My two days in Sasebo, Nagasaki

The first time I heard about Sasebo, a friend of mine was showing me the video of a guy singing about Sasebo burgers with the classic Happy Days tune. That’s one of the reasons I decided to add the small seaside town to my itinerary, while travelling on the west side of Japan.
Sasebo has been rising its popularity in the latest years through solid investments made in the touristic field, giving tourists translations and English pamphlets. But let’s hop on the bus and check out our first stop: the former Navy Sasebo Shimbun Archaeological Museum.

It’s located close to Sasebo station and can also be reached by foot. It’s considered an important cultural asset for the country, playing a relevant role during the WWI. It’s worth to stop by for a quick look and if you’re lucky, you might be able to see some live music in what has been restored to be a small stage. I really liked the boat model you can see at the second floor, ideal to tickle kids’ curiosity.

For our second stop, we decided to visit the Hairo Radio Towers. There are three towers, at a distance of 300 meters from each one, forming a triangular shape.
The towers are probably the ones used to transmit the attack order that sent the Pearl Harbor attacks in play, leading the entrance of the US into WWII.
It’s possible to enter one of the towers and take a look at the massive construction, built over the span of 4 years, made with concrete and steel.
The guide invited us all to scream “WAA!” together to experiment the powerful reverb created by the structure. Due to the elevated location of the towers it’s also possible to admire the beautiful panorama right behind them.
Right after the towers, we went to visit the Miya elementary school, which is probably the spot I found to be the most interesting.

During the WWII air bombings, the kids and teachers of the former Miyamura public school, built a shelter inside of a hill, to be able to evacuate and keep taking lessons. The constructions includes toilets, kitchens, food warehouses and even a shrine; it took more than two years of hard work to make it viable. These cold caves are a good spot to stop and dedicate a thought on those lives lost during the war, and how greatly it affected the population of Japan.
After visiting the shelter we thought it was time for a little fun. We hopped on the bus and reached our next destination: the Umegae Sake Brewery.

The place has a guide that takes you through the various areas of the brewery and explains how the beverage is made. After the tour it’s possible to have a taste of the endless variety of products and buy one if you like. I personally loved the plum umeshu and that’s the bottle I brought home. If you happen to stop there you might want also to take a look at the beautiful garden located right outside of the brewery.

For the last stop of the day we went to the Tenkaiho observatory. A big parking area is conveniently located in front of the observatory. Adjacent to the area there’s a huge flower field with paths that allow you to walk around and snap some amazing pictures. After a small climb you’ll find what is probably one of the best views of the Kujukushima Islands. The café area next to the parking gave us the chance to take a break and browse through the handmade merchandise. Sasebo is famous for its delicious tangerines, and I ended up buying a kilo of the ones that were sold at the café, spending only 200 yen!

After enjoining the view, we finally went back home to have dinner at our hotel. Later in the evening we adventured in the city center and even if rain was pouring and it was a weekday, we managed to find a few nice bars. One of the barman invited us to a karaoke bar… everyone sung and we even tried to sing along some Japanese songs: it was hilarious! On our way back to the hotel, we stopped for a quick ramen. Before tucking ourselves in bed, we made sure to set the alarm for the next morning.
We left the hotel at 9 a.m., and we headed for the pier. We jumped on a boat for a 90 minutes tour of the surrounding areas. It’s possible to stay comfortably inside the boat, or for the more adventurous type there’s the possibility to enjoy the view from the top of the boat.
While circumnavigating the US naval base we were constantly followed by a navy boat that made sure we wouldn’t get too close to the restricted area: the menacing machine gun on the boat made us realize how serious they are about maintaining security.

During the tour we saw many areas of interest with detailed information. Thanks to the English pamphlet given to us, was easy to follow through the descriptions.
There’s an area where opposing sea currents form some scary and dangerous whirlpools, that can give quite some shivers to people affected by thalassophobia, like me.
After putting our feet back on land, we walked to the Miura Catholic Church. It’s a really nice church to visit and the fact that it’s located at walk distance from the station, make it an easy stop to add to your itinerary. The colors and stained windows are nicely done, giving a warm feeling inside the building.

Before going for lunch, we had a quick stop at the Tonneru Yokocho (tunnel shopping arcade).

During the ferocious air-strikes of the WWII, the inhabitants of Sasebo took the initiative of building their own shelters. Some of those were used as shops and houses and are being used to this day for the same purpose. It’s a nice spot and it’s at walk distance from the church, but make sure to visit it in the early hours to find all the shops open!
5 hours after our breakfast we were getting hungry! So we went for the famous Sasebo burger in one of the many local restaurants in the area. Firstly I looked with suspicion at the burger, but right after the first bite I knew it was something different. The burger had some sort of spice in it that made it especially tasty. I’d definitely advice you to try one!
Sasebo was definitely an interesting city to visit, with so much to offer and so much history hidden in many corners of the town. If you are looking for a break from the usual Japanese metropolitan noise and chaos, Sasebo is the right choice for you.

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