The Gokusho Area
The Gokusho Area, just ten minutes’ walk from Hakata Station, has taken on the local name of “Teramachi”, or “Temple Town”, for its high concentration of temples despite the urban setting. Just one block in from the major avenue lined with modern buildings, one will find a completely different world, much like an oasis in the city. Why not enjoy a walk through the Gokusho Area where time flows at a slower pace.
Hakata Sennen-no Mon
The Hakata Sennen-no Mon, completed in March 2014, serves to welcome visitors to the Temple Town. The gate was named to recognize the accumulated history of Hakata, and to pray for continued prosperity for the next 1,000 years. Along with its solemn presence, the gate is filled with details representative of the Hakata, such as the thousand year camphor used, donated by the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, and for the transom, the carved openwork featuring patterns from the kenjo-gara style of local Hakata textiles.
- Jotenji Street, Hakataekimae 1-chome, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka City
Jotenji Temple was built in the third year of the Ninji era, or 1242. The temple features an uncommon layout in which the grounds are split into eastern and western sections due to the addition of a city street running down the middle during a previous city rezoning project.
Enni Ben’en, who established Jotenji Temple, is said to have brought back the skills to make udon and soba noodles and manju cakes when he returned from Song dynasty China, and thus the area is known as the birthplace of those foods in Japan.
The temple is also the originator of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival, held in July every year, during which a sacred path (kiyomichi) is established in front of the temple. Crowds gather there to watch the Yamakasa float being carried around the area as part of the dedication ritual.
- 1-29-9, Hakata-ekimae, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
Shofukuji Temple, famous as Japan’s first true Zen temple, was established in 1195, the 6th year of the Kenkyu era, by Myoan Eisai, a Buddhist priest who was the founder of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism in Japan. The temple is also known as the birthplace of Japanese green tea, and the temple grounds feature tea plants (Camellia sinensis) from which the tea is made. The temple grounds, designated a national historical site, are a well preserved example of the “garan” layout of Zen temples, with the sanmon gate, Buddhist sanctum, and main hall arrayed in a straight line. The grounds are also filled with natural greenery, providing a soothing sense of being in a forest.
- 6-1 Gokushomachi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka City
The Fukuoka Great Buddha enshrined at Tochoji Temple is Japan’s largest wooden statue of a seated Buddha at 10.8 meters in height. The statue’s nimbus features two rows of 7 and 13 Buddha images, with a further 5,000 small Buddha images on the wall to the back, creating a very impressive presence. There is also an opening in the base of the statue representing the path from hell to heaven. The pathway inside, decorated in “hell picture scrolls”, leads into darkness. If one uses the handrails to proceed further, they will find an image of heaven at the end bathed in a subtle light. It is said that touching the Buddha ring mid route will enable one to enter heaven.
The temple also boasts other attractions that evoke a sense of both distant and recent history, such as the unique revolving hexagonal hall and the five story pagoda completed in 2011 after 37 years of construction.
- 2-4, Gokusho-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
Ryuguji Temple was established during the Kamakura period, when it was located on the shore near Sode-no-Minato port, where legend says a caught mermaid was buried. In fact, perhaps going beyond legend, it is said that the bones of the mermaid are still preserved in the main hall, along with a scroll describing the mermaid’s life. There is also the Kannondo which is one of the seven such temples in Hakata and another destination for pilgrimages.
- 4-21, Reisen-cho, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka