Constructed in 1858 during the late Edo Period in Saga Prefecture near the Ariake Sea, the Mietsu Naval Dock (三重津海軍所跡, Mietsu Kaigunjo-ato) is considered the oldest dry dock for shipbuilding in Japan. It also contained a naval academy. Although not much of the dock can be seen today, the site received world heritage status as one of the Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution in summer 2015.
The dock was excavated in 2009, exposing a metal furnace and complicated timberwork. The ruins were reburied for their protection after the survey; and as a result, visitors cannot see any structures of the dock except for some markers and information boards. Instead, visitors can take a free, self-guided virtual reality tour of the facilities, using virtual reality goggles available from the adjacent Sano Tsunetami Memorial Museum. The interesting tour with audio explanations in English allows visitors to visualize the naval dock as it stood one and a half centuries ago.
The above mentioned Sano Tsunetami Memorial Museum is primarily dedicated to the founder of the Japanese Red Cross society, locally born Sano Tsunetami. But these days, the museum also provides visitors with additional information about the naval dock, including the virtual reality goggles mentioned earlier. Inside the museum, visitors can also take an Oculus Rift virtual reality ride for yet another way of experiencing the former naval dock.
The Mietsu Naval Dock Site and the Sano Tsunetami Memorial Museum can be reached in about 30 minutes from Saga Station by hourly buses: take a bus from Saga Station bound for Morodomi-Hayatsue (諸富早津江) and get off at Sanotsunetami Kinenkan Iriguchi (佐野常民記念館入り口, 550 yen one way). The former Mietsu Naval Dock and the Tsunetami Sano Memorial Museum can be reached in about a ten minute walk from the bus stop.
How to get to Saga from Fukuoka
Fukuoka's Hakata Station and Saga Station are connected with each other by multiple JR limited express trains per hour. The one way trip takes about 40 minutes, costs about 2000 yen and is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass and the Kyushu Rail Pass.
How to get to Saga from Nagasaki
Nagasaki Station and Saga Station are connected with each other by twice hourly JR limited express trains. The one way trip takes about 80 minutes, costs about 3500 yen and is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass and the Kyushu Rail Pass.
How to get to Saga from Tokyo
ANA operates several flights per day between Tokyo's Haneda Airport and Saga Airport. Flight duration is about two hours. The regular one way fare is around 41,000 yen, but discount fares are typically available for between 12,000 yen and 29,000 yen. Buses connect the airport with Saga Station (35 minutes, 600 yen one way, departures timed to flight schedules).