A city incorporating many islands and varied landscapes, Sasebo has deep ties to the sea. Located in Nagasaki Prefecture, Sasebo flourished as a military port. After World War II, American culture played a major role in the formation of a distinctive international culture. Everywhere you go in the city, you will notice foreign influences. The cultural melange is a special feature of Sasebo.

Wanting to bask in the seawind and the international ambience, I took a two-night, three-day trip to experience as many of the city's attractions as I could.

Seawind Journey: Day 1

I arrived in Sasebo in the evening. Straight off, I headed to the Kujuku Islands to immerse myself in the aura of the great outdoors.

Kujuku Islands

About 20 minutes outside the city center is the Tenkaiho Observatory. From here, you can see wide, beautiful panoramas of the scenery that take in the complex Rias coastline and the 208 Kujuku Islands. This area served as the opening to The Last Samurai. It is always beautiful here, and when the sun sets, it feels like there is magic in the air. (I timed my arrival for that reason!)

With the rays of the setting sun reflecting off the water and the islands in silhouette, it seemed as though I was looking at a black ink painting. Time seemed to stop when I gazed over the textured artforms molded by Mother Nature.

The Kujuku Islands from overhead
Sunset above the Kujuku Islands

Expat Bars

Returning downtown in the twilight, I found that the town had undergone a complete transformation. With American flags and neon signs everywhere, it almost felt like I had been whisked away to the United States. There are a lot of expat bars here, commonly known as gaikokujin bars, where visitors to Japan and expats like to gather. One that Ifd like to mention in particular is the Gramophone. It has the perfect atmosphere for American expats to get a taste of home while in Sasebo. The expats tend to pile in after nine at night, so come later if you are looking for some lively nightlife.

The Colorado State license plate in the front window hints at this bar's typical clientele
The staff at Gramaphone are Japanese, but the currency lining the walls sure isn't.

Seawind Journey: Day 2

Sasebo Morning Market

For great early-morning sightseeing, visit the Sasebo Morning Market, about a ten-minute walk from Sasebo Station. Things start moving at an eye-opening three ofclock in the morning, but the peak hours for goods are between five and seven of clock, so you can still enjoy the morning market without sacrificing that much sleep. In addition to freshly caught seafood, you will find fresh produce, tsukemono pickles, dried foods and many other delectables to buy.

The town still felt pretty sleepy.
Alive, alive-o!
Trying some samples

Uku Island

To dive deeper into the history, lifestyle and culture of Sasebo, I headed out to the beautiful Uku Island. Remote and filled with natural beauty, Uku Island is located at the northern tip of the Goto Islands, about two and-a-half hours on the jetfoil from the ferry terminal at the Port of Sasebo.

Uku island's gorgeous topography
Just as gorgeous from multiple angles

Dress like a samurai

On Uku Island, you can dress up in full armor like a samurai (advance reservation required). It takes about 15 to 30 minutes to get fully attired, much of which is done with assistance. Once I was fully kitted out, I went to Kojima-jinja Shrine to take photos.

Samurai had servants to help them don their armor, and thankfully, so did I.
Samurai armor, called yoroi, is made of many interlocking portions.

What do you think? I think Ifd make a first-rate samurai. I had fun striking different poses and acting out samurai scenes for pictures, but it really surprised me how heavy the armor was. Itfs amazing to think that people used to fight while wearing this.

Masks like this were designed to make the wearer more imposing during battle. They work!
Hya---!

Ohama Beach

Nature is among the wonderful attractions of Uku Island, and Ohama Beach feels like a vast landscape of art painted by the sea. There are the waves that dash themselves on the volcanic rocks and then the beautiful sea with its gradations of color extending from the sandy beach outward. Other notable features include the Tsushimase Lighthouse, which stands solitary on a gently sloping promontory covered with grass, and the horizon beyond in the distance. Everywhere you go on the island you will see beauty (and your social media followers will love your posts!)

The waves crashing against Ohama Beach
More beach, and...
A lighthouse!

Homestays

On the island, you can stay overnight at a private residence in whatfs sometimes called a minshuku taiken, or homestay. I opted for such accommodations on my second night. I pitched in to make dinner with the family. The warmth that the Uku islanders extend to strangers is one of the great qualities of the residents. Sitting around the dinner table, my host mother and father made me feel like part of the family, refreshing me with their warmth. It was a wonderful night I will never forget.

Cooking together
I felt very warmly welcomed
The architecture of my host family's house alone was worth the trip

Seawind Journey: Day 3

After a fun time on Uku Island, I returned to downtown Sasebo. For my last day, I explored Sasebo on foot!

Guided Walking Tour of Sasebo

The gSasebo Naval Town Walking Tourh provides a guided tour of the city in Japanese or English (reservations required). The guide explains the historical significance of famous spots, shows you some of the culinary high points of the town, and provides other information. I highly recommend it!

Walking around Sasebo

The Sasebo Burger

For the gourmand traveling to Sasebo, the Sasebo burger is a must-try. Said to be the cradle of the Japanese hamburger, Sasebo is filled with burger joints. My pick was BigMan, an established restaurant that is considered standard-setting, where I ordered their ganso (founding) bacon-and-egg burger. I couldnft believe how high it was stacked! Definitely a Sasebo burger. The juicy patty, smoked bacon, crunchy fresh lettuce, and soft fried egg come together with the specially made mayonnaise to create a superb harmony. An absolute winner! If you come to Sasebo, make sure to try one.

The eye-catching exterior
The burger itself, in all its glory

Over my three days at Sasebo, I had a lot of adventures and learned about some of the local history in-depth. I felt the warmth of locals, and my mind and body were reenergized by the calm atmosphere. I recommend that you get out to Sasebo, Land of the Seawind, and experience some of the many breezes that blow gently around it.

For more information on the places and foods described here, see the Sasebo Tourist Information Center website gSasebo/Ojika,h where you will find plenty of other seasonal information.

Location Information
NameSasebo Tourist Information Center
Address21-1 Miura-cho, Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture 857-0863 (inside JR Sasebo Station)
Phone number0956-22-6630
Hours9:00 - 18:00
ClosedOpen 365 days a year