Hello! It’s Tomocchi ☆
Have you ever heard of “Nagasaki Bidoro” (長崎ビードロ) ? The word comes from the Portuguese word for “glass” (vidro). Nagasaki flourished under trade with Portugal and so naturally this is the origin of glass works in Japan.
Here at Rurian Glass Studios, travelers can make their own piece of Nagasaki glass in 15 to 20 minutes while they’re out sightseeing. It’s located near Glover Garden and Oura Catholic Church which are major tourism destinations, and is just a short walk from Matsugae Terminal where international cruise ships make port.
This time I tried my hand at Nagasaki traditional blown glass. I actually got to work with molten glass and make my very own, one-of-a-kind piece of glassware ♪
The workshop has two kilns, each one able to accommodate up to 8 guests.
First, we put on the provided aprons and arm covers. Then, we watch a demonstration and decide the shape and color of the glass we are going to make.
We take the molten glass out of the kiln with the blowing rod,
…then add colored powder glass to it then stick it back in the kiln. You have to be quick to get it on there while it’s still hot.
We take the molten glass out of the kiln, blow into the rod and expand the glass into the shape we want. I was told that the trick is to blow slowly at first so the glass cools and hardens a bit, and only after that to blow really hard. “It blew up like a balloon!”
To make the shape we want we roll the glass on the end of the rod on wet newspaper. (I was worried that it would be hot, but I didn’t really feel any heat)
You can roll on all the glass strings you want to make a pattern. You spin the rod and molten glass will wrap around your glass.
Finishing requires opening a hole at the end. With you right hand you insert tweezers into the unopened glass. Then spinning the rod with your left hand, you slowly make an opening. It’s difficult to get the opening exactly even, but the feeling of flexible glass is so interesting!!
After you make your final adjustments to the shape, you stick it in the cooler.
The glass needs to cool down to be completely finished. You can come back the next day after 3pm to pick up your completed product.
If you are unable to come back to pick it up, you can have them send it to you (separate charges apply).
Here is my one-of-a-kind glass!
It’s blue like Nagasaki’s ocean with a few bubbles for effect. Cool, right?
I originally thought that doing blown glass would be difficult and hot, but the veteran staff there were extremely helpful and polite so that even someone as uncoordinated as myself was able to have fun and safe time ☆ I wonder what I’ll drink out of this glass…
Come and try Nagasaki glass blowing for yourself!
Glass Blowing Experience
Price: 3,240 yen (tax included)
*Having your work sent to you through the mail includes applicable fees.
Timeframe: around 15 to 20 minutes
Minimum number of participants: 1
Age restrictions: participants must be at least 5th grade elementary school age
Completed products will be available for pick-up the following day at 3pm. Since they are closed on Tuesdays, anything made on Monday will be picked up on Wednesday.
* You can also do stained glass, kaleidoscopes, and fusing here as experiences.
Rurian Glass Studios
5-11 Matsugae-machi, Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture, 850-0921
Hours: 9am to 6pm (closed Tuesdays)
Access: From Nagasaki Station take the tram (take the tram bound for Shoukaku-ji Shita, change trams at tsuki-machi, then take the tram bound for Ishibashi and get off at the Oura Catholic Church stop. It’s a 3-minute walk from there).
Hello! It’s Tomocchi ☆
Just the other day I went on a bus-date with a gorgeous military commander in Shimabara♪
… Just kidding! lol
In Joka-machi of Shimabara, where spring water flows in the streets, there’s an exciting new deal getting a lot of attention! It’s the “Shimabara Megurin Ticket” which is a special set that includes entrance to two popular tourist spots: Shimabara Castle and Shimeisou. The set also comes with a Shimabara Walking Guidebook, an original mini-tenugui (hand towel) dyed in the Shimabara fashion, and a bottle of Shimabara spring water.
And on top of that, on weekends and holidays there is a ‘Shimabara Megurin Bus” that you can ride all you want as part of your Megurin Ticket. What a deal!!
Note: This bus only runs on weekends and holidays.
And that’s why I took a trip to Shimabara to have a date with a handsome General on a Megurin Bus, and enjoy all the special advantages the ticket had to offer.
Disclaimer: These handsome generals rode with me because I was there for PR, and therefore will probably not be present on regular trips ^^;
The Shimabara Bushoutai came out to greet me at Shimabara Castle.
To start, I bought my Shimabara Megurin Ticket at the castle tower ticket booth, and used that to see the inside of the castle.
