Entries in Fukuoka prefecture (5)


Ah, Progress!

   Above is what Mount Kawara (香春岳) of Tagawa City (田川市) used to look like before Nihon Cement (now Taiheiyō Cement) shaved layer after layer off the top trying to get at its limestone.

   When I first visited Tagawa some twenty years ago, the right half of Kawara-dake had already been stripped down to about a third its original height, leaving a sheer cliff of stark white limestone on the left. Today that has also been mined. Now that's progress!


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.



Miyajidake Shrine

   One of my favorite places in Fukuoka is Miyajidaké Shrine. In early June the shrine holds its annual iris (shôbu) festival. These photos were taken when I visited this time last year.


   Miyaji Daké (Peak). The entire mountain is contained within the shrine's vast borders.

   The shrine claims to have Japan's largest shimenawa, the straw rope hanging above the entrance to the shrine's main building. The same claim is made by Izumo Taisha in Shimane prefecture.

   Purportedly, the biggest dingdong in Japan.

   Japan's largest drum, according to the shrine. Surely there are others that are larger.

   Behind the main shrine are paths that meander up to the top of Miyaji Daké. Along the way, you'll find several shrines as well as the occasional temple. 



Snow in Iizuka

   Miserable little Iizuka never looked so good.


Miyaji Daké

   I first went Miyaji Daké Shrine about five years ago when I was on my way to see the fireflies at a nearby river. Although the shrine was holding its annual iris festival at the time, there were very few visitors. What a shame, I thought, because I had never seen anything like it. The inner courtyard between the shrine's main gate and the grand shinden had been filled with purple and white irises that were just starting to bloom. 

   When I returned a week later with my camera, there were still only a handful of worshippers.

   Only a handful, and yet one of them was a young woman dressed in a beautiful kimono the color of irises.

   Every June I try to return to the shrine and explore its grounds in order discover something new about the place. I have posted some photos of my most recent visit here.