The Kitakyushu area is full of historic places that allow you to be immersed in the atmosphere of those days. Epitomizing such places is Mojiko (Moji Port), which recalls the flavor of the Meiji and Taisho eras. Known as the City of Monozukuri or manufacturing, Kitakyushu is home to clusters of cutting-edge technologies, such as automobile, semiconductor and robotics. The city at night is beautifully illuminated by the lights of a group of factories in vigorous operation.
Since its opening in 1889, Mojiko or Moji Port has flourished as an international trade port. The area has exotic Western-style buildings and other historic structures that still have the feel of the old days, while it is equipped with modern and novel urban functions. Such an exquisite combination has developed the area into a very popular urban-oriented tourist destination. As an addition to its appeal, Mojiko Retro Observatory in the district offers a sweeping view of the Kanmon Straits and even a view of Ganryujima Island, a location famous for the duel between the two great swordsmen Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro.
Kokura Castle was built in 1602 by Hosokawa Tadaoki with its tenshu or central tower created in an unusual architectural style called karazukuri - with this style, the fifth floor is larger than the fourth floor. In 1632, Hosokawa was succeeded by Ogasawara Tadazane, whose clan had resided in this simply yet magnificently structured castle for about 230 years until the Meiji era. In 1866, the castle was burnt down during the Keio Hinoetora Rebellion. The existing castle was rebuilt in 1959, now familiar to tourists as well as locals as a symbol of Kitakyushu.
Kitakyushu is designated as one of the New Three Major Night Views of Japan, along with Sapporo and Nagasaki Cities. Mt. Sarakura, where you can look out over the entire city, the Wakato Bridge glittering red in illumination, and Mojiko Retro Observatory are among many other night view spots. In addition, regularly operating night view cruises are also popular to enjoy while on board the nightscape of factories that represent the City of Monozukuri.
The Former Kurauchi Residence was inhabited by the Kurauchi family over three generations. The family ran a coal mining business mainly in the Chikuho region from the Meiji to early Showa eras, with their production ranked among the top 10 nationwide. The construction of the residence started with the main house and reception room building, and later a large hall building, a tea house, a large entrance, and such were added. The adjacent Kifune Shrine, its approach, its stone bridge, and such were also built to form an integrated whole with the residence.
In particular, a must-see is the garden of the residence, a government-designated scenic spot.
The heart of Kyushu, the Fukuoka area is vibrant with the energy of large-city offerings and serves as a hub of interaction in Asia. Fukuoka, home to venerable shrines and temples, including Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine, is visited by many tourists. A large city, yet blessed with abundant nature, the area offers popular attractions, such as sea bathing, hiking, hot springs and other outdoor experiences.
The head shrine of some 12,000 Shinto shrines in the entire country dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, a scholar and politician of the Heian period, Dazaifu Tenmangu is well-known as housing the god of learning, sincerity, and protection against evil. The shrine is a popular spot both within and outside the country, attracting about 10 million worshippers a year. Inside the precincts are Hiroha Chishanoki, a species of deciduous tree that is protected as a natural treasure, camphor trees, Japanese apricots, and irises. With these trees, the shrine provides a beautiful view as it changes from season to season.
Munakata Taisha Shrine, one of the oldest shrines in Japan, has been revered since ancient times as enshrining the god of paths, who protects the country and its imperial line. It attracts many worshippers who pray for sea voyage and traffic safety. As part of the shrine's Fall Festival held from October 1 to 3 every year, a cluster of fishing boats decorated with colorful flags and textiles sail from Oshima to Konominato for about an hour, carrying a portable shrine by sea. Named the Miare Festival, it is among the country's most famous shrine rituals.
Primarily dedicated to Okinagatarashi Hime no Mikoto (another name for Empress Jingu), Miyajidake Shrine is known for its blessings of good luck and prosperous business. The shrine conducts the Tsuitachi Mairi ritual on the first day of each month, beginning the First Prayer Festival at midnight. Of the shrine's features, the eye-catching five-ton sacred straw festoon, great bell, and giant bass drum are all the biggest of their kind in Japan and collectively known as “Japan’s Three Number Ones”. The Shrine has Minkamura Natural Park and a small petting zoo on its premises, making itself a family-friendly spot.
Stretching from north to south at the entrance of Hakata Bay, Nokonoshima Island is situated close to town, offering different leisure activities, such as fishing, sea bathing, hiking and insect-collecting. In addition, Shizen Tanshoro, a nature watching route, and Shisaku no Mori, a serene forest, on the island serve as ideal spots to enjoy a stroll. A mountain 195 meters above the sea offers a 360-degree panoramic view from its top, while Nokonoshima Island Park in the northern part of the island is blessed with flowers blooming in every season, with cherry blossoms and azalea in their full glory in spring and cosmea in autumn, providing visitors with a relaxing break.
Harazuru Onsen Hot Springs Resort is situated facing the beautiful riverbed of the mighty Chikugo River, a class-A and the largest river in Kyushu with its source lying at the outer rim of Mt. Aso. It boasts an abundant yield of hot spring water, ranking as one of the most prominent hot springs in Kyushu.
