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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Shikanoshima Fukuoka

志賀島

Though Japan’s eighth-largest city—only a tiny bit smaller than KyotoFukuoka is still in many ways much more laid back than other Japanese cities its size. Part of that no doubt is because of nearby beaches.

Fukuoka ferryThe most accessible of these beaches can be found at Shikanoshima.

Shikanoshima is an island that is connected to and now legally incorporated as part of Fukuoka City. On a causeway, it is no more than 20-25 minutes by car from downtown to the island.

Another option is to take the local ferry (pictured at right). An express goes directly to Shikanoshima; a local stops at Saitozaki and one other small port. The boat is as smooth as can be. Even in rough winds, we moved comfortably through the water.

It is also possible to take the train to Saitozaki, and then ride a local bus.

The island is interesting not just because it is so rural and has beautiful beaches but also because of its history.

The Gold Seal of the "Kan no Wa no Na no Kokuo” (King of Japan, Chinese colony) was found in Kananosaki on Shikanoshima in 1784. The seal is made of gold but is no larger than a thumb. Today there is a small park with a plaque--see below--that marks the spot where the farmer Jinbei found the seal.

It was originally sent as a gift to the Japanese emperor in 57 AD. The Kobu Emperor of Go-kan, a country in ancient China, gave the seal to an envoy from Japan.

Kan no Wa no Na no KokuoIt was finally donated in 1978 to the city of Fukuoka, and is now on display in the The Museum of Fukuoka.

The next major historical event also involved visitors from continental Asia. In 1279, Mongolian invaders led by Kublai Khan landed on Shikonoshima. They demanded a “tribute”—protection money, essentially—from the Japanese shogun. The shogun refused, and a slaughter of the islanders ensued. Thanks to Japanese guerilla attacks the Mongols were repelled. They returned later, only to be kept at bay by the legendary kamikaze winds.

In other military history, an American air base, Camp Hakata, was located on the other side of the causeway until its closure in 1972.

Access

Ferry: Get on at Hakata Port at Bayside Place. The ride takes 20 minutes.
Train: Ride to Saitozaki, then take a local bus across the causeway.

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