Just a 10-minute trip from the ferry port in Meinohama sits Nokonoshima. Many people like to visit this island, which is considered part of Nishi Ward, to get out of the city and enjoy nature. Nokonoshima Island Park, on the northern side of the island, is famous for its seasonal flower fields, and the nanohana (“field mustard” in English) goes into full bloom from late February until early April. On a clear day, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Hakata Bay from Shikanoshima to Uminonakamichi beyond the bright yellow fields.
After nanohana season, you can enjoy azaleas and marigolds as well as several other spring flowers, including cherry blossoms (late March ~ early April) and colorful poppies and Livingstone daisies, which bloom until early May. With summer comes the sunflowers, followed by cosmos and daffodils in fall.
References to Nokonoshima can be found in historical records dating back to the Nara period (710-794 AD), and it is home to the Sota Tumulus Cluster, which dates back to around the 7th century. The Man’yōshū, which also dates back to the Nara period and is considered Japan’s oldest collection of poetry, contains poems written by sakimori (border guards) who lived on the island and kenshiragishi, Japanese envoys who sailed to Silla (an ancient kingdom on the Korean peninsula) via Hakata Bay. Later, the island flourished as a stopping point for large wooden cargo ships, and it was a popular deer hunting spot for the members of the Fukuoka Domain during the Edo period (1603-1868 AD). Today, you can still see remnants of the stone walls used to keep deer out of farmers’ fields, and fishing and farming are still the main industries of Nokonoshima.
When you visit the island, it feels like time slows down. One person who loved Nokonoshima and its laid-back vibe was the novelist and poet Kazuo Dan. He moved there in his later years and lived there until he passed away in 1976. There is a monument dedicated to him on the island, and on the third Sunday of every May, a flower-laying ceremony is held in his honor. You can also visit the Nokonoshima Museum to see a display of documents detailing the island’s history and the remains of a Noko ware kiln.
Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn231, Mar. 2018)