A few months ago I came across some very interesting pictures online of the old Nagasaki Prison which really caught my attention and made me want to visit the abandoned ruins on some kind of haikyo adventure. The prison in question is a 10 minute walk away from Hon-Isahaya station and during the afternoon on our second day I left my girlfriend behind to seek out the place. From JR Nagasaki station it took about 30 minutes to get to Isahaya station where I changed to the Shimabara Railway Line to go to Hon-Isahaya which was only three minutes from there and the first stop on the line. What I failed to do beforehand was read the articles on the place properly as I didn’t realise till earlier in the day that, apart from its front gate, it was knocked down in 2007! However, I was still intrigued enough to make the effort to check out what remained.
It was a long round trip due to having a long wait at Isahaya station on the return journey and in all honesty probably not worth it but I am glad that I did it and found out rather than not knowing! At the gate there are a couple of boards detailing a little about the history and geography of the old prison. Details of how to get there are at the bottom of this page.
Earlier that afternoon we had gone to Megane-bashi a.k.a. spectacles bridge due to the shape made by the arches in the reflected waters. We had lunch right by the bridge at a traditional place serving up teishoku followed by a heart-shaped waffle at a nearby place which resulted in the cheesy shot seen below!
We then took another tram to the Glover Garden area but we didn’t go in the actual gardens. I’m sure they’re absolutely wonderful, and Glover may have played a huge part in modernising Japan, but we didn’t wanna spend the time or money (600 yen entry) looking around western-style houses and gardens when there were a few of the former on the nearby Dutch Slope area. Besides, western-houses aren’t exactly exciting for a western man like me to see when he’s in Asia!
Beneath Glover Garden is Oura Catholic Cathedral which is Japan’s oldest remaining gothic-style wooden church. Nagasaki has an interesting history that goes beyond its bombing and that is its principal links to the west, particularly Portugal and Holland, with the former playing a major part in opening Japan up to Christianity (as well as firearms) which then got banned with 26 foreign priests and Japanese converts crucified in 1597. The religion continued to be practised in secret until it was made legal again at the end of the 19th century. This church (below) is dedicated to those 26 Christians. The former HSBC Nagasaki Branch Museum (below) was located at the bottom of the hill and is an interesting looking building.
Hollander (Dutch) Slope (below) was intended to be the final part of our walking tour. Not so much of a slope but a gentle incline with a few western-style homes lining it amid a setting not too often seen in Japan. More interesting for me was the old rusty orange/brown coloured building just round the corner which used to be the British embassy.
As it was quite close by we decided to continue on and had a quick wander through Shinchi Chinatown which was basically just one street and later on that evening we had another Nagasaki speciality; sara-udon (literally ‘plate noodles) which in this instance was chanpon noodles (as opposed to the more common thinner crispy noodles) with a topping of fried cabbage, bean sprouts, squid, prawns, pork and so on.
How to get to old Nagasaki Prison: Exit the station and turn right following the road for a couple of minutes. You then turn right at the point where there’s a shopping arcade going the opposite way on the left. Walk up the road for about five minutes and turn right when you see a sign for MaxValu supermarket. Hidden away behind the supermarket is the Old Prison gate and nothing much else!