Kitakyūshū (北九州, ) is a large city in Fukuoka prefecture on the island of Kyushu, Japan. Together with Shimonoseki it is part of the Kanmon Straits area. In terms of area it is the largest city in Kyushu, though Fukuoka has the bigger population. The population of Kitakyushu is about one million (or 1.3 million including Shimonoseki). Kitakyushu was created in 1963 from the five smaller cities of Kokura (小倉), Moji (門司), Tobata (戸畑), Wakamatsu (若松) and Yahata (八幡), and it retains this sense of being a country area with much diversity and beautiful nature, despite its reputation as a steel town.



Kokura Castle from the nearby Japanese garden

Kokura, the heart of Kitakyushu, is an ancient feudal castle town guarding the Straits of Shimonoseki. Kokura was supposed to be the target of the second nuclear bomb in World War II. However, it was cloudy on the day of the attack and the plane diverted to Nagasaki instead.

The modern city of Kitakyushu dates back only to 1963, when the cities of Moji, Kokura, Tobata, Yahata and Wakamatsu were merged by administrative fiat.

Get in

By plane

The New Kitakyushu Airport ( Shin Kitakyūshū Kūkō) , built on reclaimed land offshore in Suo nada, the most westerly part of the Seto Inland Sea, opened its doors in March of 2006. With a size much larger than the airport it replaced, the New Kitakyushu Airport hoped to increase tourism and trade dramatically.

The airport is served by several domestic airlines, including JAL/ANA and the new discount carrier StarFlyer . Most flights connect to Tokyo's Haneda and Nagoya's Komaki airports (both within their city limits), but there are also several flights each week to and from Taiwan's Kaohsiung (called Takao in Japanese).

More than 30 buses per day run between the airport and the Kokura station, many of them nonstop, but most stopping at each train station along the way. Buy the tickets before boarding for ¥620. The first bus leaves Kokura station Bus Center at 4:00 a.m. and the last bus leaves the airport at 24:55, after the last flight from Tokyo. Buses also run to/from Shimonoseki station eight times per day (70 minutes, ¥1000). If coming from the southeastern side of Kyushu, instead of going all the way to Kokura you can disembark at Kusami station (朽網駅), which has shuttle buses every 30 minutes or so to the airport, 20 minutes away, but only local trains stop at Kusami, no express trains.

By train

Kokura station from the South side

Kokura Station (小倉駅) is the main railway station and is on the San'yo Shinkansen Line. All San'yo Shinkansen trains stop at Kokura. Nozomi, Mizuho, Sakura and Hikari Rail Star trains make frequent runs to/from Hiroshima, Okayama and Osaka, with some Nozomi trains also running from Kyoto, Nagoya and Tokyo. Sakura trains also run to/from Kumamoto and Kagoshima.

Both the San'yo Shinkansen Line and the Kagoshima Main Line (鹿児島本線 Kagoshima honsen) connect Kitakyushu to Hakata station in Fukuoka. On the Shinkansen, Kokura can be reached from Hakata in 15-20 minutes at a cost of ¥2050 for an unreserved seat. Frequent Kodama runs are made between the two stations during rush hours.

By ferry

Kokura ferry terminal connects with Matsuyama in Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku.

Shin Moji ferry terminal connects with Osaka, Kobe and Tokyo. The Tokyo service is operated by Ocean Tokyu Ferry, 03-5148-0109; passenger fares are ¥14,000 for second class and ¥26,600 for first class.

Get around

By train

For a tourist, JR trains are the easiest and likely the most convenient means of transport (except to and from the airport), as they give access to most of the city's non-natural attractions. Acquiring the JR Northern Kyushu pass is an overkill if you just want to go around Kitakyushu, but an attractive option if you also intent to go to nearby cities like Fukuoka and Beppu. Take note that the JR Northern Kyushu/JR Kyushu passes do not allow you to use the Shinkansen to go from Kokura to Hakata (but the normal JR Pass does).

By bus

Nishitetsu Bus operates local services as well as highway buses to nearby cities. Nishitetsu Buses accept most Japanese transport smartcards (Suica, PASMO, Sugoca, etc.) which will save you a lot of hassle and also save you some money when you transfer to the train or another bus to get to your destination. Bus stops are very informative, containing complete information about lines and time tables, although you will need to figure out the Kanji and delays of up to 5 minutes are normal.

By monorail

The Kitakyushu Monorail runs every ten minutes from JR Kyushu's Kokura station to Kikugaoka in Kokura Minami ward. The monorail is fun to ride and provides interesting views of the city, but its usefulness is impared by the fact that it does not accept transport smartcards (tickets can be bought only with cash) and it offers no discount for transfer to trains or buses. Only a few station announcements are in English (including the stop for the Kitakyushu Media Dome and for the University of Kitakyushu).

On foot

Walking around the Kokura station is a breeze as there are many covered pedestrian pathways and arcades. Mojiko and Yahata are also more conveniently explored on foot.


The city has the reputation of being just an industrial area, but this is only true of part of the coastline. The city covers a very large area (much larger than Fukuoka, 486 square km as compared with 340), and there are many pleasant spots for sightseeing and recreation.


Kokura castle and cherry blossoms (sakura)
The Hiraodai karst plateau


The old Moji customs building and rickshaw for hire


Iwaya beach in Wakamatsu



Wakato ferry now used for night cruising


Zenrin building in Riverwalk

Midsummer Festivals

Watch one of the summer festivals held in July:

Midsummer Fireworks (hanabi)

Summer firework displays (hanabi taikai) are also held in various places in and around Kitakyushu in July and August. Usually at least 3,000 fireworks are let off.

The biggest one with no less than 13,000 fireworks(!) is the Kanmon Straits display between Kitakyushu and Shimonoseki (August 13 in 2005). Be prepared for big crowds, especially on the trains to and from Kokura to Moji-ko.

Cherry blossom viewing (hanami) in spring

One of the best and most popular places for hanami is around Kokura castle, but there are many others.





There are all sorts of options from the lap of luxury down to the cheapest ryokan. Ask at the Information desk, third floor of Kokura station.




Go next

Routes through Kitakyushu

Hakata  W  E  Shin-Shimonoseki Hiroshima
END  N  S  Nogata Chikushino
Moji Station  N  S  Fukuoka Kumamoto
END  N  S  Beppu Oita
Moji Station  W  E  Shimonoseki Yamaguchi
Kumamoto Hakata  W  E  Shimonoseki

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