Beyond the western side of Hakata Station and stretching all the way to Hakata Port, the region flanking the Taihaku Street is one rich with spots reflecting the traditions, culture, and history tracing back to the Middle Ages. Known as the Hakata Old Town, this area offers visitors an immersive experience into the historic festivals, traditional crafts, and age-old lifestyles.
Hakata Sennen-no-Mon Gate
1-29-9 Hakataeki-mae, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka
Just a 10-minute stroll from Hakata Station will lead you to the emblematic Hakata Sennen-no-Mon Gate. Constructed in 2016 to celebrate Hakata’s prosperity, this gate welcomes visitors, ushering them into the culturally rich temple town of Hakata. Adorning the gate are materials gifted from the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, which are reputed to be over 1,000 years old, and the lintel features intricate designs reminiscent of the Hakata weave.
Venture beyond the gate and you’ll find yourself amidst picturesque alleyways, with the Joten-ji Temple, established in 1242, standing proud. Celebrated as the birthplace of Hakata weave and the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival, it’s also recognized as the location where monks who brought back milling techniques from Song, introduced the art of making udon and soba to Japan.
A short walk from there will bring you to the magnificent Tocho-ji Temple, home to Japan’s largest wooden seated statue – the ‘Fukuoka Great Buddha.’ Visitors can also explore a pathway symbolic of the journey from hell to paradise within the base of the statue (entry fee ¥50, 9:00~16:45 ).
Established to commemorate its 1,200-year history, the temple grounds also house a five-storied pagoda and the tomb of the Fukuoka feudal lord, the Kuroda family.
Opposite Tocho-ji, separated by the bustling Taihaku Street, lies the Ryugu-ji Temple – a place of legend. According to tales from 1222, a staggering 146-meter mermaid was caught in the nets of Hakata fishermen and was later given a dignified burial. Today, the temple safeguards the mermaid’s bones and a hanging scroll depicting the creature from the Edo period. Those keen to visit are advised to call in advance for arrangements (092-291-1003 Japanese language only).
4-21 Reisen-machi, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka
Journeying further north, one encounters the entrance pathway leading to Hakata’s chief guardian deity, the Kushida Shrine. Roughly 250 meters down this path lies the ‘Hakata Machiya Folk Museum,’ an intriguing attraction showcasing the lifestyle and culture of the Meiji and Taisho eras in Hakata.
Once the residence and workshop of a Meiji-period Hakata weave master, the Machiya has now been meticulously restored and offers a captivating glimpse into the past.
Affectionately termed ‘O-Kushida-san’ by the locals, this shrine, established in 757, garners devotion for ensuring longevity and business prosperity. It’s also the shrine where the famous ‘Hakata Gion Yamakasa’ is dedicated, showcasing an imposing 13m decorative float year-round (except during preparation in June).
The ‘Reisen Tsuru Well,’ symbolizing longevity and surrounded by three cranes, can also be found here. Although once believed to offer water of eternal youth, it’s currently not potable.
1-41 Kamikawabata-machi, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka
From the southern gate of the shrine, one can step into the Kawabata Shopping Arcade, an ever-vibrant street with over 140 years of history. Hosting over 140 shops, it offers an array of experiences from traditional crafts, fashion, to local delicacies.
Notably, the middle of this street has a resting spot featuring the decorative Yamakasa float year-round, with its famous sweet red-bean soup available for sale on weekends (11:00~18:00).
Interestingly, Hakata in the 12th century was a central hub for Japan-China trade, with many Song merchants residing in the vicinity. The area around the Kushida Shrine was, in fact, the site of Japan’s first Chinatown.
Fukuoka: World Aquatics Championships Official Ambassadors’ Tour
English report: https://www.fukuoka-now.com/en/world-aquatics-ambassadors/
Japanese report: https://www.fukuoka-now.com/ja/world-aquatics-ambassadors/
The Unparalleled Fukuoka Asian Art Museum
Boasting the world’s only systematic collection of modern and contemporary art from 23 Asian countries, the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum is a trove of about 4,500 unique pieces (as of 2022). Their vast collection, both in quality and quantity, seeks to define the evolving value of Asian art.
In commemoration of the 2023 Fukuoka World Aquatics Championships, the museum is hosting a special exhibition centered around marine environments. Titled ‘Waters in Asian Art,’ the exhibit offers a range of large installations and multimedia presentations capturing the vigor of those who confront nature’s ferocity and artworks emphasizing the artists’ roots and inner essence, inspired by water bodies.Special Exhibition Waters in Asian Art
7/1 (Sat.) ~ 9/3 (Sun.)
Event detail: https://www.fukuoka-now.com/en/event/special-exhibition-waters-in-asian-art/
Fukuoka Asian Art Museum
7F Hakata Riverain, 3-1 Shimokawabata-machi, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka
This splendid journey through Hakata offers visitors not just a taste of the city’s rich heritage but also an immersive experience into its vibrant contemporary life. Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, or someone simply looking to explore, Hakata promises an enriching voyage through time and culture.