On 22 April we decided to have breakfast at the hotel at 8 o’clock. We were offered a wide range of Japanese and Western style meals including fugu (blowfish)’s tempura, porridge and mixed rice with fugu’s fish flakes. Mark hesitated to try these meals for hearing a lot of its dark story of accidental death. I tried the mixed rice with fugu flakes next day.
We planned visiting sightseeing places in Karato, Mojiko and the walk under the tunnel between Mojiko and Shimonoseki and going up to Hinoyama Park. Having visited the tourist information centre, we both decided to buy the one-day free Kanmon Circular Passport which would allow unlimited bus journey on Sundan (Shimonoseki’s side) and Nishitetsu (Mojiko’s side) and twice use of the ferry service between Shimonoseki and Mojiko. We bought this circular passport at the ticketing office at Shimonoseki station and caught the Sundan bus to Karato. Sightseeing around Katato
Karato is the centre of tourist attractions in Shimonoseki. Firstly, we strolled through Karato Fish Market. Shimonoseki’s speciality is ‘Fugu’, blowfish – it seems that no matter that there have been
still a couple of fatal accidents of eating fugu present days, the local people are celebrating its delicacy and believing that fugu invites happiness using the synonym ‘Fuku’, which means happiness in Japanese. As we walked along the balcony, we noted the big size of fugu’s sculpture displayed on the entrance area facing to the harbour/sea where a number of vans and lorries loading fresh fishes arrived – it looked an authentic fish market. We strolled through the stalls and market. A lot of shop assistants were very friendly and encouraged us to try samples of snacks, pickles and processed fish meats. Like Okinawa’s market, there were a wide variety of fresh fish and various species of fugu on display. While I was taking photos, one of the fishmonger ladies said sharply, ‘We don’t want you to take photos, but buy our products!’ I read the guide book later on – it said that Karato’s market is the wholesale market where local restaurant owners visit and buy them bulk in for them to use. However, we were foreign visitors and were not able to take very many products which were on sold in the market – we just enjoyed looking
Fish in the market
The shop staff were displeased that I was only taking photos not buying anything!
at a wide range of fresh fish, meats, vegetables, and snacks and seasonings flavoured with fugu flakes and other fishes.
Next, we went to Kameyama-hachimangu shrine. This shrine’s history dates back to 859. The local people say that this is where the God of Shimonoseki lives. We saw a number of monuments: a literature monument of the lady author of Fumiko Hayashi and a lady poet of Misuzu Kaneko, and a huge statue of ‘Fugu’ and the monument of Kameyama cannon. It was a clear and sunny morning. We could see Kamon Wharf, Karato Market, Kanmon Strait and Mojiko from the site of Kameyama-hachimangu Shrine.
We went down and walked round the historic buildings in Karato area – Former British Consulate in Shimonoseki, Shimonoseki Nabecho Post Office and Former Akita Co., Ltd Building. All of these three buildings were Western style buildings, built in the beginning of the 20th
century, and are designated as cultural property of Japan.
It was Monday; most of the historic properties were closed. However, Former Akita Co., ltd Building was open; we decided to look round this building. The Former Akita Co., Ltd Building was
Shimonoseki is home to 'Fugu' cuisine
one of the first concrete buildings established in west of Japan. We were shown Japanese style shoin rooms – used as a residential area. These rooms were beautifully furnished with clean tatami mats, sliding doors, oak low tables and a round lacquer table made of China. Looking at these rooms and the coat of the arms on the banister on the top landing, I thought the wealthy person must have built it – it was built by Toranosuke Akita who was the city mayor and a member of parliament and played an important role for the politics and economics in the beginning of the 20th
century. Akita Co., Ltd was dealing with wood trading and sea transport including freight ships, and at the peak period, its business expanded to Taiwan, Korean Peninsula and Manchuria – it was one of the prominent enterprises of the harbour city of Shimonoseki. We also found the Yamaha organ, which Toranosuke’s oldest daughter Ukemo had played since her childhood. On the ground floor, we looked at documents – printed poems by Misuzu Kaneko and the camera, which was thought to have taken the last portrait before she died, and has been
donated for the exhibition by her descendant. Misuzu Kaneko only lived for 27 years, but produced a lot of impressive poems. Excursion to Mojiko
We decided to have lunch at Mojiko, so we walked to Karato Terminal. There were regular ferry services to Mojiko and Ganryujima. The sun was shining; we sat on the upper deck while we were taking the ferry to Mojiko. The ferry bought us to Water Front Promenade surrounded by Mojiko Railway station, Former Osaka Ship building and Former Moji Mitsui Club, etc. Mojiko Railway is used as terminal station for JR Kagoshima Honsen. It was interesting to see the old-fashioned ticketing hall and office area, as well as the station building, which was built in 1914 – the oldest wooden station building in Kyushu.
