Entries in Fukuoka City (14)


Japan's Wild, Wild West

1. Japan’s Wild, Wild West

Despite consistently ranking as one of best cities in the world to live, shop, or eat, Fukuoka also has a reputation among the Japanese as being one of the wildest, most dangerous places in the entire country. Because of its reputation for violence and crime, the prefecture has been called “Ashura no Koku” (阿修羅の国).[1]

So, why the bad rap?

For one, Fukuoka prefecture often tops the country in number of shootings and bombings with hand grenades—yes, that’s hand grenades. The prefecture also has the ignominy of being a leader in accidents caused by drunk drivers. The rate of burglary is high, as is the total number of sex crimes and the rate of sex crimes, and so on.[2]

The cause of the high level of crime has been attributed to the large number of organized crime syndicates operating in the prefecture, its proximity to the Sea of Japan, which is said to facilitate smuggling and exile, and tougher anticrime measures in Kantō and Kansai.


[1] Ashura in Buddhism is the name of the lowest ranking deities of the Kāmadhātu (Buddhist cosmology). They are described as having three heads with three faces and four to six arms. The state of an Asura reflects the mental state of a human being obsessed with ego, force and violence, always looking for an excuse to get into a fight, angry with everyone and unable to maintain calm or solve problems peacefully. (Wikipedia)

[2] *Fukuoka also has the highest rate in Japan of unmarried women in their 20s and 30s. This is supposed to be a “bad thing”, but personally, I believe it adds to the city's livability.



Torikai Shrine



Fukuoka Boomtown

Fukuoka City Hall, completed in 1923, was unfortunately torn down about two decades ago.

   I stumbled across some interesting growth projections for the city of Fukuoka the other day. The first graph shows actual growth from 1975 to 2005.

   Of the eight cities studied, Fukuoka (福岡、■) has grown the most (over 150%) during those thirty years, followed by Sapporo (札幌, ▲, 145%+), Sendai (仙台, ▲,140%), and Tôkyô (東京, ■, 130%). Much of the growth here, I suspect, is coming from depopulation of areas outside of Fukuoka. Evidence of this can be seen in the steady decline of Kitakyûshû's population (北九州, ●) since the mid 80s. Similar declines have occured in cities throughout the area. I visited the former coal mining town of Ômuta a few weeks ago and learned that in its heyday the city had over 200,000 people. Today, the population is half that figure.

   The next graph shows growth projections for a number of cities in Japan over the next twenty-two years. Using 2005 as the starting point, Ôsaka City (大阪) is expected to to see it's population drop to just over 85% of its 2005 population by the year 2035. The only cities predicted to maintain their 2005 population levels over the next two decades are Fukoka (福岡市) and Tôkyô (東京). The greater metropolitan area of Fukuoka City (福岡都市) is also expected to maintain its 2005 population level.


Thanks, China!

   It seems like the more China develops and "modernizes", the more it impacts us here in Japan, and not always in the most positive of ways.

   At first, our biggest concern here in the western part of Japan was the Asian dust, known as kôsa or yellow sand in Japanese, which would blow in from the deserts of eastern and western China every spring; now, we must contend with China's smog, too.

   Last Saturday (Feb. 23), air pollution levels exceeded Japan's recommended limit with PM2.5 particulates reaching a density of 50.5ugm/m3. As densities above 35ugm/m3 pose a health hazard, the prefectural government issued a warning, advising residents to wear face masks and to forego hanging laundry out to dry.

   Every time it gets as bad as this, I can't help wonder what it must be like in China. It's an awfully steep price to pay for (cough-cough) economic growth. 




   This time last year I was only a few weeks away from a long trip that took me and my family to PDX, SFO and HNL. This Xmas we are grounded here: Ah, FUK.

   For a salacious photo of fuk, click here.

   More notable airport codes can be found at aviationhumor.


The Incredibly Shrinking Nation

   In 2004 Japan’s population peaked at 127.8 million people[1]. Because the fertility rate[2] in Japan has remained far below the 2.2 or so needed to maintain a population, the population has been falling steadily. If nothing changes, the population of Japan is predicted to fall to less than 90 million by the year 2055.

