Fukuoka City! Part 2- Dazaifu and the Castle
The area around Fukuoka has a long and multilayered history I could never do justice to. In fact, it predates written language in Japan to the extent that the early chapters are still hazy and told mainly through archaeology. This may be where the Yamato tribe originally held sway, before sailing to what is now Kansai to gradually develop into the imperial Japanese state. So while Kansai was the heartland of Heian Japan, the Fukuoka area had some very close old ties to the imperial court. As Kansai’s centers of power were Heian (Kyoto) and Heijo (Nara), this region had Hakata (Fukuoka) and Dazaifu. While Hakata was the major city and port of call, Dazaifu was the administrative center, a sort of “secondary capital” with authority over Kyushu and a prestige that lasted even after the fall of the old imperial order in the 12th century.
Slowly fading into obscurity during the Edo Period, it became a small rural village, until the expansion of metropolitan Fukuoka turned it into a burgeoning suburb on the city’s southern edge. The old capital district is now an open field, but the grand shrine Dazaifu Tenmangu remains.
Dazaifu Tenmangu is one of the most significant shrines to Tenjin, originally the 10th-century aristocrat Sugawara no Michizane. Exiled from the court at Kyoto in a power play, he died here in Dazaifu- following which death, fire, and storms reputedly stalked his rivals. It was said he had returned as a god of thunder, and he was enshrined to placate his vengeance. The main shrine is Kitano Tenmangu in Kyoto, but Dazaifu is also very important for being Michizane’s gravesite.
Back in Fukuoka, we made our way to the west side of downtown to the old feudal part of the city.
Fukuoka (or Maizuru) Castle was a very large fortification built on the site of a former Heian consular house, a unique layout with rambling, asymmetrical walls and a lagoon on the western edge. Most of the buildings were demolished in the anti-feudal frenzy of the new Meiji government in the 1870s, and the castle grounds are now covered with baseball diamonds and tennis courts. The fortifications themselves are not very well-traveled.
Two historic structures survive, however.
The castle offers a pretty good view of the cityscape.
Then an exhausted walk back to the station to fly home.
An interesting, vibrant city with old history and great food. I’d love to come back for a longer stay, especially when it’s warmer.