8 Activities And Things To Enjoy In Kitakyushu

8 Activities And Things To Enjoy In Kitakyushu

Fukuoka 2018.07.08

The Kitakyushu area in southern Japan, thrived as a transportation crossroads and nutured its international trade industries. Read on to learn about the eight activities to enjoy in the area, including a wisteria flower tunnel and Kokura Castle.

Translated by Shinji Takaramura

Written by terawaki

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Kitakyushu: The Gateway to Kyushu

Kitakyushu City is located across the Kanmon Strait from Japan's main island of Honshu. The city developed as a crossroad for transportation due to its proximity to the Korean Peninsula and China.

Various industries have thrived in this area. As such, much architecture from that period still remains. Kitakyushu is also located near regions boasting beautiful nature.

This article, authored by a writer living in the Kyushu Region, is about eight activities visitors should try in Kitakyushu, a special area filled with so much appeal.

About Kitakyushu

北九州を訪れたら絶対やるべき8つのこと

Kokura Station: Gateway to Kitakyushu, where the Shinkansen stops.
Picture courtesy of Kitakyushu City Travel Guide

Kitakyushu City is known as the gateway to Kyushu, facing the Japan Sea to the north and the Seto Inland Sea to the east.

The areas surrounding Kitakyushu are filled with historic cultural assets. Four facilities related to Yahata Steel Works, a steel company once located in Kitakyushu City, and the neighboring Nakama City, have been registered as a World Heritage Sites as Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.

Various enterprises, such as TOTO Ltd., famous for its Washlet, and Yaskawa Electric Corporation, the fourth-largest robotics company in the world, have established their headquarters here.

Let's take a look at eight locations in Kitakyushu, an industrial city with a rich cultural history.

1. Walk Through a Flower Tunnel at Kawachi Wisteria Garden

北九州を訪れたら絶対やるべき8つのこと

Picture courtesy of Kawachi Wisteria Garden

In 2012, this garden was chosen as one of the 10 Beautiful Places in the World That Actually Exist by a travel website based outside of Japan. It was also on the list of Japan's 31 Most Beautiful Places broadcasted by American CNN 2015.

Many tourists from all over the world come to Kawachi Wisteria Garden to view the beautiful wisteria trellis, which blooms from mid-April to mid-May, depending on the weather.

The size of the garden is approximately 10000 square meters, with 22 types of wisteria flowers welcoming the visitors. The flowers bloom during the Japanese golden week holidays in early May. Currently, advanced reservations are required for the tickets if you want to visit during the golden week period, which can made at convenience stores in Japan beforehand.

Visitors outside of Japan can purchase tickets at JAPANiCAN beginning in early April. The price differs according to the blooming of the flowers, so be sure to check the website.

Wisteria is in season from mid-April to Mid-May, and after this the garden closes temporarily. It reopens starting mid-November to early December, which is the season for the autumn leaves.

Kawachi Wisteria Garden
Address: Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, Yahata Higashi, Kawachi 2-2-48/Google Map
Access: Twenty-minute car ride from JR Yahata Station
Official Site: Kawachi Wisteria Garden (Japanese)

2. Stroll Around Mojiko Retro

北九州を訪れたら絶対やるべき8つのこと

Picture from Travel Back In Time 100 Years In Mojiko Retro, Kitakyushu City

Mojiko, or Moji Port, prospered as a port town in early 20th century. Along with Kobe and Yokohama, Moji was one of the three major ports in Japan, playing an important role in the international trade.

There are many architectures at Mojiko built in that period. The whole area has been turned into Mojiko Retro, a popular sightseeing spot in Kyushu.

Renovation of Mojiko Station started in 2012 and it is scheduled to be completed in 2018. Many people are excited for its re-opening, as the station building, built in 1891, will be restored to its original style.

Mojiko Retro
Address: Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, Moji/Google Map
Access: Three-minute walk from JR Mojiko Station
Official Site: Mojiko Retro (Japanese)

3. Climb up Kokura Castle's Tower

北九州を訪れたら絶対やるべき8つのこと

Picture courtesy of Kitakyushu City Travel Guide

Kokura Castle is located a twenty-minute walk from JR Kokura Station.

The castle was built by Tadaoki Hosokawa in 1602. It is constructed in karazukuri style, and the fifth floor is larger than the fourth floor, which was especially rare at the time. The current tenshukaku (*1), or castle tower, was rebuilt in 1959, from strong wishes of Kitakyushu City citizens. The interior is used as an exhibition space displaying historical materials, and also as an observation deck offering an arial view of the Kokura area. Kokura Castle is also a popular spot to view the sakura (cherry blossoms) in spring.