   While the nation anxiously wrings its hands, I have to ask what to me seems like an obvious question: is this really a problem?

   Personally, I think there are far too many people in this crowded country and population decline ought to be not only welcomed, but celebrated as one of the successes of a modern society. If you go to and have a look at the birth rates, you’ll find that Japan is fourth from the bottom, down there with Macau and Hong Kong, two of the worlds most densely populated places.[3] The countries with the highest birthrates are, not surprisingly, poor, less developed, and predominately African ones.

   Now, I realize that with population decline comes a number of seemingly knotty issues, such as how the pension system will be funded, and so on.[4] But, on the whole, I think the demographic change provides far more opportunities than it does challenges. (The same can be said about last year’s massive earthquake and tsunami. I’ll write more about this later.)

   While the population of Japan as a whole has been in decline for the past eight years, you might be surprised to learn that cities like Fukuoka have grown steadily.

   When I first moved to Fukuoka in 1993, the city had a population of 1.246 million people. Since then, the population has increased and stands at 1.443 people today. The foreign community has doubled from 12,621 in 1993 to 24,555 in 2011.

   What is the cause of this growth? One theory (my own) ascribes the increase to the comparatively large number of attractive women in the Fukuoka, the so-called Hakata Bijin (博多美人, “Hakata Beauty”), which has eager men flocking to the city in droves.[5] Others point more correctly to kasoka (過疎化), or the depopulation of towns and villages as people pull up stakes and move to the cities where there are better-paying jobs and more opportunities. 

   Out of curiosity, I looked into the demographics of Iizuka, that oft-maligned (mostly by me) city to the northwest of Fukuoka, to see how the population had changed over the years. I was surprised to see that although the city’s population was down from a high of 140,463 people in 1995, it was still higher than in the decades following the end of the war when the mines were still giving up plenty of coal and jobs abounded. I guess having a powerful politician fighting for your cause—in this case former Prime Minister Tarô Aso—does have its benefits, if not plenty of pork barrel. The city is today home to one of the campuses of Kyûkôdai (九工大, Kyûshû Institute of Technology).

   Fukuoka, though, has much more going for it, which might explain why so many people from throughout the Kyûshû-Okinawa region relocate here. That might also explain why for several years running Fukuoka has been chosen by a number of magazines, including Monocle, as one of the world’s best cities. (Personally, I think that’s going a little too far. It is a nice place, but one of the world’s best? C’mon, who ya kiddin’?)[6]


[1] Numbers vary. The Japanese language site gave the above figure. Another English language site had the population at 128.1 million in 2010.

[2] The fertility rate refers to the average number of children born to women throughout their reproductive years. The fertility rate, which was 3.65 in 1950, fell to 1.91 in 1975. It stands around 1.37 today.

[3] Japan is the 38th most densely populated country in the world.

[4] I will discuss this so-called problem in the next post.

[5] Many young women will disagree with this, claiming that the city doesn’t have many men. They’ll even argue that there are eight women for every available man. I don’t know where this statistic comes from, but I’ve heard it again and again over the years. Funny, but the two single women who first told me of this imbalance have moved to Tôkyô where—surprise, surprise—they remain single.

[6] I often joke that “Fukuoka is a nice place to live, but you wouldn’t want to visit it”. There just isn’t that much for tourists to do and see. 






   And while I'm on the topic of things being shrouded, most of northern Kyûshû was blanketed in a thick fog a week ago Sunday. It started to roll in just after one in the afternoon and by evening most of the city was enveloped in it.

   In spite of Fukuoka's proximity to the sea and being surrounded on all sides by reasonably high mountains, fog is a rare occurrence. I'm no meteorologist, so I won't venture any guesses as to why this is so. I will, however, offer this up as an another example of how oddly the weather has been acting lately.

   We had an unusually chilly, dry April. But just as people started to worry about the level of water in the local dams, the weather changed lickety-split. Within a matter of days, we were soon experiencing weather more typical of the late rainy season in mid July: it was unbearably hot and humid, and, as a friend put it, wetter than an otter's pocket.

   I heard that the Kanmon Straits which separates the island of Kyûshû from Honshû, was closed to shipping as the thickness of the fog made it impossible to navigate the waters safely. Would like to have gotten some shots of it.  




