Local people in Nagasaki have been saying, “It is so far away from Nagasaki” when they find dishes less sweet.
Tourists to Nagasaki would be surprised to find dishes served to them so sweet.
So, Nagasaki is a sweetness-oriented town.
In June, 2020, “Nagasaki Kaido, or Sugar Road, which contributed to the spread of sugar culture”, was recognized as Japan Heritage.
In Edo era Nagasaki was Japan’s only open window to the West for trading, while other Japanese ports were closed. And “Nagasaki Kaido” started in Nagasaki, and terminated in Kokura on the northern part of Kyushu Island. Various “people, commodities and information”, which came to Nagasaki from around the world, traveled along this road to everywhere in Japan.
Among them was “sugar”.
Nagasaki Kaido is also known as “Sugar Road”.
◇Nagasaki Kaido or Sugar Road
Nagasaki Kaido is featured in creativeness of various confections containing much sugar, and these confections still remain popular along the road.
In Nagasaki Prefecture we’ve been enjoying such popular and delicious confections or cuisine as “castella”, sponge cake, “momo-castella”, peach-shaped sponge cake ( from Nagasaki City), “okoshi”, millet-and-rice cake (from Isahaya City), or “omura-zushi”, vinegared rice layered with various cooked ingredients (from Omura City).
◇Nagasaki : Sweetness-oriented Town
In Edo era many people had few chances to taste sugar in Japan, but in Nagasaki it was different. Nagasaki was a special place you could enjoy sugar. The closer to Nagasaki you lived, the easier it was to get sugar. Because food culture using lots of sugar was created in Nagasaki and neighboring areas, there spread steadily an image of Nagasaki as a sweetness-oriented town.
So the words “It is so far away from Nagasaki (meaning the dish offered isn’t sweet enough)” were created to ridicule dishes which were not sweet enough as a result of someone’s skimping on sugar.
◇Where did sugar come from?
In Edo era, when Japan closed its door to the world, Nagasaki was the only window to the West and China for trading.
On “Dejima Island”, Dutch ships unloaded various commodities they brought from everywhere in Asia and Europe via “Batavia” ( current Jakarta in Indonesia), where
the Dutch had established the headquarters of Dutch East India Company to trade with Asian countries.
“Sugar “ was one of the main imports.
( picture: a model of a Dutch ship exhibited in a Dejima Museum)
Dejima was a fan-shaped artificial island and the only window opened to the West for trading.
Now Dejima Restoration Project to reconstruct buildings on the island exactly as they were in the early 19th Century has been undertaken
(Please access to the following for details)
There used to be a stone bridge called “Dejima Main Gate Bridge” connecting Dejima Island with the mainland in Edo era. In 2017 a new bridge was constructed on the same location between the island and the mainland after the lapse of 130 years. Let’s cross Dejima Main Gate Bridge, and travel through time into Dejima in Edo era.
A gatekeeper guided us.
The photo on the left shows a replica of Dutch “scales” used for weighing sugar and others.
Various imports including sugar brought to Japan by a Dutch ship were unloaded on Dejima Island and brought into warehouses called “Sugar Warehouse” after being weighed by scales,
Since the middle of the Edo period, the Customs house, a predecessor of the Nagasaki customs, had purchased the imports as a whole, which were put in a bid by Japanese dealers and were brought throughout Japan.
(photo on the left: a replica of “scales” weighing sugar and others, exhibited at West Gate)
(photo on the right: a replica of painting by Kawahara Keiga drawing a scene of scaling things),
“The Chinese and Dutch Quarters” , a picture scroll, exhibited in No.3 Warehouse.
In No.3 Warehouse, which stored sugar in Edo era, sugar packed into jute bags as was done in Edo era is now exhibited. (photo on the right)
You will see Clerk’s Quarters by its green-colored lattice. (photo on the left)
You will learn Japan at the period when Dejima was connected with the world and the rest of Japan, seeing the interesting exhibits and watching videos inside Clerk’s Quarters.
I’d recommend you to take a rest enjoying “a milk shake”, a local cold sweet, in a restaurant (on the first floor of the Former International Nagasaki Club) after you’ve learned history of Sugar Road.
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