Moji: Gateway to the World
Moji, just over 800 kilometers west of Tokyo, is on the northernmost tip of Kyushu. Facing the Kanmon Strait -- an easy access route for Japan's main island and mainland Asia -- Moji prospered as a major sea transportation post from the Meiji to early Showa periods. Businesses catering to the port visitors, including foreigners, cropped up. And much of the Western-style architecture of the time has been preserved. On Journeys in Japan, Winnie Hsu strolls around the old port town, tracing its legacy.

Mojiko Retro district

After 1889, when the government designated Moji as a special export port, it prospered as an international trade hub, alongside Yokohama and Kobe. Even today, many buildings from the heyday remain in the area around JR Mojiko Station. They include the social club where Albert Einstein stayed when he visited Japan in 1922 on a lecture tour, as well as the old terminal for the sea route to China. Visitors to this area can experience the ambiance of Japan of between the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Burma Udon noodles

A Japanese soldier who returned from Myanmar (then Burma) after World War II, created this recipe, based on the curries local people offered him while he was a prisoner of war. Flour udon noodles are bathed in a curry soup of turmeric and other Southeast Asian spices, as well as Japanese dashi stock.

Banana no Tatakiuri (banana auction)

Banana no Tatakiuri is a theatrical style of auctioning off bananas, while reciting humorous verses. Bananas from Taiwan were imported to Japan starting in the Meiji period. As Moji Port is close to Taiwan, large quantities of the fruit were unloaded here. The punchy selling style originated to sell fruit ripened or damaged during the sea voyage. Various groups stage Tatakiuri for tourists.

Access

From Tokyo, fly out of Haneda to Kitakyushu Airport. You can reach JR Mojiko Station by taking a shuttle bus and transferring to a JR train. It's about 50 minutes from the JR Mojiko Station.