Strangely enough, I had never entertained the idea of visiting Nagasaki's famous Dutch Slope. I'm not really sure why but Oranda Zaka, as the slope is known in Japanese, never had my attention.
But given a bit of free time - and wanting to make full use of my Nagasaki One-Day tram pass - visit I did, and I was very glad that I did. There is something distinctively attractive about Dutch Slope. With its pleasantly stone-paved street, offering a sense of calm, culture and dignity, Dutch Slope is clearly more than just a hill.
The history books tell us that the area was home to the only official European residents of the country during the Edo Period. Since they hailed from Holland, the Japanese of the time considered any European to be 'Dutch' as a result. A number of European-styled residences still exist and, perhaps because most are private, they lend an almost cloister-like sense of privilege to the area.
One of these residences, Higashi Yamate 12, is open to the public. A former Russian Consulate and then an American one, the building was restored to its original state in 1995; it's now designated as a cultural asset by the government, and is being used as a ‘Historical Museum of Private Schools at the Former Foreign Settlement’. It's open from 9:00am to 5:00pm, admission is free, and you get a lovely feel for the architectural and interior design differences between Europe and Japan at the time.
A hill that is not just a hill, Dutch Slope is an atmospheric reminder of Japan’s fascinating interaction with the outside world.
If you are coming from JR Nagasaki Station, you will need to transfer at Tsuki-Machi tram station, and take the Ishibashi-bound tram to Shimin Byoin Mae (stop number 47). The Dutch Slope is an easy few minutes' walk from the tram stop.
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