Tuesday, 2 December 2014

A-templing we did go: Hakata Temple Illuminations

So recently (although not as recently as I'd like - bit behind) a group of us were gathered by C for a final outing before she left, and we attended the 博多千年煌夜 (Hakata Millenial Illuminations). Basically, various temples in the Hakata area were open by night (well, bits of them) and lit up. It was interesting. Unfortunately, my camera really can't cope well with night - embarrassingly, a lot of people's phones were much happier to take pictures that looked like what your eyes saw. Well, it's a bit old, I suppose.

I confess I am not especially sure of where we went, but two places come usefully to mind: Shoufuku-ji and Touchou-ji, because I went there recently by day.


Most of the temples had various food stalls set up inside or nearby, although I don't think the temples themselves were running them!

I bought what proved to be a shark dumpling, a Hokkaido dish, apparently. It was... dumply?

Somewhere or other?

I really don't know where this temple was. The ladies led us there, it was dark, the brochure has very little information and one photo per temple. It was mostly gardens, which look pretty similar.

I'm quite pleased with these pictures of leaves, but then I did take a lot!

More food stalls! Here I was prompted to buy and eat something sweeter. I'm not sure what the Japanese is, but they were like Chinese 汤圆 (glutinous rice balls with sesame and other tasty things) in a liquid made from faintly sweet adzuki (Japanese red bean).

Joutenji (承天寺)

The special feature of this temple was that it opened up the buildings, giving access to a lot of places you can never normally see. A big hit was the Zen garden, which had been illuminated with colour-shifting lights. My camera really couldn't do the place justice, but I tried.

Something or other, probably meaningful.

Finally dragging ourselves from the Zen garden steps (you can't actually go inside) we passed through the building.

These people are lining up at an altar - I didn't actually mean to take their photo, I normally avoid that sort of thing, but the picture took a few seconds due to lack of flash. Nothing personal seemed to happen in that time so I felt it was probably okay.

I just like the contrast in these pictures.

Why, Cthulhu! I wasn't expecting to find your head here.

And a very cunningly-made wind-chime that made its sutra (I think? I was told it's a sutra) spin permanently in the breeze.

Somewhere else

You had to buy tickets in advance in blocks of, I think, eight. Somehow, it worked out as best for us to go to four temples, but we were running short of time. We rushed off to try and fit in a fourth temple, but arrived too late. However, the man at the gate very kindly let us just peek our heads in to see a few of the lights.

Surprisingly, I cannot identify it! Shocking, I know.

And the finale

Obviously, after rushing around four temples, we were all getting hungry. There just aren't enough photos of food on this blog.

One of the many festival floats you sometimes see around the city.

Group photo! Taken by a passing stranger from far enough away that everyone is fairly anonymous, sadly.

It was pretty hard to find a spot, especially as our group was fairly large, while many Japanese eateries are very small, built for lone diners or pairs to grab a bite after work. After some wandering (many places were full near the temples, and others were closing as it was 9pm or later) our Japanese friends a cheerful pub-like place where they were able to squeeze us in.

This is where we ate: Ikko (一虎).

Salad made with fried crispy daikon (huge, white, radish-carrot looking thing, which I eat a lot here).

Beef with negi (a kind of onion-leek relative)

Boiled dumplings in the soup used for ramen.

Chicken pieces with some sauce I managed to avoid, and an okonomiyaki to share.

Between all this, we managed to eat a huge amount of food, drink a little beer and talk for ages. It was enormous fun and a nice contrast to the rather individual pastime of temple-viewing - what with queues, crowds, attempts at quiet and people taking photos, you couldn't talk that much in the temples.

I even, as part of my campaign of trying new things, ate a mussel. It was... mostly like other slightly chewy seafood, really. Perfectly edible, not my favourite thing ever.


As usual, I had a fantastic time with all my friends and acquaintances here, and am sorry that the time left for further adventures is growing so short. Only ten days left in Fukuoka, and seventeen in Japan. It's a strange feeling.


  1. I'm reliably informed that the sweet stuff we ate was zenzai. Thanks, Rob.

  2. the zen garden and tree branches are the most amazing things I've seen lately.
    Thanks for sharing. I'd love to try some shark dumpling (guilty pleasure):)

    1. I'm not sure how easy it is to get at home :) It's a bit... landbound. No sharks in the Thames last time I checked!

  3. I hope you enjoy every bit of your journey in Japan and look forward to your return!

  4. What was wrong with the sauce you didn't eat?

    1. I have a broadly anti-sauce stance, and am particularly suspicious of that kind of whiteish sauces. I'm not sure I have a logical explanation. I've gradually overcome a lot of my food pickiness over the years, but sauces remain one of the most likely things to revolt me.