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A Walk Through History

Fukuoka, Originally Hakata, as an International Cultural Exchange City from Yesterday to Today

A Gateway for Foreign Cultures, Fukuoka Boasts a 2000 Year History of Shaping Japan.

The history of Fukuoka can also be called the history of international exchange. With a naturally suitable port facing China and the Korean Peninsula across the Genkai Sea, Fukuoka has played the role as a gateway for foreign exchange, thus contributing to the development of Japan’s history and culture since the ancient times. In about the fourth century B.C., the technology of cultivating rice was introduced into Japan. The oldest double ditches in Japan have been discovered in the Naka ruins、and in the Itazuke ruins, which have remained from that time. A gold seal given by China as a gift in 57 A.D. was also discovered on Shikanoshima Island, located in eastern Fukuoka, which confirms communication in ancient times.

As a stronghold of politics and diplomacy in 536, “Nanotsu no Miyake”, named “Dazaifu” later on, was founded in Hie in Hakata ward. Ambassadors to China’s Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty departed from Hakata, called “Nanotsu” at that time. In addition, “Korokan” was built for hosting guests from abroad. It was at that time, the name “Hakata” came into use. In the mid-eighth century, the name “Hakata Otsu” appeared in Shoku Nihongi, an imperially commissioned Japanese history text.

ShikanosimaBulwarks against Mongolian Invasion

Hakata Merchants Sail the Seas Purposefully, while Zen Buddhism from China Takes Root in Fukuoka.

JoutenjiIn the 12th century, in order to strengthen the trade between Japan and China’s Song Dynasty, Taira no Kiyomori built the Sode-no-minato port,and Hakata became the center of trade with China, introducing Chinese culture to the rest of Japan. In the Kamakura period, Shofukuji, the first Zen temple in Japan was established and subsequently followed by other temples such as Jotenji; the Zen culture had started to unfold its petals in Japan.

In the 13th century, Hakata was twice attacked by Mongolia, but the army was made to retreat due to natural disasters and diseases. From the 15th century, under the domination of the Ouchi family, the trade between Japan and China was prosperous and continued to develop, and Hakata became one of the three biggest ports of Japan in the Middle Ages, with many Hakata merchants possessing great power.

However, because of repeated wars in the age of civil wars in Japan, the city of Hakata was burned to ashes. In 1587, Hideyoshi Toyotomi brought peace to Kyushu and rebuilt Hakata. He incorporated an urban plan called “Taikomachiwari”, and completed what would become a prototype of today’s Hakata, and designated it as a free city, leading it to become a commercial city along with Sakai of Osaka.

Fukuoka Castle RuinsThe Birth of Samurai Town, Fukuoka, Gives Rise to a Rare Case of Twin Cities

Before the Middle Ages, Hakata, where merchants thrived, had been the focal point. However, when the Edo period arrived, samurai town of Fukuoka first made its appearance. Kuroda Josui and his son Kuroda Nagamasa,known for their contributions to the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, arrived in Fukuoka as owners of 520,000 ‘koku’ of land in Chikuzen. Since Kuroda was from Fukuoka, Oku County, in Bizen (present day Okayama Prefecture), he named his manor Fukuoka Castle (also known as Maizuru Castle). In this manner, the castle town of Fukuoka was born. From then on, the town west of Naka River was called Hakata, and the town east to the river was called Fukuoka. Thus, a city with two towns was born: Hakata, the merchant town, became a place of traditional arts and crafts, whilst Fukuoka, the castle town, became a place where samurai culture lived on.

When the municipal merger was carried out in 1889, there was a debate as to whether which name should prevail; the city council voted on Fukuoka. In the same year, a station with national railways is opened, which acquires the name ‘Hakata Station’. So, the two towns merged into a city named Fukuoka, and its gateway, Hakata.

After Recovering from Heavy Air Raids, the City Purports to Become a City of International Exchange in Modern Asia

Fukuoka Akarenga Cultural Center「the 5th Kyushu—Okinawa Joint Conference Fukuoka-Ken Co-progress venue image」 (Preserved by Fukuoka City Museum)

After the Meiji period emerged, Fukuoka developed rather slowly, as compared with other areas of Kyushu, such as Kumamoto and Nagasaki, but at the 13th Kyushu-Okinawa Eight Prefecture Exhibition (National Expo) in 1910, Fukuoka made a leap forward as the central city of Kyushu. Since then it rapidly developed due to it hosting various exhibitions and through the development of its transportation system.

However, on June 19, 1945, Fukuoka suffered tremendously and was damaged by fires from a heavy air raid. After the war, the city is reconstructed under a new style of urban planning, whereby the city gradually took shape akin to the one existing today.

Today the city of Fukuoka is a combination of antiquity and modernity. It has preserved its two thousand-year cultural history through local heritage sites while simultaneously promoting modern development. Not only does Fukuoka possess an open and simple nature as well as colorful festivals, it is renowned for its arts and vibrant traditional culture. At the same time, it is active in absorbing new ideas and is sensitive to the current trends in music and fashion. Above all, Fukuoka is holding its rich history and culture close to its heart, while taking great leaps in becoming an international city in Asia.

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