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A short article on things to see and do in Fukuoka, Japan. Emphasis is on visiting and photographing various Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines that are within easy walking distance of downtown area.
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Well, we left on a Sunday and came back on Thursday.

It was a short trip with specific intent of getting my daughter to the Korean Consulate so that she could get her worker's visa.

Fukuoka is a relatively nice city, small, not large like Busan. It was also a very clean city, I was impressed by the look of the city.

 

Getting Around In Fukuoka

Similar to Busan, Korea (click here to read my post on Busan), Fukuoka also has a subway system that is tied into the main train station in downtown Fukuoka.  The signs are not only in Japanese but also in English at the subway, which helps.  The subway in Fukuoka also has the same ticket kiosks as found in the subway in Busan, there must have been a sale on tickets kiosks.  ;-)

Subway route map for Fukuoka Japan. Click on the image to go to the webpage for the subway.
Subway route map for Fukuoka Japan. Click on the image to go to the webpage for the subway.

The price was similar, so not too expensive, around $2 dollars US to get on the subway.  As Fukuoka is not as large a city as Busan, the subway, accordingly, wasn't too large either.  The subway trains were very modern, with display screens over the doorways that showed the next station on the line in not only Japanese and English, but also in Korean.  This seemed suitable as it was only a 45 minute flight from Busan to Fukuoka, so I assume that there are a lot Korean tourist in Fukuoka. The announcements likewise were in Japanese, English and Korean. I didn't get a chance to take a bus, so not sure about the bus system for English only speakers.

Of course our task was to find the Korean Consulate, do the paperwork for the visa, then show up and get the visa, then head back to Busan. Which gave us some time to explore the city. There is an area by the main train station that has a fair number of Buddhist temples, including the first Zen Buddhist temple in Japan. There is also a Shinto shrine and temple on the other side of the train station that was a fairly complex temple/shrine complex.

Accomodations

We stayed at the APA Hotel Fukuoka-Wantanabedori on Sumiyoshi Dori, and it was a fairly nice hotel.  The rooms were small, but not too small, the bathrooms had shower and tub, and the toilet also served as a bidet,  with buttons and everything (no, I didn't use it, seemed, well, a little intimidating)!

The room was around $110 per night, so not too bad for Japan, which tends to be expensive, more so than Korea.  You can purchase breakfast down at the lobby, which is a buffet for around $20 per person, like I said, things can be a little pricey.

Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine

Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine is located on, wait, Sumiyoshi Dori!  And is just down the street from the Hakata train station.  Which is also the closest subway station to the shrine.  The walk isn't that long, and if you are jonesing for some American Food there is a Hard Rock Cafe along the way (it will be to your left as you head south from Hakata Station at the end of the long shopping complex). But I digress.  The walk is only about 10 minutes and you are there.  The entrance from Sumiyoshi Dori looks like a park entrance, but don't be fooled! There is a lot hidden behind this unassuming facade.

We first visited at night time, and we noticed that the Shinto Shrine was brightly painted in red, but didn't quite have the same variety of color as we found in Korea. There was a koi pond and so I tried to capture a night time image (I didn't bring my tripod, so I used techniques such as resting the camera on a fence post, etc.). This is the best one I was able to capture.

Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine at night. This shrine is in the heart of Fukuoka and is just down the street from the main train station.
Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine at night. This shrine is in the heart of Fukuoka and is just down the street from the main train station.

We made several daytime trips and was awed by the simple beauty of the place. The formal entrance is a long plaza lined with - Japanese lanterns - that were about 8 feet tall! I wished that I had been able to return again at night to see if the lanterns were lit or not, but I didn't get a chance.

Lantern lined walkway at the main entrance to the Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine.
Lantern lined walkway at the main entrance to the Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine.

As with the temples I had seen before, there were a number of shrines as well as the main temple, dedicated to the god of luck and of seafarers. Made sense, as Fukuoka is a seafaring city.

What I found amazing was the pet shrines (of which I counted three) that were in the temple precincts.

Shirahigeinari Shrine at Sumiyoshi Shrine in Fukuoka, Japan.
Shirahigeinari Shrine at Sumiyoshi Shrine in Fukuoka, Japan.

Which did not surprise me as the place had a lot of cats, even one sleeping on a stone lantern at the entrance to the shrine!

A sleeping cat on a lantern at the Sumiyoshi Dori entrance to the Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine Complex.
A sleeping cat on a lantern at the Sumiyoshi Dori entrance to the Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine Complex.

We spent a number of hours there over three visits, and of course the weather didn't cooperate, as it was overcast on the two daytime visits. Which was OK as I was into taking more targeted shots than I usually do when shooting landscapes.

Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine proper, as there are a large number of shrines at this particular complex.
Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine proper, as there are a large number of shrines at this particular complex.

Shofuku-ji Zen Buddhist Temple

But one of the most interesting locations in Fukuoka was the Zen Buddhist temple, Shofuku-ji Temple. It is what you would expect of place that embodies zen ideals. Nice simple gardens, buildings with natural wood and stone -- and lots of cats!

