Kitakyushu Travel Guide
From a stately Taisho Era hotel that once played host to Albert Einstein to a museum all about toilets, there is much to see.
Come check out our Kitakyushu travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Kitakyushu, Japan.
Start your visit to the Kitakyushu area by dropping by Kokura Castle. Built at the start of the Edo Period in 1602, it served as a home to many feudal lords for more than two centuries. It met its end a few short years before the Meiji Restoration, burning to the ground in 1866.
Like many other ruined castles across Japan, it was reconstructed in the latter half of the 20th century for touristic purposes. Today, the rebuilt keep contains a museum dedicated to local folklore, but for many, the main draw of this attraction lies outside.
A Japanese garden was opened on the grounds of Kokura Castle in 1998 – it is especially popular in spring, as the abundance of cherry trees make its pathways a pleasant place to walk at this time.
Learn more about the story of this part or Kyushu by spending a few hours exploring the Kitakyushu Museum of Natural & Human History. This institution is shaped around the evolution of life on Earth – its 4,500 specimens will tell the story of this planet from the Paleozoic Period (more than a half billion years ago) to fossils from more recent times.
In the human history section, you’ll get a chance to learn about the cultural traditions of Kyushu Island, as well as a number of artifacts which will shed light on how life was for locals in centuries past.
Next, learn about how Kitakyushu was a hub for the railway by checking out the Kyushu Railway History Museum. Contained within the former headquarters of the Kyushu Railway Company, you’ll find a number of well-preserved steam locomotives, as well as first generation electric models that last plied the rails in the 1960s.
Other exhibits contain information on how railways make use of signals and other communications to operate safely, the meals served on trains in the past, and how to pilot a train. On your way out, drop by the gift shop, where there are plenty of souvenirs suitable for rail fans for all ages.
Japan is well known for being home to more than its share of offbeat attractions. This reputation is upheld well by the Toto Museum, an institution dedicated to the evolution of the toilet. Named after a Japanese company famed for its porcelain gods, this institution contains antique models built in 1917 (a time when much of Japan didn’t even have sewers). It also shows off the company’s most recent line, which comes with heated seats and music designed to mask the nastier noises associated with going to the bathroom.
Take a step back into the classier moments of the Meiji and Taisho Periods by spending time within the walls of the Old Mojimitsui Club. Built by Mitsui, a major Japanese bank, this estate was established to host visiting CEOs and VIPs – this included people like Albert Einstein, who paid Kitakyushu a visit in 1922.
The upstairs portion of this grand manor is dedicated to the late scientist and can be visited for a modest fee. Even if you decline, the ground floor is home to a restaurant that is known for its curry rice, so be sure to give it a try if you’re hungry.
If you have time to kill while in the Kitakyushu area, plan a day trip out to the Hiraodai Karst Plateau. Situated a short distance inland from the coast, a series of limestone rocks can be found in a six kilometre long by two-kilometre wide formation.
In addition to these sheep-like outcroppings, the trails here will put you into contact with local flora and fauna – keep your eyes open for birds, butterflies, and plants endemic to the region. Into spelunking? There are also a number of caves in the region – Senbutsu, Mejiro, and Ojika are just a few worth checking out.
Back in Kitakyushu, make sure you spend a few hours exploring the historic streets of Moji Port. Once a busy international port, it now serves as a living monument to the stylish days of the Meiji and Taisho Periods.
Boasting an attractive promenade along the waterfront that is home to cafes, restaurants, and museums, it is a fantastic place to spend a leisurely afternoon.
Lastly, do not leave Kitakyushu without visiting the Kawachi Fuji Garden. Best known for its Instagram-worthy ‘tunnel’ of wisteria trees, this botanical garden is jammed with visitors between April and May. However, it is also well worth a visit in the fall, when its maple trees turn ablaze with autumn colours.