The Port of Nagasaki is the capital of and largest city in Nagasaki Prefecture in western Kyushu, the third largest island of Japan. It lies at the mouth of the Urakami River on Nagasaki Harbor on the southeast coast of the island about 110 kilometers southeast of the Port of Hakata and just over 160 kilometers southeast of the Port of Kitakyushu, both of which are also on Kyushu island. The harbor is a deep narrow bay between Cape Nomo to the south and the Nishisonoki Peninsula to the northwest. In 2005, over 455 thousand people lived in the Port of Nagasaki.
The Port of Nagasaki has long played an important role in Japan's acceptance of Western culture. It was the second port to open to foreign trade during and the only port in Japan permitted by the Tokugawa Shogunate to receive foreign vessels and cargo from 1639 until 1859. Portuguese traders brought guns and Roman Catholicism to Japan through the Port of Nagasaki in the middle 16th Century. Feeling threatened by the faith, the Shogunate crucified 26 Christians in the Port of Nagasaki in 1597. Despite the tragedy that visited the Port of Nagasaki in 1945, the city has several areas where historic temples and buildings survive.
The Port of Nagasaki was secluded until the Portuguese landed on the island in 1542. Spanish missionaries converted several feudal lords, including Omura Sumitada. He made a deal to receive trade from Portuguese ships at the port he helped establish in 1571. Sugar was the Port of Nagasaki's main import from the Dutch, and the city became famous for its generous use of sugar in local dishes. The word tempura comes from the Portuguese word "tempero" meaning sauce or seasoning.
Portuguese trade stimulated the Port of Nagasaki's growth, with products like tobacco, bread, and textiles flowing into the area from abroad. The Port of Nagasaki was briefly a Jesuit colony, and Japanese Christians escaped found refuge in the Port of Nagasaki. The port prospered for five years, but powerful feudal lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned Christianity.
In 1596, Spain's San Felipe wrecked off the eastern coast of Shikoku, and Hideyoshi believed that the Franciscans were invading Japan. In response, Hideyoshi ordered all missionaries to leave the country and took direct control of the Port of Nagasaki; however, the priests remained, and Christianity continued to be practiced there. The following "execution of the 26 saints" resulted with 26 Christians, 6 Jesuit priests and 20 Japanese natives, being brought from other Japanese cities to Port of Nagasaki where they were crucified.
In 1614, Catholicism was officially banned in Japan. Many, but not all, Catholics renounced the religion. The word "Simabara" came to symbolize the relationship between Christianity and treason. A period of brutal Christian persecution and martyrdom followed, and thousands of people on Kyushu were tortured and killed. After 300 years, it was considered a miracle when descendants of the first Japanese Christians were found living in the Port of Nagasaki's Urakami district.
In 1636, the shogunate established a community on the island of Dejima to isolate the Portuguese traders and prevent the spread of Christianity. In just a few years, the Portuguese were forbidden to enter Japan, and the Dutch East India Company trading post was moved to Dejima. The trading post was abolished in 1858 when Japan and the US entered into the Treaty of Kanagawa. In 1922, the old Dutch East India Company trading post was designated a historic site, and restoration efforts began in 1996.
In 1808, the British frigate HMS Phaeton entered the Port of Nagasaki looking for Dutch trading ships. The local Port of Nagasaki magistrate, who was forced to provide food, water, and fuel to the British, committed seppuku (ritual suicide) for his shame. In response, Japanese laws were passed strengthening coastal defenses, training translating English and Russian translators, and threatening execution for foreign intruders. Even so, there was a Chinese factory in the Port of Nagasaki that brought goods and information to Japan during the 18th Century.
Commodore Matthew Perry from the US landed at the Port of Nagasaki in 1853. The Shogunate soon collapsed, and Japan opened for trade and diplomacy. In 1859, the Port of Nagasaki became a free port and, by 1868, began to modernize. The Meiji Restoration of the late 19th Century brought the Port of Nagasaki economic power, with shipbuilding as its primary industry. Ironically, the shipbuilding industry made the city a target in World War II because many Japanese warships were built there.
At 11 A.M. on August 9, 1945, the Port of Nagasaki was attacked by the US when they dropped the second atomic bomb, destroying the north part of the city and instantly killing about 40 thousand residents. The Nagasaki Peace Park counts total dead at almost 74 thousand, injured at 75 thousand, and many hundreds of thousands diseased as a result of the bombing. Though greatly different, the Port of Nagasaki was rebuilt after the war, with new temples and new churches. Today, the Port of Nagasaki is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archidiocese. Despite this tragedy, the Port of Nagasaki continues to be an important port with a rich shipping industry.