If you’ve ever walked through Tenjin Chuo Park, then you’ve probably noticed the Old Prefectural Guest Hall. Erected in 1910, this French Renaissance-style building is a rare example of Meiji era Western-influenced wooden architecture that remains in Fukuoka. This elegant building, which blends seamlessly with its natural surroundings, is now a national important cultural property. When you walk by, it feels as if time in this tiny sliver of the city is standing still.
Initially, the building was built to receive guests for the 13th Kyushu-Okinawa Eight Prefecture Confederated Exhibition. The royal family stayed in the guest rooms, and the hall was used for soirées. Once the exhibition concluded, the building was turned into a public hall. Later, it housed the district high court, a high school and Fukuoka Prefectural Board of Education. When Tenjin Chuo Park was built, other buildings in the area were torn down, but the Old Prefectural Guest Hall was spared.
Its trademark tower-room with octagonal roof is widely recognized by the citizens of the prefecture. You can tour the inside and see rooms decorated to look as they would have back in the day, with attention paid to even the minutest detail, such as the curtains and wallpaper. There is a cafe where you can relax after the tour, and you can also try on early 20th century outfits.
Just beyond the Old Prefectural Guest Hall sits the new and improved Suijo Park. Designed to look like a boat, the glass-walled building is home to a popular restaurant and features a rooftop park great for lunching, reading or just relaxing when the weather is clear. The next time you’re in the area, why not stroll through these riverside parks and enjoy the contrast of old and new?
Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn234, Jun. 2018)