Fukuoka-Hakata has always been a bustling hub of international exchange and trade. This rich history has cultivated a local ethos of embracing innovation, leading to a wealth of pioneering establishments and products. Let’s delve into some of the enduring ‘firsts’ of Fukuoka-Hakata that continue to make their mark today, offering a blend of historic charm and modern allure.
Arrow-go: Japan’s Oldest Operational Automobile
A highlight in Fukuoka’s history is the ‘Arrow-go’, the oldest functional automobile in Japan, proudly displayed at the Fukuoka City Museum. While Japanese cars are now acclaimed worldwide, Japan lacked automobile manufacturing capabilities in the 19th century. Kouichi Yano, a pioneer from Fukuoka Technical High School, was among the first to venture into this field.
Yano’s journey began in 1912 when he was commissioned to modify a French car. With limited resources and relying on foreign car images and his academic knowledge, he crafted parts by hand, leading to a successful modification. This sparked his ambition to build a domestic car. After three years of perseverance and financial backing, the ‘Arrow-go’ was born in 1916. Named after Yano’s surname (Arrow), this car is a testament to Japan’s early automotive ingenuity. Yano’s legacy continues through Yano Special Automobile, still operating in Fukuoka.
Brasileiro: Fukuoka’s Oldest Coffee Shop
Established in 1934, ‘Brasileiro’ stands as Fukuoka’s oldest coffee shop. Initially located near a bridge in Nakasu, its distinctive two-story Western-style architecture made it a landmark. Originally opened by the Coffee Bureau of São Paulo to promote Brazilian coffee, it soon became a cultural hub, frequented by literary and artistic figures.
Today, ‘Brasileiro’ continues to serve its signature house-roasted classic blend, surrounded by a nostalgic atmosphere enriched with vintage photographs and posters. Its unique rugby ball-shaped ‘Minch Cutlet’ is a crowd favorite.
Chocolate Shop: Hakata’s Original Chocolate Connoisseur
The ‘Chocolate Shop’, opened in 1942, is Hakata’s first chocolate specialty store. Founder Gensaku Sano, inspired by truffle chocolates during his apprenticeship in Tokyo, was determined to master the art of chocolate-making. His dedication paid off, turning the shop into a renowned brand nationwide.
Now run by the second and third generations, the shop has expanded across the city and even to Paris. It features an array of chocolates, including truffles and fresh varieties, all crafted with high-quality, preservative-free ingredients sourced globally.
Uonomachi: Possibly Japan’s Oldest Shopping Street
Near the Gofukumachi subway station lies ‘Uonomachi’, proclaimed as Japan’s oldest shopping street. Historical records suggest that this marketplace dates back to the 13th century.
Today known as ‘Saimon-dori’, it is home to the venerable ‘Saimon Kamaboko Honten’, founded in 1913. This shop prides itself on its traditional, handmade kamaboko and tempura, offering an authentic taste of Fukuoka’s culinary heritage.