In front of the station building, we found another classic old building, Former Moji Mitsui Club – it was a building for the social gathering place for Mitsui company’s staff, designated as a cultural property. Having heard this historic building possesses the classic and reputable restaurant, we decided to have lunch there. There
Former Akita Co., Ltd Building
The first concrete building in West of Japan
were various set menus – fugu steak set, baked seafood curry rice set, and hayashi (hashed beef) rice set. A set dish included salad, soup, dessert, and coffee/tea. Mark had hayashi rice set and I had a baked seafood curry set. Understandably, my dish took longer to be cooked. However, it was delicious; I was inspired to cook the baked curry after coming back to the UK. The restaurant was quite busy; a lot of large groups came and ordered set meals.
Former Moji Mitsui Club Building had historic rooms upstairs. We saw the en-suite rooms where Einstein and his wife stayed and exhibition rooms dedicated to the lady author Fumiko Hayashi. She spent most of her life in Mojiko. She was one of the left wing authors and produced a number of impressive books describing the life of working class people. Some of her books were made into films and plays.
Afterwards, we ambled through the residential area where there were some historic wooden houses, which were once used as restaurants.
We then went back to the harbour. Mojiko was once prospered as harbour for Kyushu
receiving a number of trading ships and passenger ships – and there were a number of Western styles of buildings built like Yokohama and Kobe in the 1920s. However, after opening of Kanmon Railway Tunnel in the 1930s, Mojiko’s role as a harbour was declined and the former harbour and Western buildings were long neglected after the Second War. In the meantime, Mojiko was merged with Kita Kyushu city. City council’s proposed an idea of Renaissance: using the retrospective scenes of Mojiko, these Western buildings were restored, maintenance work around the harbour were carried out in the early 1990s. The city council has worked with Public Relations firms and tourism industry and has made Mojiko as a major tourist destination with the opposite harbour of Shimonoseki. We saw a number of impressive Western brick buildings – Former Moji Customs Building, Nippon Yusen Moji Branch Building, Former Osaka Shosen (Commerce Ship) Building, etc. It was interesting to see the flyer bridge was opening.
It was a pleasant and sunny afternoon; we decided to walk along the coast following Shiokaze Seaside Path.’ Buses and Kitakyushu Bank Retro Train didn’t seem to have frequent services. As we were walking on
the coastal footpath, we looked back the main harbour and western buildings. We reached the Norfolk Square and looked at Kanmon Bridge, and continued walking along the coast. I found the entrance building for Kanmon Tunnel Footpath. After having a short break, we entered the building and got a lift and headed for the Shimonoseki side. There were several walkers and cyclists going by. We took the memorial photos at the Prefectural border between Yamaguchi and Fukuoka. As we arrived at the Shimonoseki side, we got on the lift to go up to the ground. Hinoyama Park and Minesusugawa Park, Shimonoseki
It was 16:15 when we came out the ground of Kanmon Tunnel near Minesusogawa Park. We decided to go to Hinoyama Park. Following the signs, we walked uphill to the station for ropeway. We arrived there just before 16:40 and caught the ropeway. We walked up to the observatory or the summit of Hinoyama Mountain and overlooked Kanmon Strait and Kanmon Bridge and saw buildings on Mojiko’s side. We realized that Kanmon Strait was a quite busy sea transport route: there were a number of big freight ships and
1920s ticketing office and concourse
passenger boats going by seamlessly.
Afterwards, we went down to Minesusugawa Park. Located alight of Kanmon Bridge, Mimosusogawa Park was the close point of battle of Dannoura. There were statues of two famous warriors, Minamotono Yoritsune and Tairano Kiyomori. These statues were standing on the back of the narrowest part of Kaimon Strait and Kaimon Bridge. It was said that the change of the tide of Kaimon Strait was the turning point of the battle: Tairano Kiyomori and his soldiers initially prevailed the battle, but the sudden change of the tide made Minamotono Yoritsune’s attack move forward and it made their attack stronger and stronger, and by the end of the battle, there was no-one remaining on the Tairano Kiyomori’s side.
It was 17:30 when we finished strolling through the park. We decided to go back to the hotel by bus. A long walk on Mojiko and under the Kanmon Strait Tunnel gave us an appetite for dinner. We went to the ramen noodle shop and had ramen noodle with Gyoza (Chinese dumpling with mince meats).
On 23 April, after having breakfast and
sorting out luggage and room, we did check-out. I found the hotel offered shuttle bus to the station; so we used. The driver asked me if we had enjoyed the time in Shimonoseki. I said, ‘Yes.’ He then asked me, ‘Did you like the food in Shimonoseki?’ ‘Yes, very much.’ He said, ‘Shimonoseki is home to a lot of delicious meals. He asked me if there was anything I didn’t like.’ I said to him, ‘We found it a bit awkward to use the footbridge on the way to hotel as we were carrying our suitcases.’ He said, ‘Pedestrians don’t usually follow the rule; they just ignore the sign of cyclists’ route and walk through; so it would be okay that you would walk across the cyclists route with suitcases, instead of going up and down on the footbridge, but I’ll pass your comment to the road transport office.’
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