The Beauty of Nagasaki Temple Street

The Beauty of Nagasaki Temple Street

In this post, I am highlighting Nagasaki Temple Street with its traditional temples and shrines. Nagasaki is a lovely small city in Western Kyushu that offers pretty much everything a traveller would want – sights, nice hotels, excellent food… but often gets overseen by travellers.

The city is located in a natural harbour and surrounded by densely forested hills hills. The Eastern side of the city centre, an area called Teramachi, is dotted with beautiful Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines waiting to be explored! Well… the Western side is, too, so if you are staying in Western Nagasaki, you might want to take a little suhill stroll from the Museum of History and Culture there.

Seeing most of the sights of Nagasaki Temple Street will take a day, with breaks, and is a great excursion – you will never be far away from the city centre and a tram stop, so the tour can be extended or cut short according to your plans and the weather.

So, let’s go visit Nagasaki Temple Street!

Some of the ema (wooden plaques for prayers and wishes) for sale at Kiyomizudera

If you are considering visiting Nagasaki, you may also wish to read my three-day Nagasaki itinerary post.

How to get to Teramachi and Nagasaki Temple Street

Teramachi is an area to the east of Nagasaki City Centre, with the small traffic-calmed road called Teramachi-dori, which essentially comprises Nagasaki Temple Street. If you are starting from the north, the easiest access is Nagasaki City Hall/Shimin Kaikan, a transfer station for Nagasaki’s convenient and very cute tram.

If you visit all of Teramachi-dori and the temple district, you will cover about 3km on foot on even ground, with a few steps and very gentle hilly terrain.

You will pass through by central Hamamachi shopping area about halfway, with Shiambashi Tram nearby, and it’s an easy 200m from the last stop on the walk to Sofukuji Temple Tram terminus.

All trams are labelled with a a large number and the destination in Japanese and English, making them extremely easy to use. I recommend getting an (IC Integrated chip) card – Nagasaki Prefecture issues the Nimoca card, whereas Japan Rail issues the Sugoca in Nagasaki, both of which can be used pretty much anywhere in the country. Other cards such as Suica, Pasmo or ICOCA work as well. All cards can be recharged by the driver between stations. Or you can pay upon exiting the tram – the fare is 140 JPY.

Some history and context on Nagasaki Temple Street

Nagasaki was founded by Portuguese traders in the 16th Century. The Portuguese first landed at its natural port in 1543, then a tiny fishing village, in order to trade firearms. Nagasaki quickly became a hub of Far East trade. Christian missionaries from Spain and Portugal soon followed, much to the dismay of the local feudal rulers, which led to prosecution, and lastly, deportation of all Spanish and Portuguese.

The Dutch meanwhile had been maintaining a small trading post and showed no interest in missionary work, and were allowed to remain, but only in a small part of the port. Dejima Island became a large trading post under the Dutch traders.

Traders from China who started arriving from the 15th Century onwards, always enjoyed a relatively free reign in town. The powerful Tokugawa Shogunate allocated them a trading post during the period of seclusion and Chinese were relatively free to build temples and import Chinese culture. .

Many of the temples on Nagasaki Temple Street are therefore Chinese foundations dating back to the trading days before the seclusion of Japan.

Beautiful Kofukuji -also a gardener’s dream!

Buddhism was brought to Japan well before that, from Korea in the 6th Century CE. Many sects, including the influential Shingon and Tendai sects, were imported from China during the heian period in the 9th Century CE.

Which temples to visit

The best route begins at Nagasaki City Hall / Shiminkaikan, served by two tram lines. It’s just a 5-minute walk to the first notable temple, Kofuki-ji.


I walked up there on a really hot day in May, taking note of a small rest house with a bank of drinks vending machine as I walked up Teramachi Street.

Kofuku-ji was founded by a Chinese monk in 1620, when large numbers of Chinese traders visited Nagasaki during the flourishing Ming Dynasty. At a time when Christians were persecuted, many Buddhist temples were built by the Chinese (as if to prove something) and Kofuku-ji is a magnificent example. Built in wood, with a large treasure hall, bell tower and impressive gate, it is easy to spend a couple hours here.

The main entrance is through the Sanmon Gate, unmissable from the road. This is the only temple that charges a small entry fee of 300JPY.

Bell tower and Sanmon gate of Kofukuji Temple

I then walked, very slowly in the blazing subtropical Nagasaki sun, into the main compound. I really loved the large well-tended garden this temple sits in, which, for me, was really the highlight. That, and the incredibly peaceful atmosphere.

Kofukuji Main Hall

Everywhere, there were plants and little nooks and crannies full of plants. The large garden and very welcoming atmosphere with many benches make this a really welcoming temple.

