KokuraminamiWakamatsu Experience Nature in Kitakyushu

This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of The ROYAL.
All products, services, and prices are subject to change.

An Excursion from the RIHGA Royal Hotel Kokura

Fresh greenery in spring, golden pampas grass in fall, and limestone pinnacles peeking out from the snow in winter; you can enjoy a variety of unique sceneries year around. “SOLA LAND HIRAODAI” was born to conserve and improve Hiraodai fields. You can also find restaurants and shops here.

 A nature-loving travel writer Miyamoto Kiyomi proposes a perfect summer trip around Kitakyushu and shows you how to enjoy its mountains and sea to the fullest.
 We will explore Hiraodai, one of Japan’s three major karst landforms, designated as a Natural Monument, and Wakamatsu, a retro and romantic port town.

(Photography by Nakanishi Yukino)

“A Flock of Sheep!?” A Natural Wonder You’ve Never Seen Before.

Senbutsu Limestone Cave
The Senbutsu Limestone Cave is one of the most famous limestone caves in Hiraodai and is designated as a Natural Monument. As you proceed along the 900m trail, you will come across an underground river after the first 480m from the entrance. If you plan to go all the way, wear straw sandals offered at the entrance for free before entering the cave. The round trip usually takes around 40 minutes.

 Since moving to Fukuoka, I have been continuously fascinated by the primitive and dynamic nature of Kyushu. Besides Mount Aso and Yakushima Island, the unique Hiraodai is one of my favorite places that I strongly recommend you visit.
 Hiraodai is a large karst plateau located at an elevation of 370 to 710m and offers a breathtaking view of the karrenfeld of limestone pinnacles stretching as far as the eye can see. “The limestone of Hiraodai is different in composition from that of other karst plateaus, and that gives the surface of the pinnacles soft and rounded appearance, resembling a flock of sheep,” said Nishinaka Koji of SOLA LAND HIRAODAI. The idyllic scenery and the warm smell of the soil reminded me of my childhood, frolicking in the vast fields and mountains. The view of Mount Yufu and Mount Tsurumi of Oita Prefecture in the distance is simply stunning, and finding rare alpine plants, such as the White Egret Orchid, and hearing the sound of birds that you’ve never heard before will surely make your heart race with excitement.

Ojika Cave
Ojika Cave is a cave with an entrance pit that lets in divine sunlight, which is very rare in Japan. The cave is about 400m long, and the difference in elevation is about 50m. It was named “Ojika Cave” due to the discovery of a giant deer fossil (Ojika literary translates to “male deer”). Fossils of Japanese river otters and Naumann’s elephants have also been discovered here. The round trip usually takes around 30 minutes.
Our next stop is the Senbutsu Limestone Cave, where we can walk through an underground river. Our curiosity also takes us to the Ojika Cave, a unique cave with an entrance pit. Inside the cool and humid caves are marble patterns and glossy curves that have been created over a long period of time. As I stepped into a cave, I felt like I was an explorer. It was just like “Wednesday Special: Kawaguchi Hiroshi Expedition,” the TV show I loved as a child…but don’t fret, both of them are well maintained for tourists, so your adventure will be very safe. I recommend visiting these caves because it’s easy enough for anyone to walk through them, but it will also be an adventure of a lifetime.
Senbutsu Chaya
This tea house is located at the entrance of the Senbutsu Limestone Cave. Their 2 main specialties are Karst Manju (handmade steamed buns with sweet potato and red bean filling) (¥100) and ume plum juice made from ume plums harvested in Hiraodai (¥200). You can also order coffee brewed with Hiraodai’s natural water to go (¥250), as well as udon, soba, and curry.

 After exploring the caves, it is time to reward ourselves with the famous Karst Manju at the Senbutsu Chaya. The sweet and sour taste of the ume plum juice will heal your tired body. Be sure to wear sneakers or comfortable shoes to fully enjoy Hiraodai and the limestone caves.
 Finally, let’s unwind after a long day of adventure by heading back to our hotel and relaxing at the spa located in the health club on the 6th floor before our dinner at “Japanese Cuisine Naniwa.” Enjoying the freshest tempura fried right in front of our eyes and other seasonal dishes at the counter seat will ensure a blissful evening.

