Hirado, where East meets West

Raina's Japan Travel Journal
by Raina, staff writer of japan-guide.com

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2015/10/21 - Hirado, where East meets West

The iconic red bridge connecting Hirado Island to the main island of Kyushu

Hirado is an island in northern Nagasaki Prefecture, connected to mainland Kyushu by the Hirado Bridge. If you are visiting Fukuoka or Nagasaki and want to visit somewhere off-the-beaten-track, Hirado could be a relaxing one-day tour filled with history and culture. It takes about two hours to reach Hirado's city center from either city. Most of the sites that I visited today were located around downtown Hirado, a relatively small area on Hirado Island, surrounding Hirado Port, except for Tabira Catholic Church which stands on the mainland of Kyushu.

Like in Sotome, Christianity made an impact on Hirado's history, and the island was home to hidden Christians during the ban on the religion. I continued part of my Japanese Christian history education by visiting the St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church as well as the Tabira Catholic Church. Both were completed in the 20th century after the ban on Christianity had been lifted at the beginning of the Meiji Period (1868 to 1912). They are now fully operational churches.

St Francis Xavier Memorial Church in downtown Hirado

St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church was completed in 1931 and is easily recognized by the Gothic elements on its facade. Not far from the church are a number of Buddhist temples, and it is from the quiet alley along the temples that I got to see temples and the church's steeple in the same frame. It was all very serene when I was there, and there was no reason for conflict, having a church and Buddhist temples nearby - belying the unfortunate history of Christianity in Japan during the Edo Period (1603 to 1867).

Temple buildings and the church steeple behind

In addition to Christianity, the Dutch presence in Hirado had an influence on its culture. In the 1600s, Kyushu was the entry point for most foreign ships arriving to Japan, and Hirado was one of the few ports to see foreigners. The Dutch were one of the first Western nations to open up a trading post in Hirado (before it was moved onto Dejima Island in Nagasaki City). A reconstruction of the former Dutch trading post can be visited in downtown Hirado. Inside is a museum with information about the history of the trading post as well as of Hirado.

The exterior of the Dutch trading post

From the former Dutch trading post, I went to the nearby Matsura Historical Museum which used to be the local feudal lord's personal villa. Much of the compound remains as it used to be, and the inside has been restored to display items belonging to the Matsura family. Some interesting exhibits include ceremonial armors, partitions (byobu), and a life sized palanquin used by the lord to commute between Hirado Castle and his villa.

A palanquin. People were tiny in those days

There is a tea house on the villa premises where visitors can have tea and a local traditional sweet for 500 yen. The teahouse and the walk to it contains all the typical elements of a tea garden, which can be inspected up close. I was fortunate to be able to try ubatama, a local sweet made in limited quantities.

The traditional entrance to the teahouse

The teahouse with most of its doors opened

Ubatama, rice flour mochi with sweet azuki filling on the left, and Kasudosu, a type of castella cake on the right

Visitors enjoying tea and sweets

My last stop for the day was Tabira Church which was completed in 1918. Tabira Church was designed by Tetsukawa Yosuke, who also designed many other churches in Nagasaki. The brick church is built on a hill facing Hirado Island and offers nice views of the sea and the island on a good day.

Tabira Church with its brick exterior

Inside the church

Graveyard just beside the church facing the sea

Before heading to Nagasaki airport to catch my flight back to Tokyo, I had lunch at the Hiradoseto Ichiba. Seafood caught by local fishermen and local specialties can be bought from the first floor, while the restaurant is on the second floor. The sashimi donburi I chose did not disappoint at all. It was also during lunch that I learned about fishing experience tours offered in southern Hirado. It sounded like a great idea to head out with the fishing boats in the morning to catch breakfast with the locals, but alas, time was not on my side and I'll have to leave that for my next trip.

View from Hiradoseto Ichiba, you can see Hirado Castle and the Dutch trading post in the background

Seafood donburi for lunch

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List of Posts:
2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/12/19 - Winter Illuminations in Tokyo
2016/10/24 - The way of old on the Kunisaki Peninsula
2016/10/11 - Following the Tadami Line in Oku Aizu
2016/08/27 - Fool's Dance at Koenji Awa Odori
2016/06/20 - Train travel into the Ise-Shima region
2016/04/03 - Setouchi Triennale 2016
2016/03/08 - The hunt for Namahage on the Oga Peninsula
2016/03/02 - Sake Sangria
2016/02/20 - Tokyo Plum Blossom Report
2016/01/26 - Tour de Reinan: Obama, Oi and Takahama
2016/01/25 - Tour de Reinan: Tsuruga, Mihama and Wakasa

2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/12/10 - 48 hours in Tokushima
2015/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Kankakei
2015/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Korankei
2015/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/10 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Koyasan
2015/11/08 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2015/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Dazaifu
2015/10/28 - The 44th Tokyo Motor Show
2015/10/21 - Hirado, where East meets West
2015/10/20 - Kujukushima Islands and Winter Illumination at Huis Ten Bosch
2015/10/19 - Navigating the Christian sites in Nagasaki
2015/10/18 - Cosplay at Haco Stadium Tokyo
2015/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2015/10/05 - Autumn Color Report: Route 292
2015/09/28 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2015/09/24 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2015/09/16 - Nakanojo Biennale 2015
2015/08/19 - Traditional culture and hot springs of the Aizu Region
2015/08/17 - Nature and Hot Springs at Naruko Onsen
2015/08/04 - Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale 2015
2015/04/30 - Sapporo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/29 - Hakodate Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/23 - Kakunodate Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/22 - Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/21 - Kitakami Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/16 - Sendai Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/09 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/08 - Fukushima Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/06 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/03 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/02 - Nara Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/01 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/31 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/27 - Fukuoka Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/26 - Kumamoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/25 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/12/15 - Seasonal Illumination: Sendai
2014/12/09 - Seasonal Illumination: Tokyo
2014/12/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kanazawa
2014/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Osaka
2014/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Korankei
2014/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2014/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji
2014/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji
2014/10/31 - Autumn Color Report: Karuizawa
2014/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2014/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2014/10/01 - Autumn Color Report: Oze National Park
2014/09/29 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2014/06/19 - Toranomon Hills opens in Tokyo
2014/04/24 - Kitakami Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/23 - Morioka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/22 - Aizu-Wakamatsu Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/16 - Matsumoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/15 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/14 - Yoshino Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/13 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/12 - Kanazawa Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/10 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/06 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/05 - Hiroshima Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/04 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/03 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/02 - Nagoya Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/31 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/26 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/04 - Early Tokyo Blossom Report

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