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Nagasaki, not a gourmet's delight


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Nagasaki, not a gourmet's delight

Politeness | | Nov 8, 2009 01:42 PM

We spend a lot of time in Japan. Although we live in the United States, one of us is native Japanese (issei), and we visit relatives there at least once a year. Nonetheless, neither of us had visited Nagasaki until October 2009. The breakfast (included) at the simply wonderful intimate little hotel where we stayed (Ihokan Hotel) was excellent every day we were there. But Nagasaki appears to be a city devoid of nightlife.

We asked the Front at Ihokan for a recommendation for a good dinner, and immediately got the reply that we should go to Chinatown (Nagasaki boasts the oldest Chinatown in the world outside of China itself) near the Tsukimachi tram stop. We tried that, and, although the restaurants there do offer some satisfying victuals, fine cuisine it is not. The restaurants are brightly lit, and mostly specialize in one-bowl meals. Perfect lunch stops, in other words, not places for a leisurely and relaxing dinner.

While we were in town, we had occasion to take a taxicab to an area not served by the tram, and we asked the cab driver where Nagasaki residents go out for a special meal. After some hard thought, he offered that perhaps the dining rooms of the better hotels might provide something of that sort, but there was none that he could recommend in particular. We went to an alley of bars that was not far from Ihokan Hotel, and very near to Nagasaki Station, for some nihon-syu (sake) that evening, and were surprised that "last call" was at 8:30 p.m., and not only that place, but all of the bars, were closed and shuttered by 9:00 p.m.

We had a Japanese language guide book devoted only to Nagasaki, and in the dining section, after an introduction that praised the very cosmopolitan nature of Nagasaki, it recommended a fine Italian restaurant in the Youme complex near Ohato (not far south from Nagasaki Station). We checked out that restaurant during the daytime -- it had changed its name since the guidebook was written, but we were assured that nothing else had changed. It is now called "Pizza, Pasta & More" (yes, in English), and, as its name implies, it serves Italian fast food, semi-cafeteria style.

A different person was manning the Front at Ihokan Hotel the next time we passed by and we asked (as if we had not asked before) where was a good place for a sit-down dinner. The answer was the same: Chinatown.

We took to asking clerks in shops and perusing guidebooks in bookshops. After a while, there was some convergence on one restaurant in particular, Yossou, in the Hamanomachi Arcade. O.k., nobody, but nobody, recommended any other restaurant. Yossou was also mentioned in the guidebook (the same guidebook that recommended the Italian restaurant). We made reservations at Yossou. provides pictures and information.

Actually, Yosso turned out to be a pretty good restaurant. You are greated by a hostess who claps together two wooden boards to call the staff and, if you are not prepared for it, it will scare the heck out of you. Yossou has some specialty versions of tcawan musi that we had not seen elsewhere that were interesing and good, as well as good sasimi. Certainly worth a recommendation. However, last call for ordering at Yossou was at 8:00 p.m., and the restaurant closes at about 8:30. That's Nagasaki for you.

Nagasaki is a very nice town. Public transportation is excellent. The Ihokan Hotel is simply superb. But as for nightlife, there is none; the city rolls up its streets at night.

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