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Kokura

At a Glance

Kokura has a population of about 650,000 and is the heart of Kitakyushu City. It once flourished as a castle town, but is now Kitakyushu’s biggest entertainment and shopping district.

Festivals

Kokura Castle Cherry Blossom Matsuri Late March-early April

Kokura Gion Daiko Matsuri Third weekend of July

Wasshoi Summer Matsuri First week of August

Getting There

By train: On the JR Kagoshima Line, Shinkansen or Sonic get off at Kokura station.

By bus: The Fukuoka Kukou Line runs from Kokura to Fukuoka Airport with several stops along the way. The Nakatani and Itozu Lines run from Kokura to Tenjin Bus Center (¥1000,approx 70 mins)

Monorail: A monorail runs from the North to the South of Kokura, terminating at JR Kokura Station.

Points of Interest

Hiraodai Countryside Park has been open since 2003 and is in the middle of Kitakyushu’s 10,000- year-old Hiraodai karst tableland. At this uniquely accessible limestone plateau thousands of boulders on the grassland create a beautiful landscape that evokes flocks of grazing sheep. Visitors can participate in hands-on workshops and fun outdoor activities. For more information, ask the T.I.C (Tourist Information center) in JR Kokura Station. 1-1-1 Hiraodai Kokuraminami-ku. 9am-5pm; closed Mon (Tues if Mon is a holiday), Dec 29-31 & Jan 3 093-452-2715.

Itozu-no-mori Zoological Park  is an educational zoo where visitors can interact with all kinds of animals including elephants and monkeys. There are various events throughout the year, and an occasional art exhibition. From Kokura Station Bus Center take the #22 bus to Itozu-no-mori Koen-mae bus stop. Buses are also available from Tobata and Yahata(#22 and #1). 4-1 Kamiitozu Kokurakita-ku. 9am-5pm; closed Tues (Wed if Tues is a holiday) 093-651-1895.

Kokura Castle Originally built in 1602, the castle that stands today built next to the original site about 40 years ago There is a small interactive museum inside and a good view of central Kokura from the top floor. Various festivals are held on the castle grounds, and it’s a popular place for hanami in spring. Apr-Oct 9am-6pm, Nov-Mar 9am-5pm; closed Dec 29-31. 093-561-1210.

Sugao no Taki  This 30-meter high waterfall located near Hiraodai Countryside Park is reached from a beautiful lush valley that leads you past a reservoir to the waterfall. Take bus #34 from Kokura Station and get off at Gobaru bus stop. http://www.city.kitakyushu.jp/page/kankou/midokoro/nature/sugao.html

Yamada Ryokuchi (Green Park and Zone) is a good place to go for a relaxing afternoon in the park. There are walking trails, a playground and a large grassy field for playing sports and lounging around. From NishiKokura Eki-mae take the #45 bus to Yamada Ryokuchi bus stop. This bus only runs on weekends and holidays. Yamada-cho Kokurakita-ku. 9am-5pm (admittance til 3pm); closed Tue (Wed if Tue is a holiday), Dec 29-31, Jan 1-3. 093-582-4870.

Matsumoto Seicho Memorial Museum honors Seicho Matsumoto, one of Japan’s greatest modern novelists. He was born in the present Kokurakita-ku of Kitakyushu. His narratives and explicit simplicity have earned him immense popularity with readers all over Japan. The museum offers all you need to know about this Akutagawa Prize winner. 9:30am- 6pm; closed Dec 29-31. Tel 093-582-2761.

Mt. Fukuchi is near Kokuraminami’s southern limit and a bit difficult to access, but is beautiful and worth the trouble of getting there. For more details see the Tourist Information Center at JR Kokura Station.  Take bus #34 from Kokura Station and get off at Gobaru bus stop.

Eating and Drinking

Cafes

Espresso Bar Moonbeams is a good outdoor cafe alternative to chain coffee conglomerates. It serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks alike in a riverside location. Try their Irish beer with a hot dog. 12pm-12am. Tel 093-541-7700.

Cafe Centre is attached to Riverwalk. Features an Internet ready computer that you can use free for 90 minutes (as long as you order something). 1-1-1 Muro-machi Kokurakita-ku. 9.30am-9pm. Sat, Sun & public holidays 10am-9pm. LO 8.30pm. 093-573-1616. http://blog.livedoor.jp/centre/.

Asian (non-Japanese)

Chao Chao is a gyoza specialty shop in Kokurakita-ku. Counter seats and a few table seats make it a very cozy atmosphere, great for striking up conversation with the locals. Grab a glass of cold beer and snack on their popular soup gyoza, under 500 per serving. 4-11:30pm. Tel 093-521- 7456.

