Weekend in Fukuoka

Placholder caption: Palm Trees!? Palm trees! Palm trees!?

I was fortunate to spend a four-day weekend in Fukuoka (福岡) in the middle of February. I’ll detail why in a separate post but I wanted to share my experience in the city itself.

So where’s Fukuoka? It’s in Kyuushuu (九州) which is the Western island of Japan.

Image from magnifythelord.org

Kyuushuu has a of lot really interesting history compared to the rest of Japan. It’s proximity to Korea, China, Russia, and the fact that Europe sailed due East to Japan meant if you traded with the Land of the Rising Sun, you were probably doing business in Kyuushuu. This exposure to multiple cultures and healthy foreign trade made Kyuushuu reasonably independent from the whims of the Imperial Governments throughout Japan’s history (which is somewhat amusing considering a major Imperial player during the Boshin War came from Satsuma (薩摩) in Southern Kyuushuu).

I didn’t have much opportunity to learn about the history of Fukoka City itself but I did learn a few interesting things. Fukuoka was originally two different cities: Fukoka and Hakata (博多). These two cities were separated by the Nakasu River (中洲川) with Fukuoka to the West and Hakata to the East. Today Hakata is part of Fukuoka City but the eastern half is still called Hakata. I walked along the Nakasu River quite a bit over the weekend and the photos I have don’t quite do it justice.

Placeholder: Nakasu River Photo

At night, along the river there’s about a dozen small “tents” for Ramen, Yakitori, and other delicious-but-unhealthy food. Unfortunately, they all allowed smoking so I opted to pass on what could have been a good time. Sorry that this photo is blurry, but I kept trying to walk while taking this photo so I wouldn’t get in the way of the locals.

Placeholder: Food Tent Photo

In the past, Fukuoka was the residential area for the Samurai class; Hakata, the mercantiles. (is that the right word?). In Japan, these two groups historically didn’t get along but Fukuoka’s Samurai, largely due to the geographical separation, were able to not-be-jerks to the merchants of Hakata Instead they would just buy their goods and services like restaurants.

Speaking of food, the “Fukuoka dish” is ramen. Specifically “Hakata Style” which is very hearty (re: fatty & oily) and a bit spicy (by Japanese standards, ie: not very). The only ramen I sampled happened to be a chain restaurant (whoops!) but it was still very good!

Placeholder: Ramen Photo

Arguably my favorite part of the trip was exploring the ruins of Fukuoka Castle. I didn’t know it existed until I looked at my phone’s map on Saturday morning. When I read “Fukuoka Castle Ruins,” I immediately knew where I’d spend half my day.

After a 40 minute walk, I came across the ruins which are now preserved as a national park and recreation area. I noticed soccer fields, tennis courts, and small open fields (where I saw people flying kites) surround the deceptively large ruins. I navigated through the tall stone walls and was delighted to see the Cherry Blossom trees were starting to bud in the castle grounds.

Placeholder: Cherry Blossom Photo

As it turns out in Feudal Japan, castles were basically small villages housing lords, nobility, and pretty much whoever the castle ruler wanted nearby. The more important people were higher up the castle grounds. At the top I experienced some of my favorite views overlooking the nearby Ohori Park (大濠公園). “Ohori” is Japanese for moat and the park lives up to the name. About half of the park is a really big lake which you can see part of below!

Placeholder: Castle View Photo

I had a fantastic time walking around both Fukuoka and Hakata. I surprised maybe four or five people with my Japanese. One local was so impressed he took a photo with me. Most would say with “Wow, you’re Japanese is great!” but I brought them back down to Earth by replying “not really, I’m at the level of a two-year old.” It’s a bit of a canned phrase I’ve developed here but I still appreciated the reply from a man who joked “No, you’re more like a three-year old!”

That’s all from me for now. You’ll be hearing more about my primary adventure in Fukuoka another time! Please enjoy one of the last photos I took: a view of the ocean from the tip of Northwestern Hakata.

Placeholder: Port Photo

It’s the closest I’ve ever been to the continent of Asia!