Japan (April 2019): Kyushu (Fukuoka, Kokura, and Yanagawa)

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Although my 2019 trip to Japan was focused on the San-in coast, I had chosen to enter and leave Japan in Fukuoka and travel by train from Fukuoka to Hagi on the San-in coast. So, I spent little time in Kyushu at the beginning and the end of the trip. I visited (or re-visited) a few places in Fukuoka, stopped at the Kokura′s castle on my way to Hagi, and did a side-trip to the canal-city of Yanagawa (50km south of Fukuoka) on the eve of my departure. For photos of Fukuoka that I took in 2017, click here.

 

Fukuoka:

 

Shofuku-ji temple. Built in 1195 by Zen master Yosai, it is the first Zen Buddhist temple in Japan.

 

- Main gate.

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- Shoro (bell tower)

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- Prayer hall.

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- Statues inside the prayer hall.

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- Onigawara believed to protect the temple.

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- An almost endless wall.

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Altar and pagoda in the Tocho-ji temple.

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Joten-ji temple.

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Gokoku-jinja (Shinto shrine).

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Large 13m-high wooden torii at the entrance of the Gokoku shrine.

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Inside Kushida-jinja (Shinto shrine), with its masks of Tengu.

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Old-fashion street next to Kushida-jinja.

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Fukuoka proudly maintains a typically Asian street-food culture. In the late afternoons, mobile food stalls called yatai are brought on street sidewalks, especially around the Tenjin station, and assembled into tiny restaurants. At sunset customers start coming and often stay until the middle of the night. Some are dressed casually, others wear formal dark suits and ties.

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Kokura:

 

I visited the Kokura castle on a sunny Sunday morning, on one of the best sakura (cherry blossom) day of the season. The grounds of the castle were crowded with many families who were picnicking. The castle was originally built in 1602, destroyed by a fire in 1837, rebuilt in 1839, burnt down again in 1866 during a war between the Kokura and Hagi lords, reconstructed in 1959, and restored in 1990. It is nevertheless quite beautiful.

 

In the garden of the castle.

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View of the castle from the garden.

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Other views of the castle.

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Reflection of the castle into the moat.

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Statues depicting the epic duel between Miyamoto Musashi (left) and Sasaki Kojiro (right) in 1612. Both were famous Japanese swordsmen. Miyamoto won the duel and killed Sasaki. These vivid statues are located on the castle ground.

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Yanagawa:

 

Yanagawa is a small town south of Fukuoka that is most famous for its network of hundreds of kilometers of peaceful canals surrounding the site of a former castle. These canals, some built more than one thousand years ago, were used both for transportation and military defense. They are bordered by large trees, gardens, colorful flowers, and some old buildings.

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Drawing artists inspired by the sight of a canal along an old building, near the Tachibana Museum, and a photo of this sight.

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Namikura warehouses, built in the 19th century as a miso factory.

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Small flat-bottom cruise boats, known as donkubune, on the canals. Each such boat is powered with a long pole by a man standing at the back. Wearing a traditional costume, he narrates local stories and sings verses written by the local poet Hakushu Kitahara. And of course, such cruises are very popular with Japanese visitors, who are then fitted with colorful traditional hats. I was glad to visit Yanagawa on a weekday. If the large number of boats idle on some canal sections is an indicator, weekends are likely to be much less peaceful.

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Ohana Shoto-en garden in the premise of the former residence of the Tachibana family, the feudal lords of Yanagawa during most of the Edo period.

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Garden next to the Mihashira shrine.

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Hiyoshi shrine and on the right mask of Nio, one of the guardians of the Buddha.

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