Japan has no shortage of famous locations to visit. Tokyo, Kyoto, and Mt Fuji are just a few of the major destinations on many a person’s travel list. While it’s great to visit such places, I believe if you want to really experience Japan, you have to make some time for some of the smaller, off-the-radar locations. There are small towns that fit this description all over Japan of course, but if I were to recommend one, it would be the town of Shimotsui.

Seto Ohashi and Inland SeaClick Here To Purchase A Print

Located in Okayama Prefecture, this small coastal town sits along the waters of the Seto Inland Sea. Surrounded by hills and mountains, it feels secluded and is certainly a quiet place. Spending much time as I do in Tokyo, I’ve become to used to the constant flow of people and the associated rapid movement required to survive in such a place. Walking around the side streets and alleys of Shimotsui however, is a completely different experience. As I wandered through the compact lanes that weave through the dense mass of houses in this village, I was surprised to run into anyone else, and when I did they were in no hurry.

Photo of Japanese alleyClick Here To Purchase A Print

Sidestreet in JapanClick Here To Purchase A Print

This quiet village atmosphere stands in contrast with the massive landmark the town is famous for – the Great Seto Ohashi Bridge. This 8 mile bridge connects the main Japanese islands of Honshu and Shikoku, thus serving an important role in travel and industry in the area. This bridge is busy, with thousands upon thousands of cars making their way across each day, and that’s not to mention the number of trains that cross on the lower level as well.

Boats Beneath BridgeClick Here To Purchase A Print

Photo of boats in pierClick Here To Purchase A Print

Boats with the Seto Ohashi BridgeClick Here To Purchase A Print

Yet, though this modern marvel casts its gigantic shadow across Shimotsui each day, in a sense one might hardly realize it is there. Of course you see it – you can’t help but see it – but the impact this architectural masterpiece has had on the town would be easy to miss simply passing through. You won’t find dozens of tourist shops selling miniaturized versions of the bridge, something you might expect if you’ve been around Japan enough. Rather, you’ll find the hard working people doing their jobs, which mostly are associated with the fishing industry. All around the waterfront of the town there are piers filled with boats. Shimotsui is famous especially for its octopus and seaweed, both of which at various times of the year can be seen hanging or laying out to dry.

Boat Pier and WaterClick Here To Purchase A Print

Drying SeaweedClick Here To Purchase A Print

The little fishing village of Shimotsui is a place easy to overlook, perhaps even by those who live there. No doubt many a young person has longed to escape these tiny streets and seemingly vague existence they may find themselves in. But as a foreigner walking those streets, as a foreigner who worked in this town each day for a year, I see great value in it. The peace and quiet, the hard working spirit, and the deeply rooted Japanese culture you experience here are marvels of their own; treasures money can’t build, which will cast shadows for generations to come.

Shimotsui at duskClick Here To Purchase A Print


  1. Hi Les,
    Your photos really bring back memories of my youth. My Mom was from Shimotsui and I visited the town a few times in the early to mid 70’s while a youngster living on Yokota AFB. At the time, there were few foreigners to be seen, and our family would arrive in a full-size station wagon to the amazement (amusement) of the locals. I was back again in 1990.
    My wife and nine year old son and I will be visiting next month from the San Francisco Bay Area. Would you be so kind as to advise the easiest way to get to Shimotsui from Okayama where we’ll be staying. We plan to just wander around as the memories flood back to me. In the 70’s, we took a two car train into Washuzan. I recall walking down a seemingly endless number of steps to the town. The fishermen took us fishing and to nearby islands to swim. Really fond memories of a quiet little town, but with plenty to explore.
    Anyway, look forward to hearing from you.


    Mike Lopez

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the comment! Very interesting reading your own experiences. Quite a time you had there for you sure, so I can see why you’re looking forward to the visit.

      The best way to get there now from Okayama Station is to take the marine liner (I think it is called) to Kojima Station, then take a bus from that station to Shimotsui. That bus also continues on to Washuzan, so you could take the bus to Washuzan and then walk down from the mountain into the town, or you could stop earlier and walk around the town and walk up the mountain. There might be a bus that goes directly to Washuzan, as well.

      Hope that helps! Have fun, and thanks again! 🙂

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