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A Guided Walking Tour of the History and Traditional Handicrafts of Hakata

The Hakata Old Town is a neighborhood where you can experience history, traditional culture and a taste of everyday life for the local people, with its historic temples and shrines, variety of traditional artwork crafted by skilled artisans, as well as the neighborhood’s bustling shopping arcade.

Today we will take a guided tour of the Hakata Old Town provided by Otomo, a multilingual tour guide company certified by the city of Fukuoka. During the tour our guide will show us several tourist attractions as we get a closer look at what the neighborhood has to offer.

So without further ado, let’s hit the streets of the influential and history-rich Hakata Old Town to see what it has in store for us, all within walking distance of Hakata Station!

The first stop on our tour is the Hakata Traditional Craft and Design Museum. Here you will find a number of Hakata dolls and Hakata-ori cloth designs on display. 

Get an up-close look at a wide selection of handicrafts, from recent pieces crafted by today’s artisans to historical pieces from years ago.

The first floor is home to the museum’s seasonal exhibits.

On display today were a great number of Hakata dolls crafted by local artisans! Our tour guide gave us an overview and rundown on the history of Hakata dolls.

These colorfully dressed Hakata dolls represent ancient Japanese poets dating back to over 1000 years ago.

And now on to the second floor!

On the way up, we found a showcase of kabuki stars’ and shogi players’ handprints displayed on the staircase wall. But these are not just ordinary handprints – they were made using the same techniques used in making Hakata dolls!

The second floor is home to the museum’s permanent exhibit.

On display here are some of the finest examples of two of Fukuoka’s famous traditional handicrafts: Hakata-ori cloth and Hakata dolls.

Among the Hakata dolls on display you will find pieces both dating back to the Edo Period as well as modern pieces from today’s artisans.

Admire the artisanal techniques developed and refined over the course of the craft’s rich history, the new innovations that come with the changing of the times, and the unique details of each and every piece as the artisans’ thoughts and feelings come to life through each individual piece.

The local artisans poured their heart and soul into making these Hakata dolls, so do be sure to come and check them out!

Next to the Hakata dolls is the Hakata-ori display. Here you can learn about the origins of and process of making Hakata-ori while viewing both the works of young artisans as well as many award-winning pieces on display for an in-depth perspective on this local craft.

And now for a souvenir photo in front of the Fuku no kami, a Hakata-ori and Hakata doll collaboration!

Be sure to check out the flawless detail of these artisans’ craftsmanship for yourself.

Next up on our tour is the Hakatamachiya Furusatokan, just a three-minute walk from the Hakata Traditional Craft and Design Museum.

Make your way through this narrow entranceway and you will be transported to a veritable scene from the past. Watch your head!

Here you can catch a live demonstration of how Hakata-ori is hand-woven by the artisans themselves.

But that’s not all – you can even try your hand at weaving yourself!

Have a seat at the loom and try your luck at weaving, all with a little help from the artisans.

Get a closer look at all that goes into Hakata-ori through this hands-on experience – a unique experience you will surely never forget!

Here we are in the Machiya’s old-fashioned tatami mat room for another photo!

Next up on our tour is Kushida Shrine, located right outside of the Hakatamachiya Furusatokan.

Known and loved by the locals, this shrine is also endearingly known as “O-kushida-san”. The shrine is likewise the home of a number of festivals, including the famous Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival.

First make your way through the torii gates…

Just don’t step on the threshold! The threshold leading to a Shinto shrine is considered to be the holy boundary separating the divine world of the shrine from the outside world, so stepping on it is said to bring about misfortune.

If you look up at the romon gate you will find a brightly colored Chinese zodiac dial (etoehoban). Every year on New Year’s Eve the dial will point to the corresponding year of the Chinese zodiac, indicating the lucky direction for the year. Definitely come check it out for yourself!

Be sure to purify your hands before praying at the shrine.

Praying to the guardian deity of Hakata.

After saying our prayers, we took a little walk around the interior of the shrine.

Kushida Shrine is the home of Fukuoka’s famous local festival, the Hakata Gion Yamakasa.

Here you will find kazari yamakasa (decorated floats) on display year-round, so you can come check them out whenever you like. By the way, this kazari yamakasa is said to represent a different theme every year.

As you look up at this impressive, massive kazari yama take in the captivatingly vivid colors of its many ornaments. 

Here you can find real kazari yama on display not only during the festival period, but all year-round! So we definitely recommend you come check it out.

