Fukuoka City is sometimes said to be a “twin city” because the Naka River divides the city into two distinct halves. On the west side of the river is Fukuoka, the location of the Fukuoka Castle, while on the east lies Hakata, the commercial district. The Hakata district has many Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and sites of historical interest that have formed the culture of the area for several centuries.
Hakata is also the site of the Akihaku, a series of colorful events and festivals from September to November. Its name resembles the names in Japanese given to world’s fairs, and it was chosen because the whole city, Fukuoka and Hakata included, will be the exhibition site. It will feature an exceptional variety of colorful, must-see events, ranging from those imbued with historical romance at the shrines and temples in Hakata, to concerts, art exhibits, dramas, walking tours, and lectures. The Akihaku is a fall feast of the arts, food, and music.
One event that shouldn’t be missed is the Gokusho – Reizen Night Walk in the historical district of Hakata Ward, which has many shrines and temples. Four of them, the Joten-ji, Tocho-ji, and the Myoraku-ji, and the Kushida shrine, will be beautifully illuminated for the event. Joten-ji is the birthplace of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa and has a lovely stone garden. Tocho-ji is said to have been founded by Kobo Daishi, and is the oldest sacred site in Japan. Myoraku-ji has the graves of many wealthy Hakata merchants. Finally, the Kushida shrine is known as Hakata’s spiritual guardian. Lighting up these grand buildings and their gardens, which have played such an important part in Hakata history, creates scenes of mystery and wonder. This year, the event will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on November 3 (a holiday) to Sunday, November 7. Advance tickets cost ¥600, while same-day tickets go for ¥800.
Other popular events include the Hakata Tomyo lantern festival. Begun in 1994, it is based on the sentomyo lantern festivals held in the past at shrines and temples. The highlight is the large visual patterns created on the ground by the positioning of the many lanterns. It will be held on October 23rd only, however. The autumn nights may be long, but these two events will make them a lot brighter!
Originally published in Fukuoka Now magazine (fn142, Oct. 2010)