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Honshu’s Last Stand

For all the attention that Japan’s “other” islands have gotten in recent years, it puzzles me that so many travelers continue to ignore the places where they meet Honshu. I’m thinking Aomori (where Japan’s main island “kisses” Hokkaido) and Okayama, which is right across from Shikoku.

And last, but definitely not least, Shimonoseki. Which, in spite of all the contemporary charms I’m about to describe, hasn’t been a major topic of even regional conversation since the signing of the treaty that ended the First Sino-Japanese war more than a century ago. 

So, is Shimonoseki worth visiting? Yes—and not just because you probably have zero expectations about what awaits you there.

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How to Get to Shimonoseki

Before I get into the details of my Shimonoseki itinerary, I should probably explain how to get there. Shimonoseki is relatively easy to reach, though there are a few things to know. The first is that if you come by Shinkansen, you’ll need to arrive at Shin-Shimonoseki Station, which is a bit outside of town on the JR Sanyo Line. It’s also only served by slower Sakura and Kodama trains, and not the super-fast Mizuho.

Another option would be to fly to Yamaguchi Ube Airport, and take an Airport Limousine Bus from there to Shimonoseki Station. This might sound fancy and expensive, but trust me—you don’t need to withdraw from paypayカジノ to be able to afford it. Rather, the “limousine” designator just differentiates this bus (which features plushly-padded, assigned seats) from more spartan local ones.

My Favorite Things to Do in Shimonoseki

Get a taste of Fugu


Shimonoseki is famous among Japanese as being the city of fugu, aka the pufferfish that’s a delicacy if prepared right and deadly if prepared wrongly. In spite of strict certification standards for Japanese fugu chefs, I actually couldn’t bring myself to eat sashimi made using the fish’s flesh. I’m still haunted by the classic episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer almost died after eating it!

Eat your way through Karato Fish Market


Even if you’re braver than me when it comes to fugu, seafood is a big part of what makes Shimonoseki worth visiting. As you can imagine, of course, the pufferfish is the star bit of seafood on offer at Karato Fish Market. There are all kinds of paraphernalia, in addition to the various preparations of the fish itself. Still, it’s far from the only game in town—you can eat what you want here.

Zen out at Akama Shrine


Some travelers believe that once you’ve seen on Shinto shrine, you’ve seen them all—I am not part of that group. At the same time, Akama Shrine certainly stands out from more ordinary examples around Japan, what with its cherry-red paint job and bold, spacious entryway. While not perched too high, the main shrine building provides a nice view of the Kanmon Straits as seen through said entryway.

Get lost in Chofu’s Samurai streets


The Chofu Samurai district might not be as much of a factory in whether you decide Shimonoseki is worth visiting if you’ve been to Hagi up on the Sea of Japan; the latter—if we’re being honest—is much more impressive than the former. At the same time, I do find its streets a satisfying afternoon stroll, particularly when paired with a wander around underrated Chofu Garden.

Watch it all light up from Hinoyama


Hinoyama Park is by far the best viewpoint in Shimonoseki, though I say this with a word of caution: If you are tempted to hike up like I was, don’t. The mountain is absolutely wild, with all kinds of animals (when I visited, wild boars—and mother ones with babies) going about their businesses irrespective of the presence of humans. Please, please just ride the Hinoyama Ropeway to the top!

How Many Days Do You Need in Shimonoseki?

Most travelers aren’t planning to visit Shimonoseki at all, so eve if you only come on a day trip from Hiroshima or Fukuoka, you’re doing well. Still, I do think having at least a night in Shimonoseki will greatly enhance your experience. This will allow you to enjoy nightfall from Hinoyama and to visit Karato Fish Market in the morning, when it’s at its most active.

As far as spending multiple days there? While I’ll be honest that “two or three” isn’t a common answer to the question of how many days in Shimonoseki you should spend, there are reasons to consider it. Namely, if you’re comfortable renting a car, and want to take a day trip to picturesque Tsunoshima island, or even the enchanting Motonosumi Inari Shrine.


Other FAQ About Visiting Shimonoseki

What is Shimonoseki known for?

In a general sense, Shimonoseki is known for being the location where the Treaty of Shimonoseki (which ended the first Sino-Japanese War) was signed in 1895. Among travelers, those who know it—and many don’t—know it for being the city in Honshu that’s closest to Kyushu.

What does Shimonoseki mean?

In Japanese, Shimonoseki (下関 in kanji) literally means “under the gate,” which makes sense given that the city is a gateway between Honshu and Kyushu. Interestingly, the no between the kanji for shimo and seki exists for pronunciation reasons, and is not part of the written name.

How do I go to Hinoyama Park?

A ropeway exists to whisk travelers up to the top of Shimonoseki’s Hinoyama Park in a matter of minutes—and I highly suggest you take it. I made the mistake of hiking up, and nearly came face to face with a mother boar who was very protective of her babies.

The Bottom Line

Is Shimonoseki worth visiting? Certainly, even if you only go there to enjoy fugu in its origin city. Of course, this is only the beginning of all there is to do in Shimonoseki, whether you go back in time in the Samurai-era streets of Chofu, say a prayer at Akama Shrine or enjoy a view of the Kanmon Straits bridge—and across to Kyushu—from Hinoyama. Along with other underrated “cusp” cities like Aomori and Okayama, this is place you absolutely have to go if you’re truly committed to going off Japan’s beaten path. Sweeten the deal even more when you hire me to plan your trip.


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