Modern cultural centers, shopping malls and theme parks stand near historic castles and idyllic gardens in this coastal Japanese city.
Kitakyushu readily celebrates the region's past, while also focusing on the future. Find 17th-century castles standing next to mega-malls. City youngsters celebrate 400-year-old festivals. Less intense than Tokyo, Kitakyushu still bristles with culture and energy.
Kitakyushu became a city only in 1963. It's fortunate to exist at all: The World War II nuclear bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki was originally intended for Kitakyushu. Historically, the area was of great geographical importance, serving as the gateway between Honshu and Kyushu and less than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) by boat from Shanghai. Today, tourism and commerce are Kitakyushu's major industries.
Explore numerous levels of outlets at Kitakyushu Riverwalk, the city's biggest shopping mall. Bargain hunters should visit the 200 stalls of the monthly Green Park Flea Market. Stroll around the gardens surrounding Kokura Castle before finding out what life was like as a 17th-century royal. Delve deeper into Kitakyushu's past at the Museum of Natural and Human History. Brave thrill rides or enjoy milder family activities at Space World, the city's major theme park.
Kitakyushu has inspired many writers, including Mori Ōgai, Ashihei Hino and the crime novelist Seichō Matsumoto. Discover more about the latter in the museum dedicated to him near Kokura Castle.
Summer is the busiest season in Kitakyushu. July features three major festivals: Kurosaki Gio, Tobata Gion and Kokura Gion. At this time, Kitakyushu’s streets fill with floats, flags and lanterns. Come in August to marvel at Wasshoi Hyakuman Festival, a “super festival” that celebrates the creation of the city.
Kitakyushu Airport serves the city and is open 24/7. Take the hourly bus from the airport to Kokura station. Trains to and from Hiroshima, Okayama and Osaka are frequent, while some trains also connect to Kyoto, Nagoya and Tokyo. Public transportation in Kitakyushu is excellent; Kitakyushu Monorail and Nishitetsu Bus cover the main areas. You'll make good use of these services as you explore every inch of this remarkable city.