 

Kitties hanging out around a buddha shrine in a garden at Shofuku-ji Zen Buddhist Temple in Fukuoka, Japan.
Kitties hanging out around a buddha shrine in a garden at Shofuku-ji Zen Buddhist Temple in Fukuoka, Japan.

The only part of the temple that had any decoration was the main temple with the three Buddhas - one of the past, one of the present (center Buddha) and one of the future. Very beautiful and I can see how it is easily a place of contemplation and mediation.

Buddha of the present (middle), Buddha of the past (the one to the left) and Buddha of the future (the one on the right) at Shofuku-ji Zen Buddhist Temple in Fukuoka, Japan.
Buddha of the present (middle), Buddha of the past (the one to the left) and Buddha of the future (the one on the right) at Shofuku-ji Zen Buddhist Temple in Fukuoka, Japan.

The gardens there were peaceful and what you would expect of a Zen Buddhist temple, complete with stones, shrubs and water features.

Tocho-ji Buddhist Temple

The other major Buddhist temple we visited, Tocho-ji,  has a 'to,' otherwise known in English as a pagoda. The Tocho-ji Shingon Buddhist temple is along Taihaku Dori, right at Gion subway station. If you exit out entrance number 1, you will be standing in front of the main entrance to Tocho-ji.

There are a number of buildings at the temple complex including a famous pagoda. The pagoda is five stories, and was painted in red, and was set among the other temple buildings which are surrounded by modern high rises and business buildings.

Tochi-ji temple complex.
Tocho-ji temple complex.

The temple was founded by a shogun back in the 8th century and most of the structures dated from that period. Outside of the pagoda, all the buildings were natural in their decorations, again natural wood and stone. Along the side of the temple precinct were graves of Tadayuki Kuroda the second Lord of Fukuoka and his family.  The main hall was completed in 802 C.E. making it one of the oldest Shingon Buddhist temples in Japan.

Buddhist monks prayer room.
Buddhist monks prayer room at Tocho-ji Temple.

One of the most striking things about visiting these temples was to compare the decorations and ornateness of the various temples.  The Zen Buddhist temple in Japan (Shofuku-ji) was all wood carved with natural wood and stone finishes, whereas the Zen Buddhist temple in Busan Korea (Beomeosa) had little carving but instead had very ornate painted panels of very bright colors of greens, reds, yellows, oranges and teals.  The Shinto Shrine in Fukuoka (Sumiyoshi) had bright colors as well, mostly reds and oranges.  All the torii (entrance gates) in Sumiyoshi were painted red for example.

Photography Tips

Remember, all of these locations are places of worship, and regardless of your religious or non-relgious affiliation, you should be respectful of these places and those who come there to worship.

The majority of those who visit are Buddhist adherents or shinto practicioners, and as such, taking photographs needs to be discreet so as not to interrupt those who come to prayers and offer devotion. I did the majority of my photographing between groups of visitors. I was very tuned to those who were visiting and worked hard not to be disruptive to them.

The one location where there were a fair number of tourist was at Tocho-ji Temple, for whatever reason, and so I was felt more free to take photographs of the buidings and the grounds.

As these locations are in the middle of an urban city, there isn't much in the way of landscape options.

The Buddhist temples seem to close up early, but the Sumiyoshi-ji Shinto Shrine is in a park like enviornment which afford me the opportunity to take night time photographs. Perhaps you will be smarter than I and bring your tripod with you to stablize your camera for such long exposures.

Unlike the Buddhist temples in Korea, the temples in Japan tend to be simple affairs. Instead of painted facades, one has intricate carvings.

I also noticed that there were fewer decorative gates in the temples in Japan, often the gates were simple 'torii' or entrance ways. The gates at Beomeosa are very ornate and very complex in their designs.

I also noted that Beomeosa had a lot of shrines, at least 6 that I can recollect, whereas the Buddhist temples in Fukuoka only had the main shrine.

What I can tell you is that there is a very different feeling and experience between the two, and the photographer's task is to capture those differences as best as they can.

All in all, it was a nice trip visiting with my daughter and I am looking forward to going back in December!

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A little about me . . .

Back in 1982, my Air Force roommate was in desperate need of some cash, and he had a camera. And I was in the market for a camera as I had TDY (Temporary Duty) orders for Cyprus and was looking for a good camera to take with me. So over some beers and some negotiations with my roommate (and a few hundred dollars later), I found that I had become the owner of a brand spanking new Canon AE-1 camera with an assortment of lens, including a Canon 50mm, a 35mm lens, as well as a telephoto lens.

Fast forward to today, and I am now an owner of a Canon 5D Mark II (looking to upgrade, but can't decide on my next camera) and a bunch of Canon glass and I am primarily a landscape and travel photographer. Yea, that means that I get up before the sun rises and am out after the sun sets. Makes for interesting times!

Thank you for joining me on this photographic journey and hope to hear from you!

Peace,

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