Fukuoka – Shrines, Temples, Castles and Red Light District…

Hello Everybody!

I know I just published a few days ago, but I don’t like to get so behind on these things. So last week was busy, busy…isogashii for those of you in the know. I had taken a three day weekend to Taipei the previous week and then I discovered that we had another Monday off to celebrate President’s Day.  I always feel like these three day weekends are wonderful gifts, not to be wasted and enjoyed thoroughly  with travel. So I started looking around at where to go.

clear-bird-in-the-sakura
Mejiro or Japanese White Eye in the plum blossoms.

Now, I have been flirting with going back to Korea since I left last year and checked into prices. No go, everything is too expensive or the flight would leave me with a 12 hour layover for a three day weekend. I don’t think so. I also looked at Hong Kong and Singapore, same deal…either long layover or too much money.

I turned my sights to Mainland. There are many advantages to going to Mainland for a little weekend jaunt. The first is Peach Airlines which have these incredible low priced flights that get you to Osaka and back for about $80. I also don’t have to go through immigration and there are all kinds of good deals on hotel rooms.

After looking at a few places, I landed on Fukuoka. The flight is a  little under 2 hours and I splurged on a good hotel room in the heart of the city. This is a place that is known for it’s ramen..that was the determining factor honestly.

ichiran-ramen
Heaven in a bowl…tonkatsu ramen at Ichiran, my favorite ramen in Fukuoka.

Let me praise the Asian world for their trains…Taipei’s were incredibly easy and clean, Busan’s were fun and Japan’s are a model of efficiency. While I do have an international driving license, a car is too cumbersome. I landed at the airport, walked 300m downstairs…they tell you how far you have to walk. Hopped on a subway and within ten minutes I emerged from my stop and into Fukuoka City proper. It was a good time and it wasn’t even noon yet!

market
A market right next to the subway stop I used.

A little bit of information about Fukuoka, it’s known for its ramen, Ichiran and Ippudo are the two famous restaurants (I hit them both). It is also known for its friendliness to foreigners. Located on the western side of Kyushu Island, Fukuoka is the capital of Fukuoka Prefecture, it is close to Taiwan, Korea and China. According to all my tourist brochures, even when the rest of the country was closed to foreigners, Fukuoka was thriving, busy and happy to welcome gaijin. Hell, even the Mongols were welcome…well sort of…”Fukuoka has been an important harbor city for many centuries and was chosen by the Mongol invasion forces as their landing point in the 13th century.” http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2161.html.

The point is that these folks are friendly, Okinawa-friendly. My limited experiences in Japan are that folks tend to be a little more reserved with foreigners. In Okinawa they are shy, but very friendly and sweet. Fukuokans, if I may use that term, were like Okinawans…with a little more curiosity and less shy. I always travel with my selfie stick, in fact I have two, but I was approached by at least five people offering to take my photo for me. How lovely!!

I first encountered Kushida Shrine on my way to Shofukuji Temple, here’s a little information about Kushida Shrine:

kushida-shrine

“The Kushida Shrine in Hakata, Fukuoka City, is the most important shrine in the area. Kushida Shrine was founded in 757 when Hakata was the point of arrival and departure for trade and diplomatic missions between Japan, China and Korea.The main deity enshrined here is Ohata Nushina no mikoto, an obscure kami who is claimed to be the ancestor of the Watarai lineage of priests from the Outer Shrine of Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture. ” This is from www.japanvisitor.com/japan-temples-shrines/kushida-shrine

rose-and-temple-good
Shofukuji the first Zen temple in Japan.

My hotel room at the Imperial Palace Hotel would not be ready until 15:00 so I had plenty of time to go see some temples. There are quite a few of them in Fukuoka as well.

I wanted to go see Shofukuji which has “the distinction of being the first Zen temple constructed in Japan. It was founded in 1195 by the priest Eisai, who introduced the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism from China into Japan. Although the temple buildings cannot be entered, visitors can walk through Shofukuji’s attractive temple grounds and observe the buildings from outside.” According to http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4804.html.

golden-buddhas
Inside Shofukuji – peeking through the little door window..
pano-temple
Shofukuji – although it’s located in the city, all I heard was bird song. Quiet and lovely.

