Kitakyūshū (北九州, ) is a large, primarily industrial city in Fukuoka prefecture on the island of Kyushu, Japan. Together with Shimonoseki it is part of the Kanmon Straits area. In terms of area it is the largest city in Kyushu, though Fukuoka has a much larger population. The population of Kitakyushu as of February, 2021 is about 943,000 people. Kitakyushu was created in 1963 from the five smaller cities of Kokura (小倉), Moji (門司), Tobata (戸畑), Wakamatsu (若松) and Yahata (八幡), when they were merged by administrative fiat.
Kokura Castle from the nearby Japanese garden
Kokura, the heart of Kitakyushu, is an ancient feudal castle town guarding the Straits of Shimonoseki. Kokura was supposed to be the target of the second nuclear bomb in World War II. However, it was cloudy on the day of the attack and the plane diverted to Nagasaki instead. Kitakyushu played a major role in sea trade and in Japan's crash course in modernization and industrialization during the late 19th century. Both steel and coal were big industries in the area.
The Kitakyushu Airport (北九州空港 Kitakyūshū Kūkō) , built on reclaimed land offshore in Suonada, the most westerly part of the Seto Inland Sea, opened its doors in March of 2006. With a size much larger than the airport it replaced, the New Kitakyushu Airport hoped to increase tourism and trade dramatically.
The airport is served by several domestic airlines, including JAL, ANA, and the low cost carrier StarFlyer. Connections to Tokyo did indeed improve with about 15 flights a day, but no other domestic flights currently. There are international routes to Taipei, Seoul, Dalian, and Busan, but all are currently suspended. Unless flying from Tokyo, going through Fukuoka Airport is far more common, and by bullet train only takes about 20 minutes to reach Kitakyushu.
Hourly buses run between Kitakyushu Airport and Kokura Station (45 minutes, ¥600). Buses also run to/from Shimonoseki Station eight times per day (70 minutes, ¥1000). If coming from the southeastern side of Kyushu, instead of going all the way to Kokura you can disembark at Kusami Station (朽網駅), which has shuttle buses every 30 minutes or so to the airport, 20 minutes away.
Kokura station from the South side
Kokura Station (小倉駅) is the main railway station and is on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line. All Sanyo Shinkansen trains stop at Kokura. Nozomi, Mizuho, Sakura and Hikari Rail Star trains make frequent runs to/from Hiroshima, Okayama and Osaka, with some Nozomi trains also running from Kyoto, Nagoya and Tokyo. Sakura trains also run to/from Kumamoto and Kagoshima.
Both the Sanyo Shinkansen Line and the Kagoshima Main Line (鹿児島本線 Kagoshima honsen) connect Kitakyushu to Hakata Station in Fukuoka. On the Shinkansen, Kokura can be reached from Hakata in 15-20 minutes at a cost of ¥2160 for an unreserved seat. Frequent Kodama runs are made between the two stations during rush hours.
Be aware that while you can ride the bullet trains between Kokura and Hakata Stations on the full JR Rail Pass and relevant JR West regional rail passes, you cannot take them with the JR Kyushu Rail Pass, nor the JR Kyushu Fukuoka Wide Pass. The fastest trains allowed are the JR Kyushu Limited Express trains, and with the Fukuoka Wide Pass seating is unreserved only.
Kokura ferry terminal connects with Matsuyama in Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku. The service is operated by Matsuyama Kokura Ferry Company.
Shin Moji ferry terminal connects with Osaka, Kobe and Tokyo. The Tokyo service is operated by Ocean Tokyu Ferry, 03-5148-0109; passenger fares are ¥14,000 for second class and ¥26,600 for first class.
- Kitakyushu Monorail runs every ten minutes from JR Kyushu's Kokura station to Kikugaoka in Kokura Minami ward. Horse racing buffs can get off at the race course (Kokura Keibajomae), though you should check the race days first. The voice will announce a few stops in English, including the stop for the Kitakyushu Media Dome and for the University of Kitakyushu.
