Nestled in the middle of Kitakyushu, a small city on the northern coast of Kyushu sits Kokura Castle. Kokura Castle, which dates back to the start of the Edo period (finished in 1608), was the seat of the Kokura domain in Kyushu. At the time, it was separate from Fukuoka (which didn’t exist yet as a unified city). This city was the head of 9 domains that gave Kyushu its name (literally meaning “9 states”).
The castle lasted for over 200 years and participated in battles and wars; however, it was destroyed near the end of the Edo period by a rival warlord bringing retribution to the rulers of the area. The Kokura Castle you see today is a reconstruction from 1959 and 1990, respectively, and is the only reconstructed castle in Fukuoka Prefecture.
The draw of Kokura Castle today is the world of contrasts. Kokura Castle sits in the middle of Kitakyushu and is surrounded by modern buildings, such as large shopping malls and skyscrapers. This contrast defines much of Japan and Japanese life. However, while the concept is common, it is effortless to visualise in this location.
Kokura also hosts cherry blossoms in the autumn (typically in March/early April) and has some amazing colours in autumn (typically late October/November). Here are some examples of autumn colours:
Attached to Kokura Castle is Yasaka Shrine, which sits on its own island in the moat. It was the temple connected to the castle and still operates to this day:
Getting to Kokura Castle
Getting to the castle is the same as getting to downtown Kitakyushu itself. You can take any public transport (bus, train, Shinkansen – bullet train) from nearby and far-flung parts of Japan. You can also fly. Kitakyushu has an airport but you are more likely to find flights to Fukuoka Airport. It takes 20 minutes by Shinkansen from Fukuoka’s Hakata Station to Kokura Station in Kitakyushu. The same trip by fast regional train or train takes at least 1 hour and the normal trains and buses take about 2 hours.
Within Kitakyushu, you can walk from Kokura Station to the castle or there are also buses that will take you there. Depending on your walking speed, walking will take you about 10 minutes and give you some interesting views of the downtown area.
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