As an island nation, Japan has a significant coastline – and the varied topography including rugged cliffs, intricate bays, and narrow straits means lighthouses are necessary to guide ships through diverse maritime environments. Many of the lighthouses are destinations in and of themselves, and this quick guide covers some of the top ones.
Izumo Hinomisaki Lighthouse, Shimane
Located in close proximity to the famous Izumo Taisha Shrine, Shimane's Izumo Hinomisaki Lighthouse holds the title of being the tallest lighthouse in Japan. The 44 meter high structure took three years to build and was completed in 1903, and it's near impossible to miss thanks to its vivid white exterior.
1478 Taishacho Hinomisaki, Izumo, Shimane 699-0763
Kannonzaki Lighthouse, Kanagawa
Standing proudly on the Miura Peninsula, Kanagawa's Kannonzaki Lighthouse was the first lighthouse to be built in Japan. The original structure was made of brick and was destroyed by an earthquake in 1922, and today's structure is a concrete build that was completed in 1925.
4 Chome-1187 Kamoi, Yokosuka, Kanagawa 239-0813
Himezaki Lighthouse, Niigata
Holding the title of the oldest intact iron lighthouse in Japan, Niigata's Himezaki Lighthouse was also the first lighthouse build on Sado Island. It dates back to 1895, and the interesting hexagonal shape of the structure sets it apart from others across the country.
Ryotsuogawa, Sado, Niigata 952-3435
Cape Muroto Lighthouse, Kochi
Kochi's Cape Muroto Lighthouse was first illuminated in 1899, and is Japan's second iron lighthouse – the first being Sado Island's Himezaki Lighthouse mentioned above. On the first Saturday of November each year, a lighthouse festival is held here, where visitors can check out the interior of the structure and peruse market stalls.
6939 Murotomisakicho, Muroto, Kochi 781-7101
Cape Soya Lighthouse, Hokkaido
The red and white striped Cape Soya Lighthouse is Japan's northernmost lighthouse, helping to guide vessels through the Soya Strait that separates Japan from the Russian island of Sakhalin. On days where the weather is cooperative, you can actually see the island off in the distance from here.
2-8 Soyamisaki, Wakkanai, Hokkaido 098-6758
Amarubesaki Lighthouse, Hyogo
Hyogo's Amarubesaki Lighthouse holds an interesting statistic – it's the tallest lighthouse in Japan, not based on the height of the structure alone, but based on how high above sea level it is. The drive to the lighthouse is particularly popular during the spring months, since the route there from the national highway is lined with cherry blossom trees.
Kasumiku Amarube, Kami, Mikata District, Hyogo 669-6671
Kashinozaki Lighthouse, Wakayama
Originally built in 1870, Wakayama's Kashinozaki Lighthouse certainly has some appeal for the history buffs out there. It's also a beautiful spot for nature lovers, with cheerful daffodils blooming around the area from the late December to late February timeframe. The bulbs were apparently planted by one of the English engineers who was part of the lighthouse's construction.
1006-1 Kashino, Kushimoto, Higashimuro District, Wakayama 649-3631