   When composing a haiku, a poet must not only write three lines consisting of five, seven, and five on (syllables), but include a seasonal reference, known as kigo. Typical kigo for spring include, of course, the cherry blossoms for which Japan is famous, frogs, the Japanese bush-warbler, and so on. Haiku poets when stumped for a suitable kigo for their poems often consult a saijiki (歳時記), which offers an extensive list of word that give the reader a true sense of the season. 

   Permit me to offer up a new kigo for the times we live in: kôsa (literally, yellow sand).

   Also known as Asian dust, the yellow sands are kicked up by dust storms occurring in Mongolia and northern China and carried by the prevailing winds as far away as Japan where they can turn the sun into an angry white dot in the gray sky and cover everything with a fine yellow dust resembling pollen.

   In recent years, these sand storms have grown both more frequent and more intense. A little over a week ago, visibility was cut to less than five-hundred yards. The mountains outside my office window shrouded behind a thick veil of dust.

   It's believed that desertification in China and Russia as well as an increase in industrial pollutants in China are to blame for the worsening storms which, in addition to bringing dust also carry sulfur, industrial heavy metals, carcinogens, viruses, bacteria, fungi, pesticides, asbestos, and a host of other nasty particles to our shores. Not very encouraging news when you're raising children. 


Tenjin Tremblin'

   This is something I wrote for a local magazine five years ago we we had our own earthquake drama:


   I thought Fukuoka wasn't supposed to have earthquakes. Tectonic growing pains were other prefecture's problems, not ours. That, of course, was until Palm Sunday's M7.0 tremor.

   I was at a friend's condo in Momochihama when the quake hit, and, faithful to my grade school drilling, ran for cover. Oddly enough, I was the only one to do so. Several minutes later, NHK confirmed both the obvious--it had been huge, the largest in living memory--and the not so obvious--it's epicenter was along a previously unknown fault. I wonder how many other seismic surprises are in store for Japan.

   Once the fear of tsunami had been allayed, I started to head home. Here and there muddy water shot up through the ground, making me question the intelligence of erecting so many high-rises on such freshly reclaimed land. Across the Hii River, both the Sea Hawk Hotel and Yahoo Dome had been evacuated. Thousands milled about nervously, many trying in vain to contact loved ones with their virtually useless cellphones.

   With traffic into town paralyzed, I had little choice but to walk. The nearer I got, the more alarming the damage--cracks in the roads and sidewalks, shards of glass and wall tiles everywhere, and buildings rattled violently at their foundation. Though my building in Daimyo appeared at first to have escaped the worst, I was shocked when I opened the front door.

   Everything was in disarray. Cabinets had been toppled, their contents smashed to bits, and a pond of water was spreading across the floor. After locating the source of the leak--my washer and dryer unit had also fallen over, dislodging the hose from the faucet in the wall--I turned the water off and hurried over to another apartment I had in Kego.

   With massive cracks in the walls, an elevator wrenched free of the upper floors and broken tiles littering the halls, the three-year-old building looked practically uninhabitable. Even if it were, my shaken neighbors were too frightened to return, a good number of them would move out entirely.

   Back in Daimyo, it would be another hour before I could finally get through to my niece who was marooned with her boyfriend outside the Tenjin Bus Center. Aside from the self-evident fact that an earthquake had brought the city to a standstill, the two were clueless. Not speaking Japanese, they were also victims of a dearth of information accessible to them. They were not alone. Apparently, in the hours following the earthquake when accurate information was critical, Love FM was flying the airways on auto-pilot. For a radio station established ostensibly to serve as a reliable lifeline for foreigners, broadcasting canned music during such a crisis is a sobering reminder of how conditional love can be when it's needed.

   Later as I was putting my home in order and taking an inventory of the loss, the battle-ax who had a room below mine came to my door and ordered me to follow her downstairs.

   In her apartment I was greeted a group of humorless old biddies who glared at me. Above their heads was a ceiling that was leaking like a sieve. They wanted to know something that had also been on my mind: was I insured?

   "Yes, yes, of course, I'm insured."

