Did you know Fukuoka has the most yatai in all of Japan? That the city is home to Japan’s oldest Zen temple? That a festival is held here every other day? Read on for more Fukuoka trivia in this, our special 50th issue!
No ifs or buts
You may have heard the word ‘batten’ as used in Hakata dialect. If the word sounds familiar, that’s because it is believed to be derived from the English words ‘but not’ or ‘but then’. Most local oldies agree on this factoid.
Old Man of Ogori
Ogori City’s Yukichi Chuganji is the world’s oldest man! Look in the Guiness Book of World Records and see for yourself. He was born in 1889, making him a whopping 113 years old. He’ll be 114 on March 23. Let’s hope he makes it!
In 2001, Fukuoka Airport had just two minutes and 18 seconds between each take-off and landing on average, making it the busiest single-runway airport in the country. Runway operations are now at peak capacity, making the proposal for a new Fukuoka airport seem attractive, but in whose neighborhood?
March 14, White Day, an oft-queried calendar date, was apparently initiated by popular Hakata confectioner Ishimura Manseido in 1977. Suggesting men to give marshmallows in return for the Valentine’s Day chocolates they received. As other confectionary companies joined the band-wagon, the day became known simply as White Day, but it started here in Fukuoka.
The Fukuoka City logo, which looks like a cross between a holly leaf and the Mitsubishi logo, was designed by using the katakana for ‘fu’ in nine combinations; ‘nine’ being pronounced ‘ku’. It’s a symbolization of ‘fuku’, the first half of the name ‘Fukuoka’.
Still number one
The Fukuoka Daiei Hawks missed out on last year’s Pacific League baseball championship title, but they were number one in attendance. A record 3,108,000 Hawks’ fans attended their games compared to Seibu Lions, who despite placing first, only drew 1,682,000. Fukuoka’s fans are definitely #1!
City of debt
According to the latest figures (May 2002), the Fukuoka city government has accumulated 2.5 trillion yen in debts. If that figure’s too large to wrap your brain around, chew on it this way: every citizen owes 1.85 million yen! Apparently there is still money to be spent on building islands in the bay though.
Best al fresco dining
As of January 2003, Fukuoka had 180 yatai (street food stalls), outnumbering by far those anywhere else in Japan.
Famous in Fukuoka
Besides an endless list of top level touring musicians, big-name celebrities to have visited Fukuoka to date include Alfred Einstein, Charles Lindbergh, and Hollywood stars Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and just last December, Steven Seagal.
Next time you’re eating at a yatai, look for the small sign saying ‘yatai de wa namamono wa teikyo dekimasen’ (uncooked foods may not be served at yatai). The ruling was proposed by the Fukuoka health department and it applies to all yatai. Unfortunately, some sneaky vendors still sell salads or even sashimi, often at exorbitant prices that weren’t properly marked on the menu. Refuse uncooked foods at a yatai and also insist on a menu with prices.
As of December 2002, Fukuoka City had 17,665 registered foreign residents (a large jump since 1996, when there were 13,000). Chinese are the most numerous at 7,450 residents while Koreans come in second with 6,492. These two nationalities make up the bulk of Fukuoka’s foreign residents. Filipinos are third with 705 residents, Americans fourth with 567 and Britons fifth with 216 residents.
With 1.3 million inhabitants, Fukuoka’s population comprises roughly one percent of Japan’s total making the city ideal for conducting market research. With a cost of living that is neither the highest nor the lowest, Fukuoka is frequently chosen to test-market new products. Many new products are sold here first before elsewhere in Japan.
Zen Buddhism originated in India before it spread to China and finally Japan. Fukuoka’s Shofukuji Temple, in Hakata-ku, was the first temple in Japan to propagate the wisdom of Zen Buddhism. The famous priest Sengai was also based here at Shofukuji.
Fukuoka’s oldest cinema? The first movie ever to be seen in Fukuoka was screened at none other than the Kyorakusha hall of Shofukuji Temple, back in 1897.
