FUKUOKA (ATT.JAPAN ISSUE 19)
Though Fukuoka is the biggest city in Kyushu, the old vibes of Hakata still have a grip on hearts of the Locals.
As far as politics, economy, and culture go, Fukuoka is the first city in Kyushu. Long ago the Nakagawa River ran through and divided Hakata a mercantile town to the east, and the Kurodashi family castle town to the west. They used to say “East is Hakata, west is Fukuoka.” The city got the name Fukuoka in 1889, but the original names still remain, as can be seen with JR Hakata Station.
Before the third century AD (when this area was its own country known as Nanokuni), Hakata was a gateway to the Korean Peninsula, and ancient China. It was flooded with new and exotic culture. They didn’t call it Hakata until the Nara Period. At this time, Hakata was a place of international trading ports with such resting places for foreign delegates as Korokan*.
It was here at around this time that Japan saw the map of Europe. Hakata was the largest mercantile town in the day, until it was destroyed in the fires of 1569. Fukuoka began to emerge in the early seventeenth century, amid the rich history of Hakata, when Kuroda Nagamasa became the lord of Chikuzen’s 520,000 koku (koku are bales of rice that were used to pay taxes). He constructed a castle atop the highland where the ruins of Korokan lay, giving it the name “Fukuoka Castle” in memory of his hometown Bizen Fukuoka. Thus was the castle town of Fukuoka born.
This is what got people to start saying “east of the Nakagawa River is Hakata, the town of merchants, west of the Nakagawa is Fukuoka, the town of warriors.”
There was a time in 1889 (the twenty-second Meiji year), where, for the city’s inauguration, a vote was cast to decide what to call it. It was a tie between Hakata and Fukuoka. Eventually, officials decided on Fukuoka.
The Fukuoka of today is much more than a mere mercantile town. It is now a huge urban area, the biggest in Kyushu, and is centered on politics, culture, transportation, and information. Though Fukuoka is the biggest city in Kyushu, the old vibes of Hakata still have a grip on hearts of the locals. If you look closer, you are sure to find that old sentimental Fukuoka everywhere you turn, such as Hakata Ningyo, Hakata Ori, Hakata Dontaku, and Hakata Gion Yamagasa.
The Tenjin Area
The largest mercantile area in Kyushu is Tenjin, – an area where people from all over Western Japan as well as local Kyushumen gather. It is an inspiring, cutting edge leader of fashion.
Enjoy department stores, rows of buildings with fashion shops, and gourmet in this lap of luxury where north-south running Watanabe Dori intersects East-west running Showa Dori, and Meiji Dori, Tenjin is a place with good transportation and access ways (Nishitetsu and Subway), and is a great base for exploring farther out.
Relaxed Tenjin Chikagai, Tenjin Dori with its unique and fashionable shops, and Tenjin Yorozu-cho Dori, known as Oyafuko Dori are famous places that draw the local youth. As leading fashion areas, Daimyo and Imaizumi get all the attention.
Small used clothes shops, select shops, and interior shops keep cropping up in residential areas out of old houses. Here, you’ll probably find a favorite something or other.
North of Tenjin, Bayside Place boats out of Hakata Dock connect Iki, Tsushima, and Shikanoshima. Cruise ships and sightseeing boats also disembark. At the entrance of Hakata Dock’s Terminal 1, an aquarium sticks out in plain view. About 30 species of some 1,200 fish, including sea turtles (umigame), swim lazily in this 9-meter across by 8-meter high cylindrical tank. Spend some time at the shops and restaurants on this tranquil harbor, from where you can see off ships, departing from the harbor.
Located to the west of Tenjin is Oh-hori Park. Cultural and sports facilities and Japanese gardens dot the surroundings of the park’s expansive pond. There is the Fukuoka City Museum of Art, where around 10,000 pieces of art from classics to modern works are kept. Traces of the past are contained in Maizuru Park, where lie the remains of Fukuoka Castle (originally built by Fukuoka’s first lord, Kuroda Nagamasa). In the park there is also a museum dedicated to the ruins of Korokan*, where you can get a taste for what life was like in ancient times in this city.
*Korokan – An ancient guesthouse or inn that served as the setting and stage for lively, international interaction from the Nara to Heian Era.
Nishijin and Momochi Areas
A new seaside city (Momochi) is proposed to be built by reclaimng land in the waters of Hakata Bay. Though now, a residential area, the ruins of Genko-Borui still just barely exist after withstanding two onslaughts by 13th century “Gen,” the largest empire in the world at that time,
With this kind of history, Momochi has accomplished a huge change. In the center of it all is giant Fukuoka Dome – Hawks Town and home of the Daiei Hawks. Hawks Town Mall has all kinds of shops from special baseball stores, ‘live houses'(clubs with live concerts) to restaurants and theaters. Hawks Town Hotel and Resort are also there.
