From February until mid-March, the weather is not the greatest in Fukuoka : there are clouds almost everyday, days of rain and a cold wind is blowing. I don't like this time of a year, despite the pretty flowering plum trees.
On the first sunny day in weeks, I decided to enjoy it and treat myself a ride out of the town. I picked up my favorite guide book but I couldn't decide for ages so at that time it was already too late for one of the two options I was considering. I took the train early in the afternoon to the north of the prefecture, towards the town of Kita-Kyushu and its downtown : Kokura.
Kita-Kyushu is a very industry-driven city and there are many factories there. From the train we see hundreds of factories, steaming and other pipes chimneys. But; it's a place that has a lot of charm with some beautiful places like Mojiko and many tourist points.
Kokura, the downtown, is a dynamic area with many shopping centers, including one dedicated to the manga, anime and cosplay universe, big shopping streets and lots of restaurants. The large number of universities and colleges also make it a student area : many brands offer cheap menus. I have found a very good and cheap donburi (rice bowl with garnish) address that I will talk in an other post.
Let's start visiting !
Kokura is direct from Hakat using Kagoshima line. It takes a bit more than one hour by express train and costs 1290 yens. This time the train was more than 30 minutes late (it's unusual but it happens, even in Japan) and when I arrived at Kokura, it was already quite late. I immediately headed to the castle. Leaving the station, I went through the shopping streets, before crossing by Riverwalk .
This huge shopping mall as a futuristic architecture like Canal City Fukuoka but I prefer this last one. Opened in 2003 against 1996 for Canal City, their resemblance is often a matter of joke between my boyfriend (born in Kita- Kyushu) and me when we talk about it because I always told him " Riverwalk is that the shoppping mall that was copied Canal City ? " putting him in (false) anger.
|Riverwalk shopping mall, Kokura, Fukuoka|
|Riverwalk shopping mall, Kokura, Fukuoka|
Leaving the mall, the castle is right before your eyes! Well, only the first buildings because to see the keep you need to venture a few steps further.
Kokura Castle (小倉城, Kokura-jo ) as viewed today is not an ancient building. Built in the 17th century, it was destroyed in 1865, during a clan war. The current tower is from 1959 and is not a faithful reproduction. According to the official site, the architect has changed some details such as the size of the 5th floor roof which was expanded to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Inside the castle keep, there is a museum.
It was a little late to get into the castle, but somehow I always prefer to admire castles from the outside. it is what I did and did take my time. You can walk all arounf the castle keep via a sanctuary which gives a nice view of the moats, ramparts and the Shirasu lighthouse. it is a nice walk althought the lack of greenery and closed shops made the place a little sad. Once I came back at my departure point, I saw a cat walking on the castle keep. A man tried to catch him but obviously couldn't be able to go as far as the cat. When I left they were both still on the stones. I hope both of them are safe.
The sunlight became to be weaker and I regret to didn't come earlier to enjoy the small Japanese garden near to the castle. But maybe it is better to be back later trees will be full of flowers and leaves ? When spring comes, I want to come back and spend a whole day in the city maybe go ti Mojiko which I have done several times but always in winter.
Here are the castle and its surroundings.
On my way back, a curious spectacle of a man throwing food to hungry and gigantic birds circling above the river. See you soon Kokura !
KOKURA CASTLE (小倉城)
Keep price :
350 yens, 200 yens (junior high school students), 100 yens (children until 12 years old)
-20% for 30 people + group.
Opening hours :
10am to 6pm (april to october)
9am to 5pm (november to march).
It's been a long time since I hadn't posted a kawaii moment ! During my visit , I found the vending machine corner (as there always are in Japan) and I found these one particularly kawaii. The little tiger is called Toraccha (とらっちゃ) and is the mascot of Kokura Castle, created for the 50th anniversary of the reconstruction of the keep.
Vending machines in the heart of a historic site, a castle next to a futuristic shopping center, is that the famous "mix between tradition and modernity", a motto that TV shows love ?
I wanted to thank all of you who shared, tweeted ,retweeted, put tags on Instagram and posted comments and likes on FB about my application to become a Fukuoka Goodwill Ambassador. I can not wait for the first selections to begin.