Shotoen Garden and Museums

Shotoen Garden and Museums, Sannose, Shimokamagari Island 松濤園,下蒲刈

Jake Davies

Shotoen (松濤園) is a collection of historic buildings set in landscaped gardens on the seashore in Sannose, Shimokamagari. Shotoen has a variety of displays connected to the elite maritime travellers of the Seto Inland Sea during the Edo Period.

Shotoen Garden, Sannose, Shimokamagari, Hiroshima Prefecture
Entrance to Shotoen museums at Sannose on Shimokamagari
Shotoen Garden, Sannose, Shimokamagari, Hiroshima Prefecture
One of the historic buildings at Shotoen


Sannose, a small town on Shimokamagari Island in the Seto Inland Sea not far from Kure in Hiroshima, was once a major port of call on the important maritime route through the Inland Sea that connected central Japan with the west and north of the country as well as mainland Asia.

Kamigari, as it was formerly known, was an official kaieki, the maritime equivalent of the post stations found along the important highways of Edo Japan, such as the Tokaido and Nakasendo, and as such it had a series of lodgings for elite travellers known as honjin.

When the daimyo and their retinues travelled up to Edo (Tokyo) for the obligatory period of residence there known as sankin kotai they would lodge here and the Dutch from Dejima in Nagasaki also stayed here on their journeys to Edo, as did the Ryukyuan missions from Okinawa, but the largest groups seem to have been the Korean emissaries on their diplomatic missions to appear before the shogun in Edo.

The historic buildings at Shotoen did not originally stand here. The watchtower/guardhouse is a reconstruction, but the other three are original buildings similar to those that would have been here in the Edo Period but have been brought from other parts of the Inland Sea coast and reassembled. The biggest displays inside focus on the visits by the Korean embassies.

Shotoen Garden, Sannose, Shimokamagari, Hiroshima Prefecture
Second floor veranda of a historic lodging for elite travellers at Shotoen
Shotoen Garden, Sannose, Shimokamagari, Hiroshima Prefecture
Large model of a traditional boat used to carry Edo Period Korean embassies

Korean Embassies

There were a total of eight embassies from Korea to Japan in the Edo Period, starting in 1639 when official relations were restarted following the invasions of Korea by Hideyoshi Toyotomi in the late 16th century, and by all accounts they were huge, grand affairs.

A painting from 1821 shows a hundred ships in the convoy, and possibly involving up to 2,000 people including the Japanese guards. The shogunate saw these missions as tribute, though they were seen differently by the Koreans, but like diplomatic missions between Japan and mainland Asia in the millennia before, they were in fact much concerned with trade.

The Korean delegation would leave their ships at Tsushima, and from there travel in Japanese ships with a large contingent of Tsushima officials and samurai. From Kyushu they would head along the Inland Sea as far as Osaka and then travel by road from there to Edo.

Shotoen Garden, Sannose, Shimokamagari, Hiroshima Prefecture
Diorama of Sannose harbor with official Korean delegates and samurai attendants
Shotoen Garden, Sannose, Shimokamagari, Hiroshima Prefecture
Display of European lamps, some of which were given as gifts by the Dutch traders

The Korean embassy would sometimes take a full ten months from when they set out from Korea until they returned, and at each night's stop the local Daimyo was responsible for lodging and feeding the whole group.

Here at Kamigari, the Lord of Aki, Fukushima Masanori, constructed a harbor with stone steps specifically for the Korean visits, and they can still be seen today. There was a great sense of competition between the various daimyo to put on the most lavish receptions, and the cost could seriously deplete domain coffers. Korean records from the embassy in 1711 recorded that here at Kamigari they received the best reception of the whole trip. One of the biggest displays at Shotoen is a replica of the feast that was prepared here for the embassy.

Another building has a good collection of ceramics, some of the pieces Korean in origin. Korean ceramics were one of the items traded with Japan and would have also been among the gifts from the envoys. There is also a good collection of Chinese porcelain and of Arita-ware, the Japanese ceramics made for export to the west.

Another display shows a collection of "fairy lamps", western lamps that were given as gifts by the Dutch legation travelling to Edo from Nagasaki.

In mid-October a huge festival is held in Sannose that recreates the visits by Korean embassies, including the arrival by boats at the harbor and the processions by samurai and Koreans all dressed in traditional costumes.

Shotoen Garden, Sannose, Shimokamagari, Hiroshima Prefecture
Interior of a large traditional building (honjin) used to house visiting dignitaries
Shotoen Garden, Sannose, Shimokamagari, Hiroshima Prefecture
Korean style statues in the garden at Shotoen

Access - Getting To Shotoen

2277-3 Shimokamagaricho Shimojima
Kure-shi, Hiroshima 737-0303
Tel: 0823 65 2900

Open from 9am to 5pm. Closed Tuesdays or next day if a Tuesday is a National Holiday.

Entry 800 yen for adults, 480 yen for high school students, 320 yen for children.

Buses run from the mainland at Nigata Station or Aki Kawajiri Station, both on the JR Kure Line from Hiroshima. Nigata Station is 53 minutes from Hiroshima Station with a change in Hiro.


There is no lodging in Sannose, but plenty can be found in the nearby city of Kure.

See here for a full listing of hotels and guest houses in Kure.

If you wish for us to reserve accommodation for you anywhere in Japan (for a small fee) please contact us.

See here for hotels in Hiroshima.

Books on Japan Travel