At man-made Kaihin Park in Seaside Momochi is a 234meter high tower that symbolizes Fukuoka Tower, and apartment complexes and other buildings of modern design. At the front face of Fukuoka Tower, jutting out into the ocean, is Marizon, a waterfront promenade. From there, at Umi-no-nakamichi, you can catch a boat to ferry across.
At Fukuoka City Museum, Kyodo Ningyo Doll Museum, and Saibu Gas Museum, see items from excavations on Shikanoshima Island’s such as Kin-in (gold seal). The items show the influence China had on Shikanoshima.
Now, some kilometers to the west of Seaside Momochi, the main attraction of the bay area is Marinoa City Fukuoka. Here is the first outlet mall in Kyushu as well as specialty shops a big Ferris wheel. It is the new water front area that everybody’s talking about.
Umi-no-Nakamichi conceals a classic and romantic spot. Hakata Bay and the Sea of Genkainada on either side Umi-no-Nakamichi stretches out long. On the outer side, rough waves pound out a shorefront of dunes. Toward the inner sea of Umi-no-Nakamichi is a sweeping view of Nokonoshima Island, Itoshima Penninsula, and Fukuoka City. Umi-no-Nakamichi is a spacious marine area, where Umi-no-Nakamichi Kaihin Koen Park and Marine World Umi-no-Nakamichi stand. Connected to Umi-no-Nakamichi is Shikanoshima Island, where they found a gold seal, a testament to the rich influence from ancient China to Japan, often called the key to the mystery of the Legend of Yamataikoku.
A Place of Ancient History – The Hakata Mercantile Streets
JR Shinkansen, other JR lines, and subway lines arrive and depart from the terminal station, Hakata Station. After wandering away from the station, you’ll find reminders of days long ago in these mercantile streets, such as the time-honored temples and shrines like Shofukuji Temple. Hakozaki-gu Shrine, to the east of Hakata Station, was erected in 923AD. It is one of the three biggest Hachiman shrines in Japan, and holds two lively events, among others, that draw large crowds. On January third they hold Tamaseseri to read what lies ahead in the new year. There is also Hojoya from September 12th to the 18th, where they pray for the animal lives taken by humans.
Nakasu, and Kawabata in this Hakata, of rivers and neon light, are Kyushu’s largest Kanrakugai (towns for the seeing and enjoying). They touch the heart of the traveler with the story they tell of both classic and modern. A tutelary shrine of Hakata is Kushida Shrine, which is also the original shrine of Hakata Gion Yamagasa Festival. The festival is held from July first to the fifteenth and is one of the best festivals in Japan. During this time, Hakata is focused on one thing – the matsuri (festival). The city dresses up in decoration to delight the eyes of passers-by and travelers. The climax at the Oiyama Festival that starts in the early hours of July fifteenth is intoxicates with its noble and heroic appearance. In this city that’s overwhelmingly full of history is the recent Canal City – opened 1996. There are all forms of shops and restaurants, hotels, theaters and amusement, and everything in between. Along the man-made canal you can see happy performances by entertainers and water shows.
Upon the Hakata River side are the shopping and cultural area and Hakata Riverain. Riverain is a multi-function complex where you can find a collection of Asian modern art, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum. Other than the play theater, and kabuki theater, This complex also offers many shopping and gourmet shops and restaurants. Shop till you drop.
The arcade that ties Canal City with Riverain along the river’s edge is a shopping street containing old-world,traditional shops. Cross the Hakatagawa River and find yourself on Nakasu Isle. At night it too comes alight with neon – turning on its night life. It’s in the center of Hakata’s multicolored culinary culture. The area is famous for its yatai (street stalls selling meals) that line the riverside at Nakagawa River. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you the ramen is good. There is also tempura and original concoctions, cocktails, and a mass of other food and drinks to try at these yatai stalls.
Hakata is a town where you can really get a taste of local spirit and history – a mixture of long ago as well as of recent.
Stop and reflect upon the splendor of antiquity
In the mid-seventh century, Yamato Imperial Court founded the Dazaifu Government here to fortify against China. So magnificent was the scale of this government, that it lasted through from the time of the Heijou Capital to the time of the Heian Capital – roughly 600 years. The politics, economy, and foreign relations that were central to this give this town its rich history.
Dazaifu Tenman-gu Shrine, dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, known as the god of wisdom, comes alive during entrance exam season with those faithful ones eagerly desiring the ‘pass.’
In a place about 2 kilometers west of Dazaifu Tenman-gu, are the ruins and remains of the Dazaifu Government. The columns that dot the huge premises here and there tell of the size and scale of the building that once stood.
Fukuoka and Hakata – where history, and the contrast between old and new create an ubiquitous feeling. Try the fresh seafood taken from the local Genkainada Sea. Hop from yatai to yatai and savor all the unique creations. This is a place where you can touch the local Hakata culture (and Japanese history) while also getting acquainted with the forefront in Japanese style and fashion at one of the area’s modern shopping zones