Enjoy Christmas in Nagasaki


Huis Ten Bosch

Though named after a Dutch palace, to Nagasaki natives the name "Huis Ten Bosch" is anything but foreign. Translated as the "House in the Forest," Huis Ten Bosch is a popular attraction park destination for people across Japan and other parts of Asia.

Boasting larger-than-life attractions and exciting activities for the whole family all year round, Huis Ten Bosch is particularly special in winter.

Whether you're perusing the shops for holiday goodies and gifts, sampling some seasonal treats, or enjoying the bedazzling illumination display, it's impossible to visit Huis Ten Bosch around this time of year and leave without the warm, fuzzy feelings that only the holiday season can provide.

Huis Ten Bosch

Like the name suggests, Huis Ten Bosch is a celebration of Nagasaki's cultural history with Europe - particularly with the Dutch. Patrons rave about the fine European foods and goods found in the park's numerous stores. However, winter brings an even greater selection of cheeses, sausages, wines, spirits, and pastries that can't be found anywhere else, and which are perfect for a holiday feast.

Outside, several Christmas Markets stand among the gardens offering authentic European goods including fragrances, clothing, crafts, and treats. With a wide selection to choose from, and cheery staff to assist you, you're certain to find something to bring home. While you browse, don't forget to treat yourself to a glass of some piping-hot mulled wine or a juicy turkey leg!

Huis Ten Bosch

If you're looking for something sweeter, nothing says 'happy holidays!' quite like a slice of Huis Ten Bosch's famous cheesecake or a fresh Christmas Crepe! Not to be outdone, the park's restaurants have also altered their menus and boast an array of holiday-themed meals that are sure to please any palate.

Huis Ten Bosch

Aside from shopping and eating, Huis Ten Bosch is also home to several attractions and events, both holiday-themed and otherwise. Separated into eight sections easily accessed by boat or by foot, the park is host to live shows, mazes, galleries, horror houses, games, and play areas for every age. Kids and adults can test their courage in Thrill Town or their strength in one of Adventure Park's many obstacle courses.

Want to relax? Catch some live song and dance at Muse Hall or take a stroll through one of Huis Ten Bosch's gardens. Up for a bit of fun? You're sure to find it in Attraction Town, home to the I.S Labyrinth and the Dome Theater. Heralding the coming of winter are a few other season-specific attractions, including a skating rink and boat tours.

Of course, Huis Ten Bosch doesn't truly come to life until the sun sets. With over 13 million lights in the park, Huis Ten Bosch takes on the appearance of a grand and beautiful painting the minute it becomes dark. Each section of the park has its own set of lights and design themes to check out, and every display is crafted with true artistry.

Children laugh and scamper through the glowing tunnels and arbors of the park's gardens while the canals are set ablaze with colored displays that dance to the music like rainbow-hued serpents. Boats drift along like fireflies and the streets are packed to the brim with a parade of floats, bicycles, and dancers, all covered in blinking lights and bright colors.

If you're looking for something sweeter, nothing says 'happy holidays!' quite like a slice of Huis Ten Bosch's famous cheesecake or a fresh Christmas Crepe! Not to be outdone, the park's restaurants have also altered their menus and boast an array of holiday-themed meals that are sure to please any palate.

Huis Ten Bosch
Huis Ten Bosch


Words: Max Epstein

Photography: Laurel Williams, Yukiko Taniguchi


Oura Church

Nagasaki is rich with the history of the Kakure Kirishitan, or "hidden Christians" - the Japanese Christians who took their religion underground in the face of persecution at the end of the 16th century.

A great place to start exploring the fascinating history of the hidden Christians is in southern Nagasaki's Oura Church. Built in the late 17th century to honour the Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan, Oura Church is the oldest church in Japan and the first Western building in the country to be designated as a National Treasure. It is expected to be listed as a UNESCO's World Heritage site in 2016.