Hot Point is a stylish restaurant in Uomachi with all varieties of food from spaghetti to Korean bibimba, which you can ask for no meat when ordering. They also have occasional live music on the third floor. Located near the Ganesha sign. 11am-10pm (LO 9:30pm). Tel 093-541-1484.

Mojo Thai has a picture menu to help you order dishes such as spicy green curry, pad thai and tom yum soup. Spice level cannot be changed. On the 2F. 11.30am-2pm & 4pm-11pm. L.O 10pm; closed Sun & Mon. 093-551-5889.

Ron is a Chinese/Thai restaurant on the 4F of Riverwalk. Reasonable prices, good food and great service. 10am-11pm.

Shin Yeh This place has a Taiwanese tabihoudai (all you can eat) lunch buffet for ¥1050. The charming atmosphere and Taiwanese chef make for a pleasant meal. 11am-11pm (lunch til 2pm). 093-522-3720.

Gane-sha is a non-chain Indian restaurant with a quaint and comfortable atmosphere. The server, Rajesh, speaks English and is very friendly. The excellent lunch and dinner sets will really fill you up. The samosas are recommended for vegetarians. Look for a painted sign with an orange rabbit and blue moose motif and walk down the stairs. Uo-machi. 12pm-9pm; closed Mon 093-541-2608.

Abashi Cuisine is an Indian restaurant located inside Kokura Station’s Amu Plaza as a part of the Amu Dining area located on the 6F. Setting itself apart from other Indian restaurants in Kokura, Abashi offers not only traditional Indian cuisine but also some of their own Indian-Japanese fusion items (including Mentaiko & Cheese Nan). Amu Plaza 6F, 1-1-17 Asano, Kokurakita-ku. Lunch: Mon-Fri: 11am – 3pm Sat, Sun, Holidays: 11am-4:30pm.  Cafe Time: 3-5pm. Dinner: 5-11pm (Last Order 10pm).

Western/European

Habit This American diner style restaurant amazes with the size of their very reasonably priced burgers. They also have loco moco and an extensive cocktail menu. 1-15-10 Bashaku Kokurakita-ku. 3pm-1am; closed Tues. 093-533-1788.

Nonbe’s Cafe is cozy bar with an original menu, specialty drinks and lively English-speaking staff. It’s a must if you’re in the area. Try the herb chicken or pizza washed down with a green tea cocktail for a real treat.

OCM is a cool little sandwich shop with an American style interior. You can choose two fillings from a wide selection. On the 2F behind Fukuoka Bank. Kond?kaikan bekan 2F, Senba-machi 3-6, Kokurakita-ku. 10am-8:30pm. 093-522-5973.

Booties can satisfy your craving for Guinness, fish ‘n’ chips (made from blowfish!) or shepherd’s pie, all in a quite authentic Irish pub atmosphere. 4-21 Kyo-machi, Kokurakita-ku. Sun-Thu 5pm-2am; Fri, Sat & day before a holiday til 3am. 093-551-6160.

Tio PEPE offers Italian fare at its finest, from creamy pastas and thin-crust pizzas to plenty of vegetarian options. Try a decanter of the house red wine. 11:30am-3pm (LO 2:30pm), 6-11pm (LO 10pm). Tel 093-513-5505.

Mexican

Gallery Andes serves Mexican cuisine and hosts festive parties on the third Saturday of every month with live music and salsa dancing. Reservations are a must for dinner. The owner is very friendly and speaks Japanese, English and Spanish.1-5 Andes building Ta-machi Kokurakita-ku. 093-592-6530. www.sol-andino.net

La Rosita has been in business for more than 30 years, and is a small but homey place. It’s a great option if you’re craving Mexican food. Located next to the Kawaraguchi-Mihagino Monorail Station, opposite 7-11. 4pm-2am. 093-951-6102.

Japanese

Aguri Shunyu  The delicious and famous motsunabe course (¥2500/person) is recommended.. 3-3 Wisteria Building 1F, Konya-machi, Kokurakita-ku. 5:30pm-12am; closed Sun & holidays 093-533-7520.

Baku Baku Ya There are two locations of this izakaya offering all kinds of great Japanese and Western dishes. (The second location is next to the Kawaraguchi-Mihagino Monorail Station’s northwest entrance, away from Kokura’s core.) 11:30am-2pm, 5:30pm-12am. Tel 093-551-8920.

