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One of the best night views in Japan?
I suppose what we are really reviewing here is not so much Nagasaki Ropeway, rather the view that the ropeway gets you to atop Inasayama (Mt. Inasa).
At 333 m, Mt. Inasa isn't particularly high or imposing, however it's from these not-so-lofty heights that visitors can take in what at one time was considered to be one of the 'top 3 city night views in the world'. In fact that time was back in 2012 and the other two cities vying for top spot were Hong Kong and Monaco.
Quite where this night view of Nagasaki ranks now, we're not sure, but it must surely by up there with some of the best night views in Japan - Hakodate et al. Personally, I think it's the way that you can see the city hemmed in by the black mountains, forcing the city lights to wrap around the view, almost snake like. It really is quite spectacular.
The view point is a peak of sorts, which you can circumnavigate in a few paces. The city lights cover roughly 180 degrees. (The other 180 are mostly black sea, I think.)
The view point itself comes with the usual features - coin operated binoculars and maps telling you what to look out for. At night though, it really all becomes irrelevant. This is a sparkling view that needs no explanation.
There's a bit of a visitors center (Inasayama Observatory) up at the top of Mt. Inasa including the usual cafes (one, I think), restaurants (one, I think), vending machines and gift shops. A highlight of this center is the way that a spiralling walkway guides you up over the city lights. It's better on the way down as you get a bit of a feeling of being suspended above the city lights. It would be better if they removed the upper half of the glass panelling here.
Once you've taken in the Nagasaki night view, there's little else to hang around here for, although we visited in the evening. Maybe in the light of day there could be further exploration.
As for the Nagasaki Ropeway itself, it was designed by someone famous apparently, but appeared to us as any other ropeway we've been on. The main thing is that it works, it's smooth, and you don't feel like you're going to plunge to the ground at any point. Job done! You get a bit of an explanation of things as you go up and down (in English and Japanese).
Gondolas depart every 15 mins (going up and going down). We were there on a Saturday evening and it was a bit of a squash although we didn't have to queue for long. It only takes a few minutes from top to bottom.
Tickets can be purchased from a little center at the bottom where you'll also find toilets and some tourist info and the Fuchi Shrine.
We've given all of this 4 stars but those are pretty much all for the view.
Round trip (one way): Adult - 1,230 yen (720) / jr high, high school - 920 yen (510) / Children - 610 yen (410)
*NB - Each gondola has a capacity of 31
Operating hours: 9:00 - 22:00
Getting to the Nagasaki Ropeway station:
Take a Nagasaki Bus, No. 3 or 4, from JR Nagasaki Station (get off at Nagasaki Ropeway Front). The ride takes about 5 mins or so, meaning if you were up for it, you could probably walk there from the station. This is also something to bear in mind when coming back. The last gondola down is at around 22:00, and at this kind of time buses back to Nagasaki station start to thin out. You'll find opportunistic taxis loitering in wait. Apparently there are public buses from Nagasaki station going all the way up Mt. Inasa, but we couldn't find them.
An alternative is bus services with stops near popular Nagasaki hotels which drop off at the ropeway station. I think you need to buy 'special' tickets for these from your hotel. Similar operations skip the ropeway and drop off / pick up from the top.