Cycle on water, visit scenic sites and enjoy some of the best sushi in the country at the westernmost tip of Japan’s main island.

Today we’re on our final day of exploring around beautiful Yamaguchi Prefecture, as part of a trip arranged by the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau to introduce off-the-beaten path destinations to international visitors.

And after exploring Yamaguchi City, Hagi, Yanai, IwakuniNagato and Mine, we’re now heading to the westernmost tip of Japan’s main island to see the best of what Shimonoseki has to offer. As always, these sites come highly recommended by local representatives, so let’s get right to it with a look at what we saw on the last day of our trip!

Cycle on the sea at Tsunoshima Ohashi Bridge

This bridge is famous for being one of the longest in the country, stretching out 1,780 metres (1.1 miles) from the mainland across the Japan Sea to the remote island of Tsunoshima. While the bridge itself has starred in TV dramas and commercials since its opening in 2012, the scenery alongside it deserves equal attention, as this is where you’ll find some gorgeous yellow-sand beaches and a beautiful azure sea.

This type of scenery, which is rare to find on Japan’s main island of Honshu, is more like something you’d expect to see in Okinawa or Australia. And travellers are now able to enjoy it to the full, thanks to a local company called Kaikousha, which not only works to clean and protect the beaches, but offers water-sport activities beside the bridge as well.

▼ Fumihiro Niina is the head of the Kaikousha marine sports company and a Cobalt Blue Shimonoseki Lifesaving Club NPO member.

Niina’s passion for nature and the ocean is immediately evident when you meet him, and now he wants to share that passion with local and international visitors, by offering water-sport activities like kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, and water cycling.

▼ Schiller water bikes propel you across the surface of the water with ease.

Not only will Niina and his assistants show you a good time out on the water, but they’re able to provide amazing drone footage of your experience as well.

▼ And once you’ve returned to shore, you can enjoy a beautiful sunset by the beach.

Eat the freshest sushi at Karato Market

At the westernmost tip of Shimonoseki you’ll find the famous Kanmon Bridge, a suspension bridge that crosses the Kanmon Straits, taking people from the mainland to the island of Kyushu.

Surrounded by the sea, this area is famous for its seafood, and the place where all the locals go to get it is the Karato Fish Market.

Everyone in Japan loves to talk about the famous Tsukiji (now Toyosu) Fish Market in Tokyo, but this place beats them all with its amazing sushi stalls. Here, visitors can grab a plate and tongs and pick out their favourite sushi from the huge display available.

Everything is freshly caught that day, and incredibly great value for money, with prices starting at just 100 yen. And if you’re wondering which stall is the most popular, our local guides recommend Yanagawa Suisan as one of the best at the market.

This was the lunch platter we created from the selection at Yanagawa Suisan, and we also picked up a bowl of fugu soup, as Shimonoseki is famous around Japan for its fugu pufferfish.

Then we did what the locals did, taking our meal outside to enjoy on the wharf by the sea. Despite the lack of fancy dinnerware or formal seating, this turned out to be one of the best sushi meals we’ve had in all of Japan.

Reflect on history at Akama Jingu

Akama Jingu is Shimonoseki’s most important shrine, dedicated to the 12th-century child emperor, Antoku. The 8-year-old emperor drowned in 1185 at the Battle of Dannoura, which was fought in the Kanmon Straits directly in front of the shrine.

According to the the Shimonoseki City Tourism Department, Antoku’s grandmother, Nii-no-Ama, had a wish that their palace might be created underwater when she jumped into the sea with Antoku. Because of this, the vivid vermillion gate at Akama Jingu is styled after Ryugu-jo, a mythical underwater palace that belongs to the dragon god of the sea.

Step back in time at Chofu Moritei

The picturesque streets in this castle town area give you an idea of the history that awaits you at Chofu Moritei, a residence built by Mototoshi Mori, the 14th head of the Chofu Mori family.

The expansive estate contains a beautifully manicured garden and a number of original structures that will take you back in time to over a century ago, when it was first built.

Although not officially completed until 1903, Japanese Emperor Meiji stayed at the residence in 1902, and the rooms where the emperor stayed are still preserved for guests to walk through today.

Guests are free to help themselves to green tea, which is available inside the residence, and enjoy the scenery from different rooms throughout the building.

They also hold a number of traditional events throughout the year, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to meet some lovely ladies who will coerce you into trying on a traditional outfit. Before you know it, they’ll have you swaddled into layers of garments, recreating the formal attire worn by elite members of society in the Heian Period (794-1185).

With so many different sites to see and things to do in Shimonoseki, it’s definitely worth a visit, and makes for an easy and enjoyable side-trip from the well-worn tourist hubs of Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. If you’re keen to discover an unknown side of Japan, Yamaguchi Prefecture is ready and waiting for your next adventure.

Address: Yamaguchi-ken, Shimonoseki-shi, Kiyosuesenbo 2-1-18-103

Karato Fish Market
Address:  Yamaguchi-ken, Shimonoseki-shi, Karato-cho 5-50

Akama Jingu
Address:  Yamaguchi-ken, Shimonoseki-shi, Amidaijicho 4-1
山口県下関市 阿弥陀寺町 4-1

Chofu Moritei
Address:  Yamaguchi-ken, Shimonoseki-shi, Sosha-machi 4-10

Photos ©Oona McGee/SoraNews24