(The Megurin Tickets are also sold at the Seiryutei Tourism Exchange Center, the Shimabara Station Tourism Information Desk, and the Shimabara Port Tourism Information Desk.)
Alright, time to jump on this bus and check out what else Shimabara has to offer!
This Shimatetsu Bus has been specially decorated and makes roughly one-hour laps around the main tourist attractions in Shimabara City. With your Megurin Ticket you can get on and off the bus freely at any of the eight special bus stops.
‘The town of swimming carp’(「鯉の泳ぐまち清流亭前」 Koi-no-oyogu-machi seiryutei-mae bus stop)
After you’ve used your Megurin Ticket to visit Spring-water garden Shimeisou, I recommend dropping by the Shimabara Yusui-kan to try your hand at making Kanzarashi (300 yen).
Don’t forget to grab some souvenirs at the Seiryutei Tourism Exchange Center.
Ginsui, the original makers of kanzarashi. (「銀水前」バス停Ginsui-mae bus stop)
Ginsui is a bit outside the city, and walk away from most bus stops, so I am always so happy when I get the chance to visit!!
Ginsui, “the original makers of kanzarashi,” opened about 100 years ago.
Unfortunately, it closed down for about 20 years. Luckily, the city reopened it and now its gaining popularity as a local tourist spot.
These soft, little doughballs float at the surface of this lightly sweet syrup. I like to savor each spoonful of kanzarashi, which tastes just like the old days.
In winter, they also have a hot menu that includes zenzai.
(You get 50 yen off your kanzarashi if you show your Megurin Ticket)
Workshop Momo, the Blue Barbershop (「七万石坂」バス停Nanaman-gokusaka bus stop)
This retro-blue colored wooden building was originally a barbershop. The healthy genmai lemonade sold there warmed me to my core. (510 yen with a cookie)
Genmai lemonade is brown rice (玄米genmai) roasted, mixed with spring water, to which lemon and honey is added.
The fragrance of brown rice and lemonade go surprisingly well together ^^
(If you display your Megurin Ticket, you’ll receive an original postcode with your purchase)
The bus also stops at Shimabara Port where the ferry from Kumamoto arrives and departs.
There’s a footbath near the port. I recommend enjoying that with your bottle of spring water and your tenugui.
Come get your fill of Shimabara with a Shimabara Megurin Ticket. Make sure to try the Megurin Bus if you come on a weekend or holiday☆
Shimabara Megurin Ticket
Shimabara Megurin Bus
Depart Shimabara Port → Ginsui → Shimabara Station → Ote → Shimabara Casle → Nanaman Gokusaka → Seiryutei → Shirachi → Return to Shimabara Port
Hello! It’s Tomocchi ☆
One of the longstanding popular spots of Hirado’s tourism is the Matsura Historical Museum. The building itself is the former residence of the Matsura Clan which ruled over Hirado, making it the museum with the most history of all of Nagasaki.
It’s a treasure trove of important cultural artifacts. There you can find many National and Prefecturally designated items related to international trade and Christianity, as well as very old, important documents.
I have been many times before, but I was happy to go again to introduce it to you.
These tall and wide steps on the right were for horses. All humans please use the stairs on the left.
(You can also get there by car if you approach from the rear.)
First thing on our itinerary was to grab lunch on the grounds at the “Choubou-tei Kitchen”, where you can look down on the entire town below Hirado Castle ♪
(眺望 – Choubou is Japanese for “view” or “look out on”)
The restaurant design is elegantly Japanese, but they serve Western food. It seems like a great fit for this area that blossomed due to trade with Portugal ☆
Just as the name implies, the restaurant has a commanding view of Hirado Castle and the surrounding town.
The menu is centered on Italian dishes that use local produce. They visit markets every morning to deliver their guests the freshest seasonal ingredients.
For lunch, they have several options around 1000 yen, like the Pasta Lunch or the Pizza Lunch. Go for dinner and have some wine for an extra fancy time ♪
Bacon Egg Burger (950 yen)
First of all, the bun is irresistible. It’s made of rare Hirado flour.
The texture is delightfully crunchy. And the smell!! The garlic butter they add does some good work.
The main player here is, of course, the Hirado Beef burger, which is rich and flavorful. Topped with soft-boiled egg and delicious bacon, this burger is sheer happiness ♪
Hirado Island Pork Cutlet Curry and Rice (1,250 yen)
I heard that Mr. Ogawa, the chef at Choubou-tei, decided to move to Hirado because he fell in love with Hirado Pork.