RIHGA Royal Hotel Kokura “Japanese Cuisine Naniwa” (1st Floor)
You can experience seasonal flavors and hospitality that are truly unique to Japan. Indulge in a delectable seasonal Kaiseki, a traditional Japanese course meal featuring the freshest local fish.
Nikogori (jellied broth) of yuba and junsai with sea urchin and caviar ¥1,426. *available July-August



1-1-1, Hiraodai, Kokuraminami- ku Kitakyushu, Fukuoka
Phone: +81(0) 93-452-2715
March-November: 9:00~17:00 (Weekends and holidays during GW and summer: ~18:00)
December-February: 10:00~16:00
Free Admission (Except for some facilities, including camping grounds)
Closed: Tuesdays (Wednesday if Tuesda y is a holiday) and December 29-January 3
※January 1st: First sunrise of the year

Senbutsu Limestone Cave

3-2-1, Hiraodai, Kokuraminami-ku Kitakyushu, Fukuoka
Phone: +81(0) 93-451-0368
9:00~17:00 (Weekends and holidays: ~18:00)
Adults ¥800
High School Students ¥600
Junior High School Students ¥500
Elementary School Students ¥400
Open year-round

Ojika Cave

2-6-58, Hiraodai, Kokuraminami-ku Kitakyushu, Fukuoka
Phone: +81(0) 93-451-0165
10:00~17:00 (Weekends, holidays, and summer: ~18:00)
Admission: ¥500
Elementary School Students ¥300
Irregular hours ※ Please check the Opening Hours before visiting.

Senbutsu Chaya

3-2-1, Hiraodai, Kokuraminami-ku Kitakyushu, Fukuoka
Phone: +81(0) 93-451-0368
9:00~17:00 (Weekends and holidays: ~18:00)

RIHGA Royal Hotel Kokura “Japanese Cuisine Naniwa” (1st Floor)

Lunch: 11:30~14:30
Dinner: 17:30~21:30 (Last Call: 21:00)

Watchful Guardian: The Wakato Bridge, the Symbol of Kitakyushu.

Wakato Tosen
The Wakato Tosen ferry provides transportation between Tobata and Wakamatsu, serving approximately 600,000 passengers every year. The ferry makes three to five round trips per hour, making it a convenient mode of transport ation for commuting locals, and it sees a higher volume of tourists on weekends. You can bring your bicycle on board.

 The next day, we take the Wakato Tosen ferry from Tobata to Wakamatsu. It only takes three minutes to t ravel the distance of 400m, but it offers a fantastic opportunity to appreciate the sea. The ferry ride offers an exceptional view of the harbor and a refreshing ocean scent. You can also see the Kitakyushu Industrial Zone, which is perfect for those who love factories.

Wakamatsu Band
The Wakamatsu Band is an area filled with buildings from the Taisho era, such as the former Furukawa Kogyo Wakamatsu Building, a registered tangible cultural property of Japan, the Ueno Building, and the Sekitan Hall. These buildings are still in use and h ouse the increasing number of stylish cafes and shops that make use of the atmosphere of the Taisho era. It’s a popular area to walk around and shop.
Mikadukiya is a croissant shop located in the Sekitan Hall, a building in the Wakamatsu Band. Made with natural yeast derived from rice malt, their croissants are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. They offer more than 12 flavors, including original (¥185), maple (¥195), kinako (soybean powder) (¥216), and yomogi (mugwort) (¥216). They can be kept at room temperature for up to three days, so they are perfect for souvenirs.
Wakamatsu was the largest coal shipping port in Japan from the Meiji era to the early Showa era. The coastal street overlooking Dokai Bay, commonly known as the “Wakamatsu Band,” has been redeveloped as a beautiful waterfront but still is filled with sturdy buildings built in the Taisho era. Let’s head to the retro Sekitan Hall building and check out “Mikadukiya” for their mouthwatering croissants. It’s heavenly to enjoy freshly baked, sweet croissants while admiring the serene view of the sea from a bench.
Wakato Bridge
The Wakato Bridge, which opened in 1962, is approximately 2100m with a main span length of 627m. The suspension bridge connects Tobata and Wakamatsu, and it is said that the completion of this bridge initiated the lengthening of bridges in Japan. There used to be a pedestrian walkway, but only cars and motorcycles are permitted to cross now.

