Square: 340 km²– Population: 1.392 million (2016)
Situated in the northern part of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands, Fukuoka Prefecture has a unique local culture and cuisine that has developed over its long history. Its proximity to China and the Korean Peninsula has made it a gateway between Japan and the rest of Asia and a vital transportation hub to Northeast Asia, China and Southeast Asia. Among its historic attractions are the ruins of Dazaifu, an ancient government office, while the many small islands lying off the coast further captivate visitors. Fukuoka is also renowned for its fresh seafood and many street-side food stalls.
With geographical proximity to the Korean Peninsula and the Asian continent, Fukuoka City boasts a more than 2,000-year history of international exchange as a trading port. From the 7th to 11th centuries, the merchant town of "Hakata" prospered due to its essential role as the center of economic and cultural exchange between Japan and the Asian continent. This prosperity continued until after 1601, when the construction of Fukuoka Castle by the feudal lord Kuroda led to the birth of a new castle town called "Fukuoka".
Throughout the Edo Period, Fukuoka, which was the western part of the region, and Hakata, which was the eastern part of the region were developed independently under different names and personalities. However, after entering the Meiji Period, when the city was given status as a municipality in 1889, Fukuoka was chosen as the name of the city after it won by a single vote.
Although know as Fukuoka City, the name Hakata is still used for the Japan Railroad and subway stations, and is the name of the port. In addition, the name lives on as a representative name of local crafts and products such as Hakata-ori (Hakata fabric) and Hakata-ningyo (Hakata dolls).
Fukuoka first came to be known as the political, economic, and cultural center of Kyushu in the 1930's, and it recovered quickly from the extensive damages that the city incurred during the Second World War. Today, Fukuoka City is a vibrant and modern Japanese city that is home to various government and international organizations as well as a variety of private enterprises.
The prefectural capital of Fukuoka City overlooks the Port of Hakata, a harbor that has long facilitated the region's prosperity through trade with other parts of Asia. In addition to being the administrative and economic heart of the prefecture, Fukuoka City is a lively commercial center from which trends in culture and fashion filter out to other parts of Japan. International flights from a variety of countries fly into and out of this "gateway to Asia," and the city's shops make it easy for tourists to satisfy their urge to splurge.
Fukuoka also boasts popular annual festivals with long histories. The Hakata Dontaku Festival, which takes place in early May, dates back to the twelfth century. Originally a means of celebrating the New Year, it is now a major event in which over 20,000 residents parade through the city dressed in a variety of costumes, attracting more than two million spectators.
Another local festival, the 760-year-old Hakata Gion Yamakasa, takes place over the first 15 days of July. Ten-meter-tall yamakasa (giant parade floats) decorated with brightly colored traditional figurines are positioned for display throughout the city. The most exciting part of the festivities occurs on the final day. Taking their signal from the beat of taiko drums, teams of men hoist mikoshi (portable shrines) weighing as much as a ton each onto their shoulders and race each other to the finish. This spectacle is particularly exciting when viewed up close.
Around 30 minutes by train from Fukuoka City is the city of Dazaifu, which takes its name from a government office established 1,300 years ago for the purpose of governing Kyushu. Ancient Dazaifu played an important role as a base for diplomatic exchanges with China, and large numbers of history buffs flock to the historical park built around the office's remains.
Dazaifu Tenmangu is another of Dazaifu's historical attractions. This famous Shinto shrine is dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, a scholar and politician who is now worshipped as the god of education. Many people visit the shrine to pray and appreciate the beauty of its plum blossoms and other seasonal flowers.
Fukuoka Prefecture has developed as western Japan's economic center and provides an attractive environment as a business location for the companies focusing on not only Japan's but also East Asia's market. Its GDP exceeds US$220 billion, which is the same size as that of a medium-sized country. Fukuoka Prefecture has grown into a major manufacturing base for the auto industry with a production capability of more than 1.5 million vehicles annually. Major factories are those of Daihatsu, Nissan and Toyota. There is also a brisk clustering of related industries, including R&D bases.
More than 400 foreign affiliated companies have business operations in Fukuoka Prefecture to date. Although 40% of the companies are from North America, and another 40% are from Europe, recent years have witnessed an increase of firms coming from China, South Korea, India, and other Asian nations.
Many of these new companies are sales offices, but there are also production centers such as factories of automotive parts and medical equipment, R&D centers, and operations with functions that include acting as a company’s headquarters in Japan. Many of these foreign-affiliated companies are active and play a key role in job creation, globalization of the region, and strengthening Fukuoka's industrial competitiveness.
The Fukuoka Prefecture government provides consistent support to companies located in the area or who are contemplating Fukuoka as a base for their operations. Government entities are willing to provide information on the Fukuoka market including human resources, government incentives for industries, applicable laws, licenses and regulations, office, factory and residential real estate information. The government also tries to provide introductions to prospective business partners and also provides follow-up services after company's move into the prefecture.