At the midpoint of my journey across Japan and Korea I arrived in Itoshima, which is a region just west of Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu. I had visited Itoshima in 2017 and liked it quite a bit so I made it a point to return during my 2019 trip. The area I was staying in was near Chikuzen-Fukae Station and I booked a room in a house via Airbnb. It was late in the day and pouring rain when I arrived in Itoshima so I wasn’t able to do too much the first night I was there.
The next morning the rain had stopped and I went for a long walk to explore the neighborhood. I was in a sleepy seaside village that was seemingly a world away from the Japan that people normally share on social media. Big cities like Tokyo and Osaka are cool to visit but if I was actually living in Japan and had my choice of where to live I’d pick a smaller town like this one. This place had most of the conveniences of a big city but without the big city problems and if you want to have some big city fun it’s just a 25-minute train ride to Fukuoka. Here you can live in a house rather than a micro apartment and the people are very friendly. Even though they don’t speak English, the locals would greet me in the street and I’d do my best to respond with the little bit of Japanese that I know.
While walking around I stopped at the local Shinto shrine. This one is called Fukae Shrine and though there’s not much to see at the shrine itself it can claim to be home to a notable historic event. At this shrine Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a very important political figure in Japan’s history, held a tea ceremony before his invasion force set sail for Korea in the late 1500s.
Just a few minutes walk from my Airbnb home was the beach. In 2017 I had gotten off the train at Chikuzen-Fukae Station purely on a whim and walked to this beach as the sun was going down. That sunset on the beach was one of my favorite moments from the 2017 trip and it’s the reason I decided to rent a room in this particular part of Itoshima. As a beach it’s honestly just average but the memories I associate with it are what make it special. The sandy shores, the gentle waves, the green mountains, the small buildings along the beach; I can still see it all in my mind.
After leaving the beach I walked around more of the village. Like many smaller settlements in Japan, my neighborhood had a few patches of farmland scattered around the area and many of the homes had gardens. The roads are narrow but since there’s little traffic (and since most people drive smaller cars) it’s not really a problem.
I moved further up the coast and soon arrived at the small harbor that’s at the mouth of the river. A dozen or so fishing boats were docked here and a group of fishermen were getting ready for their next expedition out to sea. Clouds still covered most of the sky but the sun was starting to break through and the blue ocean waters were glimmering in the light.
Then it was time for me to move on and see more of the greater Itoshima region. There would be no castles or famous attractions on my itinerary. Instead I’d be roaming around a part of Japan that doesn’t get many foreign visitors and seeing a side of the country that’s not featured in the tourism material.