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Local Specialities

Nagasaki and its Castella sponge cake

Nagasaki Prefecture occupies the westernmost part of Japan's southwestern Kyushu Island with its long coastline and many small islands.


Surrounded by sea, Nagasaki flourished as a trading port with other countries from the Muromachi Period (16th century). During the Edo Period (17th - 19th centuries), under Japan's isolationist policy banning diplomacy and trade with other countries except for the Netherlands, China and Korea, a special port was established in Nagasaki, called Dejima. This was the only port in Japan open to foreign trade, especially famous for its trade with the Netherlands.

Probably one of the most well known specialties of Nagasaki is the Nagasaki Castella sponge cake.



The fluffy and moist sponge cake made with thick malty syrup, and its golden brown surface with its sweet aroma, give a contrast and texture loved by children and adults alike; it also makes a popular gift to take home or give to friends and relatives.

Today, the Nagasaki Castella is known as the "Japanese sponge cake" and is well known both inside and outside Japan. There are various theories regarding the cake's origins, but it is generally thought that the castella recipe originated in Spain, and was passed on to people in and around Nagasaki at the end of the Muromachi Period by Portuguese missionaries who had learned how to make it from the Dutch.
The Nagasaki Castella was developed into its current form by confectioners in Nagasaki through many improvements and changes over time. It can thus be considered a refined version of the original castella. It is now possible to find Nagasaki Castella in many variations, adding flavors such as black sugar, chocolate or cheese in the style of western cakes. Also, Japanese versions such as green "matcha" tea-flavored castella, with their lovely light green-brown color, are gaining popularity even amongst tourists from overseas.


Despite the widespread destruction of much of Nagasaki's historic architecture by the atomic bombing around 60 years ago, many streets remain where homemade castella stores stand alongside classical western-style buildings that have subtly brought foreign influences into local culture since the time of Dejima. Why not come to Nagasaki and experience this exotic blend of foreign and Japanese cultures yourself?