By Mandy Bartok
When I first arrived in Japan, I believed the country to be made up of skyscrapers and large neon billboards. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Japan merges in-depth culture and modernity with such ease. Kyushu does just that, with its modern day attractions and those embedded in history, all just as fascinating as the other. Asakura, located in south central Fukuoka Prefecture, is a perfect example of Japanese culture and rural life in Kyushu. Its breath-taking landscape comes with an abundance of history and character.
The Asakura city you can see today was created on March 20, 2006, when the old town of Asakura was merged with the former city of Amagi and the town of Haki.
Within this city lie the ruins of Akizuki Castle, built atop of Mt. Kosho in 1203. Akizuki Castle was originally built by Harada Tanekatsu of the Akizuki clan. The castle remained in the Akizuki clan’s rule for 16 generations until Hideyoshi's 1587 Kyushu Campaign, at which time Akizuki Castle was demolished and abandoned. In the early 1600s the remains became the residential castle for the son of Kuroda Nagamasa and his descendants, who rebuilt Akizuki Castle partially using materials from earlier fortifications. This, however, only lasted for 12 generations till the Meiji Restoration when the castle was demolished in 1873. Now, the only structures left of Akizuki Castle are Kuromon, the castle's old front gate (Otemon) that now stands on the way to Suiyo Shrine, and the rear gate known as Nagayamon, which is the only structure left in its original position. These ruins are a must see, as they lie within a stunning setting of forests and cherry blossoms in the spring; a perfect place for a relaxing stroll.
Within the castle grounds are some minor stone works, such as the multiple stone torii (traditional Japanese gate). It is written that if you manage to throw a stone to lie on top of the torii then you dreams will come true. This excise was highly enjoyable to do amongst friends, in which I do believe we spent about ten minutes trying, with only one success.
History aside, Asakura also has much to offer in beautiful scenery. Take Asakura’s Kirin Brewery, for example: around May the surrounding grounds are famous for their poppies, and in October they are covered with cosmos. When I first caught sight of the fields, I was astounded by their beauty and the copious amount of poppies. I have never in my life seen so many, nor had I seen variants in the colour of a poppy before. I recommend this sight to anyone who enjoys being in the presence of natural beauty. It is a great place to enjoy a summer picnic and a glass of cool fresh beer. Here, you can even make it a full day’s outing by enjoying a factory tour or eating at its adjoining restaurant.
Overall, Asakura is a great place to enjoy a relaxing day of fresh air, cultural history and freshly brewed beer.
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I am an English student currently on exchange in Kitakyushu. In my year abroad I have taken the time to travel Japan and see the beautiful and educational sights the country has to offer. In my experience, Japan is one of the most beautiful countries I have seen, with a rich culture and polite manners.