Tachibanayama is a mountain 367 m high, located on the border between Higashi Ward and the towns of Shingu and Hisayama. It may not be a very tall mountain, but because it is located near Fukuoka and is visible from both the city and the Genkai Sea, it used to serve as a landmark for travelers coming to Fukuoka by land and sea. The mountain is easily accessible by car or public transportation, and it only takes about one hour at a leisurely pace to reach the summit. This makes it a great destination for families with children and first-time hikers alike.
There are several routes to the top, but the main one starts in Shimobaru in Higashi Ward. The forest on the mountainside is home many camphor trees, and the mountain is considered the northernmost edge of the camphor tree habitat. The view from the top, which affords a 360-degree panorama of Fukuoka, the Genkai Sea and Munakata, is amazing. On a very clear day, you can see as far as Iki and Okinoshima islands.
In the olden days, the mountaintop was home to Tachibana Castle, which was built by Sadanori Otomo, a general from Bungo Province (now Oita Prefecture), in 1330 at the end of the Kamakura period. The castle, which overlooked Hakata, was a strategic fortress-like military outpost, and one of many mountain top castles in the area. Most of the stone walls from Tachibana Castle were used in the construction of Fukuoka Castle in 1601, so now all that remains is part of the wall and an old well.
Otomo later assumed the name of Tachibana and one of his descendants, Muneshige Tachibana, would become the first feudal lord of the Yanagawa Domain in Chikugo. According to legend, the mountain got the name Tachibana (lit., “standing flower”) when the Buddhist monk Saicho built Tokkoji Temple on the mountain. It is said that the branches of the star anise trees used during the construction put down roots and began growing flowers there.
Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn248, Aug. 2019)