Translated by Lester Somera
Discover Nagasaki's International History At Glover Garden
Nagasaki has a history of trading with foreign merchants like Thomas Blake Glover, who built homes in the city. These mansions are now World Heritage sites.
Written by Maki
Did you know that the world-famous opera with a Japanese theme “Madame Butterfly” was actually set in Nagasaki in the Kyushu region? Nagasaki has a long history of overseas trading. European merchants built mansion residences in the city, one after another, which led to various types of interaction between foreigners and Japanese people. It is said that the original story of “Madame Butterfly” was inspired by the background of Nagasaki. This time, we would like to primarily introduce the Former Glover Residence (popularly known as the Glover Mansion) and the Glover Garden, where other merchant residences of the time still remain, unchanged by time.
The Former Glover Residence, A World Heritage Site, Rests Atop A Hill
As part of “Japan’s Meiji Era Industrial Revolution,” (*1) the Glover Mansion was declared a World Heritage site in 2015. Built in 1863, it is currently the oldest Western-style wooden building in Japan. Its colonial English style, constructed with the bricks and packed mud walls of traditional Japanese architecture, make for a very unique mansion.
*1: The group of modern-day “Japan’s Meiji Era Industrial Revolution” World Heritage sites comprises 23 properties across eleven cities in eight prefectures.
At that time, Thomas Blake Glover, a trader, expanded his business in the area, and lived together with a Japanese woman named Tsuru in the Glover Mansion.
The lifestyle of the times has been recreated inside the residence, and visitors can see the splendor of this foreign settlement, which was a hub for overseas trading.
There is a secret room in the back of the attic, said to have been a hiding place for anti-government elements in the waning days of the Edo era. You can feel your pulse quicken as you imagine being one of the samurai in this cramped and dark space, trying to be as still as possible.
Since the mansion sits on top of a hill, the landscape view of Nagasaki’s port, with ships busily traveling back and forth, spreads out before your eyes. On the opposite shore, the Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard is home to four World Heritage sites. One of them, the Giant Cantilever Crane, can be seen from here.
Two Magnificent Mansions Which Double as Important Cultural Properties
There are three buildings in Glover Garden which are important cultural properties in Japan. Naturally, Glover Mansion is one, but the other two are the Former Ringer Residence and the Former Alt Residence.
The Former Ringer Residence was the home of an English trader, Frederick Ringer.
Ringer was involved in the expansion of many industries, and had massive clout in Nagasaki financial circles of the day. It is said that the founders of “Ringer Hut,” a famous chain restaurant with branches across Japan, got the idea for the restaurant’s name from him.
The Former Alt Residence, home of William John Alt, is a beautiful structure with an English-style water fountain and extravagant pillars.
In addition to these residences, there are six other buildings where you can see early Western architecture in Japan, and get a taste of European residents’ lifestyles and the work they did. We will introduce a few more spots that we’d like you to visit.
A Spot to Feel the Brilliant History of the Nagasaki Foreign Settlements
The sailors who worked at the port of Nagasaki in those days lodged here, at the Mitsubishi #2 Dockhouse.
From the second floor, you can look out over Nagasaki Port and see Inasayama Mountain, famous for its night views.
Glover Garden has a strong connection to Madame Butterfly. The park contains a stone statue of the composer Puccini, as well as a bronze statue of Tamaki Miura, internationally famous for her great performance as Butterfly.
After you stroll around the vast park grounds, have tea at a Western-style building: the restaurant Jiyūtei. Opened by Jōkichi Kusano, the first Japanese chef to handle Western cuisine, the original building was dismantled then restored here. The second floor is currently a coffee shop.
As you walk around the extensive garden grounds, you can feel yourself becoming more familiar with the lifestyles of the Japanese and European people who lived here. What’s more, the remnants of culture and business influence are not just mere historical bits of trivia; they continue to be seen in Nagasaki today.
How about visiting Glover Garden and experiencing the vibe of the East-West harmony for yourself?
Address: Nagasaki, Nagasaki City, Minamiyamatemachi 8-1
Hours: 08:00-18:00 *Last entry to the garden at 17:40
Closed: Open all days of the week
Credit Cards: Cash only
Other Languages: No
Pamphlets in Other Languages: English, Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean
Nearest Station: Ōurashudō-shita or Ishibashi (City Trolley, Nagasaki Electric Rail)
Access: From Nagasaki Station, take the trolley for 15 minutes and get off at Ōurashudō-shita or Ishibashi, then walk for seven minutes
Admission: 610 yen (adults), 300 yen (high school students), 180 yen (elementary and junior high school students)
Phone number: 095-822-8223
Website: Glover Garden