Sky Dream Fukuoka, the giant Ferris wheel of Evergreen Marinoa, doesn’t only dominate the city’s western skyline. It towers over any Ferris wheel in Asia and is the second-largest in the world, outsized only by England’s London Eye. So, does size really matter? For amorous couples on a date it does: with a diameter of 112 m and tallest point of 120 m, one circuit of the wheel in a gondola takes 20 minutes, ensuring maximum kissing time!
Mucho gracias Yosai-sensei
The Zen Buddhist priest Yosai not only built Fukuoka’s Shofukuji Temple, but was also responsible for introducing green tea to Japan. Although tea had been drunk in Japan before his time, it is said Yosai introduced both Zen Buddhism and Japan’s first tea tree seeds. Even Kyoto’s famous Uji tea is said to have derived from these first saplings.
So, you’re pining for that certain someone to return your amorous feelings? In Fukuoka, all you have to do is stand on Fukuoka Tower’s Koi-no-Hoiban (‘glove-finding platform’) on level three, and swoon in the direction your beloved lives. Your love will be requited! Another site supposedly imbued with the power to unite lovers is Atago Shrine in Nishi-ku. If that fails, take your intended sweetheart by the hand and make a wish at Aburayama’s observation deck or at the Megane-jizo (‘spectacles deity’) located between the IMS building and Aigan shop. All you have to do is convince your would-be darling to join you there. Be sure to brush your teeth before trying any of the above
A comic date
Fans of the comic strip Sazae-san already know that its author, Machiko Hasegawa, was born in neighboring Saga Prefecture and raised here in Fukuoka city. But did you know that Sazae and her husband Masuo, the comic’s protagonists, first met on an arranged date at the cafeteria of the Tenjin Iwataya department store?
Still young at heart
Of Japan’s eight major cities (excluding metropolitan Tokyo and Osaka), Fukuoka has the second-most university students, with six people in every 100 being students. Kyoto has the highest student ratio. Further, people between 15 and 29 years old make up 25.9% of Fukuoka’s population.
Around 880,000 travelers enter or leave Japan each year by ship, using ports around the country. The majority ﾐ 460,000 travelers use routes from Fukuoka to Busan, making Hakata Port the busiest passenger port in Japan. Most of these travelers ﾐ 300,000 use the Beetle jetfoil.
Dumping your darling
It’s said that couples who cross all three bridges spanning the Shinjiga-ike pond at Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine will eventually break up. So, if you want to part ways with that fast-fading someone, give it a go.
Those tasty deep-fried gobo (burdock) toppings on udon noodles are a Fukuoka speciality rarely found in other cities. Other seemingly ubiquitous dishes available only in Fukuoka include maruten udon (udon noodles topped with a round fish cake) and buta-bara (pork skewers) at yakitori restaurants. Incidentally, the free dish of chopped cabbage served at yakitori restaurants is also a Fukuoka-only item.
n the annual poll conducted by the (now-defunct) Hong Kong-based weekly news magazine AsiaWeek, Fukuoka consistently ranked as Asia’s best city (we could have told them that!). It topped the polls in ’97, ’99 and 2000, and came second in 1998.
Party, party, party
173 festivals are held in and around Fukuoka City each year. Some of them span several days, including the famous Yamakasa and Hojoya festivals. Using creative mathematics, there is a festival held once every two days in Fukuoka.
Seventeen large-scale expositions have been held in Fukuoka to date. Several times, expo venues have blossomed into core parts of the city. Nakasu flourished as an entertainment district after an expo in 1887, and Ohori Park was converted from private land into a public park after another in 1927. Similarly, Momochi became the city’s IT hub after it was built on reclaimed land for the Yokatopia Expo in 1989.
