While you might not be aware of it, the method of making food made from flour in Japan, such as udon and soba noodles and buns, originates from Hakata (according to Jōten-ji’s history). This food culture was introduced by Ennibenen (円爾弁円), also known as Shōichi Kokushi (聖一国師), who returned to Japan from his study in China.
During his time in Hakata, he shared how the Chinese turned wheat flour into delicious noodles and buns and the technique of making silk fabric with the locals. This is why three stone monuments are placed in Shōichi Kokushi ‘s temple, Jōten-ji (承天寺), to commemorate his achievements.
In 1242 with the help of wealthy tradesmen, such as Xie Guoming (謝国明), Shōichi Kokushi erected Jōten-ji as his base in Hakata to spread the teaching of Zen Buddhism.
In the past, the scale of Jōten-ji was a lot larger, with more than 40 sub-temples and monks’ living quarters. But most of the buildings were destroyed in the Fukuoka air raid. Thus, the majority of Jōten-ji we see today was restored by 1991 to celebrate the 750th anniversary of Jōten-ji.
Among all the buildings on the precinct that seem relatively new, one appears to be more ancient. The bell tower, completed in 1674, luckily survived the air raid and is currently Fukuoka’s Cultural Property.
Jōten-ji and the Food Culture Started by Shōichi Kokushi
Making noodles and buns require a lot of flour. So, in addition to teaching the locals how to make noodles, Shōichi Kokushi also showed them how to mill grains with a water wheel.
Furthermore, it is said that the custom of eating Toshikoshi Soba (年越しそ) also started in Hakata when Xie Guoming distributed soba noodles to the poor on New Year’s Eve.
Moreover, if you have been to one of the Toraya (虎屋) shops or cafes around the country, the Japanese confectionery shop started in Hakata by selling Sake-Manjū Buns. Before Jōten-ji was built, the tea house’s owner provided him with great hospitality. To show his appreciation, Shōichi Kokushi taught the owner how buns are made in China, which later became Toraya’s sake-infused red bean paste buns.
The Go-Manjū Tokoro signboard (御饅頭所) given to the founder of Toraya is still kept in Toraya in Tokyo!
The Beautiful Hakata-ori (博多織) Silk Fabric
On top of the food culture, the technique of making silk fabric was also brought back to Japan by Mitsuta Yazaemon (満田弥三右衛門), who accompanied Shōichi Kokushi, which formed the foundation of Hakata-ori.
In the Edo period (1603 – 1867), the high-quality Hakata-ori that features images of Vajra and Buddhist flower plates was offered to the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The Birthplace of Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival
If you have wondered about the origin of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival, it was also started by Shōichi Kokushi. In 1241, Hakata’s people suffered from an epidemic. So Shōichi Kokushi set up a large shelf for him to perform rituals and sprinkled holy water around the town at the top of the shelf.
The shelf decorated with Buddhist elements is now decorated splendidly with handmade dolls. Before the procession tours around Hakata, the men will first bow to the monks in Jōten-ji.
The Sentōtei Garden (洗濤庭)
The most scenic part of Jōten-ji is probably the Sentōtetei Garden. The beauty of the dry garden is best admired from the Hōjō (方丈) Hall. The stone garden is nowhere inferior to the gardens in Kyoto’s famous temples! And the best thing is, you won’t be pushed around in Hakata!
The wave made of white sand represents Genkai-nada Sea (玄界灘) in Kyūshū’s northwest. Beyond the sand, the moss garden represents China.
Apparently, the stick used to draw out the waves is as heavy as 20 kg. Even drawing a straight line requires a lot of effort!
But note the garden is not open to the public unless illumination events are on. So if you visit the garden during the day, take a peek from the Chūmon Gate (中門).
Hakata Sennenmon Gate (博多千年門)
Hakata Sennenmon, or ‘Hakata Thousand Years Gate’ in English, stands between the east and the west area of Jōten-ji. The gate, completed in 2014, was built in the hope that Hakata would prosper for a thousand years. It is also like a welcoming gate leading tourists to the part of Hakata where you can find many cultural properties.