- Nishitetsu Bus operates local services, and express buses from Kokura station to Fukuoka airport, Hakata and Tenjin. The express buses are 1,200 yen for a single ticket, returns and pair tickets are a little cheaper.
JR trains connect several areas of the city together, through the Kagoshima Line, as well as the Wakamatsu Line (west of Wakamatsu), and the Hita Hikosan Line/Nippo Main Line on the east side heading south. There is also the private Chikuho Denkitetsudo that connects to the city at Nishi-Kurosaki Station down to Nogata City.
In spite of its reputation of being just an industrial city, and there are many pleasant spots for sightseeing and recreation.
Kokura castle and cherry blossoms (sakura)
- Kokura Castle (小倉城 Kokurajō), a ten-minute walk from JR Kyushu's Kokura Station. Built in 1602, it was the property of the Ogasawara clan which came from Harima (near Himeji) from 1632 to 1860. The castle was burnt down in 1865 in the war between the Kokura and Choshu clans. The keep was reconstructed in 1959, and the castle was fully restored in 1990. The keep contains a modern folkloric museum. Inside the castle you can see a video show about what Kokura was like during the Edo period, a display of Kokura Castle and its surroundings during the Edo period which is made of many lifelike tiny paper dolls. You can also see two beautiful paintings of tigers with gold leaf on display. There is a gift shop on the lower floor (cash only) where you can buy souvenirs of the paintings inside the castle and (pay) telescopes on the top floor which allow interesting views of the city. Admission is charged to the keep (¥350), Japanese garden (¥300 yen) and Matsumoto Seicho museum (¥400). A joint ticket to the three attractions costs ¥700. There are also huge hanami parties from late March every year to celebrate the many cherry blossoms on the castle grounds.
- Ogai Mori Former Residence, 1-7-2 Kajimachi, Kokurakita-ku, ☎ 093-531-1604, . 10-4:30 Closed Mon. Japanese literary giant Mori wrote his Kokura Nikki (Kokura Diary) here. Ogai was based at the castle at the turn of the 19th-20th century when it was a military base. Free. edit
The old Moji customs building and rickshaw for hire
- Mojiko Retro, a few minutes walk from from Mojiko Station, is an attractive preserved historical district, and aimed specifically at the tourist trade. You can hire a rickshaw, visit the old buildings (including the room where Albert Einstein stayed the night at the Mitsui Club in 1922) and shop for souvenirs. Also be sure to go up the Moji Port Retro Observation Deck - there is a great 180 degree view from the 31st floor on fine days. Mojiko is linked by a small and rapid ferry with Shimonoseki on the other side of the Kanmon Straits. There is also an undersea walkway through the Kanmon Straits that connects Kyushu to the main island of Honshu. Mojiko is famous for its yaki curry, rice topped with Japanese curry, covered in cheese with an egg thrown in, and then baked. There are several restaurants in the area that serve variations of this specialty. The shabu shabu restaurant in Mojiko Stn is also well worth a visit. Moji supposedly was a place where bananas were shipped to once, and you can now buy banana soft-serve ice cream and other banana treats at touristy places there. For those with a little extra cash and an adventurous appetite, it is also famous for its poisonous fugu (puffer fish), though Shimonoseki claims fugu as its own.
