The hottest season is at its peak, and the best thing to help cool you off and recharge may be a bowl of chilled noodles. Udon and soba are delicious and nutritious… but did you know that they both originated in Hakata?
Jyotenji Temple, which was built in 1242 and is located in Hakata 1-chome, is where the famous Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival originated. A stone memorial that reads: ‘Udon Soba Hassho no Chi” (the place where udon and soba were first made) can be found. The monk Shoichikokushi (founder of Jyotenji Temple), upon returning from China in 1241, is said to have brought back the craft of making powder for the purpose of making noodles. At that time many monks travelled from Hakata (Nanotsu) to China, receiving training in various arts and techniques, and then bringing them back to Japan. Thanks to the adoption of these methods of noodle powder refinement, the making udon, soba, and manju spread throughout Japan.
As for manju, it is said that when Shoichikokushi was walking around Hakata during his takuhatsu (a type of training for monks where they go door to door gathering small donations of food, and blessing those who kindly complied), he taught his noodle powder craft to a generous tea stand owner. The owner adopted the precious recipes for making steamed amazake manju (manju made with sweet sake) and yokan (sweets made with bean paste). Both sweets became well-known throughout the country as sado (Japanese tea ceremony) grew in popularity during the Kamakura and Muromachi eras.
Green tea was first brought to Hakata too! It is said that Yousai, founder of the oldest Zen temple in all of Japan, Shofukuji (built in 1190), brought back tea seeds and planted them in Sefuri mountain. He is called chaso, meaning ‘the first one who brought tea’.
These temples, Jyotenji and Shofukuji, are only a few minutes walk from Taihakudori in front of Hakata Station. There are also many other shrines and temples around Fukuoka with wonderful legends and beautiful gardens. As summer cools down and fall deepens in color, please take in the history of Kyushu through its food, shrines, and culture!