Nagasaki Museums

Nagasaki City & Nagasaki Prefecture Museums 長崎の博物館

Nagasaki city in particular and Nagasaki Prefecture in general have some excellent museums and art galleries. This cultural richness reflects Nagasaki's long history as the only port in the Edo Period of Japanese history that was open to foreign merchants.

Dutch and Chinese traders and before them the Portuguese and Spanish lived and traded in Nagasaki before the latter were expelled following the crackdown on Christianity in the early years of the 17th century. Nagasaki's strong Christian heritage is reflected in a large number of churches and other Christian sites in the city and prefecture.

Nagasaki continued to be important in the Meiji Period as western technology and ideas flooded into Japan. A new foreign settlement opened up and businessmen such as Thomas Glover played an important part in the industrialization, westernization and commercialization of the early Meiji years.

The atomic bombing of the city in 1945 which ended the Pacific War has led to the creation of a number of museums and memorials commemorating this tragic event in the city's history.

Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture, Nagasaki, Kyushu.
Nagasaki Museum of History & Culture

Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture

The Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture introduces the history of Portuguese, Dutch, Korean and Chinese trade with Nagasaki in the Edo and early Meiji periods. European and Asian goods were introduced into Japan by Portuguese and later Dutch traders confined on the artificial island of Dejima. The Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture utilizes video to present this long history of international exchange in addition to a large collection of both original and reconstruction artefacts. There are models of western and Chinese ships which brought goods such as sugar, silk, ceramics, tortoise shell and medicines in exchange for Japanese copper ingots, gold and silver, marine products and pottery.

Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture, Nagasaki, Kyushu.
Video Panel, Nagasaki Museum of History & Culture, Nagasaki
Room in the First Ship Captain's Quarters on Dejima, Nagasaki.
Room in the First Ship Captain's Quarters on Dejima, Nagasaki


Dejima was a fan-shaped artificial island first built to house Portuguese traders in 1634 as part of the sakoku policy of seclusion during the Edo Period of Japanese history.
Later home to Dutch traders for over 200 years, Dejima hosted such famous men as Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716), Carl Peter Thunberg (1723-1828), Isaac Titsingh (1745-1812) and Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866), who did much to introduce western, medical and scientific knowledge to Japan and interpret Japan and its culture for a wider European audience. Since the 1990's the city of Nagasaki has been involved in a reconstruction program at Dejima to return Dejima once again to an island and to restore many of the 19th century buildings. So far the Deputy Factor's Quarters, the Chief Factor's Residence, the Japanese Officials' Office, the Head Clerk's Quarters, the No. 1 Warehouse, which was used to store sugar, No 2. Warehouse, used to store wood, the Main Gate and the Sea Gate have been opened.

Dejima, Nagasaki, Kyushu.
Strolling in modern-day Dejima, Nagasaki
Glover Garden, Nagasaki.
Glover's western style house at Glover Garden

Glover Garden

The Glover Garden area in Nagasaki is a collection of western homes and buildings reassembled around the house of the Scottish entrepeneur Thomas Blake Glover (born Fraserburgh 1838 - died in Tokyo 1911). Glover came to Japan at age 21 and never left. Glover worked in shipbuilding, coal (including opening up the mining island of Gunkanjima), arms dealing and brewing, ultimately being awarded the Second Class Order of the Rising Sun. Glover supported the opposition to the Tokugawa regime and was well placed when they came into government in 1868. The house and grounds of Glover Garden sit atop a hill that commands a view of the Nagasaki Bay and the entire city - and speak of a bygone era of fabulous luxury, when the area of Minami-yamate was a thriving foreign settlement. Indeed the house is believed to be the setting and inspiration for Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly.

Atomic Bomb Museum, Nagasaki.
Atomic Bomb Museum, Nagasaki

Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum

The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum building was opened in 1996 replacing an early museum from 1955. The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is dedicated to the events leading up to the attack, the atomic bombing itself and its devastating effects on buildings and people in the city. There are four main sections to the museum. The first section introduces the city and culture of Nagasaki just before the bomb struck, the second section concentrates on the damage caused by the bombing, the third section places in context the issues of war and atomic weapons and the last section is a video room showing documentary movies related to the atomic bombing. There are also lecture halls where survivors of the attack give presentations of their experiences and conferences are held.

Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims

The Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims is adjacent to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum in Nagasaki and is a truly superb and fitting memorial to the victims of the atomic bombing of the city on August 9, 1945, which killed 73,884 people, injured another 74,909 and later caused the deaths of a further 70,000 victims from radioactivity-related illnesses. The Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims opened in 2003 and offers a beautiful and solemn space for people from Japan and overseas to mourn the victims of the bombing and to pray for a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons.

Nyokodo, Nagasaki, Kyushu.
Nyokodo, Nagai Takashi Memorial Museum, Nagasaki

Nagasaki City Nagai Takashi Memorial Museum (Nyokodo)

The moving Nagasaki City Nagai Takashi Memorial Museum is dedicated to the life and work of Nagai Takashi (1908-1951) a physician born near Matsue in Shimane who later settled in Nagasaki and converted to Catholicism. During the period of the Second World War, Nagai developed leukemia through his work with X-rays during radiological examinations for TB among his patients. After the war ended, Nagai dedicated his life to peace and the rebuilding of the Urakami area, planting 1,000 cherry trees (Nagai Senbonzakura) with a grant from a local newspaper to transform the wasteland into a "Hill in Bloom." Nagai turned to writing and his works emphasize the need for peace after the devastation of war felt so tragically by the citizens of Nagasaki. The museum has videos in Japanese and other languages telling the story of Nagai's life as well as photographs, original sketches and personal possessions including the melted rosary found near his wife's body. The tiny 2 tatami-mat hermitage Nyokodo stands in the grounds of the museum.

