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July 26, 2016 - Hirado Part 1 - Nagasaki
For today, I decided to visit Hirado which is a rather rural island found off the North Western coast of Nagasaski prefecture. This town also has an interesting history as it used to be the main trading post with the Dutch during the 16th century. A long history of persecution of Japanese Christians can also be found in this area as the emperor of the time saw Christianity as a threat.
For the first post - I visited the following locations:
(1) Hirado Bus Stop (photo 1)
(2) Dutch Trading Post
(3) Dutch Wall
(4) Matsura Museum
(5) Hirado Xavier Church
(6) Local Temples
Do note that a good english map can be found at the travel centre found at the bus station. There are also computers with internet which can also be used here along with the ferry terminal.
My first official stop was the Dutch Trading Post which was rebuilt in the early 2000's based on historical evidence. It's roughly a 5 minute walk from the bus station along a boardwalk that overlooks the surrounding ocean.
It costs 300 yen to enter the museum or 650 yen with a multi ticket that includes the Matsura Historical Museum. The Dutch Trading Post Museum explains the history of the Dutch coming to Hirado and why it happened in detail (Japanese, English, Korean & Chinese). There are also some interesting exhibitions such as old books and the like.
The building itself was made to store goods traded with the Dutch and was meant to have been quite expensive to construct at the time. During the 1600's - the majority of goods being exported out of Japan was Silver with many Chinese goods (such as silk) being imported in mainly as gifts for local dignitaries.
Around a 3 minute walk from the Dutch Trading Post is the aptly named Dutch Wall. This is a 2-3 meter high wall that was built to segment the Dutch living in Hirado from prying eyes both in and out. There is also a rather sprawling park up the top as well which I did not go to called Sakigaka Park.
Monument from the early 1900's
About a 10 minute walk from the Dutch Wall is the Matsura Historical Museum which costs 510 yen to enter or is included with the multi pass with the Dutch Trading Post. There is only minimal english signage but it's reasonably interesting with an eclectic but quality mix of things on display.
One of the main strengths of Hirado is the great detail gone to translating the history into both Japanese in English. For example - this hexagonal well and even the large Cycad below has extensive english information. For example - the Cycad comes from the time of the Dutch in the 1600's!
My next stop was the Xavier Catholic Church which is currently under renovations inside. It also seems as though they have asked for UNESCO World Heritage Listing for this location as well....
One of the more picturesque areas in Hirado is located around the temples near the church. As it's on top of a hill - there are some nice views.
For some reason, this Hirado walk reminds me a bit of the temple walk in Onomichi along with a small taste of Okunoin which we will see in the second post. This walk is the recommended walk suggested by the Hirado Tourism Bureau which means that most locations are well signed in English and there are also many signs with detailed Japanese, English, Korean and Chinese descriptions of what is happening.
The next post will cover Hirado castle, some shrines along with a temple on the outskirts of the town.
Hirado Tourist Information: http://www.hirado-net.com/english/index.html (English)