Not far from the bay, Atago Shrine is located on top of Mt. Atago in Nishi Ward. From its hilltop perch, the shrine affords visitors panoramic views of the Momochihama district, whose skyline is dominated by the Fukuoka Tower, and the Genkai Sea. The headquarters of Atago Shrine is located in Sakyo Ward in Kyoto, and together with the Atago Shrines in Minato Ward (Tokyo) and Kasama City (Ibaraki Pref.), Fukuoka’s Atago Shrine is considered one of Japan’s “big three” Atago Shrines. Dedicated to the god of fire, the Atago Shrines throughout Japan are all located on mountaintops and have long, steep sets of stairs.
Atago Shrine sits on the site of Fukuoka’s oldest shrine, Washio Shrine, which was built in the year 72. As such, the mountain came to be called Mt. Washio. In 1634, during the Edo era, the second lord of the Fukuoka Domain, Tadayuki Kuroda, had Atago Shrine built after organizing the transfer of a divided deity from the main shrine in Kyoto. A few centuries later, in 1901, Washio and Atago Shrines were merged into the Atago Shrine we know today. The deity at Atago Shrine is said to answer prayers for good luck, longevity, prosperous business and safety from fire, and more recently, it has become a popular spot to pray for good fortune in love.
There are several approaches to the shrine, including the steep stone stairs called otokozaka (“men’s slope”) and a gentle switchback route called onnazaka (“women’s slope”). There also used to be a ropeway. The ropeway, which opened in 1928, was the first in Kyushu and just the second in Japan. It connected the foot of the hill to the shrine in about two minutes. However, the cable car was forced to shut down during World War II when the cars and cables were appropriated for the war effort.
Atago Shrine is also well-known for its stunning night views, and with around 2,000 cherry trees on the grounds, it is one of Fukuoka’s popular blossom viewing spots. There are several varieties of cherry tree, including early blooming and late blooming ones, so visitors can enjoy cherry blossoms for a relatively long time from mid-March to mid-April. Atago Shrine is one of only a few places where you can enjoy cherry trees lit up at night alongside the city nightscape.