Every free space is covered in plants at Kofukuji

I finally sat down by the tea house, admiring the seasonal plant arrangements. This is also the place where you can get a goshuin, the Japanese temple hand-drawn stamp. Many shops in town will sell books in which to collect them.

Seasonal plant arrangement, Kofukuji

Here, among some shady green seating areas, you can find the historic refectory, overlooked by two very large wooden fish-shaped drums – I read somewhere they are quite unique in Japan.

One of the two fish-shaped drums at Kofukuji

I sat in the shade by the tea house, sketching a bit, and felt really surprised there weren’t any more visitors. There are a few really nice touches, apart from the main temple, such as beautiful wooden fish-shaped drums hanging by the monks refectory, and some really lovely plant arrangements.

South on Teramachi-dori

Walking south along the pleasant Teramachi-dori where there is very little traffic, you come across various temples and shrines, often cosily nestled together – the religiously important Nagasakishikokuhachijuhakkashodai 1 Banreijo Iozen Enmei Temple, which is one of the temples to visit on Kyushu’s own sacred 88-temple route, following the style of Shikoku’s 88-temple henro pilgrimage route.

Nagasakishikokuhachijuhakkashodai 1 Banreijo Iozen Enmei Temple

What can I say? I walked in, and encountered… no one. I am amazed how little visited Teramachi-dori was, even on a Sunday.

Next, the Choshoji Shrine, also has a very gifted creative gardener. It is often difficult to distinguish whether one is visiting a Buddhist Temple or a Shinto Shrine, as they can look quite similar and often happily coexist in a the same compound.

Shinto Shrines are usually a little smaller and have one or multiple torii, the traditionally shaped archways. It generally is not possible to enter the buildings themselves – one rather prays in front of the shrines. IN terms of statuary, you may find a large variety of animals, such as foxes (kitsune), frogs ( kaeru), snakes, monkeys, animals of the Chinese zodiac… and offerings. Buddhist temples have a more elaborate sanmon gate and main halls that can be entered. Buddha and kannon are usually on display.

Choshoji Shrine

Shintoism predates Buddhism and is considered the indigenous religion of Japan, whereas Buddhism was imported from Korea. In Japan, people quite happily visit both a shrine and a temple at the same time.

Choshoji Shrine has one of the nicest gardens

Another major temple, Kotaiji, takes up a large area just before entering the more lively bit of Teramachidori where it reaches the city centre proper, and a lovely area with traditional houses, craft shops and the retro Hamamachi Shopping Arcade.

Kotaiji Temple

By that time, I was getting a bit hungry and hot, and stopped for lunch. Just walked up to the magnificent Sanmon Gate. If one would move along, you’d encounter another unpronounceable temple. Nagasakishikokuhachijuhakkashodai 2 Banreijo Daion Temple. By that time, they also would start to look somewhat similar.

Time for a break

The Hamamachi area is a good place to take a break. With some lovely small cafes and restaurants, there is a huge choice of dining options.

I admit, I visited Teramachidori in two parts – on my first Sunday in Nagasaki, I went as far as Hamamachi, then I had to change accommodation. I had lunch in this lovely tiny okonomiyaki diner called Okonomiyaki Umenoya (お好み焼 梅乃屋) right by the traffic lights. It was so good, I returned with my husband a week later!

Lunch at retro-style Okonomiyaki Umenoya

There are lots of other options within a 100-metre stretch of road, from Vietnamese at Cafe Kiki Maimai to artisan coffee at the traditional Cafe Fujiyo, and there are a couple well rated izakaya (Nosa An, Tarafuku Asa and Hakata Uzumaki Nagasaki Shianbashi) for casual dining.

Sofukuji Temple

Although this was the temple that could probably most do with a refresh, I really recommend not to skip Sofukuji. It is very different style to all others on Teramachidori, and one could say, it has a very Chinese look.

When you approach from the street, you will see the distinctive red gate, which is a 19th Century rebuild.

It was built during the Ming Dynasty in 1629 and was completely built from wood in China, then shipped to Japan and re-erected in Nagasaki.

Sofukuji Buddha Halls: Allegedly the oldest buildings in Nagasaki

If one believes local history, the main buddha halls (Daiyū Hōden) are 17th Century originals… not bad considering the subtropical heat and constant threat from fires! They are some of the oldest buildings in Nagasaki.

Colourful Sofukuji, built into a hill side

Very colourful and a very different experience to other Nagasaki Buddhist temples – and here, like in all other places, barely any visitors!

