Having enjoyed a memorable stay in Kumamoto, it was time to head on to the next prefecture to the East and arguably my favourite prefecture in all of Kyushu; Nagasaki.
Driving around from Kumamoto to Nagasaki is possible; and there is a route through Saga. However one of the nicest ways to travel between these two prefectures is to make use of the ferry between both. There are multiple points at which to take the journey across and we chose to use the Ariake Ferry (telephone: 096-311-4100) which would take us right into Unzen of Nagasaki.
The drive up to Ariake Ferry is beautiful as well, particularly if you take the route through the mountains and come down on the other side – a stunning view of Nagasaki across the bay and Unzen can be seen before reaching the ferry port.
The ferry is quick and good fun – only taking 20 minutes approximately – and you can take your car on board.
Unzen is a beautiful small town located on Mount Unzen, known historically for being very volcanically activate. These days the volcano is deemed safe, but visitors still enjoy the onsen in the surrounding area.
Driving through Unzen is an experience in itself. There is “Unsen Jigoku hell”, which sends off smoke due to the incredibly hot ground on which the area rests.
If you have a chance, be sure to stay at a ryokan for a night. Some of these are old or expensive, but you can find the occasional bargain if you look hard enough.
The drive from Unzen to Nagasaki’s central areas takes about an hour and a half. Once in the city, the first port of call and arguably the most symbolic should be the A-Bomb Museum (telephone: 095-844-1231).
From there, you can walk quickly to the Nagasaki Peace Park, which has the world famous statue in the park.
One other famous place to visit along the way is the Megane Bridge, which is a very common spot for tourists to check out on their visit through the city. The Megane Bridge is also about 10 minutes drive from Dejima, which is famous for being the only place where foreigners were originally allowed to visit in Japan.
Whilst in the Dejima area, see if you can find a nice Chinese restaurant for lunch – we found a great spot for Xiao Long Bao and then headed to our next port of call – Gunkanjima. Being an island, taking the car is not possible and you will need to take a passenger only ferry from Ohato.
Gunkanjima itself is one of the best places to visit in Japan. A very old island that was originally the largest coal mine in the country, eventually coal became less popular as more economically suitable and safer variants were used in Japan. Visiting this island is a real experience and well worth the expense – about $50
After returning to Gunkanjima, and if you have enough time, try and take a look at Kufukuji or Sofukuji; both beautiful temples in the prefecture. From there, you can then walk on to Chinatown.
To wrap up your trip, head to Mount Inasa and see the wonderful night view – it is a stunning way to finish your trip in this stunning prefecture.