The plaque on the gate has Hakata Sennen written. Apparently, it was written by descendants of the famous scholar in the Heian period, Sugawara no Michizane (菅原道真), who is now the priest of Dazaifu Tenman-gū (太宰府天満宮).
If you check out the beam of the gate, you will see Hakata-ori’s pattern carved on it!
Shōgun Jizō (将軍地蔵)
The Jizō Bodhisattva statue in Jōten-ji is rather unique. He is wearing armor on a horse. The Jizō was revered by the founder of Muromachi Shogunate, Ashikaga Takauji (足利尊氏), as the god of the military.
Nowadays, people also pray for their career success and treat him as the local guardian. At his sides, 33 stone Buddha statues are placed.
Chokushi-mon Gate (勅使門)
Lastly, as a high-ranked temple, Jōten-ji has a Chokushi-mon. It is only used by the Japanese emperor’s messengers. Thus, the gate is not used normally.
Jōten-ji’s Opening Hours and Acess Information
- Jōten-ji is open from 9 am to 5 pm
- From Hakata Station (博多駅), it is around a 10-minute walk
- From Fukuoka Subway’s Gion Station’s (祇園) exit 4, it is just a 5-minute walk
Explore Hakata With a Guided Tour or Hire a Photographer
If you prefer a guide to introduce you to the charms of Hakata, how about joining one of the below tours? You can also hire a photographer for a private photoshoot session!
- Historical Hakata Tour
- Private Fukuoka Tour with a Local, Highlights & Hidden Gems 100% Personalised
- Fukuoka Full-Day Private Tour with Government Licensed Guide
- Port Pick-up: Fukuoka City Tour with Licensed Guide and a Vehicle
- 1 Hour Private Photoshoot in Hakata
Tip: Refer to HERE if you want to rent a Kimono when you are in Hakata!
Shungetsu-an Udon Restaurant (中世博多うどん春月庵)
If the recent reviews of Karo no Uron have left you unsettled, there is another one that we recommend on the other side of the Gion Station. It is the closest restaurant to Shōichi Kokushi’s (聖一国師) Jōten-ji Temple (承天寺) and is said to be reproducing the taste from the Kamakura period (1192 – 1333).
The unique thing about the udon noodles made at Shungetsu-an is the wheat that is used to make the noodles. They are made with wheat germ. Containing a lot more minerals and fiber, the noodles are much healthier than normal udon.
The burdock noodle dishes are still the best. But, the surprising fact about Shungetsu-an is that although it specializes in udon noodles, the most popular dish is its burdock soba noodles (´▽｀*).
☛ Check with the staff to see if they still serve up to three portions of noodles for free. If that is the case, you can request additional noodles when you put through your order.
☛ From 2 pm, check with the staff to see if they still offer unlimited noodles for free.
☛ Arrive there early, it is a restaurant that has queues during lunch hours.
Shungetsu-an Jōtenjimae Store’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Shungetsu-an is open from
- 11 am to around 4 pm on weekdays
- 11 am to 3:30 pm on Saturdays
- The restaurant will be closed if all noodles made for the day are sold out.
- From Hakata Station (博多駅), it is around an 8-minute walk.
- From Fukuoka Subway’s Gion Station (祇園駅), it is around a 5-minute walk.
Discover More Attractions Around Hakata Station
Want to find out more interesting attractions that you might be interested in or delicious restaurants to treat yourself to around Hakata Station?
Refer to our article on Hakata, where we have attractions such as a rooftop shrine or a gorgeous Japanese garden for a brief break!
Discover Other Attractions in the Wider Fukuoka City
If you have more time to spend in Fukuoka, the city has a couple more awesome destinations that might interest you, including islands with vast, stunning flower fields.
For more information, please refer to our article on Fukuoka City!