The Hiraodai karst plateau
- Toto Museum (Toto ミュージアム), 2-1-1 Nakashima, Kokurakita-ku, Kitakyushu, ☎ 093-951-2534, . 10-5, Closed Mon. Exhibition hall of the biggest toilet producer in Japan. Leads visitors through its history beginning with the first ceramic flush toilet seat developed in 1914 and the company's formal establishment in 1917 as a pioneer player in the ceramic sanitation industry when most of Japan was still without a sewage system. Old toilet seats are on display, as well as exquisite porcelain tableware that the company used to produce as a side business in the past. Accessible by direct bus from Kokura Station, get off at the Kifunemachi bus stop. Free wi-fi and lockers available. Free. edit
- Hiraodai (平尾台). A rare karst plateau in Kokuraminami ward, 30-40 minutes by car from Kokura Station. The grassy mountains are covered with large gray round rocks which the locals will tell you look like sheep grazing. Great for walks, hiking and camping. Caves can also be visited and the 800m Senbutsu Shonyudo limestone cave is not to be missed - wade through the cold 14°C water in midsummer. If wading is not for you, a 20-minute walk to the west is another cave, Ojika Limestone Cave (¥500). There is no direct public transportation to Hiraodai, but a reasonably priced taxi service is available. The taxi leaves from the Nakatani Nishitetsu bus terminal (中谷車庫) and stops five minutes later at the JR Ishiharamachi Station (石原町駅) on the Hita-Hikosan Line (日田彦山線). It leaves the bus terminal twice a day on weekdays (9:40 and 16:05) and four times a day on weekends and holidays (9:40, 10:45, 13:40, 14:50). For more information about the taxi, call Hiraodai Kankou taxi at 093-451-0201, or ask at the Kokura Station information desk on the third floor. For those wanting to see more and bigger such terrain, there is also Yabakei further south, though a rental car is required.
- Iwaya Beach is in Wakamatsu-ku and has nice scenery. You can catch the Kitakyushu City bus #41 from JR Kokura and Orio Stations. Get off at the last stop, Iwaya. Direct buses from Kokura Station leave at 12:09 on weekdays and 10:16 on weekends and holidays. Fare is ¥440. Beware of jellyfish from mid-August.
- Mount Sarakura Accessible by the Hobashira cable car, provides superb views of the city from the 622m high mountaintop when the weather is clear. The best time to go up is just before sunset to watch the city change from day to night. For those with lots of time and energy, it is also possible to hike up or down the mountain.
- Kawachi Reservoir Located in Yahatahigashi ward, with an onsen (hot spring) with a rotenburo (outdoor bath). Courtesy bus from Yahata station. You can walk round the reservoir in about an hour, or rent a bicycle.
- Sugao Waterfall In Kokuraminami ward, is a cool and popular with Japanese residents in the summer. Watch out for baby wild boars (uribo) which have been known to nibble at feet in search of food. You can rent bicycles from Dobaru cycling terminal and cycle around the whole area for a few hundred yen. Buses run there from Kokura Station.
- Kawachi Fuji Garden (河内藤園 Kawachi Fujien), 2-2-48 Kawachi, Yahatahigashi, ☎ 093-652-0334, . Spring 8AM-6PM, Fall 9AM-5PM. Kawachi Fujien is one of the two best places for seeing the wisteria flowers in Japan (the other being the Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi), and the best time to view the wisteria in full bloom is from late April to early May. The place has become wildly popular and you must buy an entrance ticket (¥500) ahead of time at local convenience stores (no walk-ins allowed). You must choose the date and time of your arrival, and hope that mother nature cooperates. When you get to the garden, you will need to pay an additional charge (¥500-¥1000) that varies depending on how much in bloom the flowers are. Since that time is also around "Golden Week" in Japan (one of the busiest travel seasons for Japanese), prepare to see huge crowds if going there, and the shuttle bus may be full. Going by taxi is an option, but expensive (about ¥4200 one way). Parking a car there for the wisteria is simply impossible. Late November is another good time to visit, to see the autumn colors. ¥500-¥1500. edit
- Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art (北九州市立美術館), 21-21-1 Nishisayagatanimachi, Tobata-ku, ☎ 093-882-7777, . 9:30-5:30 Closed Mon, if holiday, the following day. Aims to display a wide variety of classic and modern art from famous and local Japanese artists, and includes some ukiyo-e from Utamaro, Utagawa, and Tsukioka. ¥300. edit
Zenrin building in Riverwalk
- Zenrin Museum (ゼンリンミュージアム), 1-1-1 Muromachi, Riverwalk Kitakyushu 14F, ☎ 093-592-9082, . 10-5 Closed Mon, if holiday, the following day. Zenrin, headquartered office in the Riverwalk complex, is a major company which pioneered mapping software in Japan. A famous Edo period mapmaker, Ino Tadataka, started making his map of Kyushu here. The views of the city and Kanmon Straits from the museum on a fine day are excellent. ¥1000. edit
- Kitakyushu Museum of Natural History & Human History (北九州市立いのちのたび博物館), 2-4-1 Higashida, Yahatahigashi-ku, ☎ 093-681-1011 (fax: 093-661-7503), . 9-5. Examines life during the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic Eras, with extensive dinosaur fossils, eco-garden, and exhibits of local Kitakyushu biodiversity. ¥600. edit
- Kitakyushu Environment Museum (北九州市環境ミュージアム), 2-2-6 Higashida, Yahatahigashi-ku, ☎ 093-663-6751 (fax: 093-6753), . 9-5 Closed Mon. Explores eco-conscious activities in our daily lives, preserving the environment, and the history of overcoming pollution and global environmental problems. Free. edit
- Kanmonkaikyo Museum (関門海峡ミュージアム), 1-3-3 Nishikaigan, Moji-ku, ☎ 093-331-6700, . 10-5. Located in Mojiko, the museum is built to look like a cruise liner and gives the history of the Kanmon Straits, shipping activities, and life from a century ago. With large movie screen and dioramas, it is a place kids would especially like. ¥500. edit
- Kyushu Railway History Museum (九州鉄道記念館), 2-3-29 Kiyotaki, ☎ 093-322-1006 (fax: 093-332-7233), . 9-5, Closed 2nd Wed of month unless national holiday. Includes several old steam engines as well as introducing life long ago through dioramas. ¥300. edit
- Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Moji (出光美術館（門司), 2-3 Higashiminatomachi, Moji-ku, ☎ 093-332-0251, . 10-5, Closed Mon, if holiday, the following day. Has rotating exhibits of different works of art, grouped by themes such as items related to tea ceremony, Bunjin-ga (literati painting), Japanese ceramics, and silk road treasures. ¥500. edit
- Moji Telecommunication Museum (門司電気通信レトロ館), 4-1 Hamamachi, Moji-ku, ☎ 093-321-1199, . 9-5 Closed Mon. A very rare museum from the Japanese phone monopoly, NTT, showing numerous types of telephones and communications equipment going back to 1876. Free. edit
- Kitakyushu Manga Museum (北九州市漫画ミュージアム), 2-14-5 Asano (Next to Kokura JR Station, 5-6F), ☎ 093-512-5077, . 11-7, Closed Tue, if holiday, the following day. Focuses on more than 30 artists related to Kitakyushu including Matsumoto Leiji (Space Battleship Yamato, Galaxy Express 999), as well as other anime, manga, and Japanese idol items. ¥480. edit
- Center for Contemporary Art Kitakyushu (CCA Kitakyushu), 2-5 Hibikino, Wakamatsu-ku, ☎ 093-695-3691 ([email protected], fax: 093-695-3692), . The CCA has an annual international artist residency program, studios and an interesting contemporary art gallery. edit
Wakato ferry now used for night cruising
- Kanmon Night Cruise (関門汽船), ☎ 093-331-0222, . Offers weekend cruises around the harbor, from both Kokura and Mojiko. ¥2500. edit
- Kanmon Pedestrian Tunnel starts in Mojiko, near Mekari Park. The tunnel runs underwater between the islands of Kyushu and Honshu. After about a ten minutes walk you will emerge in Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi with even more to explore.
- ChaCha Town Kokura (チャチャタウン小倉), 3-1-1 Sunatsu, Kokurakita-ku, ☎ 093-513-6363, . 10-8. A shopping and amusement center with a movie theater, game center, food court, clothing stores, a grocery store, and a very big 100 yen shop. Popular with families and younger teens. On weekends there are concerts and other attractions in the amphitheater - such as a kids dance group, a magician, or a local musician. The shopping center's large red ferris wheel isn't the biggest, but it's kind of a fun way to see the city at night. edit
The area also has lots of hiking in the nearby mountains.
Watch one of the summer festivals held in July:
- Kokura Gion - Held the 3rd weekend of July, this festival has floats pulled along while drums on both sides area beaten in rhythm, hoping for desires for peace, national security, a big harvest, successful business, and family safety.
