1,329km (826 miles) SW of Tokyo; 152km (95 miles) SW of Fukuoka

Unlike Kumamoto, Kagoshima, Beppu, and other well-known Kyushu destinations, Nagasaki doesn't have a castle, a famous landscaped garden, or hot-spring spas. Rather, its charm is much more subtle. Many people in Japan -- including foreign residents -- consider this city one of the country's most beautiful. It's a place of hills rising from the deep, U-shaped harbor with boats and ferries chugging back and forth, of houses perched on terraced slopes, of small streets and distinctive neighborhoods, and of people extremely proud of their hometown. Without a doubt, Nagasaki is one of Japan's most livable cities, despite its population of 448,000 residents. It's also perhaps Japan's most cosmopolitan city, with a unique blend of outside cultures interwoven into its history, architecture, food, and festivals.

Nagasaki, capital of Nagasaki Prefecture and located on the northwest coast of Kyushu, opened its harbor to European vessels in 1571 and became a port of call for Portuguese and Dutch ships; Chinese merchants soon followed and set up their own community. Along with traders came St. Francis Xavier and other Christian missionaries, primarily from Portugal and Spain, who found many converts among the local Japanese. During Japan's more than 200 years of isolation, only Nagasaki was allowed to conduct trade with outsiders and thus served as the nation's window on the rest of the world. Even today, Japanese come to Nagasaki for a dose of the city's intermingled cultures. Its harbor remains one of Japan's most active.

All the city's major attractions are connected to its diversified, and sometimes tragic, past. Nagasaki is best known as the second city to be destroyed by an atomic bomb.