Atsushima – The Enchanting Island
Featuring fabulous scenery that world-famous pianist Alfredo Cortot fell in love with, Shimonoseki is located in the westernmost part of Honshu. Every year, many tourists visit the neighboring town of Toyoura and the Kawatana Onsen.
You can see the view of Atsushima Island and the Hibikinada Sea in the photo above. The story goes that Cortot visited Japan in 1952 to hold a concert, and the view that he had from his hotel room was so amazing he told the village mayor that he had never seen such a beautiful view and that he wanted to buy the island.
This particular photo was taken from Lake Seiryu (Funagori Dam) – home of the Legend of Seiryu. The area has great feng shui and is a recommended spot to soak-up the fantastic view.
Constructed on the spot where the hotel Cortot stayed at used to be, the Shimonoseki City Kawatana Onsen Koryu Center, Kawatana-no-Mori, was built in the memory of the late pianist. The building’s design is reminiscent of Atsushima Island and the Onigajo mountain range, which gently wraps around Kawatana.
The exhibition held inside the building offers a glimpse of the history and culture of Toyoura Kawatana Onsen. Admission is free-of-charge. Hard-wired for sound, Cortot Hall is the venue of the annual Kawatana Cortot Music Festival, which is held in April. Attracting numerous fans of classical music from near and far, world-class international musicians play at the festival.
A short 10-minute drive from Kawatana-no-Mori brings you to a monumental camphor tree, which is more than 1000 years old. Known as the Kawatana Camphor Forest, the tree was once visited by wandering haiku poet Santouka. It was here that he composed the poem “Ogusu no eda kara eda e aoarashi”.
Relaxing At The Kawatana Grand Hotel
After having enjoyed Toyoura to the fullest, the Kawatana Grand Hotel serves as the perfect resting place. Etched onto the window of my room on the 5th floor of the main building there was a notice informing me that Cortot’s beloved Atsushima Island can be seen in the distance.
The hotel also has detached rooms with cypress baths – great for families with children.
Shimonoseki’s Famous Tiger Blowfish
Anyone visiting Shimonoseki definitely has to try the local blowfish cuisine. The hotel only uses freshly caught domestic tiger blowfish from the Haedomari market (Hikoshima Island, Shimonoseki City). Just one thick slice of the excellent blowfish is enough for you to understand the difference in taste from imported blowfish.
This is fin sake. By setting it aflame just before drinking, the aroma of the fin is enhanced and the flavor of the sake becomes more rounded. According to the manager, the combination of raw blowfish and fin sake is amazing.
Next, I had fugu skin, or totomi as it’s called. I ate it shabu-shabu style. Though a rare and special dish in Shimonoseki, maybe Cortot and Santouka ate it when they were here as well…
Graceful & Gentle Toyoura & Kawatana Onsen
Both the cuisine and scenery are excellent here in Toyoura and at Kawatana Onsen. The gentle slopes of the hills and mountains give the area a graceful, gentle air. It is easy to see why Cortot and Santouka were enchanted by this delightful place. Please come and see it for yourself!
Shimonoseki City Kawatana Onsen Koryu Center Kawatana-no-Mori
Address: 5180 Kawatana, Toyouracho, Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Parking: 11 spaces
Business Hours: 10:00 – 20:00
Kawatana Camphor Forest
Address: Kawatana Shimoono, Toyouracho Oaza, Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Parking: 25 spaces
Kawatana Grand Hotel
Address: 4912-1 Kawatana, Toyoura, Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Parking: 250 spaces
Check-in: 15:00 –
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Akiko Isonaga
Akiko IsonagaI was born and raised in Hiroshima, but my mother's hometown is on Kojima island, Ehime prefecture. When I was little, I used to climb up on the roof of an orange warehouse and gaze at the picturesque islands of Seto. They were really beautiful. Now that I'm a bit older, I’m happy to be able to spend time working as a photo-writer and conveying the beauty and charm of the Seto Inland Sea. As well as writing at home, I live a short walk from the World Heritage site of Miyajima, I also work as a teacher and am currently studying color psychology.
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