Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fukuoka 福岡

As I told you some posts ago, I spent the last week of February in Kyushu, the southernmost of the 4 main islands that compose Japan. Kyushu has always been a crossroad of cultures and the gateway through which Japan communicated with the world until the Meiji restauration (end of 19th century). The Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish arrived here in the 18th century. Most contact with China happened from here, and there are important Chinatowns in the biggest cities. Even Hideyoshi tried to conquer Korea from here in the 16th century! The result is an open minded region, with lots of foreign influence and amazing cities like Nagasaki, real crossroads of cultures.

My first stop was Fukuoka, the largest city in Kyushu. Fukuoka is specially famous in Japan for ramen (chinese noodles), and I must say the fame is well deserved!! ;)

Fukuoka is a very modern city and I liked it pretty much at that time. I still did not know what Kyushu had to offer!! The city was created after the union of two other cities: the castle town of Fukuoka/Tenjin and the nearby urban center of Hakata. Now, the city has two clearly divided centers: Tenjin and Hakata. Tenjin is the most urban area, where the upmarket shops and restaurants are. Hakata has the main train station and most of temples. The district called Gion, just a few minutes from the train station is really nice to get lost. Lots of temples and narrow streets with many temples.

The border between Hakata and Tenjin is a river that creates a small island, house to the red-light district...

Next to the river, on Hakata's side, there is a very famous shrine (famous in Kyushu). It was pretty nice and there were many opportunities to take nice photos.

Fukuoka, as most of modern cities in Japan, is a continuous contrast of modernity and old times. A ultra modern nation with deep Asian roots.

Kyushu was the gateway for ideas coming from the West and old Western buildings can be found around the city. This is the Old Prefectural House.

As soon as you get a bit further from the city centers, you notice there is quite some street culture. Many food stalls selling everything from dried fish to many kinds of oranges. At night, Fukuoka is famous for street food stalls. That was very similar to Pusan, in Korea. After all, they are just a few hours away by boat!!

Fukuoka also has a nice beach, with many islands in the horizon, which makes it really special. It was a pitty it was cloudy when I got there... Next to the beach, a nice piece of architecture: Fukuoka Tower.

Next stop, Nagasaki.

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