If you're looking to ignite your festive spirit as the holidays draw closer, a trip to Oura Church as the evening draws in is the perfect way to do so.

Beautiful in an unassuming way, you can feel the history of the church as you approach it via a gentle slope. Take a quick detour into the small paved area to your right. Here, you can see a bronze plaque commemorating a group of hidden Christians arriving at the church at 1865 from Urakami after keeping their religion hidden for over 200 years.

Oura Church

Returning to the main path, stop at the foot of the stairs to admire a truly beautiful festive sight. In the spirit of the season, the shrubs and steep stair rails have been adorned with lights, drawing your eyes upwards to the brilliantly lit facade of the church. A white marble statue of the Virgin Mary, which was imported from France, not only also looks stunning in the night time, but also offers an excellent viewpoint of southern Nagasaki.

Oura Church
Oura Church

Inside the church a charming nativity scene has been erected to celebrate Christmas, flanked by Christmas trees and topped by a shining star. Stained glass, also imported from France, is featured on the back wall of this gothic style church.

Miraculously, unlike many other areas of Nagasaki, Oura Church was barely affected by the atomic bombing of 1945. To stand in the church is to stand in a largely untouched part of the history of Nagasaki, and of the history of Japan's relationship with Christianity.

Plus, the current illuminations make it a perfect spot for a winter evening, particularly when coupled with a trip to the nearby Glover Gardens, also beautifully lit for the festive season!


Words: Jennifer Edwards

Photography: Jennifer Edwards, Yukiko Taniguchi


If you are a foreigner spending the holidays in Nagasaki for the first time, you may be surprised to find Christmas in unexpected places. The Colonel Sanders standing outside Hamanomachi's KFC has donned a Santa outfit, electric lights are draped everywhere from Dejima Wharf to the smallest of side streets and order forms for Christmas cakes sit alongside conbini checkouts.

However, perhaps the most unexpected place you can find Christmas in Nagasaki this year is at the Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium. Located in suburban Himi, a twenty minute bus ride from the city center, the aquarium is home to nine different species of penguin, the most of any zoo or aquarium in the world.

This Christmas, until December 25th, Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium is also home to festive decorations, divers dressed as Santa Claus and a Christmas-themed penguin parade.

As you walk to the aquarium from the main road, you'll notice that you are suddenly immersed in nature - a biotope of the natural world of rural Nagasaki where various fish, flowers, birds and crabs can be observed depending on the season.

Penguin Aquarium

The entrance to the aquarium is hard to miss as you are greeted by a startlingly large penguin mascot. Once your ticket is purchased, head inside to see one of many photo opportunities; a 'Penguin Throne' next to a fluffy penguin doll. For the Christmas season, the doll has donned a Christmas hat and scarf, and Santa makes a guest appearance.

Penguin Aquarium

By this point, the Penguin Aquarium's most impressive spectacle has no doubt caught your eye: the Sub-Antarctic Penguin Pool, a tank 4 meters deep, containing 200 tons of water and playground to five species of penguin diving and frolicking in its depths.

This room also houses an aquarium featuring dozens of species found in Nagasaki's ocean, from the Nanukazame to Red Seabream. You can also find eels and jellyfish, all floating around Christmas baubles and a decorated tree.

Upstairs contains a showcase aquarium featuring an array of crustaceans and amphibians. For the December holidays, each showcase contains a bit of Christmas spirit, keeping the wildlife company. Close by, another aquarium displays Jellyfish of varying lengths and sizes.

Penguin Aquarium

Nearby, the top half of the Sub-Antarctic pool is visible. The surface features the majority of the penguins playing and waddling around. If you're lucky, you can catch them during feeding time, emerging from the water to claim their food from aquarium staff dressed in blue rubber overalls, followed by a march back into the pool.

