Shimonoseki Travel Guide
Best known to tourists as the hometown of fugu, Japan’s riskiest dish, Shimonoseki is also home to one of the leaders that led to the end of the Edo Period and the rise of the Meiji Restoration.
With shrines, temples, and surprisingly beautiful beach, this will be one of the places in your travels of Japan that will surprise you.
Come check out our Shimonoseki eclectic travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Shimonoseki, Japan.
Start your visit to the city of Shimonoseki by stopping by Akama Shrine. The story surrounding this Shinto place of worship is a sad one, as it is dedicated to the memory of the short-lived child emperor known as Antoku.
Dishonoured by the defeat of his armies at the end of the Genpei War, he elected to end his own life by way of drowning rather than suffer the shame of capture at the hands of the enemy. For a cheap admission fee of only 100 yen, you’ll get to see artifacts that date back to the time Antoku led the Heike (his clan) into battle.
Definitely don’t miss this attraction in May, as a festival is held in this month to honour the life of this young emperor. It comes complete with kimono-wearing women who dramatize the weeping that took place over his death almost 1,000 years ago.
That isn’t the only thing to see for fans of temples and shrines while in the Shimonoseki area – Kozan Temple is also well worth a visit. A Buddhist hall of worship belonging to the Soto sect of Japanese Buddhism, it is here where samurai warrior Takasugi Shinsaku raised an army in an attempt to overthrow the local shogunate.
His broader objective: to restore power to the emperor and take modernization seriously. In his travels to China, he saw how powerful the armies of the West were, which convinced him of the need to unify as a nation so that Japan could close the technological and military gap with the Western powers.
As a result of his central role in the Meiji Restoration, Takasugi Shinsaku is immortalized on the grounds of Kozan Temple with a bronze statue. As for the temple itself, it is a standard Buddhist sacred place, best known for a building that is listed as a National Treasure for its fine architecture. With numerous cherry trees, it is a popular place for locals when sakura season breaks out.
Check out the bounty of the oceans off Shimonoseki by making an early morning trip to the Karato Sea Market. After restaurateurs have been served, the market opens to the public at 7 am. From shellfish to the infamous puffer fish known as fugu, this food hall does a great job showing off the creatures that make up the majority of Japan’s diet.
There are also fruit and vegetable sections to help locals get most of their food shopping done in one place, as well as a cafeteria where you can eat the freshest seafood you have ever had in your life.
Not able to make it to Okinawa on this trip to Japan? If you are in the Shimonoseki area during the warmer months of the year, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy beaches somewhat similar to the isles of the south by driving across the Tsunoshima Bridge to Tsunoshima Island.
The formerly mentioned span is noteworthy in itself, as it curves at the end to bend around a smaller islet to reach Tsunoshima Island. Once you are there, the beaches are the biggest attraction, as their powder white sand and the turquoise waters that lie before them will reveal how much a hidden gem this place really is.
When you aren’t relaxing in this peaceful spot, be sure to check out the Tsunoshima Island lighthouse. A granite spire patterned after Western-style lights, it has stood since 1876 and it is still a working lighthouse.
Those travelling with kids will want to spend part of a day experiencing the Kaikyokan Aquarium while in Shimonoseki. Here, you can see puffer fish (including fugu), dolphins, sea lions, and penguins, both above water and under it via glass tunnels.
As you enter, you’ll also get to see the complete skeleton of a blue whale, so don’t miss this place if you are into marine life.
If you have time, Ganryujima is another island worth visiting in the Shimonoseki area. It was on this isle where samurai Miyamoto Musashi fought a famous duel with rival Sasaki Kojiro. It was a short encounter, with Musashi striking the killing blow with one swipe of his sword.
Statues found here document the battle – afterwards, enjoy the view of Shimonoseki back on the mainland from this peaceful island.
Finally, you can get a sweeping view of Shimonoseki city from atop Kaikyo Yume Tower. Standing at a height of 153 metres above street level, it sticks out above the many lower buildings in this city. Day or night, the views from the top are marvellous, making the admission fee worth the price.