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Hirado travel guide



Hirado off the North West coast of Nagasaki-prefecture is a beautiful and historic location

full of interesting museums, Christian churches, white sandy beaches and an imposing

castle. Portuguese ships first landed in Hirado’s superb natural harbor in 1549 and

St. Francis Xavier is known to have visited in 1550. In the 1580s, the Portuguese established

a trading station, followed soon by the Dutch and the British. The island had been an

important port for trade with Korea and China since earlier times, with the rights to foreign

trade held by the local Matsuura clan. William Adams was instrumental in establishing the

British trading post and he is buried on the island. The British stayed only ten years before

leaving after bitter feuding with the Dutch, who were moved to Dejima in Nagasaki by the

Japanese authorities in 1641.


Where to explore


Hirado Castle

Stands on a hill guarding Hirado Port and the Hirado Strait, which used to be part of an important

trade route between Japan and the Asian mainland. The original fortress was built in 1599 by the

local Matsura Lord; however, he destroyed the structure after fighting the Tokugawa on the losing

side of the Battle of Sekigahara as a gesture of loyalty to the victor. The Matsura Clan continued

ruling Hirado for the next two and a half centuries.


Dutch Trading Post

Set up in Hirado in 1609 as the base of operations of the Dutch East India Company in Japan.

The building seen today is a warehouse which was originally constructed here in 1639 as part of the

trading post, but torn down just three years later after the Dutch had been relocated to Dejima Island

in the port of Nagasaki.


Nakae no Shima / UNESCO World Heritage

Located two kilometers off the coast of Hirado Island, Nakae no Shima is a small, uninhabited island

where religious leaders were executed during the persecution of Christians. The island is considered

sacred, and water collected there is used for baptism.


Kasuga Village / UNESCO World Heritage

This idyllic, remote village was refuge to a small community of Hidden Christians who practiced here

for centuries, far from the prying eyes of the government. After the ban on Christianity was lifted, the

local villagers decided to continue practicing their own unique brand of the religion rather than rejoin

the Catholic Church. As a result, churches were not erected in the village, and the religion remains

outwardly invisible.


St Francis Xavier Memorial Church

This church is a catholic church in Hirado, Nagasaki. Hirado is a place where Francis Xavier visited

3 times in Japan to spread Christianity, and even during the Kinkyo Ordinance of the Edo Period

that prohibited religions, Christianity was very widespread. For that reason when the ordinance was

lifted this church was constructed, and the image of Francis Xavier was put on the side.


Tabira Church

The church was designed by Tetsukawa Yosuke, a famous architect of various churches in

Nagasaki-prefecture, and built between December 1915 and October 1917. It is one of the latest

brick churches in the prefecture of Nagasaki. Tetsukawa Yosuke has called this one of his best works.


Matsura Historical Museum

The museum stores and displays the historical collection of the Matsura family who ruled over the

northern area of Nagasaki prefecture since the 13th century. The museum is housed in the former

private residence of the Matsura family, the grand Tsurugamine Mansion, built in 1893. Hirado has a

long history of overseas exchange due to its geographical location.


Yamada Church

After the discovery of the numerous hidden Christians in Ikitsuki Island in 1865, they began

to work on recovering their Catholic faith although they were not too successful at first.

Then in 1878, a priest named Fr. Pelu came to Hirado and baptized many people who are

said to be the ancestors of the churchgoers of Yamada Church today.



General information  

Address City hall : 1508-3 Iwanoue-cyo, Hirado-city, Nagasaki-prefecture

1 hours and 50 minutes by a vehicle from Nagasaki-city

50 minutes by a vehicle from Sasebo-city

2 hour and 15 minutes by a vehicle from Fukuoka-city

Population 30,100   Population density 128


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 - Nagasaki Pilgrimage sites, Nagasaki-prefecture, Hirado travel guide