Outside the temple there was a fragrant blooming plum tree, it was begging to be photographed, I accommodated it.

white-light
Ume tree
sakura-in-flight
Ume, plum tree and mejiro.

I walked back to my hotel to check in and get ready to go out for the evening. Did I say that Fukuoka is friendly to foreigners? It’s friendly to everyone, being a port city and cosmopolitan it has one of the largest red light districts to be found in Japan.

What is so funny is that even the red light districts are so polite in Japan!

red-light-district
One of the many streets of the red light district…

I walked down by the water because I had heard about the yatai. These are little sidewalk restaurants that pop up at night and are gone in the daylight. People just wander in and eat together and then wander back out into the night. A nice atmosphere.

yatai
Yatai near the Canal City Mall
crane-at-night
This crane was out enjoying the night near the yatai.

There is also the spectacular Canal City Mall, just a few blocks from the red light district. I am not one for going to malls, but I have to say I was drawn in by the promise of an H&M store and a Gap…yes I do miss some things from home.

In typical Japanese fashion, their malls are stunningly beautiful with water features and plants throughout. Also, being the leader in digital innovation and anime, they have many displays in the six floors and several buildings that make up this mall.  This movie is a brief little moment of the water and light show that came on around 20:00 every night. It was projected on the outside of the buildings and was six stories high. And very loud.

I lingered at the waterfront for some time, I have to say, I really enjoyed the atmosphere of this city. I stood there, with the crane photographed above, and  just contemplated a lot of things. Fukuoka is a good city for this. I can’t explain it, but the feel was very comfortable.

Finally I walked back to my hotel, through the markets now closed and planned out my next day.

On the agenda was Ohori Park, Fukuoka Castle and anywhere else that caught my fancy. As I say, the trains were incredibly easy, so I hopped on the subway and three stops later I was at Ohori Park.

bulldog-at-ohori
One of the locals relaxing at Ohori Park, near Fukuoka Castle
bird-man-at-ohori
Feeding the pigeons

mallard

purple-head-duck
A couple of handsome fellows…
ohori-little-house
Ohori Park
fixing-the-boat
boys with toys
launching-it
all over the world, onaji…the same

I wanted to see the Fukuoka Castle as I have a great love for archaeology and I was not disappointed. I met a very nice guide at the castle archaeological site whose English was quite good and he was able to discern my limited Japanese.

inside-the-castle
The excavations continue at the Fukuoka Castle site.

On the way another part of the site there is a park and I got to watch some boys playing soccer. I truly miss photographing sports, so here was my opportunity.

head-on
These boys were good!
boys-soccewr
One against four…the one got the ball!

Past the park and up the hill there were hundreds of plum trees planted and the air was heavy with plum fragrance, what a lovely day.

castle-walls-and-ume

very-pink-blossoms

pink-bouquet

blossoms-bathed-in-sun

I am assured that these are all plum blossoms, although to my untrained eye they look like sakura, cherry blossoms.

I spent another evening wandering around the many canals and waterfronts  before getting back to my hotel room. I had to go back on Monday, but not until afternoon and I had at least one more shrine on my list before flying home.

sumiyoshi
Sumiyoshi Shrine

From http://www.japan-tour.jp/en/sumiyoshi-shrine/kyushu/fukuoka/natural-scenary/4067 : “The Sumiyoshi Shrine is said to be the oldest Sumiyoshi Sanjin (a Shinto god of faith) shrine of worship in Japan. Because it faces the Hakata Bay (Reizeitsu), Sumiyoshi Sanjin has been deeply venerated as a guardian of sea voyage in the past. The first Sumiyoshi shrine in Japan. This Sumiyoshi is said to be the oldest one out of all the over 2000 Sumiyoshi shrines in the country. The main Sumiyoshi shrine is a nationally designated intangible cultural property. With its wide grounds, a uniqueness of the shrine is the tranquil, historical atmosphere that it gives off. Sumo wrestlers also dedicate the success of their matches here before they enter the sumo ring.”

summo
Statue of Sumo wrestler
wedding
I also saw a wedding while I was there! What an experience!

marriage

So, I know this was rather lengthy, but I had a great time.

ultraman-and-me

Fukuoka is a place I will return …if for no other reason than to see my buddy UltraMan!