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Nishizaka Hill

After Nagasaki opened its port to European vessels, missionaries came to the city to convert Japanese to Christianity. Gradually, however, the Japanese rulers began to fear that these Christian missionaries would try to exert political and financial influence through their converts. Who was to say that conversion to Christianity wasn't the first step toward colonization? So in 1587, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, ruler of Japan, officially banned Christianity. In 1597, 26 male Christians (20 Japanese and 6 foreigners) were arrested in Kyoto and Osaka, marched 30 days through the snow to Nagasaki, and crucified on Nishizaka Hill as examples of what would happen to offenders. Through the ensuing decades, there were more than 600 documented cases of Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish Christians being put to death in the Nishizaka area. In 1862, the 26 martyrs were canonized by the pope.

Today, on Nishizaka Hill, about a 4-minute walk north of Nagasaki Station up a steep slope, there's the Monument to the 26 Saints, with statues of the martyrs carved in stone relief. Immediately striking is that three of them look very young; indeed, the youngest was only 12. Behind the relief is the small Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum (tel. 095/822-6000; www.26martyrs.com; daily 9am-5pm) housing artifacts relating to the history of Christianity in Japan, including paintings and drawings of the 26 saints, reward notices for those turning in Christians to authorities, and religious objects, as well as remains of Japanese martyrs returned to Nagasaki in 1995 after more than 380 years of interment in Macau. Perhaps most amazing about the history of Christianity in Japan is that the religion was practiced secretly by the faithful throughout Japan's isolation policy, surviving more than 200 years underground without the benefits of a church or clergy. Admission to the museum, which can be toured in 15 minutes, is ¥250 for adults, ¥150 for junior-high and high-school students, and ¥100 for children.

Peace Park (Hirano-machi)

On August 9, 1945, at 11:02am, American forces dropped an atomic bomb over Nagasaki, 3 days after they had dropped one on Hiroshima. The bomb, which exploded 480m (1,600 ft.) aboveground, destroyed about a third of the city, killed an estimated 74,000 people, and injured 75,000 more. Today, Peace Park, located north of Nagasaki Station, serves as a reminder of that day of destruction with a museum, memorials, and statues. Nagasaki's citizens are among the most vigorous peace activists in the world; a peace demonstration is held in Peace Park every year on the anniversary of the bombing, along with a declaration for peace by the city mayor.

Near the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, a black pillar marks the exact epicenter of the atomic blast; a black casket contains names of the bomb's victims. Ironically, the bomb exploded almost directly over the Urakami Catholic Church, built after centuries of persecution in Japan and of which only a fragmented wall remains. A few minutes' walk farther north, separated by several streets, is the largest part of Peace Park (the nearest streetcar station to this section is Matsuyama). It occupies the site of a former prison; all 134 inmates died in the blast. A fountain is dedicated to the wounded who begged for water; many of them died thirsty. Statues donated by countries from around the world line a pathway leading to Peace Statue, a 9m-high (30-ft.) statue of a male deity. One hand points to the sky from where the bomb came (meant as a warning?), and the other hand points to the horizon (representing hope? the future?).

Dejima

When the Tokugawa shogunate adopted a national policy of isolation in the 1630s, only Nagasaki was allowed to remain open as a port of trade with foreigners. Because the Portuguese and Spaniards were associated with the outlawed Christian religion, they were expelled in 1639; only the Dutch and the Chinese were allowed to remain and continue trading. In 1641, all the Dutch were confined to a tiny, fan-shaped artificial island called Dejima, where they remained for 218 years (at any given time, about 15 Dutchmen were in residence; no wives were allowed). This was Japan's only official contact with the outside world; the director of Dejima was required to travel to Edo every 1 to 4 years to report to the shogun. Otherwise, the only people allowed to cross the bridge into the Dutch community were Japanese prostitutes and traders.

Today, after having become part of the mainland through land reclamation and decades of languishing as little more than a streetcar stop, Dejima has been reborn through an ambitious project to re-create the island as it was in the early 19th century, with more than a dozen structures resurrected. After you alight at the Dejima streetcar stop and pay the admission of ¥500 for adults, ¥200 for high-school students, or ¥100 for children, go to the Deputy Chief Factor's Quarters (6-3 Dejima-machi; tel. 095/821-7200; www1.city.nagasaki.nagasaki.jp/dejima) for a map and information in English. From there you'll be directed to a re-created kitchen, the First Ship Captain's Quarters with furnishings of the period, the Chief Factor's Residence, and the Head Clerk's Quarters with examples of equipment and knowledge brought to Japan from Europe. The No. 1 Warehouse documents the painstaking restoration of Dejima's historic buildings, while the No. 2 Warehouse describes Dejima's role in the introduction of Western science and culture to Japan. At the Dejima Theatre, a 12-minute video (English-language audio phones available) recaptures daily life in a former Dejima Dutch factory. The most important thing to see in Dejima is the Dejima Museum of History, which is housed in a blue, colonial-style wooden building constructed in 1877 as Japan's first Protestant seminary. It gives an excellent account of the historical development of the island, what life was like for the Dutch who lived here, and how the trading system worked. Nearby, in a replica of an old stone warehouse, is the museum's annex with folk objects from Holland and artifacts unearthed during Dejima excavations. Dejima is open daily 8am to 6pm; you'll probably spend 45 minutes here.

A View from the Top -- The best panoramic view of Nagasaki is from atop 330m (1,090-ft.) Mount Inasa, which you can reach in 7 minutes from Nagasaki Station by taking bus no. 3 or 4 to the Ropeway-mae stop (fare: ¥150). A 2-minute walk from the bus stop is Fuchi Shrine, where believers come to pray for a good marriage, safe childbirth, and academic success. Beside the shrine is the Nagasaki Ropeway (tel. 095/861-3640; daily 9am-10pm), which delivers you to the top of Mount Inasa in 5 minutes (round-trip fare: ¥1,200 adults, ¥900 junior-high and high-school students, ¥600 children). A hilltop observation deck provides 360-degree panoramic views; we recommend you arrive before sunset and stay for the zillion twinkling lights. You might also consider dining here at Hikari (tel. 095/862-1050), a restaurant with great views and delectable local dishes, including champon.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.