The Port of Shimonoseki is located on the southern tip of Japan’s main island, Honshu, in the Yamaguchi Prefecture on the Shimonoseki Strait that separates Honshu from Kyushu. The modern city was born in 1905 when the railroad ferry service to Kyushu began operating. Later, links were created to Kyushu Island with a rail tunnel in 1942 and a car-pedestrian tunnel in 1958. In the 1970s, a new trunk line rail service linked Tokyo with the Port of Shimonoseki and, through underground tunnel, Kyushu. In 2006, over 288 thousand people lived in the Port of Shimonoseki.
Founded in 1889, the city is well-known for the largest annual catch of puffer fish. After 1942, the Port of Shimonoseki became a center for heavy industry. In 2005, the Port of Shimonoseki was merged with four nearby towns, and the new Shimonoseki was designated a Core city by the Japanese government. The Port of Shimonoseki has been an important center for both marine and land-based traffic for many generations. Facing Japan’s third largest island across the Kanmon Straits, it is just 220 kilometers southeast of the Port of Busan in South Korea.
The archaeological sites at Doigahama and Ayaragigo, less than 40 kilometers from the modern Port of Shimonosek, show that civilized man has occupied the area since the 3rd Century BC. Antiques from ancient China have been found throughout the area of western Yamaguchi Prefecture.
The defining moment for the modern Port of Shimonoseki was in 1185 during the Genpei War when the Battle of Dannoura ended the rule of the Heike clan and the six-year-old Emperor Antoku, who drowned himself in the Dannoura. Today, it is said that the Heike Crabs in the Straits of Shimonoseki hold the spirits of the defeated warriors. The battle ended the Heike control of Japan and led to Minamoto Yoritomo becoming the first Shogun.
In 1600, the Mori clan ruled the territory, building a castle town to defend their Chofu domain. By the later half of the 17th Century, shipping and trade were making the Port of Shimonoseki a prosperous port. Kitamae ships anchored there carrying international cargoes, and merchants from the Port of Shimonoseki lined the harbor.
In 1863 when the Edo period ended, Takasugi Shinsaku created a Kiheitai militia in the home of a wealthy merchant. The military presence in the Port of Shimonoseki encouraged the territory to join the overthrow of the Tokugawa Shogunate and begin the era of the Meiji Restoration.
In 1883, the Port of Shimonoseki was designated a Special Export and Trading Port for Korea. In 1889, the municipal government was established, and the Port of Shimonoseki was designated a general open port in 1899.
In 1902, the city and port were given the name Shimonoseki. In 1905, the ferry service between the Port of Shimonoseki and the Port of Busan, Korea, was inaugurated, and the port was designated a Major Port in 1907.
In 1930, the modern Port of Shimonoseki was created with the first phase of construction of port facilities and the construction of the East Port wharves. By 1947, phase two construction of the Port of Shimonoseki was finished, and the No. 1 Pier was completed for foreign trade. In 1949, after World War II, Kanmon Strait mine-sweeping operations were finished, and safe navigation returned to the Port of Shimonoseki.
In 1951, the Port of Shimonoseki was designated a Specified Major Port. By 1959, the third phase of construction was finished, and the No. 2 Pier serving a number of industries was completed. In 1962, Shimonoseki City became the port authority for the Port of Shimonoseki and the coast. In 1966, the Fukuura Lumber Port began operating.
The 1970s brought many new facilities to the Port of Shimonoseki. The Kampu Ferry to Busan was inaugurated in 1970, and the Kankyu Ferry to Kitakyushu began operating in 1971. The Hosoe (1973), Arata (1973), and Hananocho (1978) wharves were built.
The 1980s brought increased capacity for international trade to the Port of Shimonoseki. The Kampu Ferry began daily service to Korea, and new stevedoring machinery was installed for grain-handling. The Shimonoseki Port International Terminal was completed in 1988. In 1988, more daily ferry services were added, the Nishiyama Wharf was finished, and additional grain-handling heavy equipment was installed. The redevelopment of the East Port area was started in 1989 with the building of Arcaport Shimonoseki.
The last decade of the 20th Century was a time of major growth for the Port of Shimonoseki. The Chofu Public Wharf and the Hananocho Container Terminal were completed in 1992, and container liner service with Busan was started. Transshipment services through the Port of Busan opened trade with mainland China, Europe, and North America for the Port of Shimonoseki in 1994. The same year, the Port of Shimonoseki was designated a Free Access Zone (FAZ) to promote imports.
In 1995, the Port of Shimonoseki became the first Japanese port with daily customs clearance, and construction of a new artificial offshore island began in the New Port area. In 1996, liner service with North America began for the export of tires, and the Yamaguchi Prefecture International Trade Center was opened.
1998 was an eventful year for the Port of Shimonoseki. Ferry services with the Port of Qingdao in China were started. Liner service with Australia and Papua New Guinea were inaugurated, and the full Merry Star container vessel arrived in the Port of Shimonoseki. In 1999, regular container service was established with Kaohsiung Port in Taiwan, and the Port of Shimonoseki celebrated its 100th anniversary.
In the 21st Century, the Port of Shimonoseki has continued to grow and expand. In 2000, the Kaohsiung Taiwan route was extended to Hong Kong. In 2001, the Japan-China Ferry increased the number of trips it made, and the Makwan Ferry started operating. The Chofu Port was opened due to expansion of the Port of Shimonoseki in 2001, and Japan-China container services began. Container service with Gwangyang, Korea, started in 2002, as did the container service with the Port of Qingdao. In 2003, the Masan Container Sea Route Service began with traffic between the Port of Shimonoseki and the Port of Masan, Korea.