Next Stop, Japan

Yamaguchi Prefecture

Shimonoseki City

Show Details

Shimonoseki City (下関市) is located beside the historic Kanmon Straits which separates Kyushu and the western end of Honshu. The city has benefited tremendously since ancient times from controlling this junction and from trade with nearby mainland Asia. Daily sailings travel from Shimonoseki Port to Pusan in Korea.

Shimonoseki City is famous for fugu (puffer fish) as the city harvests the largest catch of the fish in Japan. A large number of restaurants in the city specialize in the delicacy and many people travel to the city to eat the freshly caught and potentially deadly tidbits.

The city was originally called Akamagaseki when 31 smaller cities were combined in 1889 to create the first modern municipality in Japan. The city amalgamated four satellite towns in 2005 and now administers a large region of Yamaguchi Prefecture. The western extremity of Honshu is located at Bishanohana to the north of the city.

Central Shimonoseki

The ports, major shopping areas and business areas of the largest city in Yamaguchi Prefecture are clustered around JR Shimonoseki Station which is surrounded by water on three sides.

Kaikyo Yume Tower
The Kaikyo Yume Tower is the tallest tower in western Japan. This landmark tower enables visitors to get a birds-eye view from 143 meters of the Kanmon Straits. The spherical glass covered observatory (21 meters in diameter) allows for a clear uninterupted view. At night, the tower is lit up at night by 611 lights with a different color for each day of the week.
Harbor View Course

A collection of smaller temples and shrines are connected by a trail system that starts east of Shimonoseki Station and runs throughout the line of hills behind the city's buildings next to the Kanmon Straits. At the eastern end, Hiyoriyama Park on the hillside is a pleasant forested green spot for a picnic.

Seamall Shimonoseki
Adjacent to JR Shimonoseki Station is the largest mall in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Daimaru (department store) is the largest store. There are around 160 smaller stores and a restaurant floor in the mall.

Website: Seamall (Japanese)

Shimonoseki Port International Terminal

The Kamp Ferry Line connects Shimonoseki with Pusan, Korea with daily overnight sailings. This link to Korea has operated since 1970. Ferries also run to Qingdao, China. The terminal is connected by overhead walkway to JR Shimonoseki Station and Seamall Shimonoseki.

See Section: Getting There

Kanmon Straits - Karato

The main commercial district of Shimonoseki continues along the Kanmon Straits to the northeast to Karato.

Shimonoseki Kaikyokan (Aquarium)
Shimonoseki Kaikyokan which overlooks the Kanmon Straits is the area's biggest modern attraction. Operated by the city, the aquarium has over 100 types of puffer fish, penguins, a highly enjoyable dolphin and sea lion show and more. The aquarium is located east of the city center in Karato.
Akama Shrine

Akama Shrine (赤間神社) east of JR Shimonoseki Station is dedicated to child-emperor Antoku who, history says, drowned himself during the battle of Dan-no-ura in the strait in front of the shrine. The shrine itself was popularized by Lafacadio Hearn's translation of the ghost story about the blind minstrel Hoichi the Earless. A number of valuable records of the battle and the Genji and Heiki clans are stored here along with a statue of the earless minstrel.

Ganryu Island (Ganryujima)

Musashi Miyamoto and Kojiro Sasaki were considered two of the greatest swordsmen of their time. The clashing ideologies of the two and their followers and their celebrated skills made their final showdown on April 13, 1612 undoubtedly the most extraordinary duel before the close of the samurai era. Kojiro may have lost but he gets the last laugh as Funajima where it happened is now called Ganryujima after the group he led.

Ferries depart to Ganryujima regularly about every half hour from Kanmon Wharf from around 9:00 to 17:00. It costs 500 yen for adults and free for children from the Shimonoseki side. The schedule can change depending on weather and events so inquire before you depart.

Kamon Wharf

Kamon Wharf is a small mall with a number of restaurants and stores selling local products like fugu. A number of the smaller restaurant open out onto the boardwalk. Located a short walk east of Shimonoseki Kaikyokan along the water.

Beyond the City Centre

Chofu

Chofu is pleasant and notable section of the city to northeast along the coast from the city center. It was once a castle town where the Mori Clan had a residence and, now, is one of the few places in Japan that has retained its premodern charm. Much of it is modern, but, a number of well preserved temples, shrines and historic buildings are located inside the traditional earthen walls that line the roads.

The Chofu Mori Residence, Chofu Garden, Kozanji Temple (national treasure) and Shimonoseki Municipal Art Museum are all located in Chofu. Access by bus from Shimonoseki.

Tsunoshima

Tsunoshima is a scenic island off the northwest end of Honshu in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The first modern lighthouse on this side of Honshu was lit up here in 1876. The island is connected to Honshu by the second longest free bridge in Japan.

History

One of Japan's most famous samurai battles took place at Dan-no-Ura between the Heike and Genji clans in 1185. Akama Shrine east of JR Shimonoseki Station is dedicated to child-emperor Antoku who was killed there. The "Bombardment of Shimonoseki", another famous battle, took place in 1864 when a combined Britain, Holland, France and US navy fleet attacked the city in reprisal for attacks on their trading vessels by rebel Choshu clans.

In a doleful turn, JR Shimonoseki Station which was built in 1942 was burned down early on January 7, 2006. A disgruntled, homeless and hungry 74 year old man was arrested after confessing to a station employee to lighting the station on fire. The fire spread and enveloped the station's wooden structure and a housing building for JR staff in a dramatic fireball before being brought under control by firefighters. No one was injured in the blaze and the main train platform and exit was spared. Train service resumed the next day after power was restored to the tracks.

Sister Cities

  • Santos, Brazil - 1971
  • Istanbul, Turkey - 1972
  • Pusan, Korea - 1976
  • Qing-dao, China - 1979
  • Pittsburg, California, USA - 1998

When to Visit Shimonoseki

The best months to visit are March, April, May, October or November. Shimonoseki City, at the western end of Honshu, is more exposed to storms than places like Hiroshima, but experiences milder temperatures.

Min and Max Temperature by Month

Main Article: When to Visit Japan

Getting There

Shimonoseki City is, ironically, too close to Kyushu to have a Shinkansen station in it. The shinkansen line tunnels under most of the city to reach deep enough to cross under the straits. JR Shin-shimonoseki Station is located two stops north (8 minutes) of JR Shimonoseki Station which is the main station in the city.

The Kamp Ferry Line connects Shimonoseki with Pusan, Korea with daily overnight sailings departing at 19:45. Pusan is approximately 190 km (120 miles) from Shimonoseki and the ferry arrives around 8:00 the next morning. This link to Korea has operated since 1970. (See Kamp Ferry Ext. Link)

Posted: April 6, 2011 Updated: August 25, 2015

Location

Shimonoseki City
Yamaguchi Prefecture

External Resources

All rights reserved © 1999-2015 Matthew Bystedt