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)!
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!
From my hotel room window I had a great view of the ocean and Hirado Castle!
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.
I stopped a few times to get some nice shots of Hirado Castle!
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.
“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!
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).
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.
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!
From up where the grave was located you had a great view of Hirado Castle!
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.
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.
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!
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!
Obviously it’s a very popular motif for postcards, too!
I didn’t get too good light conditions, so I struggled taking decent photos.
I guess I still have a lot to learn, huh?
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.
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.
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?
That’s how the interior of the church looked.
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.
Dutch “people” in front of the Dutch Bridge.
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.
It is a very beautiful castle on a hilltop with a great view, surrounded not by a moat, but by the ocean!
I totally wouldn’t mind if this was MY castle … if you know what I mean!
The view from up there is quite nice, too!
You can see the port and central Hirado.
Those flower decorations look like elephants – or am I the only one who can see them? *g*
Inside the castle you could find some historical artefacts related to the castle.
You could also find foreign influence there again. I’m mentioning this because in most castles you won’t have that AT ALL!!
There was also a little shrine near the castle.
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?
The omikuji and a lucky charm of the shrine. The lucky charm features Hirado Bridge (more about it later).
There were also some cats around!
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!
In the middle of a small forest on the way to Saikyoji Temple there was also a tiny Inari Shrine.
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!
This is the Hirado Dutch Traiding Post. It was built in 1609, then reconstructed and works finished in autumn 2011.
The inside looks completely new (obviously) and you’ll find a lot about the history of “Firando” concerning the Dutch Trading House.
Next, I went to the “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.
One of the foreign (famous) black ships is displayed here.
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?!
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.
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!
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!
Thanks for reading.
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Events in Jan/Feb 2017:
- Jan 15: Matobakai (Kumamoto)
- Jan 15: Toh-shiya (Kyoto)
- Jan 17: Bonden-sai (Akita)
- Jan 28: Yamayaki (Nara)
- Feb 3: Setsubun (nationwide)
- Feb 3-12: Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi
- Feb 6-12: Sapporo Snow Festival
- Feb 7-12: Asahikawa Winter Festival
- Feb 15-16: Yokote Kamakura Festival
- Feb 17-19: Tokamachi Snow Festival
- Feb 18: Naked Festival at Saidai-ji (Okayama)