Inubosaki Lighthouse

IALA Heritage Lighthouse of the Year 2020 Nominee

Location: JAPAN - Chiba prefecture. Choshi-shi.

Lighthouse Operator: Japan Coast Guard

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Source: (photos as submitted to accompany nomination form submitted by Japan Coast Guard in 2020, updated 2023)

Lighthouse Description and History

(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by Japan Coast Guard in 2020, updated 2023)
Brief Description of Lighthouse

Establishment: November 15, 1874

Characteristics: single Flashing white light (one flash every 15 seconds)

Luminous intensity: 1.1 million candela

Range: 19 NM

Light source: metal halide light bulb Lens: 1st-Order four sided Fresnel lens (height of lens: 2.6m)

Height: 52m (from M.S.L), 31m (from G.L)

Other equipment: Meteorological equipment including live cameras AIS land station

Brief History of Lighthouse

Inubosaki Lighthouse is located in Choshi-city, 100km from Tokyo and facing the Pacific Ocean. Inubosaki region has a moderate temperature thanks to the warm current of the Pacific Ocean; the temperature attracted the people, making the city famous as a hub of fishery and logistics in Edo-era (1603-1868).

Inubosaki is being known as a dangerous area for mariners: there are rocky reefs and shallow waters around the cape, there is also fogs in the summer season. Those harsh environment has led to many maritime tragedies: in 1868, for example, 13 ship crews were died when a Japanese warship stranded around the cape.

Off-shore of Inubosaki region has also been recognized as a critical turning point for the vessels on the Japan-North America route. The safety of navigation between Japan and the United States was of keen interest to both countries. After establishing the diplomatic relationship between Japan and the United States in 1859, the U.S. requested Japan to construct a lighthouse at Inubosaki. In response to this, the lighthouse was built in 1874 under the design and supervision of a British engineer Richard Henry Brunton.

R.H. Brunton, known as the “father of Japanese lighthouses”, designed 26 lighthouses and 2 light vessels of Japan, and engaged in lighthouses construction projects for 8 years in Japan as a supervisor. His designed lighthouses that are made of stone or brick continue their mission over 100 years in the harsh environment of coastal areas.

Inubosaki lighthouse, 31m height from G.L, was constructed by bricks made in Japan, with a petroleum lamp and a 1st order Fresnel lens in 1874. Due to its huge luminous intensity for the time of 27,500 Candle Power, there was a episode that fishermen living near the lighthouse were afraid of the negative effect to their fishery activities before its commencement operation; however, their concern didn’t come true; the amount of skipjack tuna, for which Choshi-city is famous, was impressively high in 1875.

Prior to operation in 1874, the 1st Generation Fresnel lens was tested in the presence of the Meiji Emperor and Empress. In 1945 during WWII, the 1st Generation Fresnel lens was destroyed. In 1951, a new Fresnel lens, which was the first to be made in the JCG’s lens factory, was installed at the lighthouse.

In 1910, the fog signal station building in the lighthouse site was constructed and its operation was started. The station building is made of steel and has retained its strength even after it is being exposed to the harsh environment of a coastal area over 100 years. After the station was terminated its operation in 2008, the building was preserved as a part of the lighthouse museum: the 1st Generation lens is conserved in the building.

In 1985, Japan Coast Guard, in cooperation with the Japan Aids to Navigation Association, initiated the project to preserve the heritage lighthouses. As one of the major results of the project, the tower of Inubosaki lighthouse was seismically strengthened in 1987, while maintaining its original appearance as much as possible.

Reason For Nomination

(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by Japan Coast Guard in 2020, updated 2023)
Intrinsic Heritage Interest of the Lighthouse

Since November 15, 1874, Inubosaki Lighthouse contributes to the safety of navigation on the Japan-North America route.

In addition to the value as an ATON, this lighthouse has a historical value due to its technological aspects: it was the first lighthouse built by 193,000 bricks made in Japan. Before the construction of the lighthouse, bricks made in Japan were considered to be of inferior quality to those imported from the major powers; the lighthouse highlighted the progress of modernisation in Japan in the 19th century.

Furthermore, it was a brick made lighthouse to be built with double wall structure; R.H. Brunton used this structure only for four brick made lighthouses in Japan. Inubosaki lighthouse is one of these lighthouses, which adds to the historical value of the lighthouse in terms of architecture. There is discussion that this structure may have worked as an aseismic function; it is possible that the structure prevents the tower from collapsing in this seismically active area.

With a first order Fresnel lens, this lighthouse is loved by the local community as one of the symbols of Choshi-city. Since Edo-era, Inubosaki has been much-loved as the subject of artworks; literatures, paintings, and Haikus (Japanese-Poems); with the beautiful view from the lighthouse, you can enjoy the footprints of the artists as well as a history of modernisation in Japan in Meiji-era.


There is a Public Private Partnership on the maintenance of Inubosaki Lighthouse in accordance with the amended Aids to Navigation Act of 2021: Tokokai and the Japan Coast Guard, carry out the daily maintenance.

In order to preserve the historical and cultural value of the lighthouse, the Japanese government declared it as a cultural property:

2010: National Tangible Cultural Property

2014: National Tangible Cultural Property (Fog Whistle Station of the lighthouse)

2020: National Important Cultural Property

Public Access 

Inubosaki Lighthouse, the fog whistle station that was operated until 2002, and the lighthouse museum, which houses the largest Fresnel lens in Japan, are open to the public. Thanks to the easy access to the lighthouse (10 minutes from a train station), there is over 100,000 visitors per year.

For those who are not able to visit the lighthouse, you can enjoy the virtual tour to the lighthouse, fog whistle station, and museum from the link below:

There are some events using this lighthouse by the JCG including as follows:

On Children’s Day: Hanging koi-nobori (carp steamers) at the lighthouse

Around Lighthouse Memorial Day of Japan (November 1): some exhibitions y the JCG.

There are also some events organised by the Inubosaki Brunton Society a group of lighthouse enthusiasts:

Inubosaki Lighthouse Maiden Training Course: Enjoy learning, protecting, and conveying the history and attractiveness of Inubosaki Lighthouse, and acquire the ability necessary to popularize the lighthouse.


Inubosaki lighthouse is a platform for education: there is a partnership between Japan Coast Guard and Takagami elementary school that is very close to the lighthouse. In the “school of lighthouse”, the children study the history and role of lighthouses, maritime safety, marine environment protection, as well as the splendour of the sea