It isn’t as well known as Matsushima Bay, and its nearly one hundred islands may not shine in the same way the white rimmed 200 isles of its northern Japanese counterpart do, but a cruise at Kujukushima (translated ‘99 Islands’) in Nagasaki prefecture’s north is equally enjoyable – for a few reasons.
For one, the water seems calmer and clearer, especially on a sparkling day like this. Secondly, the vessel on which you sail is a mock merchant ship called Pearl Queen (so you can pretend to be a pirate … if that’s your thing).
While the commentary isn’t that easy to discern, it really isn’t missed as the joy in this journey lies purely within its scenery. And with Nagasaki’s maritime history the richest in Japan, you get a sense of what it would have been like 200 years ago sailing these, or very nearby waters.
To top it off, afterwards, you can dine on some of Kyushu’s famous white broth ramen at one of the nice restaurants at the pier or visit the excellent aquarium.
Like in most of Japan, local produce rules here. Yes, top restaurants abound in Nagasaki, but one of the finest places to experience the best of Nagasaki’s locally grown goods is at Omura ‘Dream Farm’ Chou-chu, where you can go strawberry picking, dine at its famous Vineyard restaurant or just enjoy the produce on offer in its superb store.
Here, delicious juices sit alongside snacks, salty and sweet, while visitors and locals alike enjoy shopping or simply browsing the incredible fresh produce, non-perishables and crafts on offer.
Next door, the busy ice cream shop serves up some super soft serves, in flavours, local and international, you just have to try. I go for the nashi pear sorbet, but the pumpkin ice cream looks equally good.
Outside, there are also great views to be had of the surrounding countryside from its lofty position atop a high hill.
The only problem is trying to leave without stocking up on too much.
Technically not in Nagasaki, but definitely worth a visit if you have the time, is a visit to the village of Imari. The sheer quaintness of this place should be a drawcard on its own - the hamlet has some steepish slopes and sits at the foot of even steeper hills surrounded by rich forest.
But this town is home to what is considered Japan’s finest ceramics. Wander through the small village, which is located in neighbouring Saga prefecture, and you’ll see the kilns, where ceramics are produced, whilst next door, cute elderly Japanese ladies pass on the goods to consumers in tiny, quaint stores.
The price of the ceramics here are better than in the bigger towns too, so if you’re after a tea set, rice bowl or decorative plate from Japan, buy it here.
Traveltalk was a guest of JNTO. The writer stayed at the Luke Plaza Hotel.