Aug
27
2012

Hirado (Nagasaki)

After visiting Omura on my way from Nagasaki (Gunkanjima) I finally arrived in Hirado which is also in Nagasaki Prefecture.

smilie Visited: January 7th 2012 smilie

It’s a pleasant small city, but a bit complicated to access by train. The train station is named “Tabirahiradoguchi” and is a little away from the city center. I arrived at night and called my hotel. They were nice enough to pick me up (for free)!

My hotel room in Hirado

The hotel room was super spacious with two Western-style beds and they had onsen (hot spas) inside and outside (rotenburo, 露天風呂).
And all of that for a very cheap price! I highly recommend this hotel for anybody who wants to stay overnight in Hirado!
The hotel’s name is “平戸海上ホテル” (Hirado Kaijou Hotel).
The only problem is that English is probably very limited. Let me know if you need any help! smilie

Hirado Castle

From my hotel room window I had a great view of the ocean and Hirado Castle!

rental bike in Hirado

While most of the sightseeing spots are in one area, they are still a bit apart and if you have only one day and no car, a rental bicycle is your best choice! I was lucky enough that my hotel had some motorized bikes that they were renting to their guests for a small fee.
Half of the places of interest are on hills, so you’d struggle quite a bit with normal bikes.

Hirado Castle in Nagasaki Prefecture

I stopped a few times to get some nice shots of Hirado Castle!

Dutch wall in Hirado

Not just Nagasaki with Dejima, but also Hirado has a long history of foreign (mostly European) trade.
If you haven’t read about that episode of Japanese history yet, I highly recommend it. Personally I find it SUPER interesting because that’s when Western (European) and Japanese culture started to mix up and both folks started to learn from each other.

Western influences in Hirado, Nagasaki

“Firando” (= Hirado’s foreign name) appeared on European maps from the Age of the Great Navigators. I can’t go into details in my blog post, so all I can do is to recommend reading about it yourself! smilie

That mentioned influence makes Nagasaki special and there are very few other places with a similar, but yet different atmosphere (e.g. Kobe, Yokohama or Hakodate). Nagasaki City is still my favorite out of the mentioned ones and maybe after reading this post you’ll see that not only Nagasaki City, but also other cities such as Hirado and Shimabara are worth a visit (all of them located in Nagasaki Prefecture).

Western (Dutch) influence in Hirado, Nagasaki

This is a monument of “Francisco Xavier“. He’s very famous as he’s the man who first introduced Christianity to Japan and you’ll find traces of him in many parts of Western Japan.
Partly due to his influence quite a few Japanese people became Christians. You can still find the highest number of Christian churches in Nagasaki Prefecture, it’s amazing!
If you’re really interested in this topic, then you can read more about the Christian history in Nagasaki here.

From the Dutch wall it’s a steep slope up. You can’t take your bicycle with you as there are stairs, but don’t worry it’s not too tough.

Anjin Miura's grave in Hirado, Nagasaki Anjin Miura's grave in Hirado, Nagasaki

Besides the castle I had another reason to come to Hirado – and you can see it in the photos above!
This is the grave of “Anjin Miura” – or “William Adams” which is his original name. Some of you might know him better from the drama series “Shogun” with Richard Chamberlain??! (note: the movie doesn’t match with the real story!)
I’ve been a huge fan of Anjin and so it was such an honor to be able to visit his grave!

Hirado Castle in Nagasaki Prefecture

From up where the grave was located you had a great view of Hirado Castle!

Anjin Miura statue in Hirado Anjin Miura statue in Hirado

Back down from the Dutch slope I ran into Anjin Miura yet again!

He served as foreign affairs advisor for Tokugawa Ieyasu. No wonder that he played an important role in foreign trading back in around 1600!
On the right photo you can see a very old well.

Hirado City in Nagasaki Prefecture Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture

There’s also a small hot spa for your feet, near the Dutch Wall and the Anjin statue!

I was back on my bicycle to reach the next destination.

Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture

It was on another steep hill, but at least I got a great view of the ocean and the castle yet again!
Hirado is really beautiful.
Well, for me a castle on a hill, the ocean and then some Western influence are such a great mix, no wonder I love Nagasaki and Hirado! smilie

Temple and church together in Hirado

And then I finally reached another highlight! There’s this spot where you can see a traditional Japanese temple and a pretty modern Christian church in the background. Such a unique sight can only be found once in Japan and that is here, in Hirado!!
The Xavier Memorial Church in the background and Shojuji, Mokyoji and Zuiunji temples in the foreground is a picture that well represents Hirado!

Temple and church together in Hirado Temple and church together in Hirado

Obviously it’s a very popular motif for postcards, too!

Temple and church together in Hirado

I didn’t get too good light conditions, so I struggled taking decent photos.
I guess I still have a lot to learn, huh?