Chigae is a wonderful place to sample a traditional Japanese meal and setting — the pond and tatami seating create a serene ambience. Dinner is pretty expensive, but you can get delicious lunch sets for ¥1250. 1-4-26 Kokurakita-ku. 093-541-0791.

Fujio This is one of few ramen shops in Kyushu that serves shoyu and shio ramen. The tantanmen (noodles with chill pepper and sesame broth) is great if you like your soup spicy. Buy a ticket from the vending machine on your left as you enter. Above Lawson in Uo-machi (2F). 11am-9pm; closed irregularly once a month. 093-511-2800.

Kurofune A chain yakitori / izakaya restaurant, this is a great place to celebrate the end of a workday. The larger, more popular one is near Book Off in Kokura. The other is located around the corner from Ichiran near JR Kokura Station. 5-11:30pm. Tel 093-531-2525.

Ichiran This is a famous tonkotsu ramen shop open 24 hours a day. Great for a post-drinking snack. After buying your meal ticket (about ¥600) from the vending machines outside, seat yourself at an empty seat and fill out the form to determine the tenderness of your noodles, the richness of your soup, the amount of garlic and spice and what toppings you’d like.

ISHIN Okonomiyaki is a great spot for Japanese savory fried batter cakes , serving up classics as well as deliciously creative combos. Try Kokura’s original yakiudon or the Hokkaido special. 3-2-20 Mikiya Building B1F, Uo-machi Kokurakita-ku. 11:30am-11:00pm (LO 10:15pm); closed Dec 31-Jan 1. 093-541-0457. http://okonomiyaki-ishin.com

Ramen Road on the basement floor inside Riverwalk is the easiest way for you to sample different ramen varieties. Shops change every so often, so you’ll never tire of it.

Sais enak  This funky restaurant offers both private rooms and a big room suitable for parties. The menu is mostly creative Japanese dishes using fresh seafood caught from the Genkainada Sea as well as organic vegetables. Down the side street from Shidax. 1-3-24 Kaji-machi Kokurakita-ku. 5pm-11pm (LO 10:30pm); closed 2nd & 4th Mon of each month. 093-522-8313. www.sais.co.jp.

Shisaya  An Okinawan food experience with occasional sanshin musical performances by the owner. Two locations in Kokurakita-ku. One further down from Xelha (see map for Xelha). 3-12-12 Eki-Mae Sun Heights 2F, Kyo-machi. Tel 093-531-4388. The other location is in Konya-machi. Tel 093-551-8945

Yakyudori  is a not-to-miss baseball-themed yakitori restaurant with a friendly owner. Has an English menu, great selection of food and drinks, and is exceptionally welcoming to foreigners. Look for the neon baseball diamond above the door. Tel 093-521-6663.

Yanoya  is a great udon and donburi shop with soup made from fish broth and some vegetarian friendly items. Located near Heiwadori Monorail Station inside the Uo-machi covered walkway.11am-8pm; closed Tue. 093-533-0420.

Other

Prison Hell is probably the only restaurant in Kitakyushu modeled after a punk-horror house/ jail, similar to the Lock Up in Fukuoka City. You can play billiards and it’s a great place to throw parties. Courses run at ¥3000. 2-2-19 Kyo-machi Kokurakita-ku. Open from 3pm; closed Dec 31 & Jan 1. Tel 093-511-3373.

Bars & Clubs

Airstream is good place to go with a group on a Friday night. Go down the stairs on the corner. 1-3-3 Bashaku Kokurakita-ku. Mon-Thu 8pm-5am; Fri & Sat 8pm-5am (club); Sun 8pm-3am (bar). 093-533-1258.

Bar Don Dada has a dark, cozy, cave-like interior and a well-stocked liquor shelf. The bartenders are skilled mixologists, and their classic cocktails are superb, if rather pricy. Soda Building 1F, 1-8-22 Sakae-machi Kokurakita-ku From 7pm. 093-551-4320.

Birdman House isn’t in central Kokura, but many people make the trip down to Kokuraminami-ku to relax at this down-to-earth cafe and bar. Enjoy a chai tea or beer while sitting under a kotatsu in the winter. Located near Kitakyushu University and across the street from Kokura Hospital. Get off at Kitagata Monorail Station. Exit to the left of the wickets and walk towards the Guinness pachinko parlor. Turn left at the corner of the pachinko parlor. Turn left again at the third stoplight and walk down about seven minutes. The hospital will be on your right and Birdman House on the left. 1-6-11 Kitagata, Kokuraminami-ku. Tel 093-922-2092.

