoshi, a type of bread with pork or shrimp inside, I had the pork variety, Nami had the shrimp, it was alright, but a bit overpriced (three hundred some yen). We made it through to the main festival area in Minami park (南公園) where we watched a dragon dance (which was quite interesting) and relaxed from walking with a heavy backpack from which we had been doing for the last four hours.

Some pictures from the festival.

After the dragon dance ended, we walked around Minami Park, the arcade, Chuo Park, and the Megane Hashi area and enjoyed the lanterns on display which were all gorgeous. There were many designs, but the large prominent ones were all themed according to the Chinese zodiac’s 12 animals, there were also smaller renditions of the same animals along the river, as well as several Chinese folk characters, religious icons, dragons, kirin, shishi, quite a few goldfish, and of course thousands of circular lanterns (mostly red) baring the kanji: 長崎燈會, which is Chinese for Nagasaki lantern festival. After this busy and long day, we headed to the city’s Cybac internet café, where we got a 12 hour night pack and slept for the night.

The main piece at the Peace Park in Nagasaki.

The second day in our Nagasaki trip had nothing to do with the Nagasaki lantern festival, but more with just the sights of Nagasaki in general, first we made an hour long walk to the hypo-center and peace parks where we enjoyed eating our Lawson breakfast (including possibly Nagasaki area limited Lawson’s castella). From there we walked to Nagasaki Prefecture Gokoku Shrine (for a goshuin) and then walked back to the Atomic Bomb museum (which I had not been to before), we spent 30–60 minutes there and then continued to Sanno shrine (山王神社), where the famous half-of-a-torii-arch is. This torii arch was broken in half by the bomb, and one half remained standing and became a symbol of hope after the blast. I had been here before, but this time I actually visited the shrine and got a goshuin!

Foods of the second day.

After Sannou shrine we made a 40 minute walk to a restaurant near the Megane Hashi called Kyourakuen (共楽園) which served two of Nagasaki’s famous noodle dishes Chanpon and Sara udon. Having tried Chanpon on a few occasions at the Japanese restaurant chain: Ringer Hut: Nagasaki Chanpon, I opted for Sara Udon, while Nami tried the chanpon. Sara Udon is nothing like udon noodles. While udon is fat and juicy, sara udon is actually really thin dry crispy nododles mixed with a juicy Chinese-esque sauce and kamaboko. The combination when mixed made them just the right amount of soggy, which was delicious. We had to wait about 30 minutes to get into the restaurant, but we didn’t need to wait too long for food and it was worth the unique Nagasaki experience. We took a walk after lunch and stumbled into the Dutch Slope area (where Dutch settled along time ago, some of the first foreign settlers in Japan), but the funnest thing there for us was the large array of samples of castella a type of bread brought from foreigners along time ago that has since become a popular staple of Nagasaki. We had at least 11 castella pieces from my memory as well as more of the kakuni manju samples and other foods. After this we grabbed four geocaches along the port area before heading back for our 5:50 pm train.

Length of trip: 2 days (Sat, Feb. 20 — Sun, Fb. 21, 2009), 1 night.
Cities visited: Nagasaki.

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