It’s a mystery
One of Japan’s most famous mystery writers, Shizuko Natsuki, is a resident of Fukuoka. But why did the Tokyo-born and raised writer, often dubbed the Agatha Christie of Japan, move here? Is it Fukuoka’s high crime rate? It’s a mystery…
Shame of the city
Did you know that Tenjin has more illegally parked bicycles than any other district in Japan? According to a bicycle parking survey conducted in 2001 around 6,600 bikes clog the area’s sidewalks each day, 4,530 of them illegally. Meanwhile, many cycle parking lots report vacancies each day.
Billions of buses
Nishitetsu has more buses than any other transportation company in Japan, a total of 2,500. They travel a combined total of 120 million km per year, which is equal to 2,832 trips around the earth’s circumference.
Never say die
Fukuoka has been destroyed ten times during wars, first in the Yamato wars of 157 AD and most recently in the WWII air raids of 1949. Each time, the city recovered and became even more prosperous than before. Still let’s hope there isn’t a ‘next time’.
Asian art center
The Fukuoka Asian Art Museum opened in 1999 as the world’s first museum to specialize in modern contemporary Asian art alone. Four years later, it’s still the only one of its kind.
Back in 1911, Kumamoto, Nagasaki and Fukuoka Prefectures all bid on hosting Kyushu’s first and only Imperial university, now known as Kyushu University. However, in order to land the deal, numerous house of ill repute had to be moved as not to distract the future university’s elite students from their studies.
Walking on water
Twenty years ago Seaside Momochi, today filled with gleaming multistory buildings, was actually underwater. Blue waters lapped from the harbor’s present-day foreshores right up to Yokatopia-dori Avenue before the Momochi area was built on reclaimed land. Next time you’re walking amongst the shimmering towers of Momochi, imagine that just two decades ago people used to swim there.
Inspired by the tasty kimchee he’d devoured in Korea, the founder of Fukuya Co. first created mentaiko, one of Fukuoka’s most famous delicacies, here in Fukuoka in 1949. It’s now loved throughout Japan. Other foods savored in Fukuoka first before becoming Japanese household staples include Japanese green tea, manju rice cakes, abuttekamo, mizutaki hotpot, marshmallows and motsunabe hotpot.
Breast-fed by Korea?
We all know that Fukuoka flourished centuries ago as the trading city of Hakata. Much Asian culture entered Japan through Fukuoka. Now look at a map of the city. Doesn’t Hakata Bay resemble an open mouth facing a breast-like Korean peninsular, flanked by the giant ‘shoe’ of Shikanoshima? It’s as though Fukuoka was an eager ‘mouth’ that was suckled culture by a nurturing Korea, before using its ‘shoe’ to propagate that culture throughout Japan. This is a great conversation starter at an izakaya.
Heard about Yoko Ono, wife of the former Beatle, John Lennon, hailing from Yanagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture? Well, it’s true that her registered family home, which belongs to her grandfather, is in Yanagawa but Ono herself wasn’t born there. Urban legend destroyed, sorry.
What’s in a name?
It’s been exactly 400 years since Fukuoka’s first feudal lord, Nagamasa Kuroda, built Fukuoka Castle and named the surrounding area Fukuoka after his hometown in Okayama Prefecture. The name Hakata is even older, at 1,300 years, and was first used in the Nara Period.
By one vote
Fukuoka was inaugurated as a city in 1890. The next year a vote was held by the city’s assembly to decide whether the new city would be called Fukuoka (the name for the area west of Naka River) or Hakata (as the merchant’s town on the river’s eastern bank had long been named). The difference of a single vote (cast by the assembly chairman) resulted in the name Fukuoka being chosen. But references to Hakata still abound ﾐ for example, Hakata Station.
Fukuoka is Hakata is Fukuoka
Locals like to say ‘Fukuoka wa Hakata, Hakata wa Fukuoka’ (Fukuoka is Hakata; Hakata is Fukuoka) to mean something is one and the same. Try these words of wisdom when mediating arguments. Guaranteed to blow away your Japanese friends.
