Fukuoka - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Fukuoka


Fukuoka, the largest city on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, was the home of the samurai and today is the terminus of the famous Shinkansen Line bullet train from Tokyo, 730 miles (1,168km) away. Originally the town of Hakata was the centre of the area, acting as a gateway to Japan from the rest of Asia, which lies just across a short strait. The feudal town of Fukuoka, however, grew rapidly just across the Nakagawa River, clustered around a castle. In the late 19th century the cities united under the combined name of Fukuoka. The modern city is busy and bustling, with an international flavour and plenty of innovative architectural development.

The Tenjin underground shopping arcade brings the wares of the world to Fukuoka, while a sandbank in the bay has been turned into the largest entertainment district in western Japan with more than 2,000 eating and drinking establishments congregated under the neon lights. The Naka River promenade and riverfront park make for pleasant strolls, while top class theatres, theme parks and art establishments abound. There are some sightseeing attractions in the city itself, and the surrounding area in Kyushu Island has plenty to offer within easy reach of the city.

Information & Facts

Japanese is the official language. Most Japanese people will have studied English at school, but few can speak it well or understand what is said to them.

The currency is the Japanese Yen (JPY), which is equal to 100 sen. Major credit cards are accepted in the larger hotels and stores, but most Japanese operate with cash. Cash and travellers cheques can be exchanged in banks, post offices and currency exchange bureaux. Banks are usually open Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm. Travellers cheques offer the best exchange rate and are best taken in US dollars. ATMs do not accept all credit and debit cards; only the international ATMs in post offices, airports and some major stores.

Local time is GMT +9.

In the northern part of Kyushu Island in south-western Japan lie the ruins of Dazaifu, a city that during the 1st century was the seat of Government for the island and first line of defence against threat from the East Asian countries. The walled city once stood in open fields, but now the ruins on the southern slopes of Mount Ono are surrounded by modern Dazaifu, and the valued historic site has been turned into a park. Apart from the interesting ruins, Dazaifu also boasts one of Japan's most important shrines. The Dazaifu-tenmangu Shrine is dedicated to a great scholar named Sugawara Michizane, who died in the year 903 and subsequently became revered as a deity because of his wisdom. The shrine is now a place of pilgrimage for students from all over the country, especially when examination season comes around. The approach to the shrine is lined with teahouses specialising in a local rice cake delicacy, which is believed to keep illness at bay.

Fukuoka's Asian Art Museum is housed in a new complex in the Shimokawabata district of Hakata Ward, in the heart of the city. The museum houses a collection of more than 1,000 works including paintings, sculptures, prints and handcrafts. It also serves as a centre for art education.

Fukuoka's castle is in ruins, but it is still a favourite spot for tourists to congregate (mainly for the view). Built by the feudal lord in days of old, it was composed of 47 turrets of various sizes. Today the Otemon gate, Tamon turret and a few walls remain.

One of Fukuoka's best-known shrines is Kushida, founded in 757. It is situated in the heart of ancient Hakata with a huge gingko tree, said to be 1,000 years old, shading its forecourt. The shrine honours the grand deity, Ohata Nushina-mikoto, and was built during the Heian Period for the common people. Today it is very much enjoyed by locals and visitors alike during the summer's major event, the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival. On the last day of the festival the Kushida Shrine becomes the starting point for the Oiyama fun run when hundreds of young men clad only in loin cloths carry heavy wooden shrines through the streets along a set route, vying to clock the fastest times. The shrine itself contains several items of interest, particularly the Eto Arrow plate bearing carvings of the Chinese zodiac and a brace of anchor stones, recovered from the harbour, that were once attached to ships of the Mongolian invasion fleets.

The composite active volcano of Mt Aso lies almost in the centre of Kyushu Island and boasts the world's largest caldera, stretching 11 miles (18km) from east to west and 15 miles (24km) from north to south. Inside the caldera are five volcanic peaks, with one of them, Naka-dake, still being active and regularly emitting smoke and ash. The rest of the landscape inside the caldera is green and grassy, grazed by cows and horses and inhabited by about 50,000 people in several towns and villages, seemingly unphased by living inside a volcanic crater. In the town of Aso there is a museum dedicated to the volcano. Visitors can watch large screen presentations about Aso and the associated geology, in addition to viewing a live image from a camera positioned at the active crater site.

The beautifully situated port city of Nagasaki lies at the southern end of Kyushu Island, 95 miles (152km) southwest of Fukuoka. Nagasaki was open to the world for centuries between 1639 and 1859 while the rest of Japan was secluded from foreign contact by governmental decree. The exposure to foreign cultures has left the city with a sophisticated and liberal air that makes it popular for tourists, enhanced by the many attractions in the city itself and surrounding prefecture. Feudal castles, samurai houses, smoking volcanoes, hot spring baths, rugged offshore islands, beautiful beaches and friendly people are all here to be enjoyed. The most important site in the city is the Peace Park (Heiwa Koen), commemorating Nagasaki's darkest hour on 9 August 1945, when a nuclear bomb intended to be dropped on the Mitsubishi Shipyards exploded instead over the Urakami district, killing 150,000 people. A black stone column marks the blast's epicentre, alongside the Atomic Bomb Museum.

The Shofukuji Temple was the first Zen temple to be built in Japan. It was founded by the father of Japanese Zen, Eisai, in 1195. In the temple grounds are the remains of two other ancient temples, Jotenji and Tochoji.

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