History of Shimonoseki City

Old history and affluent culture ― Stage of historical dramas

Shimonoseki City, located at the western edge of Honshu, has prospered as a key nexus for marine and land traffic since time immemorial by making use of its geographical advantages especially its location; it faces Kyushu across the Kanmon Straits and stands close both to the Korean Peninsula and the Chinese continent. Such advantages have also encouraged an influx of different cultures introduced from the continent to the City, making it a melting pot of cultural interaction. Shimonoseki City also has relationships with many stages of Japanese history as a place where various dramas have unfolded.

Doigahama Site, Ayaragigo Site ― Yayoi Man’s Distant Dreams

Doigahama Site Doigahama Site

In the Primitive Age, civilization first started on the Sanin side and evidence of this was found on the Doigahama and Ayaragigo Sites, which are famous throughout Japan. A number of ruins from the Yayoi era were distributed throughout the Hibikinada coastal area, located at the western edge of Yamaguchi Prefecture, where distinctive antiques from ancient China were excavated. After that, a settlement society was created from the coastal region along the Sea of Japan to the inland area and eventually the growing population spread towards the Setouchi Sea side.

Establishment of the Nagato Kokufu (provincial government office) ― The Beginning of the Nagato-no-kokufu (Nagato Provincial Capital)

A picture of the battle of Dannoura
A picture of the battle of Dannoura

According to Chronicles of Japan, Emperor Chuai and Empress Jingu built Toyora-no-miya (the Imperial Palace) in the Toyoura District. After the Reformation of Taika, Nagato-no-Kokufu was founded at this place, and since then it has been called Chofu. Provincial temples have also been built in this area. The Nagato Mint Site, known as Nagato Chusen-sho, where Wado Kaichin coins are minted, still remains.

The Genpei War, the Battle of Dannoura ― Victory of Minamoto no Yoshitsune

The statue of Yoshitsune
The statue of Yoshitsune

In the Middle Age, the last battle between the Genji clan and the Heike clan broke out in Dannoura on 24 March 1185 and Yoshitsune won the battle by using the tides. On the other hand, Emperor Antoku died with three sacred treasures and the Heike clan was ruined. The Joro-sanpai (worshipped by court ladies) of the Sentei-sai Festival, which takes place at the Akama Shrine, is famous throughout Japan and is conducted to commemorate the Emperor Antoku, who drowned himself in Dannoura.

Mori Hidemoto, the start of Chofu Domain ― the Creation of a castletown

Townscape of Castletown Chofu Townscape of Castletown Chofu

In the Modern Age, Mori Hidemoto, who lost the Battle of Sekigahara, launched into a program of fortification to produce castletown Chofu with 36,000 koku in 1600. The townscape of Chofu still reveals traces of the past with its clay fences and the tenement gate. Agawa Mori and Kiyosue Mori also ruled this territory as a branch of the Mori family.

Opening of the Kitamae Route ― the founding of Marine Traffic

Occupation of the Maeda Battery Occupation of the Maeda Battery

Marine traffic was becoming increasingly prosperous nationwide. After Kawamura Zuiken found a western route in 1672, the Shimonoseki of those days became busy and became known as the “western Naniwa (former Osaka)”. The City was also a thriving anchorage port for Kitamae ships where ships carrying commodities from various countries were coming and going and where 400 wholesalers stood side by side lining the harbor area. The domain office called Bakankoshinikata was built around this time and the City became a territory directly controlled by the Mori head domain.

Foundation of Kiheitai and the Overthrow of the Tokugawa Shogunate (Bakufu) ― Takasugi Shinsaku formed the military.

Bronze statue of Takasugi Shinsaku
Bronze statue of Takasugi Shinsaku

At the end of the Edo Shogunate, in June 1863, Takasugi Shinsaku founded a Kiheitai militia at the house of a wealthy merchant, Shiraishi Shoichiro, in Takezaki. Despite the assassination of Nakayama Tadamitsu, who was one of the members of the Revolutionary/anti-Bakufu group as well as holding the highest office in the court, the military was formed at the Kozanji Temple in Chofu in order to unify public opinion within the domain. The foundation of the military encouraged the Choshu domain to make a push towards overthrow of the Bakufu. The influence of Shimonoseki coupled with the bombardment between Bakufu and foreign fleet, which took place at the end of Edo period were instrumental in bringing about the Meiji Restoration.