Fukuoka City is often said to be the oldest city in Japan, and may have been a prehistoric capital. It bears the marks of several unsuccessful invasions, and a lot of more peaceful international trade, as the closest port to China and Korea.
Historical key points
• Dazaifu, now part of Fukuoka City, was the administrative capital of Japan in 663A.D.
• Fukuoka was attacked by Kublai Khan’s armies twice, but both times terrible storms destroyed most of the Mongol fleet. From these storms came the word “kamikaze”, or “divine wind”.
• Two of Japan’s oldest festivals are held here yearly: Yamakasa (since 1241) and Dontaku (since 1179).
• Saint Francis Xavier landed at Fukuoka in 1550, bringing Christianity to the country.
• In 1580, during the warring “sengoku” period, the city was almost entirely burned down several times.
• Fukuoka’s castle was burned to the ground during the upheaval of the Meiji Restoration, in the late 19th century.
• The current city of Fukuoka was created in 1889 by the merger of two cities, Fukuoka (run by the samurai) and Hakata (run by the merchants). Hakata was selected as the new name, but a group of samurai crashed the meeting and forced the name to be changed to Fukuoka. Old grudges die hard, and some people still refer to the city as “Hakata” even today!
• In 1954, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio stayed in Fukuoka for their honeymoon.
• Fukuoka suffered extensive damage from Allied bombing during the Second World War; thus, there are few pre-1945 buildings in the city.
• Fukuoka was destroyed on-screen in not one but two Godzilla films, Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991) and Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla (1994).