At my first bite, I was completely blown away by how delicious the cutlet was! At first it was tender and just a bit sweet. But then the umami flavor comes through!! It’s a perfect match for the mellow, European style roux. So, this is the sort of rich flavor that can make you want to move house.
For dessert, we had German style pancakes ♪
Dutch Baby (900 yen)
They top this carefully made hot pancake with cool ice cream with bits of fruit inside. You can choose from either “mixed fruit and berry” (which we went with) or “chocolate banana”.
Crunchy and fluffy. The secret to its popularity is its texture which is similar to the outside of a chou a la crème. Dig in before the ice cream melts to enjoy that luxurious hot and cold dessert experience ♪
Now that our tummies have been satisfied, it’s time to check out the museum!
Look at all these cultural artifacts!
Just as one would expect from the actual former residence of the lords of Matsura, the building itself has an atmosphere about it.
When the Princess of the Aoyama family married into the Matsura Clan, this is the carriage she arrived in. The pictures on the inside of the carriage are simply gorgeous! But it’s so small! The princess must have been quite a petite lady.
These adorable dog shaped boxes with their exquisite human facial expressions were a wedding gift from the princess. It’s said that they used them to keep blades for self-defense in them near their bedside ☆
Also on display were games that were played by the ladies of the home, like Kai-awase, a shell matching memory game.
They also have artifacts connected to Koxinga, a hero from Hirado.
Koxinga (or Zheng Chenggong) is a historical figure who was born of a Chinese merchant and a Japanese lady. He is known as a hero of East Asia for helping Taiwan throw off occupation by the Dutch.
I love this picture!!
This is part of a painting of a battle. But if you look closely you can see one soldier that seems tired and doesn’t want to be there (lol). The artist must have had fun with this one ☆
They also have a room where you can try on bridal gowns, armor, and helmets to take pictures in! I felt like I was in a period drama!!
Start your tour of Hirado at the Matsura Historical Museum, where you can find the history of the area all condensed into one place!
Matsura Historical Museum
Address: 12 Kagamikawa-cho, Hirado-shi, Nagasaki-ken, 859-5152
Hello! It’s Tomocchi ☆
A comfy new space has just opened in the AllCore Nakadoori area near Spectacles Bridge in the center of Nagasaki City♪
Captain Book (a play on words for “Captain Hook”, which also works in Japanese^^), opened in August of this year and is a book store focused on Nagasaki. It carries the themes of “read, write, and talk.”
This bookstore delivers these three fun experiences.
Inside this cozy space are four carts (table spaces) made to look like ships where guests can read books at their leisure, write their own history, and enjoy the events that get put on. (If you look closely you can see the lovely way they modeled the ceiling and the tabled areas to look like the bottom of a ship!)
Retro Nagasaki woodblock print postcards
In the interest of their guests “learning and enjoying” Nagasaki, they also keep back issues of the quarterly magazine “Raku” which is essentially a photo collection of Nagasaki.
Also, guests are welcome to sit and read at their leisure the more than 400 books available that relate to Nagasaki. Of course they’re also for sale ^^ It’s quite a luxurious set up! The owner Ms. Kawara said that she wants her customers to “take the books in their hands and see and feel for themselves the texture and the weight of them.”
In the viewing area (which is where they keep the books that aren’t for sale), there was the Nagasaki Jige Jiten (or the Dictionary of the Nagasaki Dialect) which drew great attention not long ago. I saw plenty of other books related to Nagasaki that brought back so many memories!!
The chairs in the viewing areas are also shaped like yachts with their sails unfurled.
Sitting in a chair ordered from a specialist of luxurious boat furnishings, surrounded by all things “Nagasaki”, it’s as quiet as being inside a ship. Guests can soak in a feeling of being wrapped in happiness in this private space.
I really like that feeling of being holed up on the bottom bunk of a bunkbed. With the warm lighting and the comfy chairs, I don’t want to leave♪
Captain Book holds events about books and Nagasaki twice a month. Locals and out of towners alike can be found attending these fun events where they can speak freely with writers and editors.
More than just a bookstore, Captain Book feels like a community space built around books. I already can’t wait to go back♪
3-16 Furukawa-machi, Nagasaki City 850-0851 (Allcore Nakadoori)
TEL 095-895-9180／FAX 095-895-9181
Hours: Open year-round.