- Tobata Gion - Designated an important intangible cultural asset of Japan and dates back to 1802. It involves the carrying of large floats called Yamagasa by about 100 men who shout "Yoitosa" to keep in time. Fourth weekend in July.
- Kurosaki Gion (黒崎祇園山笠) - This annual festival has its roots going back over a thousan years, and began around 1605. Huge parade floats are carried through the streets with loud festive chants, taiko drums and bells. Held over 4 days around the 3rd weekend of July.
- Wakamatsu Summer Festival - Includes carrying large torches, taiko drumming competitions, and fireworks shows with over 4000 skyrockets. Held every July.
- Wasshoi Hyakuman Summer Festival - About 1½ million spectators come to see this annual festival on the first weekend of August, celebrating the establishment of Kitakyushu City. Many dance groups. Ends with a parade and firework display.
Midsummer Fireworks (Hanabi)
Summer firework displays (hanabi taikai) are also held in various places in and around Kitakyushu in July and August. Usually at least 3000 fireworks are set off.
The biggest one with no less than 13,000 fireworks is the Kanmon Straits display between Kitakyushu and Shimonoseki (August). Be prepared for big crowds, especially on the trains to and from Kokura to Moji-ko.
- Riverwalk (リバーウォーク北九州) - Large modern shopping complex by the Murasaki river and near Kokura Castle.
- I'm Shopping Mall (Sento City) (セントシティ) - A 10-story shopping mall with bakeries, gift stores, Uniqlo, restaurants, supermarket, etc.
- Uomachi Gintengai (魚町銀天街) - A covered shopping arcade since 1951 that still preserves an old-school feel. Open 10-5, closed Sat-Sun.
- Tanga Market (旦過市場) - The tiny traditional open-air place started in the early 20th century with about 120 stores selling freshly caught seafood, vegetables, the local comfort food Nukadaki, as well as ramen stalls in the evening.
Some local popular favorites are:
- Kawara Soba - Soba noodles and meat are cooked on a heated stone roof tile (kawara) and then dipped in soba sauce.
- Yaki Curry - A specialty in Mojiko where curry with rice is topped with cheese or eggs and then baked in an oven.
- Tanga Yatai - While yatai (portable ramen stalls) are much more famous in Fukuoka, you can also find some in Tanga in the evenings, preparing ramen and oden.
- Ogura-an (小倉餡) - Kokura is, quite literally, synonymous with a type of finely filtered red bean jam known as ogura-an (小倉餡) with an alternative reading of kokura-an, which makes its way into all sorts of Japanese pastries and desserts. But in fact ogura-an is from Ogurayama, Kyoto, and ogura-an pan (red bean jam in bread rolls) was first made in Tokyo.
- Grilled Pub Booties (グリルド パブ ブーティーズ), 3-1-6 Uomachi, Kokuralita-ku, ☎ 093-482-1773, . 5PM-11PM, Fri-Sat 3PM-12AM, Closed Mon. Specializes in grilled beef, cheese, quiche lorraine, roast beef, and European beer, wine, and ale. edit
- O-Three Plus, 2-4-27 Kyomachi 2F, ☎ 093-511-5659, . Lively bright dance club popular among young singles. edit
- Club Buzz Genic, 1-5-7 Uomachi, Kokurakita, ☎ 080-2771-1177, . Nightclub with timed discounts for drinks and all you can drink. edit
- Affinity The Bar, 1-3-4 Kajimachi 3F, ☎ 093-953-9787, . 5:30PM-3AM Closed Sun. More traditional drinking bar with fine whiskies for quiet conversations. edit
- 3F Bar, 2-1-5 Kyomachi 3F, . 7PM-1AM. Unusual bar with very retro decor. edit
- Casablanca, 1-3-6 Sakaimachi 2F, Kokurakita, ☎ 093-521-1142, . Mon-Thu 7:30PM-1AM, Sat-Sun ~2AM, Sun 6PM-12AM. Dinner bar since 1982 with live music. ¥700~ per dish. edit
- There are three Starbucks in Kokura, one in Riverwalk, one near Kokura station and one inside the SunLive City shopping mall.
