Japan City Guides: Choshi, Chiba Prefecture
Choshi 銚子 千葉県
by Johannes Schonherr
Choshi is a city of about 65,000 inhabitants located on a peninsula stretching into the Pacific Ocean in the far northeast corner of Chiba Prefecture, just north of the long Kujukuri Coast. The city is famous for its seafood, soy sauce and its dramatic coastline, the easternmost of the Kanto region.
After the train leaves the environs of heavily industrialized Chiba City, the landscape outside the window turns into old-fashioned countryside. Rice paddies, vegetable fields, more rice paddies, serene-looking small towns, farmers driving their small tractors. Once getting here, you have definitely left the sprawling Tokyo Metropolitan Area behind you.
Though express trains straight from Tokyo Station frequently arrive in Choshi, Choshi Station is a tranquil small town station. A remote end of the urban transport system.
You can change at Choshi Station to the local, very cute and scenic Choshi Dentetsu Line, taking you to the most famous attractions of the town, the Inubozaki Lighthouse and the Tenbokan Horizon Observatory on Mount Atago.
But it's certainly worth to explore the city first before going to the coast. Choshi Station has a little tourist information office and Japanese city maps are easily available there, an English-language town brochure as well.
Very little mention is made in the tourist material about one of Choshi's most remarkable sites - the Tone River. Just walk straight out of Choshi Station's only exit and follow the wide Symbol Road to its end. After about 600 meters you will encounter a riverfront park, Kawagishi Park.
The park, in close walking distance to a fishing harbor, offers great views over the Tone River and towards Choshi Ohashi Bridge, connecting Choshi with neighboring Ibaraki Prefecture.
The Tone River may not be Japan's longest but it is the river that carries the biggest volume of water. Thus, the river bed is very wide. It's not the Mississippi but the Tone is a serious river.
It's worth to walk up the bridge and to take a look at the scenery from there. A wide bicycle / pedestrian lane on the sea side of the bridge provides relaxed viewing towards the Choshi riverfront with its various fishing harbors and the steel-and glass Choshi Port Tower in the distance.
You can't see the Tone finally entering the Pacific from the bridge, though, as the Tone makes a last bend close to the horizon, putting the actual river mouth out of view. It's a great view nonetheless, especially if you want to get the feel and breeze of a real river.
Walking Choshi History
Though the area had been settled much earlier, it was during the early Edo Period, (1603 - 1868) that Choshi rose to prominence. Two inter-related industries became to dominate the city about 400 years ago and both are still shaping its economy today: fishing and soy sauce production.
If you walk back up Symbol Road, you will soon come to an intersection that has signs pointing to Iinuma Kannon Temple in English. Following that street, you will after about 200 meters see a Shinto shrine to the left, the Shirahata Shrine, and to the right an ancient store.
That store is the Yamaju no Hishio store. Yamaju is an old soy sauce producer, running its business in Choshi since about 1700. Though the store also sells Yamaju soy sauce, its main attraction is the hishio, a soybean paste. In old Japan, it was often used as a condiment to go with fish and other dishes, very much the way soy sauce is used today. In recent decades however, hishio went out of fashion.
This store is one of the rare places in Japan where you can still find that very traditional Japanese food item.
Speaking of soy sauce, the two most famous Choshi soy sauce factories are in close walking distance from the Yamaju no Hishio store. The Yamasa Soy Sauce Factory, the biggest in Choshi, dates back to 1640 but is today a modern factory that sells its products at supermarkets all over Japan.
The Higeta Soy Sauce Factory, located on the other side of the train station, features a museum exhibiting historical artifacts related to the history of the company. The genbagura soy sauce sold at the factory shop is made only once a year, strictly following Edo-era production traditions.
Both the Yamasa and the Higeta sauce factories offer tours of their facilities. See details below.
Iinuma Kannon Temple
If you follow the street on which the Yamaju no Hishio store is located for another 800 meters in your original direction, you will encounter the big red gate of the Iinuma Kannon Temple.
The Iinuma Kannon Temple, also known as the Enpuku-ji Temple, is said to originally date back to the 9th century, to Heian Period Japan (794 - 1185). Rebuilt many times over, most of the temple was destroyed by American air raids in World War II. What you see today is thus mostly of post-World War II vintage. It is a beautiful temple nonetheless with an impressive stone Buddha statue out front and a five-story pagoda next to it.
Choshi was heavily bombed during World War II. It was not targeted because it was of any specific military importance but because it was a major food production center. The fishing harbors of Choshi were important suppliers for the whole Kanto region and so were the many canneries the city housed at the time. Depriving the people of Tokyo of food was the rationale behind the bombings destroying large parts of the city.
Choshi Fish Markets
Close to the temple is the Wholesale Fish Market Number 1. On weekday and Saturday mornings, you can witness real tuna auctions there from the second-floor viewing deck of the market, a sight that has in recent years become rather difficult to experience at the Tokyo Fish Market in Tsukiji.
Choshi has three wholesale fish markets, all located along the Tone River and all are very busy in the morning. Tuna is one of the main catches here but the area is also famous for its sardines and its marlin (the latter also being auctioned).
It's a long walk from the Iinuma Kannon Temple to Port Tower, about 4 kilometers. Buses cover the route frequently and efficiently (details below).
Nonetheless, it is a nice walk worth taking. You can walk most of it in close proximity to the river. The old main street about a hundred meters inland offers a peek at many, very traditional stores, most of them related to fishing or sea food in one way or another.
