Fukuoka’s Hakata-ku (博多区) district is one of the city’s cultural hubs, home to modern-day governmental, commercial, and cultural institutions. Previously one of the oldest cities in Japan, Hakata is still home to Fukuoka’s key transportation hubs (i.e. Hakata Station, Hakata Harbor, and the Fukuoka Airport). Amid the modern institutions, you can still find remnants of history scattered throughout Hakata’s Old Town neighborhood in the form of shrines and temples. For those interested in exploring Japan’s rich cultural history, the Temple Walk in Hakata’s Old Town offers opportunities to see traditional architecture while traversing the city on foot.

1. Tocho-ji Temple

Tocho-ji Temple is a must-see stop on the Hakata Temple Walk. The temple is the oldest Shingon Buddhist sie in Japan and was established in 806 by Kukai, the founder of the Shingon sect. Tocho-ji was originally closer to the sea, but the temple was relocated to the current site after burning down in the 1500’s. Completed in 2011 after 37 years of construction, the temple’s pagoda is one of the newest additions to the temple. The pagoda was constructed in a traditional method without the use of nails.

After relocation, Tocho-ji became the family temple of the Kuroda Clan, and boasts a graveyard which houses the second lord, Tadayuki, the third lord, Mitsuyuki, and the eighth lord, Harutaka. These graves are culturally important to the city itself.

Today, Tocho-ji is a dedicated historical site of the city of Fukuoka.

The Great Buddha

Tocho-ji Temple is home to the largest wooden Buddha statue in the entire country of Japan. Unlike you may believe, the Fukuoka Great Buddha statue is much younger than the temple complex itself, completed in 1988. The statue stands an impressive 10.8 meters in height and weighs in at 30 tons. The panels on the walls behind the state boast 5,000 additional images of Buddha, and the opening in the statue’s base is representative of the path from hell to heaven. Traversing this path exposes viewers to depictions of hell on picture scrolls, shrouded in darkness, but continuing to the end yields a sun-bathed image of heaven. In addition to the statue, visitors can also view a treasure exhibition hall at Tocho-ji. Photography is not allowed in the hall of the Great Buddha.

The Rokkaku-do

The Rokkaku-do is a hexagonal, hut-contained Buddhist sanctuary located beside the pagoda at Tocho-ji. Built in 1842 and donated to the temple, the Rokkaku-do was commissioned using money from local merchants and was constructed by a local carpenter. Inside, revolving bookshelves house the sutras, and 6 feretory doors are decorated with pictures and calligraphy, crafted by artistic masters of the era. Giving the revolving bookshelves a singular twirl is thought to bestow one with a karmic boost equal to reading all of the contained books. On the 28th day of each month, an exposition ceremony is held at the Rokkaku-do to exhibit these artistic elements. The Rokkaku-do is considered to be an Important Cultural Property in Fukuoka.

To view everything that Tocho-ji has to offer, plan to spend about an hour on-site.


VISITOR INFORMATION

Address: 2-4, Gokusho-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka

By public transit: 1-minute walk from the Gion Station subway stop.

Google Maps: https://www.google.co.jp/maps?q=33.5948461,130.4144533

2. Jotenji Temple

Joten-ji Temple was built in 1242. The addition of a modern city street through the center of the temple’s grounds, constructed as part of a city zoning project, has split the site into eastern and western sections. The temple, also known as Banshosan, is of the Rinzai school of Tofukuji Buddhism. On-site, Buddhist statues an a Korean copper bell are considered to be important national properties in Japan. On the temple’s grounds are a number of gardens, including a well-maintained zen garden, although the latter is often closed to visitors.

Joten-ji Temple is considered to be the birthplace of udon, soba noodles, and manju cakes in Japan, since the temple’s fonder, Enni Ben’en, is credited with bringing these recipes back with him after a visit to the Song Dynasty in China. A stone monument on the temple grounds proclaims the site as such. An additional stone monument proclaims the temple as the birthplace of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival, the most famous festival in the city of Fukuoka. The main site of the present-day festival is the Kushida Shrine, located nearby in the Hakata ward.


VISITOR INFORMATION

Address: 1-29-9, Hakata-ekimae, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka

By public transit: 5-minute walk from the Gion Station subway stop.

Google Maps: https://www.google.co.jp/maps?q=33.5952007,130.4170477

3. Myoraku-ji Temple

Myoraku-ji Temple was founded in 1316 and was named after the defenses constructed in response to the Mongolian invasion in the 13th century. Constructed of the Rinzai school Daitokuji sect Buddhism, is currently accessed by traversing a narrow alleyway just east of the Tocho-ji Temple, but the original location was by Hakata Bay. Also known the by name Sekijozan, Myoraku-ji Temple was historically used as a diplomatic base for Japanese envoys to China. After the original temple was lost in a fire in the 16th century, it as reconstructed on the present site during the reign of Kuroda Nagamasa. In addition to the temple buildings, tombs for the vassals of the Kuroda family and the tomb of a renowned Hakata merchant of the Edo Period are located on the temple grounds.