   I had no choice in that matter when I rented the apartment. But, covered for earthquakes? Well, like 85% of Fukuokans I would learn later that afternoon that I wasn't. I should have known better. The insurance business is a not-so distant cousin of the protection racket. Those friendly insurance salesmen peddle confidence and security, but when you try to get them to actually pay up, they become suspiciously self protective. The lucky 15% of people in the city who were indeed covered might expect to recoup a measly five percent of the damage. While I've managed to be philosophical about my own loss, the battle-ax downstairs hasn't been as magnanimous.

   Sleep was out of the question that first night, fitful at best that entire week, thanks to the aftershocks which did a splendid job keeping me sharp. The nausea and migraines influenced by these not so subtle reminders that the earth was indeed alive and kicking made me feel as if I were paddling across the Pacific in a leaky swan boat.

   The next afternoon, an army of police with the media in tow descended upon Daimyo and began cordoning off the streets and evacuating tenants from their buildings. When I asked an officer why, I was politely told to shove off because it was dangerous. Not very helpful. A sign at the entrance of my building issued a dire warning: an unspecified building was threatening to collapse. All tenants were ordered to take refuge at the local elementary school. Not wanting my miserable puss to be broadcast on national TV like those unfortunate residents of Genkai Island, I chose to camp out at a friend's instead until the evacuation order was lifted several days later.

   All in all, I'd say Fukuoka got lucky this time. Inclement weather and timing alone could have made the situation far worse. With a large earthquake along the Kego fault no longer a question of if but when, let's hope that the public and private sector will then use this opportunity to prepare for future catastrophe.



After a dessert of chilled amanatsu, jelly served in the half peel of the summer orange it was made from, Abazuré says she has to return to the office. Several others take the opening my boss has given them to say they, too, have to hurry home before their children come back from elementary school. So, I'm left alone with Shizuko and our hostess, Yoko. As Shizuko fills my choko with reishu sake, Yoko brings in a basket of cherries she says arrived from Yamagata just this morning.

"Did you try the sashimi, Peador?" Yoko asks placing a handful of cherries on my plate.

"Uh, no, I didn't."

"It's out of this world," she says. "Very fresh."

"I'm sure it is," I say.

"Where did you buy it, Shizuko?"

"I didn't. It was a gift from one of my husband's patients."

"You really must try it, Peador," Yoko insists, reaching for a fresh plate behind her.

"Please, I'm fine. I . . . I've really had quite a lot to eat already."

"Mottainai. What a waste. C'mon, just a little."

"It's, um . . . It's just that . . . " Should I tell her I'm allergic? That I am a vegetarian? No, that won't work; I've been eating meat all afternoon. On a Friday, no less. Religion? Nah, the only religious bone I have in my body is the asadachi (morning woody) I stroke reverently every morning. "I'm afraid I'm not that crazy about sashimi."

Yoko wags her finger at me. "Tsk, tsk. You'll never be able to marry a Japanese woman, Peador."

"Oh? And why's that?"

She takes a long sip from her wine glass leaving a dark red smudge on the rim before speaking. "I don't think two people can be truly happy together unless they grow up eating the same food. I know a couple. Oh, you know him, Shizuko, what's his name? The Canadian . . . " she says snapping her fingers as if to conjure him up.

"John," Shizuko says. "John Williams. Works at Kyûshû University."

"Yes, well, John married a Japanese girl," Yoko continues. "When he met the family for the first time, they served him sashimi. They asked, 'John-san, can you eat sashimi?' And of course he says, he loves sashimi, but actually he couldn't stand fish. Like you, Peador."

"I didn't say I . . . "

"So, the poor girl's parents think 'Yokatta, he's just like a Japanese!' After the marriage, though, this John won't eat a bite of fish and, yappari, now they're getting divorced." Keiko takes another long drink, leaving another red smudge on the rim of the glass. "No, if you don't eat the same food, you'll have all kinds of problems. And that's why foreigners and Japanese don't get along well. I mean, if they can't eat the same food, how do they expect to be able to do anything together, desho?"

She concludes her argument as she often does with a smug look and a broad sweep of her hand slicing through any disagreement.

After all I've eaten and drunk, I don't have the energy to argue. Besides, people like Yoko, who love dominating conversations, tend not to listen to anything but their own sweet voices.