The Grand Finale: Kiyomizudera Temple and Yasakajinja Shrine

Not to be confused with its busier Kyoto cousin, Nagasaki Kiyomizudera is a generously proportioned Buddhist temple reaching into a overgrown hillside in a beautiful old Nagasaki district.

When you approach from the road, you enter via YAsaka Shrine, a very pleasant little Shinto Shrine that is almost indistinguishable from the temple. A succession of little red lacquer torii will guide the way from the concrete parking lot, and once you are up there, you are in a totally different world.

Yasakajinja at nightfall

The Shrine is small and easy to navigate – some seating, amulet shop, a couple side shrines. Very pleasant and anice example of a Japanese shinto shrine.

Yasaka-jinja- neat and square

To the left, you will find the entry to Kiyomizudera, set in its own beautiful gardens.

Enter Kiyomizu-dera through this beautiful garden

Lots of steles and statues to admire

If you aren’t making it to Mount Inasa, you can also enjoy a very nice and peaceful view over the city from here.

Ema prayer tablets

It took about half an hour to walk around the completely deserted temple.

Close-up of prayer tablet – many temples have their own designs

From Kiyomizudera, simply wander back to the Sojukuji tram terminus and take tram No.1 back to the centre

The four Fortune Temples of Nagasaki

Not strictly following Teramachi-dori, you can also visit the four fortune temples of Nagasaki (長崎四福寺) – all Buddhist temples. Of course, you get something similar for Shinto shrines, too! There is an annual 12-shrine rallye with special stamps to obtain, but this one actually requires a bit of hiking, as some are quite tucked away in the Nagasaki hills.

So, the four fortune temples are much more accessible. They are Kofukuji and Sofukuji in Teramachi-dori, which were are both covered in this post, and Shofukuji and Fukusaiji on the Eastern side of central Nagasaki, both of which are part of my 3-day Nagasaki Itinerary.


If you are considering visiting Nagasaki, you may also wish to read my three-day Nagasaki itinerary post. Here are some more accommodation and restaurant options specifically near Teramachi-dori, or a short tram ride away.

Another shot of Yasakajinja at the southern end of “Temple Street”

Where to stay near Teramachi-dori

Starting with some accommodation on a budget, you will hardly find a better deal than HafH Hostel and Hotel in the Teramachi area. It’s bright, modern, and has a really good coffee shop and co-working space attached. Most of its accommodation is in relatively secluded cubby holes in dorms, but there are some spartan private roms as well. Meganebashi Tram Stop is 100 metres away.

Another really cool place to stay, this time in a more village-like area, is the tiny hotel & cafe ksnowki. About 100 metres from Sofukuji tram stop, you will have Kiyomizudera as a neighbour. The hotel is bright and modern, with lots of plants and blond wood. It’s an altogether very traditional small-town area of Nagasaki, but a central area with bars and restaurants is just a tram stop away.

Last not least, for those who prefer a large hotel with facilities, the Hotel Forza Nagasaki is attached to the Hamamachi arcade, in an area with lots and lots of little bars and restaurants. It’s part of a small national chain offering four-star comfort at reasonable prices, at about 60-90 Euro per night.

Where to eat near Teramachi-dori

If you would lie some food before starting your temple walk, the best options are in Shindaikumachi to the North of Teramachi-dori – provided you do the walk from north to south.

Just opposite the tram stop you will find a mall with several small cafes and restaurants, as well as two supermarkets with particularly good deli counters. Kisuke Udon just by the tram stop offers tasty noodles and meal sets at very competitive prices – and they are very good.

Another great place in the area is Mutsugoro, a slightly more formal large restaurant that serves pretty much anything, including sushi. It’s about 5 minutes walk from Kofukuji, and you will find the cool Miyajidake Hachiman Shrine along the way, with its Arita porcelain torii and sake-loving fox statues.

Just over halfway on the trip, you walk past Hamamachi, with tons of dining options – see above.

And last not least, once you return from Kiyomizudera, you will come across two Japanese fine dining restaurants, which look refined and very classy called 御飯 (Gohan) and 堂山 (Doyama) – the latter has two Michelin stars. I’ve tried neither, opting for the much cheaper options at CoCo Curry ( a national chain, vegan friendly, Kankodori tram stop) or the glut of smallish restaurants between Shiambashi and Kankodori tram stops.

The Small Print on Nagasaki Temple Street

I spent six weeks in Nagasaki in May 2023. As always, I have no sponsorship, all expenses were paid by myself, all unbiased reviews. The accommodations links are affiliate links to

If you have any questions about Nagasaki, feel free to drop me a line or comment. I spent six weeks in Nagasaki so I know the city fairly well from a tourist point of view.

Pin it!

Leave a Reply