Weekdays 10:30am – 7:00pm, Weekends and Holidays 12:30pm – 6:00pm.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/captainbook1/
Hello! It’s Tomocchi ☆
For those of you out there that would love to head out to Hasami and Arita, the areas famous for their ceramic goods as well as fashionable galleries, potteries, and cafes…
…but don’t have a car… I have some wonderful news for you! o(^o^)o
The Ride-Together service between the JR Arita Station and Hasami began on September 1st this year!
The timings of the taxi services have been set according to the arrival times of the limited express trains that arrive in Arita Station from JR Kyushu. They have eight return trips every day and a one-day pass is 1,000 yen (500 yen for children)!!
On this service you can get in or out of a taxi at any of the appointed locations which are: the combined facilities at KILN ARITA near Arita Station, Hasami-Arita Interchange which is near the popular Maruhiro in Hasami, the Hasami Town Hall, Tougei no Kan (more info below!), and Mt. Nakao Exchange Center.
Also, if you show your taxi ticket at any of these three locations they’ll have special offers for you.
The locations are: (1) Tougei no Kan, (2) Nishi no Hara / Minami Soukou, and (3) the Mt. Nakao Exchange Center.
This taxi service is the bridge between Saga Prefecture’s Arita and Nagasaki’s Hasami, two towns renowned for their pottery.
Give it a try! o(^o^)o
Arita-Hasami Ride-Together Taxi
Days of Operation:
Service daily starting September 1, 2017. Eight return trips made daily. The trips are timed along with the JR Kyushu limited express trains’ arrival at Arita Station.
One-day ticket is 1,000 yen for adults and 500 yen for elementary school children and younger. The ticket allows you to ride as much as you like for that day.
Pickup and Drop-off Locations:
Arita Station (Kiln Arita) → Hasami-Arita Interchange (near Maruhiro) → Hasami Town Hall → Hasami Tougei no Kan → Hasami Mt. Nakao Exchange Center.
January, March, May, July, September, November – Mayumi Taxi (0956-85-5844) February, April, June, August, October, December – Sougo Koutsuu (0956-85-2050)
Hasami Tourism Association – 0956-85-2290
Hasami Commerce Promotion Division – 0956-85-2162
Flyer and timetable are here https://www.nagasaki-tabinet.com/db_img/wn_img/1480/p1480.pdf
Definitely check out Hasami with its fashionable galleries, potteries and cafes. New things are opening up all the time ♪
Allow me tell you a little bit about Hasami Pottery ☆
Hasami Pottery started around 400 years ago, with a potter that accompanied the forces of Toyotomi Hideyoshi on his campaign to the Korean Peninsula. That potter settled in Hasami and began his work. Eventually, Hasami Pottery became known throughout Japan, and towards the end of the Edo Period (end of the 1700s to the beginning of the 1800s) Hasami could boast of producing the largest amount of pottery in the country.
Kurawanka Chawan (replica)
When most people think of Hasami Pottery, the first thing that comes to mind is the Kurawanka Chawan. These thick, ceramic bowls for everyday use were made in the Edo Period in Hasami, among other places. These bowls were loved widely by the common people of the time and had considerable influence on Japanese food culture.
You can buy a replica for daily use for 1,500 yen ☆ I really like the sharp form of the tall bottom of the bowl (^_^)
Konpura Bin (replica)
These ceramic bottles were used during the Edo Period to export Japanese sake and soy sauce to the West via the only open port in the country: Dejima in Nagasaki. These exotic bottles would be charming decorating a home in the East or the West.
One of these is 800 yen and is perfect as a flower vase ☆
The kurawanka chawan and the konpura bin both tell the history of Hasami Pottery. When they were first made they were a bit difficult to get because of their price, but the reproductions made today are quite reasonable.
Come for a visit and consider bringing one of them home as a souvenir ☆
Hasami Pottery was not a high-class item, but rather a part of regular people’s daily lives. That heritage continues to this day, only with even more modern designs ♪
Here remains a tasteful wall near the entrance of a private residence. There must be some kind of history behind it! I asked a local about it and they said that it’s called a “tonbai hei”. It’s made from discarded, fire-proof red bricks (“tonbai” used to make the kilns in the area), used pottery tools, as well as scraps of pottery and red clay all put together and hardened. This is just the sort of thing you would expect in a town famous for its pottery ☆
Hasami’s Tougei no Kan
From traditional items to casual goods popular with young ladies, this place is packed with Hasami Pottery! Guests can even try their hand at making their own original pottery! The second floor is a museum where you can see, learn about, buy, and touch Hasami Pottery ☆
On your next day off, how about taking a trip around Hasami in a ride-together taxi?