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  • Japanese: 博多 (Hakata)

Hakata, today part of modern-day Fukuoka City, was the chief port on Kyushu throughout the pre-modern period (up until the imposition of maritime restrictions by the Tokugawa shogunate in the 1630s). As the nearest port in "mainland" Japan to the Asian continent, it was the chief point through which official embassies to and from the continent, as well as traders, traveled. In the Heian period, it was the only port in the Japanese archipelago where the Heian Imperial court officially permitted foreign trade, though many other ports saw vibrant unofficial trade (i.e. smuggling) throughout the period.[1]

An official lodging known as the Kôrôkan was maintained in Hakata in the Heian period to house foreign merchants. For much of the Heian period, Chinese and Korean merchants were restricted to this compound, but by the end of the 11th century a Chinese community had become established in the port city.[2] It largely grew out of consignment agents (gangshou, 綱首) who took up residence in Hakata, taking Japanese wives, and operating inns, warehouses, and other establishments related to the trade. Some of these gangshou became notable patrons of Japanese Buddhist temples, or influential figures in other respects; a number of Buddhist temples in Hakata have strong ties to members of this Chinese community as patrons who supported their establishment. Some members of this community became landholders, or even jitô (stewards) of shôen estates.[3] Their power began to become eclipsed, however, by the mid-13th century, as kenmon such as Buddhist temples, samurai families, and court aristocrat families came to dominate local economies throughout the archipelago.[4]

Hakata and the immediately surrounding area were the chief sites where Mongol forces landed, and were fought, during the Mongol Invasions of 1274 and 1281.

The Shôfuku-ji in the city, established by Eisai in 1195, is said to have been the first Zen temple ever established in Japan.[5]

In the Muromachi period, merchants from Hakata played prominent roles alongside Zen monks in leading both official embassies from the Ashikaga shogunate, and from the royal court of the Ryûkyû Kingdom, to China, Korea, and elsewhere in the region. Tribute missions and kangô bôeki (tally trade) ships also traveled via Hakata.[6]

In the Edo period, the neighboring castle-town of Fukuoka was the seat of the ruling daimyô of the Kuroda clan; the two cities eventually merged, by the end of the period. The Kuroda appointed machi bugyô (town magistrates) to oversee the administration of the two cities.[7] As it was such a major port, a number of domains, such as Tsushima han, maintained offices in the city.[8]


  1. Richard von Glahn, "The Ningbo-Hakata Merchant Network and the Reorientation of East Asian Maritime Trade, 1150-1350," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 74:2 (2014), 258.
  2. Geoffrey Gunn, History Without Borders: The Making of an Asian World Region, 1000-1800, Hong Kong University Press (2011), 213.
  3. von Glahn, 273-274.
  4. von Glahn, 278-279.
  5. Timon Screech, Obtaining Images, University of Hawaii Press (2012), 116-117.; von Glahn, 275.
  6. Hashimoto Yû. "The Information Strategy of Imposter Envoys from Northern Kyushu to Choson Korea in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries." in Angela Schottenhammer (ed.) The East Asian Mediterranean: Maritime Crossroads of Culture, Commerce and Human Migration. Harrassowitz Verlag, 2008. pp289-315.
  7. Arne Kalland, Fishing Villages in Tokugawa Japan, University of Hawaii Press (1995), 20.
  8. Robert Hellyer, Defining Engagement, Harvard University Press (2009), 91-92.