One of the world's largest tropical fish, the Pla Buk catfish, hailing from the Mekong River in Thailand, can be found right here in Nagasaki! Known in Thailand as a 'Messenger of God,' these fish were presented to Nagasaki City by the National Government of Thailand in 1992. With their lifecycle still a mystery, Thais believe they are protected by God.

Outside, the final four species of penguin can be found. These warm-climate penguins can be viewed at a closer range than their Sub-Antarctic counterparts. A short step away, in their own private area, the Blue penguins can be found. Born this year, Ani and Emily are part of the smallest penguin species in the world, growing up to only 35cm.

As you leave, make sure to stop by the touching pool. Reach out and make contact with starfish, hermit crabs, sea urchins and other creatures found along the coastline. As you exit through the gift shop, you can pick up a festively adorned penguin, or a variety of other gifts. Excellent for those last minute Christmas presents!


Words: James Vaughan

Photography: Jennifer Edwards


The Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture, tucked a short walk away from Kokaidomae tram stop, seems an obvious choice for any tourist hoping to learn more about Nagasaki.

An impressive building in a typical Japanese style, the museum houses over 48,000 items pertaining to the museum's theme, "Overseas Exchange." It also features an impressive reconstruction of the Nagasaki Bugyosho – a local magistrate's office of the central government in the Edo period.

However, the museum is not only a repository of history. While its expansive collection of artifacts illustrates the extent and length of Nagasaki's history of international exchange, the thoughtful and innovative curation of the museum really brings the Nagasaki story to life.

For example, the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture houses the original version of the Kaitai Shinsho (or "New Text on Anatomy"), an anatomical guide based on a Dutch language text. The Kaitai Shinsho is a phenomenally important book from both a medical and translation point of view. As such, many Japanese school text books feature information about the Kaitai Shinsho, so school children are surprised and excited to see the original when they visit the museum.

The Art of Nagasaki gallery boasts a themed display which changes six or seven times a year. The current display features paintings by Nagasaki-born Kawahara Keiga, an artist appointed in 1811 as a painter for the Dejima factory, giving him rare access to the Dutch trading post.

Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture

Kawahara Keiga depicted all aspects of life in Japan in his paintings throughout his career at the behest of interested foreigners, such as German Physician Philipp Franz von Siebold. Many were sent back to Holland in order that the Dutch could learn more about Japan.

Among the current collection is a series of paintings by Kawahara Keiga beautifully representing life's major events and milestones, such as birth, death, marriage and illness. As you wander through, you can't help but imagine what impression the Dutch must have had of Japan from these paintings.

The Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture also literally brings Nagasaki's history to life by presenting plays. These take place on weekends and holidays in a reconstruction of the "oshirasu," where the Bugyo (magistrate), carried out trials in the Edo period.

Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture

Like the paintings hung in the Art of Nagasaki gallery, the topic of the play changes periodically. Whilst the plays are performed in Japanese, sometimes with heavy Nagasaki-ben, the enthusiastic acting and excellent props and costume mean that they are easy to follow. A printed English explanation may also be available, so do please ask a staff member.

The plays are based on history – many of them are based on court records displayed by the museum. Keep your eye out as your walk through the history and culture exhibition zone and you may see the old record, written in a kind of Japanese shorthand, on which the play you watched was based!

The museum also hosts large exhibitions on topics as varied as Lego, and Japanese relations with Germany. Check out the museum's website to see what will be showing during your visit.

Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture

Whilst the bulk of the museums' explanations are in Japanese, there is a good amount of English information, plus friendly volunteers (many of whom can at least speak some English) will happily teach you about Nagasaki's history.

Additionally, the constantly changing content in the museum means that there's always something new to see. So, if you live in Nagasaki, or even if you are only visiting, be sure check out the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture!


Words: Jennifer Edwards

Written in partnership with the Nagazasshi

The Nagazasshi is Nagasaki's No. 1 English language magazine. You can read it online at www.nagazasshi.com

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Collaboration Pages: November-December 2015 issue

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