Suwa Shrine

When we arrived in Nagasaki after a long and somewhat jarring train ride, we headed for the nearest street map to get our bearings. Within moments a young woman with an energetic toddler in tow approached and asked if we needed help. We were soon headed in the right direction with a feeling that coming to Nagasaki had been a good choice.

Although our hotel room was tiny, it felt cozy, and we had a view of the harbor. The only down side was that in spite of the hotel's proximity to the station, there weren't many restaurants in the immediate area. We actually ended up eating at an Indian restaurant two of the four nights we spent in the city, but on that first night we ate at a restaurant by the harbor. I felt very content looking out over the quiet water, listening to the boats bob up and down.

The next morning we purchased an all day pass for the street car and set off for Suwa Shrine. The shrine is reached by climbing a somewhat daunting 277 stone steps between houses and apartment buildings.

Construction of the shrine began in 1614, the year Tokugawa Ieyasu issued his edict against Christianity. At that time Nagasaki was the only place in Japan with an open port where Dutch and Chinese traders were permitted. The city had the largest Christian population in Japan due to the earlier presence of Portuguese and Spanish missionaries. Alarmed by this trend, the Tokugawa government reversed its policy of tolerance and began forcing people to reconvert to Buddhism and Shintoism. As part of this effort, Suwa Shrine was built as a central point of worship.

Amazingly, Suwa Shrine survived the atomic bomb blast in Nagasaki intact although a Catholic cathedral nearby was destroyed. Some survivors credited this to the power of the local Japanese kami as opposed to the Christian god.

These lions are known as "Stop Lions". If you want to break a bad habit, you can tie a piece of paper around their front legs and pray for their assistance.

At the top of the shrine, we found a pleasant little koi pond and garden.

We also found a short torii tunnel guarded by stone foxes.

After exploring the shrine, we headed down the many steps and off to our next adventure.