Bumblebees has a funky décor, and patio tables outside in summer. 3-11-20 1F Kyo-machi Kokurakita-ku. 7pm-3am. 093-513-7393.

Equipe is a trendy Brazilian-themed bar and restaurant with a refreshing selection of music. They offer a course meal popular among ALTs. Challenge your friends to a game of Jenga or a sophisticated version of tic-tac-toe. Tel 093-551- 3584.

Gitane is a tiny, laid back bar. The owner is called Tsuka-ken and plays a mix of Britpop, Ska and Alternative music. It’s a great spot to drink cocktails and get away from crowds of people. Happy hour 7-9pm. 093-531-7160.

Grassroots has friendly bartenders. It’s lively and vaguely Jamaican themed. If you bring your own (reggae) music they might play it for you. 1-5-14 Uo-machi, Kokurakita-ku. 093-512-7722.

Lucky Moon is a spacious pub-like place, which has long been a favorite for foreigners in Kitakyushu. The Lucky Moon shake comes highly recommended. Miki Building 2F, Kokurakita-ku. From 7:30pm. Tue & Thu ¥500 cocktails for ladies. 093-533-5776.

Pangaea is a small reggae bar with an island style atmosphere. Food and drinks, including Red Stripe Beer, are served from 6pm-1am. All-you can-drink meal course for ¥3500.10-7-3 Kyo-machi, Kokurakita-ku. 093-533-3555.

Round 5 (Bob’s Bar) is a bit off the beaten track, but it’s a friendly little bar. Have a chat with the English speaking owner Bob, relax with a bottle of California wine and enjoy the 100 yen karaoke. 3-3 Wisteria Building 2F, Konya-machi, Kokurakita-ku.

SDR caps off the evening every night. Small, noisy, and loudly decorated, but still a cool bar. From JR Kokura Station, follow the directions to Round 5. Walk past Round 5 and it’s on the right-hand side in the Oak Building 3F, across the street from Patico Tower.

Other Entertainment

Cha Cha Town CINEPLEX is a ten-minute walk from JR Kokura Station with ten screens. If often shows less commercial movies than T-JOY. See directions to Cha cha town in the shopping center section. 9:30am-12am. 093-512-9800

Kitakyushu Art Museum Riverwalk Gallery is a branch of the Kitakyushu municipal museum of art, and has a new show every month. In Riverwalk. 10am-8pm. 093-562-3215.

Festa has games, purikura (print club) and karaoke. From JR Kokura Station follow the monorail and turn right at the first major street (Katsuyama-dori), then turn left at McDonald’s into the covered walkway. Located just before Lawson. Nomihodai karaoke is ¥900-1000 per hour. 2-4-20 Uo-machi. 093-512-3367.

I-BOX is a great place to go if you’ll be surfing the net or chatting for a while. Private individual booths or pair booths are available. Soft drinks, coffee, tea, magazines and Japanese comics are free of charge. Food is also available upon order. Around the corner from Airstream.

Internet Cafe Light is in Kokurakita-ku, Ki-machi 3-6-16-102. Tel 093-561-7883.

Kokura Korona World is advertised as being ample in cinematic and amusement pleasure. Located across the street from Round One Stadium, it offers a variety of amusement and relaxation options including spa, sauna, bowling, Internet café, karaoke and a 10-screen cinema. 27-5 Nishimoto-machi, Kokurakita-ku. 093-581-5678. http://www.korona.co.jp

Riverwalk T-Joy has Fukuoka’s first digital cinema complex, with eight screens. Standard price is ¥1,800, but on Wednesday women get in for ¥1,000, men on Friday. After 8pm all shows are ¥1,200. http://t-joy.net/site/kitakyushu/index.html.

Round one is the place to go if you want arcade games, bowling and karaoke, all under one roof. The games centre offers 3 hours all you can play for a mix of arcade games, roller blading, live fishing, batting cages, soft tennis and outdoor soports. It’s a bit out of the city center, but a pretty short (1400 yen) taxi ride. Alternatively take bus number 90 or 7 and get off when you see a 7/11 after Kokura High School then walk up and right over the overhead bridge. 15-65 Nishiminato-machi, Kokurakita-ku. . Mon-Fri 10am-6am, Sat 9am-6am, Sun and holidays 8am-6am. 093-562-8805.

Shidax is a popular alternative to Festa, with nicer rooms and more songs. From JR Kokura Station, follow the monorail to the first major street (Katsuyamadori), take a left and it’ll be on the right. 1-4-1 Kaji-machi Kokurakita-ku. 11am-6am. 093-513-8225.