The last week of June found me exploring the city of Nagasaki once again. If you know a little about Japan, reading the “last week of June” should send alarm bells ringing. For those who don’t know, as I mentioned in my previous post Japan is currently swimming through its rainy season.
This meant that our visit to the city was a soggy one. When I say soggy, I mean sprinting back to your Catholic centre accommodation with the world’s tiniest umbrella, trying to save your host family’s castella from drowning in the monsoon, soggy. Regardless, we still had fun! It feels a much bigger city when it isn’t chock full of lanterns and people celebrating Chinese New Year (as it was in my last trip).
The port city was really relaxed and had a vibe similar to the one I experienced in Hiroshima. The city is built into the mountains and surrounded by sea, with beautiful views from Mt Inasa (I visited one of the best onsens I’ve experienced up this mountain, the views from Fuku no Yu onsen took my breath away).
The multicultural background of Nagasaki, being a port city and all, is famous, with tourists from inside and outside of Japan calling up to visit the historical tokens of the Oura Cathedral, the Dutch Quarter and, my favourite, Glover Garden.
Glover Garden is a multi-levelled estate once owned by the Scottish merchant, Thomas Glover, who travelled to Japan during the Bakamatsu period in 1859. Wandering up the multiple levels of the gardens finds you gawping at Glover House, a western-style settlement pulled straight out of a historical drama. You can enter the house, wander through the rooms, walk upstairs and out onto the balcony to see an amazing view of Nagasaki, all the way down to the harbour.
The harbour was docking a colossal cruise ship that caught my attention for a while. I got chatting to a performer from the cruise ship while eating at a lemon ramen place and found out that the ship, along with 1000 other cool features, had a virtual reality bungee jump…how would the nostalgic residents of Glover Garden have reacted to that? Hysterical moral panic most likely.
Another thing that caught my eye from the balcony was the garden’s koi carp, they were giant! Like B-movie horror style big. I can see the DVD cover now, slapped on top of a picture of a spikey-toothed fish, ‘KILLER KOI’ written in blood, nestled between The Gingerdead Man and Rubber.
I later discovered, from speaking to my friend and tea ceremony teacher, that Glover Garden was the setting for Madame Butterfly. The short-story turned opera narrates the struggle of a Japanese woman, Ciocio-san (butterfly in Japanese) who falls in love with an American man in the navy, Pinkerton.
They marry and soon after Pinkerton leaves with the navy. Butterfly waits years for his return, looking out at the harbour from Glover Garden’s balcony. No spoilers but let’s just say the opera preaches all men are pigs and if the koi then were as big as they are now, I would hire them as mercenaries.
The estate also held houses from other former residents, including the Ringer House. This building stood nestled amongst a tapestry of beautiful flowers and it was my favourite house on the estate, sorry Glover old boy.
The house itself was gorgeous but a little dark, outside of the house was so stunning though, you wouldn’t spend any time indoors anyway. I was feeling ‘The Secret Garden’ vibes the whole time I was wandering around.
I’d recommend Glover Garden to anyone travelling in Nagasaki. It’s a really nice day out and I imagine it’d be next level stunning on a sunny day. Plus, entry is only 610yen, so about £4.50. If you wanted to find more out about why a Scotsman came to Japan or anything else about the estate’s history or upcoming events have a gander at their website.
Glover Garden is accessible and catering to tourists. They have a coffee shop and souvenir shops selling Glover-specific merch as well as the city’s Castella-kun merch. By the way, Nagasaki has castellas.
Is this somewhere you’d usually visit? What kind of places do you like to visit when you’re travelling? Any recommendations?