Catholic church in Hirado, Nagasaki

Walking up a bit more and you’ll end up in front of the St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church. It was constructed in 1913 as the Hirado Catholic Church and then relocated to its present site in 1931.

Statue of Francis Xavier in Hirado, Nagasaki Catholic church in Hirado, Nagasaki

The Statue of Xavier was erected in 1971 to commemorate his visit to Hirado. Although he only visited three times, his influence was big in Hirado.

St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church

The church looks very modern and I like the design but at least for me as a Roman Catholic German it’s definitely a bit weird and very different from the churches we have back home. What do you think?

St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church

That’s how the interior of the church looked.

Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture

This is the “Saiwai Bridge“, also known as “Dutch Bridge”. In 1669 a wooden bridge was constructed between the castle and the town, replacing the ferryboats used until then. In 1702 the wooden structure was replaced by the stone Dutch Bridge.

Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture

Dutch “people” in front of the Dutch Bridge.

Hirado Castle Hirado Castle

And then I finally reached the castle.
Hirado Castle has been on my list for a long time – ever since I saw my first photo of it!
The reconstruction of the castle began in 1704 and was completed in 1718.
As most of you know, there are only very few original castle keeps left in Japan. Most were destroyed by fire, earthquakes, war, tsunamis or typhoons.

Hirado Castle

It is a very beautiful castle on a hilltop with a great view, surrounded not by a moat, but by the ocean!

Hirado Castle

I totally wouldn’t mind if this was MY castle … if you know what I mean! smilie

Hirado Castle

The view from up there is quite nice, too!

Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture

You can see the port and central Hirado.

Hirado Castle

Those flower decorations look like elephants – or am I the only one who can see them? *g*

Hirado Castle

Inside the castle you could find some historical artefacts related to the castle.

Inside Hirado Castle Inside Hirado Castle

You could also find foreign influence there again. I’m mentioning this because in most castles you won’t have that AT ALL!!

Shrine near Hirado Castle

There was also a little shrine near the castle.

Kameoka Shrine in Hirado

The shrine is called “Kameoka Shrine” (亀岡神社) and the shrine’s ema were pretty cool, so I bought one as a souvenir! I mean how often do you get a castle displayed on them?

Kameoka Shrine in Hirado

The omikuji and a lucky charm of the shrine. The lucky charm features Hirado Bridge (more about it later).

Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture

Cats in Hirado Cats in Hirado

There were also some cats around!

Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture

Next I went to “Saikyoji Temple” famous for its 3-storied bright red pagoda.
The real highlight is the Reiho-kan hall with national treasures. Admission fee is 400yen and photos are not allowed, but I remember that it was totally worth it! It’s a small hall, but I was quite impressed with what it had to offer!

Inari Shrine in Hirado

In the middle of a small forest on the way to Saikyoji Temple there was also a tiny Inari Shrine.

Inari Statue in Hirado Bamboo forest in Hirado

Hirado Bridge

Hirado Bridge: The bright red bridge is connecting Hirado Island with the Tabira district (where the train station is) and was completed in 1977. This is one of the symbols of Hirado and was displayed on the lucky charm of a shrine on a previous photo!

Hirado Dutch Trading House

This is the Hirado Dutch Traiding Post. It was built in 1609, then reconstructed and works finished in autumn 2011.

Hirado Dutch Trading Post

The inside looks completely new (obviously) and you’ll find a lot about the history of “Firando” concerning the Dutch Trading House.

Hirado Dutch Trading Post

Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture

Next, I went to the “Matsura Historical Museum“.

Matsura Historical Museum Matsura Historical Museum

A lot of interesting and historically or culturally valuable items were displayed.
On the left photo you see an “Oni Yocho Kite“. The name means “demon butterfly” – taken from the roaring sound of a cane mounted on the head when the wind lifts the kite. The demon is said to have been killed by the 5ht Lord Matsura, Watanabe no Tsuna, at the Rashomon Gate in Kyoto.

Matsura Historical Museum

One of the foreign (famous) black ships is displayed here.

Matsura Historical Museum

Unfortunately I’m not too familiar with Japanese monster mythology, so somebody else can probably explain better than me what this could be. I think it could be some kind of Kappa?!

Matsura Historical Museum

These were lovely! Those big dolls were a present to the young lord (if I remember correctly) and each doll represents one of the Chinese zodiacs. Here’s a close-up of one of them.

Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture

On top of all that, there are so many random things to discover in Hirado as well!

There’s definitely enough to see to stay for more than just 1 day and 1 night like I did.
I hope you fell in love a little bit (more) with Kyushu and / or Nagasaki Prefecture now! smilie

Stay tuned to read about my last day of winter vacation that I spend in Nagasaki Prefecture as well. My last stop was Shimabara!
Get ready for the “hells of Unzen”, an active volcano and yet another great castle! smilie

Thanks for reading. smilie

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