** The tenshukaku will be closed from August 6, 2018, to March 31, 2019, due to the renewal of the exhibits and installation of elevators.

*1 Tenshukaku: The highest structure in a Japanese castle, regarded as its symbol.

Kokura Castle
Address: Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, Kokura Kita, Jonai 2-1/Google Map
Access: Twenty-minute walk from JR Kokura Station
Official Site: Kokura Castle (Japanese)

4. Try a Tasty Daigakudon Bowl at Tanga Ichiba

北九州を訪れたら絶対やるべき8つのこと

Picture courtesy of Kitakyushu City Travel Guide

Tanga Ichiba is called the kitchen of Kitakyushu, and has a history of more than one hundred years. About 120 stores, which handles local seafood, vegetables and delicatessen, are lined up inside this traditional ichiba (market).

Visitors should try the nukamiso daki, a Kokura dish consisting of sardine and mackerel cooked with nukamiso (*2). It is filled with umami (a sweet and salty flavor) and goes very well with rice. Nukamiso daki can be purchased at various stores in Tanga Ichiba.

The Daigaku don, a type of rice bowl, has been attracting attention recently at this market. Visitors first buy a bowl of rice at Daigakudo, a restaurant located inside the market, for 200 yen. After obtaining rice, they visit the other stores to purchase toppings, return to Daigakudo, and eat.

There are a wide variety of dishes to choose from, such as the aforementioned nukamiso daki, sashimi and yakitori. The price varies according to each establishment, but most dishes cost only a few hundred yen. Daigaku don has become a specialty of Tanga Ichiba, providing the opportunity for guests to visit various stores in the market and enjoy a delicious meal.

*2 Nukamiso: A base used for pickling vegetables and other ingredients, made from rice bran and salt mixed with water.

Tanga Ichiba
Address: Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, Kokura Kita, Uo-machi 4/Google Map
Access: Ten-minute walk from JR Kokura Station
Official Site: Tanga Ichiba (Japanese)

Daigakudo
Address: Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, Kokura Kita, Uo-machi 4-4-20/Google Map
Access: Ten-minute walk from JR Kokura Station
Official Site: Daigakudo (Japanese)

5. Encounter Japanese Manga at Kitakyushu Manga Museum

北九州を訪れたら絶対やるべき8つのこと

Picture from View, Read and Draw at the Kitakyūshū Manga Museum

Manga is one aspect representative of Japanese culture. While there are many museums and libraries related to manga, Kitakyushu Manga Museum is a facility that focuses not only on reading manga, but also on studying and education.

The honorary director of the museum is Leiji Matsumoto, author of "Galaxy Express 999" and "Space Battleship Yamato." His works are also displayed in the museum, allowing visitors to learn about his visions.

Kitakyushu Manga Museum
Address: Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, Kokura Kita, Asano 2-14-5/GoogleMap
Access: Two-minute walk from JR Kokura Station from the Shinkansen Entrance
Official Site: Kitakyushu Manga Museum

6. Bask in the Great Outdoors at Hiraodai

北九州を訪れたら絶対やるべき8つのこと

Picture courtesy of Kitakyushu City Travel Guide

To arrive at Hiraodai from Kokura Station, it is a thirty-minute train ride on the JR Hitahikosan Line to Ishiharamachi Station, plus a fifteen-minute car ride away from Ishiharamachi Station.

This is one of the three major karst sites in Japan, a site with limestone deposits. It is also designated as a natural monument, semi-national park and a prefectural natural park. The rich natural environment in Hiraodai is so beautiful, making it hard to believe it's part of Kitakyushu City.

北九州を訪れたら絶対やるべき8つのこと

Picture courtesy of Kitakyushu City Travel Guide

There are more than 200 limestone caves in the area. Visitors can walk into Senbutsu Cave, a natural monument designated by the Japanese government without any special equipment, and have fun trekking along a shallow creek.

Hiraodai (Hiraodai Countryside Park)
Address: Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, Kokura Minami, Hiraodai 1-1-1/Google Map
Access: Fifteen-minute car ride from JR Ishiharamachi Station
Official Site: Hiraodai

Senbutsu Cave
Address: Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, Kokura Minami, Hiraodai 3-2-1/Google Map
Access: Twenty-minute car ride from JR Ishiharamachi Station
Official Site: Senbutsu Cave (Japanese)

** It will take five to ten minutes by car from Hiraodai to Senbutsu Cave.

7. Learn About Japanese Crafts at TOTO Museum

北九州を訪れたら絶対やるべき8つのこと

Picture courtesy of TOTO Ltd.

