Follow by Email

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lunar New Year: Fukuoka

Early morning street scene near our hotel

In retrospect, it might've been better to have spent our last night in Kagoshima 鹿児島 rather than going to Fukuoka 福岡. I'd been to Fukuoka a couple of times before, and while the city, with its many restaurants, department stores and nightlife spots, would be a great place to live and work, in terms of sightseeing attractions there isn't a whole lot to see (though the metropolis makes an excellent base for traveling around Kyūshū 九州). Our flight back to Shànghăi wasn't until the late afternoon on Monday, meaning we could've stayed longer in Kagoshima to see more of the city. But the girls had never been to Fukuoka (and for my daughter, this was only her second trip to Japan), and so we decided to spend our last night and day of our Lunar New Year break there. 

A short walk from our hotel is Fukuoka's oldest Shintō shrine, Kushida-jinja 櫛田神社, founded in 757. Though the grounds are small, the shrine contains a number of buildings and other things to look at:

A ceremony for a large group of visiting students was being held at the main hall:

Kishida-jinja is the home of Fukuoka's Hakata GionYamakasa 博多祇園山笠 festival, held every July 1-15. During the festival, seven teams careen through the streets pulling one-ton floats while being doused with water by spectators. After the festival is over, all but one of the floats are destroyed; the survivor is displayed for a year at the shrine:

Another veteran float from the Gion Yamakasa Festival can be seen in the Kami-Kawabata-Dōri 上川端通り covered shopping arcade, which we strolled through after exiting the shrine. As it was still only mid-morning on a Monday, the covered, pedestrian-only street was still quiet:

Across the road from the arcade is the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum 福岡アジア美術館, located on the 7th and 8th floors of the Hakata Riverain shopping complex. The collection is small but contains interesting works of contemporary art from 23 countries and regions from across Asia. Unlike most museums in Japan, this one is open on Mondays:

I Love Tiananmen Square, Beijing by the Luo Brothers (China), 1996-97

Study for Little Bird by Dhruva Mistry (India), 1984

Calendar Poster for Cosmetics Company, Kwona Sana Hona Ltd. by Hang Zhiying/Zhiying Studio (China), 1920-30's

Amber and Pamela try out a fully-kitted Bangladeshi rickshaw:

My daughter in particular enjoyed the museum as there were several interactive displays, plus opportunities to do some coloring. Here she is manipulating a couple of keyboard pads to change the movements of patterns on the dishes in the display cabinet. The commands she input also altered the lighting and sound:

The view from the 8th floor of the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum

Feeling hungry after visiting the museum, we returned to Kami-Kawabata-Dori, which was now busy with lunchtime patrons. Lunch for me was a yakiniku set 焼肉:

The three of us split up after lunch - Amber and Pamela returned to Canal City キャナルシティ to do some window shopping, while I took a walk through Fukuoka's somewhat sleazy but always interesting (at night) Nakasu 中洲 district, though a dead zone on a Monday afternoon. After meeting up again back at the hotel, we retrieved our bags, took the subway to Fukuoka Airport 福岡空港 and watched with bemusement while the Chinese passengers tried to find space in the overhead luggage bins for all the electric rice cookers they'd purchased in Fukuoka. Despite numerous articles in the press in recent months on Ugly Chinese traveling overseas, the Japanese police didn't need to board the plane and take away any passengers, and we returned to Shanghai on time.

Throughout our brief stay in Kyushu, I was reminded over and over again of the importance to the regional economy of tourists from China, South Korea and Taiwan. Many of the sightseeing attractions we visited offered information in Korean and Mandarin Chinese (simplified characters for the Chinese tourists, traditional ones for the Taiwanese visitors), while many shops posted multilingual signs offering discounts and tax rebates for foreign-passport holders. We encountered Mandarin-speaking visitors in many places, though fortunately we did not witness any bad behavior, most likely due to the fact that a.) most of the tourists were traveling in small groups of families or friends and not in large tour group herds; and b.) judging from the way they were speaking Mandarin, many appeared to have come from Taiwan. Kyushu has gone out of its way to make these visitors feel welcome; last Sunday evening, when the strap broke on Pamela's old suitcase and my wife went into Canal City to buy a new one, she was attended to by a Chinese clerk who had grown up in Japan. The visitors return the favor by buying tons of stuff; at the airport we saw Chinese checking in lots of large boxes (as well as carrying on the aforementioned rice cookers). Westerners like to complain of the high cost of visiting Japan, which is something of a myth as it's no more expensive to get around the archipelago than it is to do the same in North America or Western Europe; we found eating out in Belgium last September to be far more costly than it was in Kagoshima or Fukuoka, for example. For those from China, however, where the taxes on imported luxury items are often prohibitive, Japan is a relative bargain.

As for me, I didn't do much shopping, but I did get to see some new areas of the country as well has enjoy some unusual experiences, such as witnessing a volcano erupt and getting buried in hot sand at a beach. The joys of driving were such that I hope to rent cars again on future trips and venture even further into the provinces. My next assignment will take me away from Asia, but as long as there's the family link to Taiwan, I think I'll be able to stop in Japan as well.

Sign for an entertainment establishment in Nakasu


  1. nice series, Jim. i enjoyed it. thanks for posting.

  2. I'm glad you liked it, thanks!