A day in Shimonoseki – Life in Japan

A day in Shimonoseki – Life in Japan

When Japanese people ask where I live in Japan and I reply with “Yamaguchi Prefecture” it can come as quite a shock to them.
I can completely understand their surprise; due to Yamaguchi being in a totally different universe compared to that of the busy bubble of Tokyo or Osaka. But The truth is, Yamaguchi has a lot more to do than what most people realise.
There are plenty of mountains to climb, waves to ride, and roads to explore.

Probably the most popular place to visit in Yamaguchi prefecture is Shimonoseki. The city at the western most tip of Honshu where the Kanmonkyu bridge connects the main island with Kyushu.

We headed over to Shimonoseki city on the weekend just gone.


Shimonoseki is known for its food delicacy – Fugu.
Fugu is a type of pufferfish, which, if prepared incorrectly is extremely poisonous and can cause a painful death. If you want to eat something extreme in Japan, try Fugu (although I suggest that you have it prepared for you by a specialist to avoid that trip to the hospital.)

We decided to check out the Karato fish market when we visited the city on the weekend. There are stalls upon stalls full of fish, some with fresh sushi and sashimi, others, deep fried or tempura.

My favourite dish to pick up is the deep fried fugu – somehow it reminds me of the cod that you can get from a UK fish & chip shop. However, I’m not so much a fan of the fugu sushi, but its always worth trying on a visit to Shimonoseki.

The fish market opens early; beginning at 8am and closing at 3pm so it is best to get there in advance. We arrived at 8.30am and had a fish breakfast…not something I fancy doing too often.


After the fish market we decided to head over to Shimonoseki Aquarium. At the aquarium we checked out their collection of pufferfish and other creatures from the Kanmon strait; the fast flowing waters that separate Shimonoseki on the island of Honshu from Kitakyushu in the north of Kyushu.

They have a range of displays in the aquarium with a massive collection of pufferfish, penguins and reef creatures from the strait. There are daily dolphin and seal shows. Also,  young children can sign up to feed/have photos taken with dolphins (if thats what you like).


We also checked out Hai! Karato Yokocho, a theme park next to the aquarium. Im not too keen on the quality of the rides in these types of places in Japan. These sorts of “makeshift” theme parks seem to exist in almost every city. This time, however, I decided to put on a brave face and get on some of the rides.

Although you wont catch me in the photos as I was taking the snaps!


Before heading home we went over to Akama Jingu, a shrine dedicated to the child emperor Antoku and the Heike clan, who perished at the battle of Dan-no-ura in 1185.
8 year old Antoku jumped into the sea alongside his grandmother to avoid capture by the rival clan during the battle. He lost his life in the swift waters of the Kanmon strait.

Legend tells that his grandmother told him that they would go to live in a palace under the water together. She may have been referring to the Ryugu-jo; a mythological palace that belongs to the dragon god, Ryujin of the sea.

The shrine is easy to spot with its large red gate standing out on route 9 facing towards the Kanmon strait.

Once we went through the large shrine gate, there were numerous buildings dedicated to Antoku and the Heike clan which perished during the famous battle.


My favourite building was hidden just around the back of the main shrine. There, we found a small shrine dedicated to Hoichi the earless.

Hoichi was a blind musician who played the Biwa.
One night he was asked to play the story of the Heike clan for a samurai lord. He was asked three more nights to play for the same lord until a priest realised that Hoichi had been tricked by ghosts. To save his friend from further trickery, the priest painted the Sutra over Hoichi’s body for protection. Hoichi was told to remain silent when the trickster re-appeared. The ghost was angry when Hoichi ignored his call and could see nothing but Hoichi’s ears due to the Sutra’s protection. Out of anger the Samurai ghost ripped off Hoichi’s ears and left. The priest returned to find that he had forgotten to write the sutra on Hoichi’s ears and they had been taken by the spirit. Despite the loss of his ears, Hoichi would recover and become a famous musician.

After our visit to Akama Shrine we took the 2 hour drive back home to reflect on our day of fun in Shimonoseki.

Shimonoseki was and still remains an extremely important cultural spot in Japan; historically a place where battles shaped Japan, a place that was open to the West when the rest of the country was closed and a place that now bridges two of the main islands together.

If you are looking for something that has history, food, culture and nature all together then I highly recommend adding a day trip to Shimonoseki to your Japan itinerary.
You won’t be disappointed!

~ Connie ~

One Reply to “A day in Shimonoseki – Life in Japan”

  1. Look like you had a busy weekend connie. I love to see the shrine dedicated to Hoichi,
    To see the pufferfish dolphins penguins and the reef creatures, must have been interesting. So insighting and interesting journals. Love the story of the child Emperor Antoku

    Keep up the good work Connie

    Lots of love mum

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