There are all sorts of options from the lap of luxury down to the cheapest ryokan. Ask at the Information desk, third floor of Kokura station.
- Hotel 1-2-3 (ホテル 1-2-3 小倉), 1-1 Furusenbamachi, Kokurakita-ku, ☎ 093-513-0018, . checkin: 15; checkout: 10. Lesser known business hotel chain with one place next to Tanga Station. Free breakfast 7-9 AM. ¥5500~. edit
- Toyoko Inn Kokura-eki Minami-guchi (東横INN小倉駅南口), 3-14-6 Kyomachi, Kokurakita-ku, ☎ 093-511-1045, . checkin: 15; checkout: 10. Japan's biggest business hotel chain has one here too, neer Kokura Station. Free breakfast. ¥5700~. edit
- Toyoko Inn Kokura-eki Shinkansenguchi. And another one, this one geared for people using the bullet train. Free breakfast. edit
- Oyo Hotel Tetora Kitakyushu (ホテルテトラ北九州), 1-9-8 Kajimachi, Kokurakita-ku, ☎ 093-531-3111, . checkin: 15; checkout: 10. Newer business hotel chain with wide rooms and close to Heiwadori Stn and Kokura Stn. ¥3400~. edit
- Comfort Hotel Kokura (コンフォートホテル小倉), 2-6-21 Asano, Kokurakita-ku, ☎ 093-512-8311, . checkin: 15; checkout: 10. Low cost, clean hotel with free western breakfast 6:30-9:30 AM. ¥4300~. edit
- Fukuoka Guesthouse Little Asia Kokura (福岡ゲストハウス リトルアジア 小倉), 1-5-5 Sakaimachi #15 5F, Kokurakita-ku (17 min walk from Kokura Stn), ☎ 093-982-4422, . checkin: 15; checkout: 10. Inexpensive guesthouse with nightly and monthly rates. ¥2000~ dorm ¥3000~ single. edit
- Oyo Yutaka Hotel Kitakyushu Kokura (アパホテル 小倉駅新幹線口), 2-13-22 Asano, Kokurakita-ku, ☎ 093-511-0101, . checkin: 15; checkout: 11. Another Oyo Hotel a stone's throw north of Kokura Station. Optional breakfast for ¥800. ¥5300~. edit
- Rihga Royal Hotel Kokura (リーガロイヤルホテル小倉), 2-14-2 Asano, Kokurakita-ku (8 min walk NE of Kokura Stn), ☎ 93-531-1121, . checkin: 15; checkout: 10. Luxury 4-star hotel in town and the only Rihga Royal hotel in Kyushu. ¥7700~. edit
- Shohakuen Hotel (松柏園ホテル), 4-1-25 Kaminotomino, Kokurakita-ku, ☎ 093-511-2228, . checkin: 15; checkout: 10. Upscale hotel with banquet halls and gourmet cuisine. ¥9600~. edit
For the latest info on events, happenings, and things to do, have a look at the Kitakyushu City Tourist Information Center.
If specifically interested in tourism regarding Kitakyushu's industrial history, see the site of the Kitakyushu Industrial Tourism Center (Kitakyushu Sangyo Kanko Senta-).
- Shimonoseki - Major city at the southern tip of Honshu, famous for its history, seaside, and deadly fugu puffer fish.
- Fukuoka City is the largest on Kyushu and offers numerous modern and traditional sights, including the best nightlife on the island, numerous traditional gardens, shopping, some of Japan's biggest festivals, plus its famous tonkotsu ramen and mentaiko (spiced cod roe).
- Beppu - Popular for its famous Hells Tour (8 unique boiling hot springs for viewing) as well as numerous hot spring baths, and about 80 minutes away by limited express trains.
- Kurume — Famous for its ramen noodles, giant Great Buddha, spring azaleas, and summer fireworks.
|Routes through Kitakyushu
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