Mainly containing a mildly alkaline simple spring and simple sulfur spring, both of which are known as bijin-no-yu or hot springs for beautiful skin, Harazuru Onsen's hot spring water is represented by the catch phrase double bihadano-yu, literally hot spring with double effect of promoting beautiful skin. Blessed with hot spring water that clings itself to the body, giving skin a smooth and soft feeling, about 15 ryokan or Japanese-style inns, hotels and private/family onsen at the Resort offer visitors a pleasant bihada-no-yu experience.
The Chikuho area, where a pastoral landscape spreads out, once thrived on coal mining. There are numerous spots that still have the feel of the area of those days, conveying vividly the history of coal mining and how people involved in the industry lived their lives. Recently, a tourist train began its operation, drawing keen attention as a new tourism asset for the area.
The residence was inhabited by Ito Denemon, the coal-mining king of the Chikuho area, and poetess Byakuren Yanagihara. Because of their architectural value, some parts of the residence, such as the Western-style reception room in Art Nouveau style, dining room, and study room, are regarded as precious cultural heritages of the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa eras.
The residence conveys the history of coal mining in the Chikuho area and how Denemon and other people involved in the industry lived their lives.
Mt. Hiko lies at an altitude of about 1,200 meters, extending over Fukuoka and Oita Prefectures. Revered as a holy mountain since ancient times, Mt. Hiko is one of Japan's three major mountains for shugendo or ascetic practices, along with Mt. Haguro and Mt. Omine. Located on Mt. Hiko is Hikosan Jingu or Mt. Hiko Shrine. In the middle of the shrine is Hoheiden, a nationally designated important cultural property. Hoheiden is said to have been originally built in 740, while the current structure was rebuilt in 1616 in the early Edo period by feudal lord Hosokawa Tadaoki. It is also widely known as a popular autumn foliage spot.
Built in 1922 and remodeled in 1931, the Kaho Gekijo kabuki theater is a nationally registered tangible cultural property. The theater is particularly famous for playing host to the annual Zenkoku Zacho Taikai, where the country’s top itinerant Kabuki troupe gather to perform shows for the day. The Kaho Gekijo, which started its life as a recreation facility for coal miners, survived the tough period when coal mines in the area closed down one after another, forcing most of the theaters to meet the same fate. The theater's savior, Mrs. Eiko Ito, was a granddaughter of the theater's first president and dubbed a heroic woman in Chikuho. Shows are still performed at the theater today.
With the theme "a train running the most leisurely and offering the most delicious foods, and the most delightful experience in Japan", this sightseeing and restaurant train allows travelers to enjoy beautiful views of pastoral landscapes along the line while savoring a French multicourse meal. The carriages were designed by Eiji Mitooka, known for JR Kyushu's Nanatsuboshi or Seven Stars luxury sleeper train, and Sweet Train Aru Ressha, while the food is prepared under direct direction by Takeshi Fukuyama whose restaurant earned one Michelin star in 2019 and is the only restaurant from the Chugoku/Shikoku/Kyushu regions ranking as one of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants in 2018 and 2019.
The Chikugo area offers a variety of nature experiences, such as Yanagawa River cruising. With the views and atmosphere changing from season to season, visitors can fully enjoy distinctive seasonal attractions of Fukuoka at each of their visits. The area is also home to Yame City, one of Japan's most prominent tea producers. This area offers experiences to fully appreciate the charm of nature.
Yanagawa City flourished as a castle town under the Tachibana clan and is also famous as the hometown of renowned tanka poet Kitahara Hakushu. On the Yanagawa, river cruising takes place along moats encompassing the city by a gondola-like Donko boat. With the captain skillfully guiding it with a long pole, the gondola leisurely glides on the surface of the water. There has recently been an increasing number of tourists from outside the country and among them, the sloshing sound of the water and the scene of the willow trees swaying in the wind are very popular.
Yame City in the Chikugo area is Japan's leading tea producer. Blessed with the ideal climate for growing tea leaves, lush green tea fields stretch out before your eyes. There are some local markets where producers directly sell tea leaves cultivated in their fields. Not only as a personal souvenir, they are also perfect for a gift. Visiting the site and sipping your tea as you ponder the passion of the producers may add zest to the taste.
The Miyanohara Pit of the Miike Coal Mine was opened in 1898, once boasting an annual output of 400,000 to 500,000 tonnes of coal every year. Today, only the second shaft, which was opened in 1901, remains with its brick winch room and steel derrick, Japan's oldest among the existing ones of this kind, preserved in the same state as when the Miike Coal Mine was shut down. In recognition of the Miyanohara Pit as a valuable structure that underpinned Japan's modernization, it was inscribed on the World Cultural Heritage list in 2015 as a constituting part of the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.
Unusually even across the country, Koinoki Shrine worships the god of love. Sugawara no Michizane, its enshrined deity, was demoted to Dazaifu, thereby separating from his family. Bearing in mind how much he had missed the emperor as well as his family in the capital until he ended his life in Dazaifu, the shrine is said to have been built to console his soul and dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane. People believe the god will find a good match and bring happiness; a heart-shaped crest of the shrine, amulets, fortune papers, wooden plaques and such are popular among worshippers.