"I really like these hashi oki," I say to myself. "I didn't know you could see fireflies around here."

"You know, international marriages are bound to fail because the cultures are so different," Shizuko says. "You know that JAL pilot, Barker-san, don't you?"

"Oh, yes," Yoko says putting her wine glass down. "I had him and his wife, the poor girl, over last week." You get the feeling Yoko's home is in a perpetual state of hospitality, inviting and feeding guests, then assuring them to come again. Once gone, however, they become the fodder for that red-lipsticked, tirelessly booming cannon of hers.

She picks up a cherry, removes the stem with her long bony fingers then sucks it into the venomous red hole in her gaunt face. "I didn't tell you, Shizuko, but while Barker-san and my husband were out getting a massage, I talked with his wife. The poor girl said she didn't know what to do with him. 'He always wants to do something on his day off . . . go out, jog or hike . . . All I want to do is stay home and rest.' And just as the poor girl was sighing, Barker-san and my husband came back. And Barker, he went right up to his wife, gave her a big hug and kiss and said, 'We're so happy together!'" Yoko fills my choko with more sake, and shakes her head. "I felt so sorry for her."

"So, the fireflies,” I say. “Know any good places I can see them around here?"

"The problem with young people today," Shizuko says with contempt, "is that they want to marry for love."

This surprises me enough to bring me back into the conversation, and I ask Shizuko if she loves her husband. The two women laugh at me, making me feel foolish for asking. I didn’t know the question was so silly.

"Love," Shizuko scoffs. "Tell me, Peador, why do half of all Americans get divorced?"

I could offer her a number of reasons. Many really. But, I'm really not in the mood to go head to head with these two half-drunk, half-bitter housewives.

"It's very important to know the person you're marrying," Shizuko warns. "Love confuses you."

"Do you want to marry a Japanese girl?" Yoko asks me.

"I haven't given it much thought, to be honest. Anyways, marriage isn't the object. It's the result. If I find someone I love, who also happens to be Japanese, who knows? Maybe I'll marry her."

"You'll never be able to marry one," Yoko says refilling my choko. "You have to eat miso and rice and soy sauce as a child."

Maybe I'm blind or a sentimental dolt, but, somehow, I just cannot accept the idea that what went wrong between Mie and myself was rooted in my dislike of sashimi.

"Everyone wants to marry someone funny and cheerful," Yoko continues, spilling a drop of wine onto her linen tablecloth. "Tsk, tsk . . . She's cheerful but she couldn't cook if her life depended upon it. She buys everything from the convenience store and puts it in the microwave. Ching! Boys want girls that are fun, but they don't understand that what they really need is a wife who can cook real food and take care of children. Young people these days!"

 It was almost as if she was speaking specifically about Mie. My Mie who woke early in one morning, and walked in her pajamas to the nearest convenience store to get something for our bento. She wasn't as hopeless as Yoko might contend; she fried the chicken herself, then packed our lunches and bags before I had even gotten out of bed. When I finally stopped knitting my nightly dream, put down my needles and woke up, everything for our day at the beach had been prepared.

"It's a shame what some of the mothers fix for their children at the International School. My daughter used to trade her tempura that I woke early to make because she felt sorry for her friends. They were eating sandwiches!"

It was an outrage.


When I woke, Mie was gently stroking my head. I pulled her into my arms and kissed her soft lips. She laid down upon me, legs to each side of me, then punched the remote to invite Vivaldi into bed with us. As the hot morning sun began to brighten up the room, we made love, made love throughout the Four Seasons.

Later that morning, we drove with the top of her car open, windows down and music blaring to Umi-no-Nakamichi, a long narrow strand of sand and pines that continued for several miles until it reached a small island forming the northern edge of the Hakata Bay. Pine, sand, and sea lay on either side of the derelict two-lane road. We arrived at a small inlet, which had been roped off to keep the jellyfish away and paid a few hundred yen to one of the old women running one of the umi-no-e beach houses. Passing through the makeshift hut with old tatami floors and low folding tables we walked out to the beach which was crowded with hundreds of others who had came to do the same.

