November 2014

Autumn Colors in Fukuoka

It has become quite cold early in the morning and at night. This means the autumn season is upon us in full color. From mid November through the end of the month is the best time to enjoy brilliant fall colors. Let me introduce you to a couple of spots.

Komyozenji (Komyo Zen Temple)
This temple is located in Dazaifu City beyond the path to Dazaifu Tenmangu (Dazaifu Shrine). Intimately called Kokedera (Moss Temple), the temple’s rear garden illustrates land with moss and ocean with white sand, and the front garden places a number of stones to create “Buddhism light.” You can also enjoy the autumn colors and rhododendrons. From Tenjin, you need to transfer at Nishitetsu Line Futsukaichi Station to go to Dazaifu. It takes about 30 minutes and 400 yen one-way. The admission to the temple is 200 yen.

Akizukijoseki (Akizuki Castle Ruin)
Also well known for beautiful cherry blossoms, this castle is called “Little Kyoto” for its traditional elegance and attracts many visitors every year. Towards the end of November, you can view the vivid red colors on about 20 Japanese maple trees around Kuromon (Black Gate). The contrast between the red and black is stunning and is sure to take your breath away. Using Nishitesu Line, it takes about 80 minutes to get to Amagi Station (790 yen one way) and additional 20-minute bus ride to Akizuki (360 yen one way). It is a bit far but definitely worth the trip.

In addition to these, there are many more locations in Saga, Oita and Kumamoto Prefectures where you can view the autumn colors. If you have time, I strongly recommend you explore those areas.

Hakata Tomyo Watching (Hakata Votive Watching)

On October 18th, there was an event called Hakata Tomyo Watching. Numerous votives were lit and placed from Bayside Place in the north to Hakata Station in the south lighting up the entire city of Fukuoka. The idea came from Hakata’s traditional event called Sen Tomyo (A Thousand Votives). Now, residents use paper cups wrapped around with traditional Japanese paper or grocery bags to place lit candles. Those votives light up a number of sightseeing spots, city streets, temples and shrines. In large spaces such as elementary schools and the Kushida Shrine, artists “draw” pictures using these lit votives. If you can get to higher ground for a better view, these pictures will be sure to touch your heart. Last year, this event attracted over 20,000 visitors. It is organized by volunteers and even provides free bus tours.

Ozumo Kyushu Basho (Grand Sumo Tournament in Kyushu)

Most Japanese agree that sumo is one of Japan’s leading sports. The professional sumo association organizes 6 tournaments a year in January, March, May, July, September and November. Here in Fukuoka, they hold the November tournament called Kyushu Basho. This year, the opening day falls on November 9th, Sunday and ends on 23rd, Sunday. NILS’s short-term students go watch matches at Kyushu Basho as part of the outside activities. While it is common to see matches on TV, most visitors don’t get an opportunity to actually watch a live match. I highly recommend this activity for those students who visit Fukuoka at this time.

Omuta Dobutsuen (Omuta Zoo)

Omuta Zoo is my favorite place to go to see animals of every kind. Every August during the summer holidays, they open the “Night Time Zoo” on weekends. The Night Time Zoo offers a unique chance to see many of the big cats when they are most active, as many are nocturnal. You can see the very rare white tiger at this zoo as well, Omuta being the only place you can see one in all of Kyushu. (There are only 20 white tigers in all of Japan.) In addition, you can feed giraffes and attend live exhibits with reptile handlers. It takes only an hour and a half by train and bus from our Ohashi Campus. I highly recommend it.

Ureshino Onsen (Ureshino Hot Springs)

I would like to introduce Ureshino Onsen in Saga Prefecture, next to Fukuoka Prefecture. Only an hour and a half away by express bus from Tenjin, you can see the hot springs right off the bus stop. Known as “One of the Three Best Spas for your Skin” in Japan, you can really feel the effect on your skin. Gourmet food is another attraction in Ureshino such as Yudofu (Boiled Tofu) cooked in the hot spring water, vivid green and fragrant Ureshino cha (Ureshino Tea), Saga Gyu (Saga Beef) and Imari Gyu (Imari Beef) that result from a large and natural habitat.

Fukuoka is a lot of fun for shopping and other urban leisure, but I also recommend relaxing in the country once in a while.