Kushida Shrine is likewise home to a very large, heavy rock known as a chikaraishi, or lifting stone. Chikaraishi are large stones used to prove one’s physical strength. This particular stone is even designated a Tangible Cultural Property of Japan. Whether you prefer to show off and give it a go on your own, or work together with friends, be sure to give the lifting stone a try!

Alright, let’s see what these muscles can do!

That sure is heavy! It looks like this isn’t going too well for us.

But while we’re here, why not take a photo for memory’s sake?

Definitely give it a try for yourself while you’re here at Kushida Shrine!

Located just outside Kushida Shrine’s rear gates is the entrance to the Kawabata Shopping Arcade, so let’s go take a walk around!

Stretching out alongside the Nakagawa River from the Nakasu-kawabata subway station to the large Kokutai-doro Avenue is the bustling Kawabata Shopping Arcade, also within walking distance of the Canal City Hakata Shopping Mall.

Here you will find a variety of commercial establishments, from souvenir shops to textile shops, from ramen joints to cafés! This charming shopping arcade operates under the motto “a place to discover the heart of Hakata”.

As we walk through the shopping arcade we quickly stumble upon the textiles shop Hakatayanihei.

Often when we think of kimonos, we think of elegant pieces of clothing which are not exactly within our reach. However, Hakatayanihei offers casual, everyday washable kimonos “that you can enjoy in your day-to-day life”.

Kimonos are available in a wide range of colors and patterns, so you are bound to find something you like!

It seems she took a liking to the quintessentially Japanese chrysanthemum and goldfish pattern kimono.

It has become increasingly common to see people walking the streets dressed in kimono these days, and it’s no wonder why – what could be better than taking in the scenery of Japan while dressed in traditional Japanese attire?

Just a word of caution, however!

The kind of yukata typically available for sale differ in size and hem length from the kind of yukata you will find if you stay at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), so please be aware of this when making your purchase!

That’s all for the textiles shop – now on to the rest of our tour!

Just a little ways further we find ourselves outside of the Kawabata Zenzai Hiroba.

Once known as the home of the “sweetest zenzai in all of Japan”, here you can have a taste of the Kawabata zenzai (sweet red bean soup) known and loved by locals.

There’s even a kazari yamakasa here as well.

One more quick shot as we hold up this kazari yamakasa !

This relaxing little shop is located right along the river and makes the perfect spot to take a short break!

After making our way through the Kawabata Shopping Arcade, next up is the Hakata Doll Shop Shogetsudo.

Here you can try your hand at painting the very same Hakata dolls we saw earlier at the Hakata Traditional Craft and Design Museum for yourself.

First, choose which doll you would like to paint from the wide selection available.

And then it’s time to get painting!

You can paint the dolls in whatever color and whatever way you like for your very own original, one-of-a-kind Hakata doll!

Everyone is very focused on getting everything just right, down to the last detail.

Use a fine-tipped brush to paint the facial expressions.

Everyone is quietly toiling away.

This is a very unique experience, so take your time to make your personalized Hakata doll just the way you like it!

Our Hakata dolls are almost done!

It takes about thirty minutes to finish painting a Hakata doll completely, after which you will have your very own one-of-a-kind original Hakata doll to take home with you!

From left to right: “Monkey”, “Dog”, “Girl”.

Everyone put their heart and soul into their piece of art!

And you are of course free to take your completed pieces home with you, so be sure to decorate your home with your newly finished work of art!

Inside the Shogetsudo’s shop you will also find a variety of pieces from the leading Hakata doll artisans.

From the cute and lovely…

…to the strong and powerful.

They are also available for purchase, so how about bringing one home as a souvenir?

This brings our fun little tour to a close. Albeit short and sweet, the tour was packed with loads of Fukuoka tradition!

And now for one last shot with our tour guide.

From historic temples and shrines, to the bustling shopping arcade, to even making your very own one-of-a-kind Hakata doll, you can have a variety of experiences all in one day with a guided tour from Otomo, sure to leave you with memories to last a lifetime.

So be sure to learn more about the city of Fukuoka while having fun on this unique hands-on tour experience!

To book this tour, please visit the link below.

[Certified by Fukuoka] Experience the world of Hakata Traditional Craftwork

For a list of other hands-on tours available see the link below.

・Otomo Inc【https://otomo-inc.com/
・Email:[email protected]
・Contact person:Otani Kitagawa

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