By eleven the sun was burning down on us, burning indelible tans into the backs of children. The only refuge was either the crowded umi-n0-e hut or the sea, so Mie and I took a long swim, waded in each others' arms or floated on our backs in the warm, shallow water.

Although I'd eventually get such a severe sunburn that I'd lie awake at night trembling in agony, it was one of my happiest days in Japan. On the way back to Mie’s apartment with my lobster red hand resting between her tanned thighs, I sang along to the Chagé and Aska songs playing on her stereo, making her laugh the whole way.

"I love you," she'd tell me with a long kiss when we arrived back at her place.


"What men need," Yoko repeats, "is a woman who can cook and take care of the home. Someone like your Yu-chan in the office."

The absurdity of what Yoko has just said snaps me out of my daydream. Yu, grayest of gray, as cold and bitchy as they came, may make a suitable Eva Braun for an Al Hitler, but suggesting that she'd make a good wife for me, why, that was insulting.

Yoko, reading the disagreement in my face, says, "See, Yu-chan's gloomy and, well, she isn't much to look at, but she really would make a very good wife for you, Peador. You just don't know it yet."


Excerpt from A Woman's Nails. To read more here.

© Aonghas Crowe, 2010. All rights reserved. No unauthorized duplication of any kind.


All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

A Woman's Nails is now available on Amazon's Kindle.


Hakata Station

   In less than a week's time, the new Hakata Station, JR Hakata City, will open. Featuring two new department stores, Hankyû and Tôkyû Hands, and more than 200 specialty shops and restaurants, the new station building is expected to become a game changer not only in the already competitive retail market of Fukuoka City, but of Kyûshû's, as well. Case in point, the major department store chain Daimaru has closed its Nagasaki branch to focus on younger shoppers in Fukuoka.  


   The opening of the station coincides with the completion of a new shinkansen line, linking Fukuoka with Kagoshima in the south in an hour and nineteen minutes. By comparison, the same trip by car takes over three hours. The new bullet train service is expected to bring in ever more shoppers and tourists from neighboring prefectures to the city and to meet the demand of this potential consumer frenzy, some 7000 people have been hired. (Knock on wood.) Considering that Fukuoka already has several department stores, many of which are struggling to cope with changing demographics and a weak economy, I have my doubts. The projects always look good on paper, and they certainly create a lot of excitement, but time and time again, they have failed to produce the kinds of results that had initially been forecasted by the developers. Super Brand City, which has for the most part become a sparkling ghost town (Shall we call it Super Bland City?), and that albatross known as Island City come to mind. (Japanese developers have a weakness for the word "City".) 

   While I am often skeptical of major development projects like these, I must say that I have been impressed with what I've seen of the new station so far. It has bright, wide open areas, ceilings have been raised, and the extensive use of white tiles and glass in the interior design all lend it a spaciousness that the former station lacked. 

   The former station was a dismal piece of architecture built in the early 60s. Like so many buildings of its day in Japan, it was not seriously intended for human use.

   The most insulting thing about the former station is that it replaced a gorgeously designed station that had been constructed more than half a century earlier. Today, nothing remains of the original station, which was located a few blocks northwest of the present station. Not the brick and copper plate exterior, not the marble restrooms, not the beautiful mantelpiece that was said to have been in the third-class waiting room, and so on. It was all brought down with a wrecking ball.

   Many Japanese will counter that the original station had been damaged in the aerial bombings during the war, but that is, frankly, a lousy excuse for the ugly architecture that has blighted the cityscapes in Japan. Much of Germany, Poland, and Belgium suffered far more destruction, and yet they managed to rebuild their cities, brick by brick, restoring what had been lost. And, as a result, many cities in those countries (I'm thinking in particular of Warsaw's historic Old Town) have been registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

   And so, once again it is out with the old, in with the new. Time marches on, one step forward, two steps back, three steps forward, one step back, and it sometimes feels like we're actually getting somewhere.





Walkabout - Jigyô

   There is an urban legend of sorts regarding the Jigyô (地行) neighborhood which claims that the area was in olden times a killing field of sorts, a place where the condemned went to die. The name, people will tell you, actually means go to hell (獄にく, jigoku ni iku) and because so many people were executed there it is to this day haunted. 

