The blowfish capital of Japan.
Shimonoseki has all the attractions of a large city, a fascinating past, amazing food and easy connections for traveling to your next destination. Tucked away at the western end of Japan’s main island, Shimonoseki is the largest city in Yamaguchi prefecture. It boasts a crucial port and the famous Kanmon Bridge, connecting it to the nearby Kyushu region.
Shimonoseki is your best bet for trying seafood tourists may consider “exotic.” The Karato Market (Map) is the biggest fish market in the region that distributes 80 percent of all the fugu (blowfish) in Japan. Here you can buy fresh fish and even have a mouth-watering kaisendon (seafood rice bowl) starting at just ¥100. The star of the show, however, is the fugu, which is a Yamaguchi delicacy. Shimonoseki is known to have the highest quality fugu around. Though, if you’re not exactly brave enough (hey, incidents are few and far between) to try fugu, other fresh seafood delicacies are on hand, such as uni (sea urchin) and even whale.
The city, with a population of around 265,000 people, also has a Marine Science Museum that displays the various types of live fish you can buy at the market. Another spot for aquatic exploration on land is, of course, the Kaikyokan (Shimonoseki Aquarium) with fugu, penguins, dolphins and an amusement park next door.
Nearby, why not try a new vantage point above the city? Kaikyo Yume Tower stands at an impressive 153 meters tall, and from the top, you can see all the great sights of this bustling city as well as Fukuoka city from across Tsushima Strait that runs between Honshu and Kyushu.
Shimonoseki’s history adds to its appeal as a tourist stop. It played a part in the Japanese civil war but was also exposed to attacks from other nations. Many sea wars were fought in Shimomoseki’s waters, and you can still visit these sites today. Along the coast at Mimosusagawa Park, you will find replicas of the sea cannons used in these battles.
A big reason for the Japanese civil war was the belief that Japan should open up to the outside world. That’s why Shimonoseki was one of the first cities to allow limited trade with foreigners. This is seen in its architecture such as the overtly grand Mojiko station or the former British consulate.
Yet, the city has no shortage of traditional Japanese architecture, such as the beautiful Akami Shrine, built to honor a drowned child emperor. There is also the Chofu Castle Town — this place is packed with ancient samurai houses and the remains of a once great castle.
After you’re finished exploring Shimonoseki, it’s a great place for international travel by boat. Passengers can travel from here to South Korea or China by ferry. The boat trips to South Korea cost about ¥10,000, and that’s cheaper than flying.