Eventually, you will arrive at Kawaguchi Shrine, overseeing the estuary of the Tone River. The shrine is located on a hill and offers great views over the river mouth.
While nature is allowed to run wild around the shrine, the river mouth in view is anything but. Concrete barriers regulate every water movement down there.
They have been erected for a reason, of course. A small monument close to the river mouth is dedicated to the many fishermen who died in the treacherous waters of the Tone estuary. Before the barriers channeling the river flow were built in 1971, the Tone river mouth was considered one of the most dangerous shipping areas in Japan.
Choshi Port Tower and Wosse 21 Fish Market
From that monument it's just a short stroll over to Fish Market Number 3 and the Choshi Port Tower. Fish Market 3 is commercial wholesale but next to it is the Wosse 21, a clearly visitor oriented fish market.
If you plan to buy fresh fish or other seafood portioned for the family table in Choshi, the Wosse 21 is the place to do it. Wosse 21 also houses a variety of restaurants offering the freshest seafood.
An overpass connects Wosse 21 with the Choshi Port Tower. The 58 meter tall tower, built in 1991, with its viewing platform 46 meters up (60 meters above sea level), offers, clear weather provided, a view far out over the Pacific Ocean and over all of Choshi, including the Inubozaki Lighthouse and Mount Atago. Towards the north, behind the Tone river mouth, the chimneys of the huge industrial plants of Kashima, Ibaraki are in clear sight.
At the back exit of the Port Tower, towards the tower's parking lot, you find a small monument in rather decrepit condition. It memorializes Japan's first successful radio communication. In 1908, a ship was guided here into the safety of the harbor by radio for the first time. That doesn't sound like much but it was the beginning of a revolution in information technology.
Choshi Dentetsu Railway
It would certainly be nice to walk from the tower to a station of the historic Choshi Dentetsu Railway to continue the exploration by rail. Most locals will probably tell you to take a taxi.
In fact, the nearest Dentetsu Railway Station, Kasagami Kurohae, is just a 20 minute walk away. It's a walk through unmarked side streets, but it's not that complicated.
Walk the street between the tower and the Wosse 21 market (the street crossed by the overpass) inland, away from the Tone River estuary. You pass by a huge supermarket and various ware houses and will arrive at a small Yamazaki bakery. Take the little street to the left opposite to the bakery (which is on the right side of the main street).
Follow that little street to its end at an intersection with another main street. On the opposite side of that main street, you see a 7 Eleven convenience store. Turn into the path to the left of the convenience store and walk until you come to a train crossing. Kasagami Kurohae Station is just to the left of the train crossing.
Tickets are sold in the main station building. There is about one train per hour in each direction.
From there, you can head either towards the Inubozaki Lighthouse and Mount Atago or back towards Choshi Station.
Read more on the Choshi Dentetsu Line and its destinations.
The fastest connection from Tokyo to Choshi offers the JR Sobu Main Line Limited Express Shiosai from Tokyo Station to Choshi Station (2 hours).
A slower but cheaper trip offers the option of traveling from Tokyo Station by a JR Sobu Main Line Rapid Train to Chiba Station and change there to a JR Sobu Main Line Local Train to Choshi (2 and a half hours).
If starting from other Tokyo locations, the Sobu Line would be a good option. It runs all the way from Shinjuku Station through downtown Tokyo to Chiba Station, stopping at every major station in between. Change in Chiba to the Sobu Main Line Local Service to Choshi.
Yamaju no Hishio Soybean Paste Store
Opening times: daily 10am to 6pm, closed on Sunday
Address: Choshi-shi, Chuo-cho 18-3
Tel: 0479 22 0403
Website in Japanese
Yamasa Soy Sauce Factory
Tours of the facility Monday to Friday 9am to 11am and 1pm to 3pm. A reservation is necessary. Reservation reception open Monday to Friday from 8.30am - 4.50pm.
The tour takes about 50 minutes.
Address: Choshi City, Kitaogawa-cho 2570
Tel: 0479 22 9809
Higeta Soy Sauce Factory
Tours available Monday to Friday from 9am to noon, 1pm to 4pm.
Address: Choshi City, Yahata-cho 516
Tel: 0479 22 0080 and 0479 22 5151
Iinuma Kannon Temple (Enpuku-ji Temple)
Address: Choshi City, Baba-cho 293
Tel: 0479 22 1741
Website: iinumakannon.com (in Japanese)
Wholesale Fish Market Number 1
The tuna auction can be viewed from the second-floor gallery from Monday to Saturday from 8am to 11.30am.
Please note that if no fish has been brought to port, there will be no auction that day.
Tel: 0479 22 3200 (Choshi City Fishery Cooperative)
Access to Choshi Port Tower and Wosse 21 Fish Market
Take the bus bound for Kawaguchi / Port Center from bus stop 4 at Choshi Station, get off at Port Center bus stop. The bus takes about 20 minutes and costs 290 yen.
Choshi Port Tower
April - September: 8.30am to 6.30pm
October - March: 8.30am to 5.30pm
Admission: Adult 380 yen, children 200 yen, seniors over 65 years 330 yen
Address: Choshi City, Kawaguchi-cho 2-6385-267
Tel: 0479 24 9500
Wosse 21 Fish Market
Open daily from 8.30am to 5pm
Address: Choshi City, Kawaguchi-cho 2-6529-34
Tel: 0479 25 4500
Choshi Dentetsu Line
Time table with English-language station names.
Choshi on google maps.
Japan Auction Service
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