|Towns that Thrived as Gateways for European
Nagasaki Prefecture, situated in the westernmost part of Japan, consists of a peninsula and numerous islands extending into the East China Sea. Situated close to mainland China and long recognized as an ideal harbor, its geographical conditions made it Japan's gateway for cultural contact with the Asian continent.
In the 16th century, Hirado and Nagasaki, both in this
district, were opened in succession as Japan's first ports to accommodate
European trade, dealing mainly with trade from Portugal. During Japan's
national seclusion in the Edo
period (1603-1868), which began in the mid-17th century and lasted
for over 200 years and under which trade, traffic, and exchange with most
foreign countries were prohibited, Nagasaki was permitted to trade with
the Netherlands and China as Japan's one and only open port. In this way,
Nagasaki was the point of first contact with European cultures, and various
knowledge and technology from the West entered and spread throughout the
country from here. This was also the place where Christianity was first
practiced in Japan. To this day there are many Christians in this prefecture,
and numerous beautiful churches such as Oura
Catholic Church which is designated as a National Treasure remain.
Nagasaki City, together with Hiroshima City, was suffering the disaster of the atomic bombing in 1945 and has supplied the driving force for the international peace movement after the war. At the same time, its unique history and magnificent natural setting has made it one of Japan's most popular sightseeing destinations. Like Nagasaki, Sasebo has also developed into a modern city. Two unique theme parks, Huis Ten Bosch, modeled after a typical Dutch town, and Nagasaki Dutch Village, can be found there. These are places with an multicultural atmosphere the like of which can only be found in Nagasaki Prefecture.
Photos: (From top) The Port of Nagasaki (Ministry of Foreign Affairs); The resort-style theme park, Huis Ten Bosch, recreates an atmosphere of old Netherlands (Huis Ten Bosch Co., Ltd., J-2608)
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