During World War II, Kokura, which is now part of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture, is said to have been selected as a potential target of the atomic bomb, an alternative to Nagasaki.
Luckily for the city, it didn’t suffer the same fate as Hiroshima or Nagasaki and its unique ambience and historic landscapes centered on Murasaki River have endured to be enjoyed by locals and visitors today.
Those who plan to spend the first really warm weekend of spring in northern Kyushu will be able to enjoy Kitakyushu’s annual Riverside Festival, which is being held at various locations around the former town of Kokura.
Murasaki River was once listed as one of the most polluted waterways in Japan, but a revitalization project has now made it an attractive symbol of the city. Cherry trees also line the river, making it a great place for a hanami (cherry blossom viewing) stroll this time of the year.
This year, the Riverside Festival features some 300 stalls offering delicacies from various regions in Japan, as well as craft goods and other items. Workshops, live music, dance and stand-up performances will also take place, while magicians, street-theater troupes and Kyushu’s idol groups, such as Niimo and I’S9 will also be staging shows.
A new, and free, attraction for 2014 is a professional wrestling bout, performed by a local group, and on the first day of the festival there are some special performances planned for kids.
The organizers have also prepared cruises that will take visitors along with the Murasaki River, with a story teller imparting local tales on board, while those wishing to navigate the river themselves can rent a boat for just ¥300.
Other attractions include a beauty-and-health corner offering massages and other treatments, as well as opportunities to enjoy other types of exercise. For those with dogs, there will be two dog-training sessions available on Saturday.
If you are visiting the River Walk Kitakyushu, a cultural and commercial complex in the city center that was built as part of the city’s redevelopment project, you can also participate in these attractions. And if you feel like a change in pace, Kokura Castle, which dates back to 1569, is a good spot for more cherry-blossom viewing.
Kitakyushu Riverside Festival takes place on March 29 and 30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at various locations. Admission is free, but visitors will be charged for participation in some of the attractions. For more information call 093-541-0191, or visit murasakigawaga.com/event/festa.