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You are in: Fukuoka: Introductions: History of Fukuoka

History of Fukuoka  (Qjmp: 21005)

For a significant portion of Japan's early history people coming to or leaving the country went through Fukuoka. Just 70 miles from the Korean peninsular. Fukuoka was the main conduit for continental influences, particularly Chinese influences, at a time when China was one of the world's most significant and advanced civilizations. Even something as "Japanese" as rice-farming was possibly introduced to Japan through Kyushu around 500BC .The "Kin-in" a gold seal, was presented to a local ruler by the Han Dynasty emperor Guan Wan in 57AD - it is currently in the Fukuoka City Museum after being turned up by a farmer in Shikanoshima. Although tiny, it demonstrates the significance and importance of the city at that time. There are numerous burial grounds in the prefecture - particularly to the west of Fukuoka city, dating back to the Yamato period which contain numerous trade goods imported from abroad.

The Kokoran
The "Kokoran" was a visitors "guest house" or diplomatic mission. (It was re-discovered under the Heiwa-dai baseball stadium in the mid 80's. There is nothing much for visitors to see although the site is easily accessible.) Emmisaries were entertained/kept under house arrest there as their messages were sent on to the court in Kyoto for consideration and reply. Between the 7th and 9th centuries Fukuoka was a staging post for the introduction of Buddhism, Confucianism, the Chinese legal system, medicine and science as well as continental architecture. Indeed, the first Japanese Zen Buddhist temple is said to be the Shofukuji Temple (look in our "places to go" section) established in 1195. It was genuinely a gateway to Asia - in the sense of introducing Asia to Japan.

In the 10th century Dazaifu, just outside the city, became the administrative centre of northern Kyushu..

Mongolian Invasion:
Gateways, of course, attract undesirables and having bored of terrorising the continent the great Mongol Kublai Khan (as undesirable as they come), turned his attention to "Zipangu". His first invasion was compromised by a combination of incompetence and storms but it was the second invasion, in 1281, destroyed by the famous "kamikaze" (or "wind of god") that marked the end of his Japanese ambitions. (The tourist books do not mention it - but I think one of the most romantic trips one can make in Fukuoka is take the small, cheap municipal ferry across the bay to Shikanoshima, climb the hill to the tiny, slightly ramshackle temple and look back across Hakata Bay. Editor). Although the city has numerous reminders of this most significant of events in Japanese history, including bits of the Mongol Invasion wall, it makes less of it than it might. (Perhaps the slogan "Kamikaze City Fukuoka!" did not have quite the ring the modern city wanted...)

In 1601 Japan had been largely unified and the feudal lord was Chikusen Nagamasu - who decided to build a
part of Tamon Gate 
castle (as feudal lords do). The result was an enormous series of fortifications, never really finished and now ruined, named "Fukuoka" castle after his (thoroughly obscure) birthplace. At this time the main merchant and trading city was still know as Hakata. The Samurai town that grew up around the city was known, logically enough, as "Fukuoka". (Between the two - and enjoyed by both - was the "water trade" area of Nakasu - built on a sandbank in the middle of the river Naka. We'd love to give you a detailed history of Nakasu and the "entertainment industry", but unfortunately we don't have time and besides our researches are not yet complete....)

The castle grounds are now a park - all that remains are parts of the walls and fortifications and a few towers.

As Japan industrialized the coal and natural resources of the region became important and Fukuoka, ideally placed for trade, became strong. Slaves from other parts of Asia and POW's, were imported to work and die in the mines of Chikuho. Fukuoka was pretty much flattened in World War Two - photographs of the central area of the city show - nothing....

Post war, Fukuoka was home to the USAF at Itazuke airbase (now Fukuoka airport) and Saitozaki. Atomic bombs are alleged to have been stored in the hills of Hakata-no-mori in the 1950's. Marilyn Monroe honeymooned here...

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