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Western style in Glover Garden

Nagasaki is full of Western influences but one of the most beautiful examples is Glover Garden. This garden, full of English merchant houses, lies on a hill with stunning views over Nagasaki. The garden is named after Thomas Glover, a Scottish merchant who settled in Nagasaki in 1859.

Glover came to Nagasaki to lead the newly opened British trading post there, but shortly afterwards he also set up his own company: Glover and Co. In addition, he was involved in founding various companies that would later form the basis for the large multinational Mitsubishi and the Kirin Brewery Company. In 1863, he built the Glover House on Minami-Yamate hill, with its sweeping view over the large bay of Nagasaki.

Colonial buildings in Glover Garden
Colonial buildings in Glover Garden

Nagasaki

Green Glover Garden

The end of the Sakoku

In 1858, Japan underwent a real European invasion. This was the year that marked the end of Sakoku, the period during which Japan hermetically sealed its borders to the Western world in an attempt to keep international trade and much-feared Christianity at bay. For more than 200 years, Japan had closed itself off from the outside world. The only back-door entrance was Nagasaki, allowing the Portuguese and Dutch to trade on the island of Dejima. When Sakoku ended in 1858, Nagasaki designated various locations where foreigners were allowed to settle, including Minami-Yamate, where Thomas Glover built his house.

A Western house with a Japanese roof

Today, the home of Thomas Glover is the oldest Western-style wooden house in Japan, and attracts around 2 million visitors a year. The architecture is a mix of Western and Japanese elements. The windows are French, the verandas are in Italian style and the chimneys are British. However, the roof is typically Japanese. In Glover Garden you may also admire the houses of other European merchants, such as the Ringer House and Walker House. Also make sure to stop at the Freedom Café; here you can enjoy a cup of coffee as you soak up the ambiance of 19th-century Nagasaki.

View of the harbour from Glover Garden
The Oura Catholic church

Church for the merchants

Minami-Yamate features many more Western treasures. Combine a visit to Glover Garden with a tour of the Oura Catholic church, halfway up the hill. The church was built in 1864 to accommodate the ever-growing community of Western merchants and is the oldest wooden Gothic-style church in Japan. It is also known as the "Church of the 26 Martyrs", in memory of the 26 Christians who were executed on Nishizaka Hill in 1597, giving a clear message to the people of Nagasaki: Christianity will not be tolerated here.