Sasebo – Romancing the Port Town
Fishing Ships and more!
Sasebo (佐世保) is the second largest port city in the Nagasaki area, and also home to some romantic scenery via the colours of the sunset and harbour views. It is also home to a shared naval base to both the American Navy and Japanese Self Defense forces. As a port city, its economy continues to thrive off local fishing, especially from Oyster and Pearl farms. Shipbuilding and similarly related heavy industries are also a primary contributor to its economic stability.
Sasebo may also be referred to as place ideal for those dates where you want a touch or romance. You could be appreciating the beauty of the harbour strolling down the promenade or enjoying the sweeping views of the waters from the many observation points throughout the city. Alternatively, to the north-west you may wish to visit the Yumiharidake Observatory, as this provides stunning views of the Kujuku-shima and Goto-retto Islands, and offer particularly magnificent scenery during the changing colours of the sunset.
Huis Ten Bosch
The area is also home to the famous Dutch styled theme park Huis Ten Bosch, which is representative of Holland during the middle ages. There you can find a huge variety of international cuisine, hotels, attractions, picturesque canals, shops and more. It is home to one of the largest flower themed festivals in Japan and regularly holds events throughout the year. For example, at the time of writing the website was advertising a Wine Festival, Beer Festival, Autumn Music Festival, their Halloween theme for the year, demonstrating their illuminations and announcing their VR Theme Park, as the largest in Japan. From what it seems, there is plenty to do there. Prices are similar to that of most theme parks in Japan, so expect to pay similar prices to USJ (Universal Studios Japan) or Disney. Furthermore, the park generally operates from 9:00-22:00 daily. For more information, go ahead and can check out the English website here.
Burgers, Burgers, Burgers!
In terms of cuisine the American influence over the region is clear with the infamous rise of the Sasebo Burger. Apparently, the burger was first introduced around the 1950s, once the American military started to occupy the nearby naval base, and subsequently introduced the recipes to the locals. Now, you can find a whole range of burger outlet’s littered across the city, and especially within minutes walk from the station. During our visit, we stumbled upon what appeared to be a retail store, so we decided to give our taste buds the Sasebo Burger experience.
The burger was priced similar to other burger chains you can find across Tokyo, that is over 1000 yen for most burgers on the menu. However, I would describe the taste as satisfactory, as I feel I have had a lot more delicious and juicy burger indulgences back in Tokyo. Nonetheless, it is worth experimenting if you are in the area.
Another famous dish in the area is affectionately labelled Toruko (Turkish) Rice (トルコ ライス), which is again inspired by a combination of cuisines. The dish is a fusion of pilaf rice, spaghetti and a fried pork cutlet all covered in sauce. Although, the style and ingredients of course vary from store to store. We were lucky to find a cafe which provided Toruko Rice utilising fried pilaf rice combined with a variation of pasta and pork cutlet covered in a sweet tasting sauce. Be warned, the dish is very filling due to the extreme carb. content. However, it was tasty and very satisfying at the same time, so if you plan to try, make sure you come prepared with an empty stomach.
Where is Sasebo ?
Getting to Sasebo, particularly from Tokyo will probably work out a little pricey, as budget carriers do not fly there directly. The closest local airports would be either Nagasaki or Saga, and most of the budget airlines or LCCs (Low Cost Carriers) will only fly to the main airport in Fukuoka. Of course, if Fukuoka is part of your itinerary then that is a bonus, as you can make it part of your Kyushu tour. However, it can also be painful if you’re on a tight budget. Alternatively, booking tickets well in advance should help you secure a lower fair, depending on your timing of purchase. I would estimate around a little above 20,000 yen on one of Japan’s major airlines to either Saga or Nagasaki Airport.
For our journey, we secured tickets via Jetstar to Fukuoka, this cost around 10,000 yen return. After landing at Fukuoka airport, we then took an express limousine bus to Sasebo costing around 2,700 yen one way. If you wish to travel by train instead, it will cost you about 4,000 yen, however you will need to take the metro train into the city first, and swap trains at the main Hakata station.
If you’re traveling from Nagasaki Station, the easiest route is via bus which will set you back about 1,500 yen and take a little over 1 hour and 30 minutes.
As mentioned central Sasebo station is situated almost in the middle of the city, surrounded by a harbour, a few arcades and an abundance of American Influence, especially at night. While the city does have its fair share of retail chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s, the clear effect is not only the large amount of Sasebo Burger shops, but also the large amount of American themed bars. You can almost find one on each block’s corner, with their glaring Neon Budweiser and Corona signs, all designed to appeal to their local American crowd.
Anyhow, if you happen to be out in Kyushu, and you’re close by Sasebo or the Nagasaki area, Sasebo offers light entertainment. It is good for a day trip, to try their famous cuisine and/or to spend with your date at one of the many lookouts while you watch the pretty colours of the night fade with the falling sun.