A series of roads, or kaido, were built throughout Japan in the Edo Era for both feudal lords trekking to Edo and regular travelers. The most famous road in Kyushu was the Nagasaki Kaido, but there was also another road that ran through Fukuoka City: Karatsu Kaido. The road connected Karatsu in Saga prefecture to Kitakyushu via Hakata, and it was used by the lords of the Fukuoka and Karatsu domains for their trips to Edo. There were five rest areas along the Karatsu Kaido that now lie within the Fukuoka city limits: Hakozaki, Hakata, Fukuoka, Meinohama and Imajuku.
In fact, some experts think this road was in use well before the Edo period. They speculate that it was used by people coming from and going to the Asian mainland in ancient times, thereby serving as a conduit through which Chinese culture spread throughout Japan. The Karatsu Kaido was also an important defense against the Mongol invasions of the late 13th century, and it is said that Hideyoshi Toyotomi marched down the road for his attempted invasion of Korea.
Unfortunately, almost no signs of the old road remain within the city limits of Fukuoka, but many old historic sites, shrines and temples that once lined the road still exist today. There are also some areas along the old route where even machiya (Kyoto-style townhouses)—a rarity in Fukuoka—remain. These include the shopping districts of Hakozaki and Maidashi, the area of Hakata near the Ishidobashi Bridge, Kuromon, Tojinmachi and the shopping district of Nishijin.
Among these old station towns, Meinohama is actively engaged in community development based on the Karatsu Kaido. Local residents established the Karatsu Kaido Meinohama Community Development Council to invigorate the community while working to preserve machiya and the history of the old road. The Council’s base is the Maizuru Miso shop, an Edo-era machiya that is now used as a gallery and concert space. Two machiya in Meinohama have been designated as Registered Cultural Properties of Fukuoka City under the city’s newly established heritage registration system. The Council also runs local guided tours and various other events, and all are welcome to attend.
Originally published by Fukuoka Now (Apr. 2013)