Towering above the cliffs on the tip of Kannonzaki (the promontory of the Goddess of Mercy), the Kannonzaki lighthouse is located at the entrance of the Tokyo Bay on the site of an earlier pre-Meiji era 1869 lighthouse that had the illustrious history of being the first foreign style lighthouse to have been constructed in Japan.
The original Kannonzaki lighthouse was built of brick — over 64,600 of them． Unfortunately, the original historic lighthouse was destroyed in the 1922 earthquake, but you can see a model of the original lighthouse on display at the current Kannonzaki lighthouse.
The current lighthouse is a concrete 8-sided white structure. The height from the sea surface to the lamp is 56 m. The lamp, rotated by a motor, produces a light with a luminous intensity of 140,000 cd or 750 candlepower with a reach to 20 nautical-miles beyond. The original lamps, the lens used for the lighthouse, are on display.
You are allowed to climb the spiral staircase of the lighthouse to the observation tower at the top for a view of Tokyo Bay from where it is said up to a thousand ships a day can be seen passing by. Requested by the Edo shogunate, Francois Leonce Verny (1837 – 1908), an engineer with the French Navy, arrived in Japan in 1865, upon with the mission of overseeing construction of the Yokosuka Arsenal (a ship-building and repair facility). At a time when lacked naval strength and infrastructure, the completion of the lighthouse and the Yokosuka Arsenal probably was a symbolic and significant event signalling the beginning of industrial modernization in Japan. Bordering the lighthouse is a seaside boardwalk and the Verny Park which was created as a memorial to Verny’s great achievements, and features French-style gardens with rose beds, arbors and fountains, and looks out over the site of the former Yokosuka Arsenal (now on the grounds of the Yokosuka U.S. Naval Base). In the center of the park is a square with busts of both Francois Leonce Verny and Oguri Kozukenosuke Tadamasa, a magistrate of accounts for the Tokugawa Shogunate.
When with kids, you should certainly combine the lighthouse visit with an all day beachcombing experience. The marine life among the tidal rocks and blacksand beaches and the geology of the coastal area are worth exploring.
There are light hiking trails as well and 15 minutes south of the lighthouse is the nearby Kannonzaki Nature Museum which has 3,000 marine specimens on display and many ocean dioramas.
Camping and BBQing are allowed on the beaches. The lighthouse is open from 9am-5pm, the entrance fee costs 200 yen, children enter free of charge.
Location: 4-1187 Kamoi , Yokosuka-shi, Kanagawa.
Getting there: From Keihin Kyuko Railway Uraga Station: 15 mins by Keihin Kyuko bus bound for Kannonzaki, From the last stop: 15 mins on foot
“Trails of Two Cities” by John Carroll (Kodansha Intl, ISBN: 4-7700-1837-1