It was the girl’s school Fukuoka Jogakuin that first began using the sailor-girl uniform, now de rigeur at schools throughout Japan. The uniform was introduced by the then-headsmistress, missionary Elizabeth Lee, in 1921. Its design has barely changed since (unless you count naughty schoolgirls who slash their dresses to mid-thigh length). Fukuoka Jogakuin is also known for receiving the famous Helen Keller as a guest twice.
Sometimes it’s amusing, sometimes embarrassing, but it almost always gets noticed. The three-letter airport tag for Fukuoka is simply, FUK. Fasten your seat belts and have a pleasant ride…
Leave me in Daimyo
According to the historical document Musashi Denraiki (chronicle of a warring state), the great swordsman Musashi Miyamoto briefly lived in Higashi Kosho town (now Daimyo). Already aged 55, Buzo, in the employ of Fukuoka’s Kuroda lords, hoped to end his days here. But elders in the Kuroda household opposed his wishes and, without support from ruling lord Tadayuki Kuroda either, Musashi was forced to leave Fukuoka.
Geisha nearing extinction
As the recession deepens, geisha houses in Fukuoka have received alarmingly fewer requests to entertain at banquets. As a result many geisha are even leaving the profession to find more reliable ways of earning a crust. To help preserve this valuable cultural tradition, Fukuoka’s Chamber of Commerce has introduced a voluntary system in which geisha can keep a greater proportion of their earnings.
International sports heroes
The reigning world lightweight champion of women’s judo, Ryoko Tamura (popularly known as Yawara-chan), is a Fukuoka native, as is Tsuyoshi Shinjo of the San Francisco Giants.
Fukuoka’s seven leading companies are known collectively in business circles as the ‘Nana-sha Kai’ (group of seven). They include Kyushu Electric, Fukuoka Bank, Nishinippon Bank, Fukuoka City Bank, Nishitetsu, Saibu Gas and Kyudenko Corporation. Together they employ 36,596 people and collectively ring up sales over 2.2 trillion yen or US$ 18.6 billion.
Many now-national (and even international) companies originated from Fukuoka. They include Bridgestone, ceramics manufacturer Toto (short for Toto Kiki, or ‘eastern ceramic devices’), map-maker Zenrin, electronics retailer Best Denki, saladﾐdressing manufacturer and restaurant chain Pietro, homeﾐaltar manufacturer Hasegawa, confectioner Matsuo Seika of Chirol chocolate fame, restaurant chain and confectioner Royal, mentaiko-maker Fukuya, credit company Sanyo Shimpan, green-juice manufacturer Kyusai, Sanix and others.
It was on Nokonoshima that current modern method of cultivating those sharp-tasting red sprouts often served with sashimi, salads or clear fish broths known as kaiwaridaikon was developed. Further, the agriculturalist who was credited with this breakthough went on to do the same with peanut sprouts.
Rumor has it that Daimyo has more hairdressing salons per square kilometer than anywhere in Japan. Industry figures for 2000 reveal there are 313 salons in Tenjin, Daimyo and Kego, of which 134 are in Daimyo alone! We still don’t know if that’s the highest hairdresser-density in Japan, but it’s evident that a plethora of hairdressing salons is keeping the locals clipped, permed and preened. There’s no excuse for a bad hair day in Fukuoka!
Japan’s first flight routes were serviced by water planes. As Fukuoka was conveniently located, Japan Airlines set up a flight to Osaka via Beppu departing from Momochi as early as 1925. The next year, the takeoff area was moved to Chuo Ward’s Minato-machi and a Fukuoka-Osaka-Tokyo flight was launched. The post office used the route for Fukuoka’s first-ever airmail.
According to a national police white paper, more crimes were reported in Fukuoka Prefecture than anywhere else in Japan in 2002 (314 cases per 10,000 citizens). Interestingly, Nagasaki ranked safest with just 92.
You lucky readers
Although unconfirmed, we’re pretty sure Fukuoka is the only city in Japan to have a magazine offering content simultaneously in seven different languages: Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean, French, Spanish and Portuguese.