European Influences in Hirado

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

Visited: January 7th 2012

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.

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

Western influences 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!

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!

Anjin Miura statue in Hirado Hirado City in Nagasaki Prefecture

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!

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

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.


Temple and church together in Hirado

Temples vs Christian church

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

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

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

That’s how the interior of the church looked.



Hirado Castle Hirado Castle

Hirado 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

Kameoka Shrine

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

Saikyoji Temple

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 400 yen 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

Hirado Dutch Traiding Post

The Hirado Dutch Traiding Post 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

Matsura Historical Museum

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


  • Very interesting post. I have visited Nagasaki, but missed Hirado.

    The exterior of the church is a bit odd, but the interior is very nice, and not very different from churches I have seen in Italy or in France, only the colors are particular.

    • I also only visited Nagasaki City the first time I went there.
      That was a long time ago, before I turned into a travel geek, but I already fell in love with Nagasaki back then and for me it was always just a matter of time that I would go back and explore the region more! I’m glad I did! I fell in love with Nagasaki Prefecture even more!

      I hope you get a chance to visit in the future, too!
      I’m sure you’d like it!

      I also found the interior of the church a bit odd compared to what I’m used to, but not as much as the exterior, so I have to agree! ;)

  • That church reminds me of the Disney castle for some reason :) There’s so many beautiful spots in Japan. I could definitely imagine living in Hirado for some time. It looks wonderful.

  • Great post and really enjoyed your pictures. Nagasaki prefecture is one area that I would love to explore further one day. I love the places that you can see via foot or bicycle as it makes getting around a lot easier. Hirado castle looks like an amazing hilltop castle with magnificent views.

    • Glad you enjoyed it!
      I hope you get a chance to explore the prefecture soon! There are so many interesting and beautiful things to see! I’ll be sure to go back again in the future, too! :shiawase:

      I know what you mean!
      I also like it when I can comfortably access everything by walking or by bike.
      It’s so annyoing when you have to spend a lot of time in buses or trains just to get from one spot to another, but sometimes it just can’t be helped :/

  • Thanks for sharing this post. :thumbup:

    It’s my dream to go on a pilgrimage to Nagasaki. The Hirado Catholic Church looks elegant and the interior is so pretty. Will definitely include it in my pilgrimage.

    I’m looking forward to your Shimabara post. I want to visit that place after watching Rurouni Kenshin. :D

    • A Nagasaki Pilgrimage of Catholic Churches?? Wow, sounds like a great idea!
      I’m sure you’ll have a great time!
      I remember seeing a poster of all the churches Nagasaki City has to offer and my jaw literally dropped! If you add the other ones in the prefecture that makes quite a good number, I guess!

  • Yes! I’m used to seeing big Catholic churches back in the Philippines and I think only Nagasaki has the same or bigger churches. I’ve been told that going on a pilgrimage to Nagasaki is one of the best faith journeys a Catholic can experience. :kyah: :ehehe:

    • That’s great .. I guess I did such a pilgrimage already without noticing *g*
      I’m more interested in doing one of the temple pilgrimages, though, because I can’t do that back home. Again, I think I’ve already done that without realizing. I’ve been to most of the temples of the Shikoku or Chugoku pilgrimage, but without the mindset that I’m doing a pilgrimage and not in order, so obviously it doesn’t count.

      I hope you get a chance to do the pilgrimage! :D

  • Thank you for sharing these photos and information. I came across a Medal with the words, “In Memory of Hirado”, with buildings on one side and lettering on the back. You have provided all the information I was looking for. I thought it was odd, Japanese buildings and a church in the background with a cross. I have traveled but have never gone to Japan, it is beautiful. Would you know anything about the medal or why it was made?
    Thank you.

    • Hi! ^-^
      Sorry, I don’t know about any medal that’s featuring Hirado, but I’m kind of happy to hear there is one. :)
      I hope you get a chance to visit Japan some day. ^__^

  • Hello,

    Thank you your wonderful reviews. It is always very fun reading your experiences. Next year I am going to travel to Kuyshu… (24 days). Roughly I will be on Kuyshu from mid-februari to mid-march 2018. I have one question… how did you experience the weather when you where visiting for example Hirado. I have read that you hired a bike… didn’t you find it too cold to really enjoy your visit. Last year I was in Shikoku in February and March… but I was walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage, so I was always in the move en I thought the weather was perfect for the purpose. (enjoyable temperature with so many blue sky’s)

    I think I will also enjoy the weather in this period on Kuyshu but still I would like to hear your thoughts :-)…

    I could also visit in May…but I have visit Kansai many times in that period and for me it is most of the days already too hot. to enjoy…so I think that would be the same for Kuyshu???

    thanks for giving me your opinion.


    • Dear Dempsey,
      This sounds great! :)
      Please note that the weather is not the same in all of Kyushu.
      I once spend late December in Saga and it was snowing like crazy and freezing cold while Nagasaki and Miyazaki were quite nice. Like you experienced on Shikoku, it was the perfect weather! :)

      May is usually not too hot yet. It gets really hot and humid after rainy season, so mainly from July.
      But if you personally felt that May was too hot already in Kansai, it will be the same or even worse in Kyushu. ;)

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