Museum for the Former Site of Santo Domingo Church

The free Museum for the Former Site of Santo Domingo Church shows the excavations of the former Dominican Church, which later became the site of the residence of the Nagasaki magistrate (bugyo), after the expulsion of the Portuguese and Spanish. The Museum for the Former Site of Santo Domingo Church reveals the foundations of the original church viewable from a raised walkway through their center. The Exhibition Room on entry houses Christian relics, crosses and round roof tiles stamped with a floral cross found on site or at other archaeological digs across Nagasaki. Foundation stones from the church were re-used in Suetsugu's residence and can still be seen along with a 17th century Iberian style stone pavement, leading to a basement. A stone drainage ditch, a stone well and another large stone basement have also been excavated, along with the discovery of much pottery.

Siebold Memorial Museum

The Siebold Memorial Museum is located on a plot near to where Siebold's former house in the Narutaki district once stood. The museum is dedicated to the life and work of Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866), a German physician and naturalist who came to Japan as part of the Dutch trading house in Dejima. Erected by Nagasaki city, the Siebold Memorial Museum building and entrance are a reproduction of Siebold's own house in Leiden and the Lotz family house in Würzburg, Germany, where he grew up and studied at Würzburg University.Siebold first came to Japan via Batavia (Indonesia) in 1823. Fortunately Siebold was able to escape the harsh confines of Dejima after successfully treating a local shogunate official and he set up home nearby the present museum with his common-law Japanese wife Kusumoto Taki. Their only child Oine was later to become the first practicing female doctor in Japan.

Kameyama Shachu Memorial Museum

The Kameyama Shachu Memorial Museum is a restoration of the building that housed a shipping company begun by Sakamoto Ryoma (1835-1867), a prominent activist in the struggles to overthrow the Tokugawa regime in the 1850's and 1860's. Historians see the Kameyama Shachu, Japan's first trading company, as a forerunner of the Japanese navy. Although the Japanese style house and garden is a very small space, just 10-, 8- and 3 tatami mat rooms, it attracts a number of Ryoma fans who make the pilgrimage uphill to the museum every day. On display are a number of the great man's personal effects including his haori - a traditional kimono jacket. There is a mezzanine floor reached through the ceiling if the occupants needed to hide from any shogunal spies.

Nagasaki Prefectural Museum of Art, Nagasaki.
Nagasaki Prefectural Museum of Art, Nagasaki

Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum

The Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum on the waterfront has a permanent collection that focuses on modern art created by Nagasaki artists or with a Nagasaki theme but also has the largest collection of Spanish art in Japan. This is the legacy of a Mr. Suma who was the Japanese Ambassador to Spain for many years and collected close to 2,000 pieces of Spanish art. The Nagasaki Prefectural Museum of Art also has a revolving schedule of temporary exhibitions which require a separate entrance fee. The Nagasaki Prefectural Museum of Art contains a cafe and a museum shop and great views out to sea from the roof garden.

Twenty-six Martyrs Museum

The memorial to the Twenty-six Martyrs and the adjoining Twenty-six Martyrs Museum commemorates the twenty-six men who were crucified on the orders of warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi on February 5, 1597 on Nishizaka Hill, not far from present-day Nagasaki Station. The victims had their right ears cut off and were forced to walk from Kyoto to Nagasaki with their hands bound. On Nishizaka Hill they were then lanced on the cross with spears thrust diagonally through their bodies. The Twenty-six Martyrs Museum has an excellent collection of historical artifacts relating to the introduction of Christianity in Japan including original statues of the Virgin Mary, disguised as Kannon, the Japanese goddess of mercy, historic reliquaries, paintings, statues, carvings, books, maps, prints and fumi-e, metal images of Jesus or Mary, that Christians were forced to stamp on to renounce their faith after the crack-downs on Christianity at the beginning of Tokugawa rule in the 17th century.

Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall.
Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall

Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall

The Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall is dedicated to the 1991 volcanic eruption in Unzen and aims to teach future generations about the power and science of volcanic eruptions. The museum building was opened in 2001 and was designed by local Nagasaki-based architects Kume Sekkei. Exhibits include the scorced TV cameras of the doomed camera crews when the volcano erupted, photographs, panels and interactive displays. The Great Eruption Theater aims to give visitors something of the atmosphere of being in the middle of a volcanic eruption.

Ikitsuki Island Museum

The Ikitsuki Island Museum Shima no Yakata on Ikitsuki Island just off Hirado is dedicated mainly to the whaling industry in the area during the Edo Period (1603-1868) but also contains exhibits from the "Hidden Christian" culture practiced in the region as well as local farming and traditional festival dances. There is also a quirky section of stuffed fish, produced by the islanders since 1989. There are presently about 400 fish from 250 different species on display, attached to the ceiling by wires in a special room. Coastal whaling in certain defined areas (ShimonosekiWakayama and Taiji in present day Wakayama Prefecture, for example) was practiced throughout the Edo Period in Japan (certainly not everywhere on Japan's long coastline) and the museum's main emphasis is on the Masutomi group of whalers, who hunted whales in Nagasaki's coastal waters for their meat and oil, which was used for bug control on the area's rice fields.

Matsuura Historical Museum

The Matsuura Historical Museum on Hirado Island in Nagasaki Prefecture is located in the former residence of the Matsuura clan, who controlled the strategic island from the 11th-19th century. This interesting museum displays artefacts and family treasures from the Matsuura clan including samurai arms and armor, calligraphy, documents, globes, Dutch ships' figureheads and a palanquin. The museum also includes a lovely garden with many fine wooden buildings and a Japanese teahouse.