   I don't know if there's any truth to that story. There is frankly so much conflicting information about where executions were conducted  in the city during the Edo Period that you can pretty much be guaranteed to bump into ghosts no matter where you happen to venture. That said, considering how undeveloped Jigyô is compared to the neighborhoods around it, there must be enough people who still believe in the legend to avoid this otherwise nice piece of real estate.

   The first several shots are of Torikai Hachiman-gû, an unassuming shrine located in Imagawa, just across the street from Jigyô. One of the main attractions of this area (incl. neighboring Tôjin Machi), for me at least, is the large number of shrines and temples, a testament to how old this part of Fukuoka City is.  


On the grounds of Torikai Hachimangû, you'll find a small shrine dedicated to Ebisu (恵比寿). The patron god of fishermen and good luck, as well as the guardian of the health of small children, he is one of my favorites of the Seven Gods of Fortune (七福神, Shichifukujin). Ebisu is often paired with Daikokuten, another of the Seven Gods. You can find displays of the two patrons in small shops and pubs throughout Japan. 

 Ring the bell and make a wish.

From the shrine I walked over to Fukuoka Yahoo! Dome where an event featuring local spirits (shôchû and awamori) was being held (See Kampai section). The event itself wasn't something of a disappointment, but being able to wander around the baseball field and see the Dome as the players see it made it worth the visit.

On my way home, I cut through the neighborhood of Tôjin Machi (唐人町). The origin of the area's name (lit. Chinaman's Town) is not clear, but according to the Chikuzen no Kunizoku Fûdoki (筑前国続風土記) the area was once home to residents from Goryeo (modern day Korea) and ships from China would lay anchor there.

I could be wrong, but I believe this temple and charnel house (pagoda) behind it is called Daiteidaien-ji (大悌大園寺). Business seems to be booming. 


Notes: 文献上に始めて登場するのは、1627年(寛永4年)に成立した『筑前筑後肥前肥後探索書』である。江戸時代には唐津街道に沿って町家が立ち並び、これが後の唐人町商店街に発展したと考えられている。1784年(天明4年)には、福岡藩藩校として亀井南冥館長による西学問所「甘棠館」が設立された。しかし、1792年(寛政4年)10月に商家から出火した火災で炎上。そのまま廃校となり、生徒は東学問所修猷館に編入され、その後も再建されることは無かった。


Walkabout - Hakozaki


Unfortunately, little remains of Hakozaki's former charm.

The university has become all but a ghost town since the opening of the Itoshima campus on the extreme opposite side of town. What will happen to the campus's Taishô and Meiji Era buildings is yet to be known, but you never can underestimate Japanese government officials' ability to turn architectural heritages into dreary, unkempt parks that no one ever visits.

The thousands upon thousands of wooden houses that once stood along Hakozaki's narrow streets have all but disappeared, torn down and replaced with shabby apartment buildings, prefab houses, and parking lots. The few that do remain are more often than not covered with ugly plastic or tin siding.


It's a terrible shame, but nobody seems to be shedding any tears over it. Most Japanese have come to accept it as "normal", and in a sense it is: the same thing has happened virtually everywhere in Japan.

There's a lot of talk in Japan these days of machi-tsukuri (街作り), town building or community development. I come across the word a lot in my translation work. The fact of the matter is, however, that government has been willingly complicit in what I call machi-tsubushi (街潰し), the wasting, destruction and crushing of towns in its misguided rush towards "modernity" and "development". 


With that now off my chest, I went for a long walk around Hakozaki and Maedashi while I was waiting for the Tama Seseri Festival to begin at Hakozaki-gû Shrine several weeks ago.

 One of the nicer homes in the area. Modest, yet sophisticated. 

A small, nicely maintained shrine I found at the end of an alley.

A shime-nawa is hanging above the doors of the shrine. 

The wall surrounding the old Kyûshû University campus. The sign says "No Parking".  

The front gates of Kyûshû University, constructed I believe in the Meiji Period. 

 Mandarin oranges 

 Another small shrine, a block away from Hakozaki-gû. 

A nicely maintained private residence in, I believe, the Maedashi neighborhood.