Fukuoka is a city with loads of surprises, and today it sprung one of its biggest on me: a beach within a stone’s throw of the urban centre.
After returning to downtown Fukuoka, I hopped onto a city bus and travelled to the Seaside Momochi area.
Built on a large expanse of reclaimed land west of the city centre, this leisure and office district features wide pedestrian-friendly streets and modern (if somewhat bland) architecture, all overlooked by the 234-metre-tall, mirror-clad Fukuoka Tower – the loftiest structure in the entire city.
We’ll have a closer look at the tower later. First, let’s head for the place that drew me to this (somewhat) out-of-the-way part of the city in the first place: the Fukuoka City Museum.
Opened in 1990, the museum’s permanent collection focuses on the history of Fukuoka and the surrounding region. The main exhibit is remarkably small, but of great historical significance: a gold seal (dating from A.D. 57 and rediscovered in the 18th century) that was presented by the Chinese Emperor to a Japanese emissary.
Now, why come all this way for a museum? (Sure, Seaside Momochi is well within Fukuoka, but it’s a wee bit of a detour from downtown and isn’t as easily reached by metro as one might wish.) Well, apart from the fact that I like museums – which should be reason enough – one of my habits when visiting a major city is to head for its urban history gallery, if it has one. Absorbing a healthy dose of local knowledge (especially on history, customs, and geography) can help enrich the experience by putting everything into the right context.
After having my fill of the exhibits, I stepped outside and began walking towards the prominent landmark at the end of the street.
There’s an enclosed observation deck near the top (and some shops in the base), but I chose not to linger and quickly swept out of the tower through a back door. Continuing my northwards trek, I found a ramp that sloped gently downwards to the waterfront where I encountered, of all things…
Not what I was expecting to find in this corner of Japan, but then again, the bubble economy of 20-odd years ago was a magical time when lots of wild fantasies materialised where they shouldn’t have (here’s one infamous example). That considered, an artificial beach within a quarter-hour or so of downtown Fukuoka should hardly come as a surprise.
White elephant economics aside, I’ve got to admit that this wide, sandy stretch of coastline was a rather scenic addition to the local cityscape. There were relatively few people in sight (it was a working day after all), and swimming or other water sports would not have been advisable in the slightly chilly spring weather, but I did see quite a few beachcombers and toe-dippers out and about on the sand.
With the sound of crashing waves filling my ears and a bracing sea breeze cooling my face, the conditions were just right for a slow, quiet afternoon walk on the edge of the sea.
The next day, I headed out to see a place that brings an ancient side of Japan to life – one far older than samurai, shōguns, or (in a sense) even the very idea of “Japan” itself.
But that’s a story for another post.