Located on a hill jutting into Hakata Bay, Nishi Park provides stunning views of the bay as well as Nokonoshima and Shikanoshima islands from its observation deck. Its wealth of natural greenery, in particular its cherry trees and azaleas, make it one of Fukuoka’s most famous spots for hanami (flower viewing). There are about 1,300 cherry trees in Nishi Park, which has been selected as one of Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots, and when flower viewing season comes, the park comes alive with people and food booths.
Terumo Shrine, located atop a stone staircase near the top of the hill in the park, is dedicated to Kanbei Kuroda, the founding father of Fukuoka, and his son Nagamasa, the first lord of the Fukuoka Domain. The name Terumo is a combination of characters from the posthumous Buddhist names of the two men. The area around Nishi Park used to be called Aratsuyama or Aratoyama, and it has been closely associated with the Kuroda clan since the Edo era.
It was here that the second lord of Fukuoka, Tadayuki Kuroda, commissioned the construction of Toshogu Shrine and dedicated it to Ieyasu Tokugawa, the first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The original Terumo Shrine was located on the premises of Fukuoka Castle, but it was moved to its present location on the ruins of Toshogu Shrine in Nishi Park in 1907. The shrine in its most recent incarnation was rebuilt in 1966. There are cranes painted on the ceiling, and when you throw coins into the collection box, a recording of singing cranes plays. This is a reference to Maizuru (lit., “dancing cranes”) Castle, a nickname given to the Kuroda family’s Fukuoka Castle because of the beautiful cranes that used to fly through the skies above.
Inside the shrine grounds stands a bronze statue of the famous Fukuoka samurai Tahei Bori. Bori was the model for the Kuroda-bushi folk song, and his statue holds the famous Nihon-go spear and a massive sake cup. (According to the song, he won the spear by quaffing a large cup of sake.) There is also a statue of Nagamasa’s beloved kabuto helmet decorated with giant water buffalo horns. If you stop by the Fukuoka City Museum, you can see the actual Nihon-go spear and horned kabuto on display.
Originally published by Fukuoka Now Magazine (Mar. 2014)