VISITOR INFORMATION

Address: 13-6, Gokusho-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka

By public transit: 5-minute walk from the Gion Station subway stop.

Google Maps: https://www.google.co.jp/maps?q=33.596098,130.4156941

4. Engaku-ji Temple

Engaku-ji Temple was built in 1246, though all temple buildings were burnt down after construction during a war-torn period in Japan’s history. The remaining piece of the temple was relocated to the grounds of the Shofuku-ji Temple in 1636 and rebuilt to become a monastery.

Engaku-ji was originally built to mark the arrival of Lanxi Daolong, a Buddhist monk from the Song Dynasty in China, by the fifth regent of the Kamakura shogunate. Accordingly, a book of secret teachings of Sen no Rikyu, a Buddhist tea master, was passed down at Engaku-ji Temple. This book, called the Nampo-roku, was based initially on a copy in the Fukuoka Domain, allowed Engaku-ji to become known for its Zen training hall and Nampo style of tea.


VISITOR INFORMATION

Address: 13-11 Gokushomachi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka City

By public transit: 5-minute walk from the Gion Station subway stop.

Google Maps: https://www.google.co.jp/maps?q=33.596127392793,130.41486302835

5. Shofuku-ji Temple

Shofuku-ji Temple is yet another of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, constructed in 1195 as the first Zen temple in Japan. Its founder, the priest Eisai, introduced this sec of Buddhism into Japan after bringing the teachings from China. Visitors are only permitted to explore the temple grounds, as the buildings themselves are closed. Despite their appearance, the temple buildings are still actively used, and there is a Buddhist monastery on site.

The Sanmon Gate

The Sanmon Gate is the most prominent gate on the temple grounds. A picturesque pond and bridge lay in front of the gate itself, which, after several fires, was most recently rebuilt in 1911. The gate itself consists of 3 frontal spaces, 2 side spaces, and a layered hip-and-gable roof. On the second floor are two statues: one of Jyuroki-Rakanzo, and one of Thousand-armed Kannon. A dragon painting on the ceiling is also visible from the ground level. A frame tablet hung at the entrance to the gate bears the words “The First Zen Temple” in the handwriting of the emperor Gotoba.

Butsuden Hall

Butsuden Hall is located behind the Sanmon Gate, and can be reached by following a tree-lined path. Although visitors cannot enter the hall itself, the statues within can be observed from the exterior. In the center of Butsuden Hall, known as the Buddha Hall, is a small wooden statue of Buddha, ringed by larger, golden statues of other Buddhas. These statues represent “Sanzebutsu,” or buddha in the past, present, and future (three worlds). These three Buddhas are Shaka, Amida, and Miroku, and are placed on an elevated altar. If visitors take a moment to observe the ceiling of the hall, they may also see a painting of a cloud dragon.


VISITOR INFORMATION

Address: 6-1 Gokushomachi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka City

By public transit: 5-minute walk from the Gion Station subway stop.

Google Maps: https://www.google.co.jp/maps?q=33.5974032,130.4144202

6. Zendo-ji Temple

Zendo-ji Temple is of the Pure Land Buddhism Chinzei branch, supposedly built in 1212. However, some records claim that the temple was built after the reconstruction of the Zendo-ji in the Chikugo province in 1477. This temple is an imperial one, under Emperor Go-Tsuchimikado. Cultural treasures within the temple include a large bell, a Moko-ikari stone, and statues of Shandao and Chinzei Shonin. Unlike some of the other sites along the Hakata Temple Walk, Zendo-ji is only observable from the outside, and has a smaller footprint.


VISITOR INFORMATION

Address: 6-24 Nakagofukumachi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka

By public transit: 3-minute walk from the Gofukumachi Station subway stop.

Google Maps: https://www.google.co.jp/maps?q=33.5994575,130.4106777

7. Myoten-ji Temple

Myoten-ji Temple was originally constructed in 1381, but was the rebuilt in its current location and repurposed as the Tachibana family temple.


VISITOR INFORMATION

Address: 9-12 Nakagofukumachi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka City

By public transit: 2-minute walk from the Gofukumachi Station subway stop.

Google Maps: https://www.google.co.jp/maps?q=33.6000547,130.4113943

Additional Points of Interest

Additional temples and sites of cultural importance within 5-minute walk of the sites detailed in this post are listed below:

  • Waka Hachimangu Temple: 1-29-47, Hakata-eki-mae, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
  • Ogususama: 1-25, Hakata-eki-mae, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
  • Ryugu-ji Temple: 4-21, Reisen-cho, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
  • Genjuan Temple: 7-1 Gokushomachi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka City

A link to a map containing all of these locations is provided below:

Enjoy your exploration of the rich history in Fukuoka’s Hakata Ward!

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