 When you spend time in Wakamatsu, you simply can’t miss the majestic Wakato Bridge. The bright red suspension bridge watches over the city and its people and can be seen no matter where you are in the city. When it first opened, it was called the best bridge in Asia.

Kukinoumi Fireworks Festival
Since 1986, Kukinoumi Fireworks Festival has been held to revitalize the community and promote the development of the Kitakyushu Dokai area. The festival draws in almost 300,000 visitors every year and offers an array of fireworks displays, including the impressive “Niagara Falls,” which utilizes the Wakato Bridge.

 One of Kitakyushu’s biggest fireworks events, “Kukinoumi Fireworks Festival,” features a giant “Niagara Falls,” which utilizes the Wakato Bridge. This dazzling spectacle has become a summer tradition of Kitakyushu, so consider making a trip here this summer to witness it for yourself.


Wakato Tosen

Kitakyushu, Fukuoka (Tobata-ku~Wakamatsu-ku)
Phone: +81(0) 93-861-0961 (Tosen Office)
First ferry from Tobata 5:55~Last ferry from Wakamatsu 22:30
Adults ¥100
Children ¥50
Bicycles ¥50
Operating year-round
※Operation may be canceled due to adverse weather conditions

Wakato Bridge

Kitakyushu, Fukuoka (Tobata-ku~Wakamatsu-ku)
Toll rates:
Standard-sized vehicles ¥100
Small-sized vehicles and Motorcycles ¥50


1-13-15, Honmachi, Wakamatsu-ku, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka
Phone: +81(0) 93-771-7979
Closed: Mondays (Open if it’s a holiday)

Kukinoumi Fireworks Festival

Venue: Dokai Bay, Wakato Bridge
Phone: +81(0) 93-761-5321 (Wakamatsu-ku Ward Office General Affairs and Planning Division)


Explore the Neighborhood of the RIHGA Royal Hotel Kokura

Stay at the RIHGA Royal Hotel Kokura and enjoy a high-spirited summer festival and Japan’s first shopping arcade.

The Movie “Muhomatsu no Issho” Centers Around This Festival.
Kokura Gion Daiko

 The Kokura Gion Daiko, designated as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Fukuoka Prefecture, is a summer festival held by the Yasaka Shrine to pray for good health. With a history of more than 400 years, the festival is one of the three major Gion festivals in Japan that share roots with Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri. You can see decorated festival floats from each participating town and hear people chant “Yassa Yare Yare” as they parade around the Kokura Castle.

Kokura Gion Daiko

The 3rd Friday, Saturday, and Sunday every July
Phone: +81(0) 93-541-4189 (Kitakyushu Tourist Information Center)

The Origin of Japan’s Shopping Arcades, “Gintengai.”
Uomachi Gintengai

The monument of “the birthplace of Gintengai” on the sidewalk along Katsuyama Dori.

 In 1951, Japan’s first shopping arcade opened on a public street. Although obtaining the necessary permissions to build it took a considerable amount of time, the enthusiasm of the shopping arcade executives made it come true. After calling for ideas for its nickname, “Gintengai,” which means “a town with a shining silver ceiling,” was chosen. This nickname gained immense popularity around Japan, and many other shopping arcades started to adopt it. Hence, the Uomachi Gintengai became the original “Gintengai.”

Uomachi Gintengai

Uomachi, Kokurakita-ku, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka
Phone: +81(0) 93-521-6801 (Uomachi Shopping District Promotion Association)

Unless otherwise stated, all prices include tax and service charges.
Opening Hours may be subject to change without notice. Please check the Opening Hours before visiting.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of The ROYAL. All products, services, and prices are subject to change.