Visitors coming to Japan for the first time may be surprised to discover many restrooms equipped with a comfortable toilet seat with washing functions. TOTO, which created Washlet (*), is a global company manufacturing sanitary ware and kitchenware. Its headquarters is located at Kitakyushu City.

* Washlet is a trademark of TOTO Ltd.

北九州を訪れたら絶対やるべき8つのこと

Photograph courtesy of TOTO Ltd.

TOTO celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2017, and the TOTO Museum was built on the company grounds in 2015 to commemorate the anniversary.

The museum displays information on the company's history, its role in the development of plumbing equipments, and its craftsmanship. At this museum, visitors can learn about the change in Japanese society through the evolution of TOTO products.

TOTO Museum
Address: Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, Kokura Kita, Nakashima 2-1-1/Google Map
Access: Ten-minute walk from Kawaraguchi Mihagino Station (Kitakyushu Monorail).
Official Site: TOTO Museum

8. Savor Local Kitakyushu Cuisine

北九州を訪れたら絶対やるべき8つのこと

Picture courtesy of Kitakyushu City Travel Guide

We suggest trying the yaki udon, a dish of stir fried pork, vegetables and noodles seasoned with Worcestershire sauce or shoyu (soy sauce). Although the dish now can be eaten throughout Japan, it is thought that this dish originated in Kokura, Kitakyushu.

After World War II, udon (wheat noodles) were used, due to a shortage of noodles typically used for yaki soba (stir-fried noodles).

Daruma Doh created this recipe and is still in business today in Kokura.

北九州を訪れたら絶対やるべき8つのこと

Picture courtesy of Kitakyushu City Travel Guide

Moji Port prospered from international trade starting in the Meiji to the early Showa era. There were many restaurants serving Western-style dishes in the area, creating unique cuisine that mixes Western and Eastern cultures.

Yaki curry is thought to have been created at Moji Port during this period.

This is a variation on curry rice, baked in an oven with cheese and eggs on top. There are many restaurants in the Mojiko Retro area serving this, so be sure not to miss it.

Stay for a Day or Two in Kitakyushu

Most of the spots mentioned in this article, except the Kawachi Wisteria Garden and Hiraodai, both located in suburban areas, can be visited in a day.

If you plan to see the suburbs, or travel to Fukuoka and Hakata, reachable in twenty minutes using the Shinkansen, spend at least one night in the area.

Spring and Summer are the Best Seasons Visiting

Those who plan to visit Kawachi Wisteria Garden should do so from mid-April to mid-May, depending on how the flowers are blooming.

There are many events during spring and summer, such as the the Kokura Castle Sakura Festival and Kokura Gion Daiko. Visitors will enjoy the festive atmosphere during this period. The Senbutsu Cave, due to its cool temperatures, attracts many visitors in summer.

Access to Kokura from Hakata

Shinkansen
Kokura Station is the next stop after Hakata Station. The one-way fare for a non-reserved seat is 2110 yen. The train ride takes only sixteen minutes, so those who want to save time should take this route.

JR
The train ride on the JR local line will take about eighty minutes, and costs 1290 yen for a one-way fare. The limited express Sonic, which reaches Kokura in 47 minutes, will also cost 1290 yen, with an additional charge of 510 yen for the express ticket.

Highway Bus
Highway buses depart from the Tenjin area in Fukuoka, Hakata Station and Fukuoka Airport. The bus ride from Tenjin/Hakata to Kokura Station takes about an hour and a half, and an hour and 45 minutes from Fukuoka Airport International Terminal.

The one-way fare is 1130 yen from Tenjin/Hakata, and 1230 yen from Fukuoka Airport. More than 120 buses run every day at fifty- to sixty-minute intervals. Reservations are not required.

Airlines
There are direct flights from Tokyo and various cities in Asia, including Busan, Seoul, Dalian, Xiangyang and Taipei (*) to Kitakyushu Airport. For details, please check this official site.

* A direct flight from Taipei is scheduled to begin in October, 2018.

Come to Kitakyushu

Kitakyushu is located close to mainland China, and prospered as a port town, creating a unique culture influenced by multiple groups of people. Look for the historic and cultural aspects to fully enjoy your stay in Kitakyushu.

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