Top choice in Nagasaki

NAGASAKI, NAGASAKI-KEN, JAPAN - 2010/07/20: The former Nagasaki International club built in 1903. Dejima, literally "protruding island", was a small island in the bay of Nagasaki that was a Dutch trading post during Japan's self-imposed isolation of the Edo period from 1641 until 1853.  Here Dutch traders were stationed, keeping a small window on the outside world plus trade with the rest of the world..Since the closing of the Dutch East India Company's trading post in 1857, the island has been surrounded by reclaimed land and merged into Nagasaki. The island was designated a national historical site in 1922. Today, Dejima is a work in progress with the long-term plan to fully restore its characteristic fan-shaped form and all the embankment walls.. (Photo by John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images)

LightRocket via Getty Images

In 1641 the Tokugawa shogunate banished all foreigners from Japan, with one exception: Dejima, a fan-shaped, artificial island in Nagasaki harbour. From then until the 1850s, this tiny, 15,000-sq-metre Dutch trading post was the sole sanctioned foreign presence in Japan. Today the city has filled in around the island and you might be tempted to skip it. Don't. Seventeen buildings, walls and structures (plus a miniature Dejima) have been painstakingly reconstructed.

Restored and reopened in 2006 and constantly being upgraded, the buildings are as instructive inside as they are appealing outside, filled with exhibits covering the spread of trade, Western learning and culture, archaeological digs, and rooms combining Japanese tatami (tightly woven floor matting) with Western wallpaper. There's excellent English signage. Allow at least two hours.

Free walking-tour maps of the entire site are available, and there's even a kimono-rental shop (¥2000/6000 per hour/day) for those who want to feel even more historically connected.