By land area, the City of Kitakyushu is the largest city on the island of Kyushu. With a metropolitan population of 1.3 million, the Port of Kitakyushu is a largely industrial town surrounded by beautiful country scenery. It contains Kokura, an ancient feudal castle town with a long and distinguished history. Although the modern Port of Kitakyushu dates back only as far as 1963, the original five cities that merged to create it contain many things for visitors to see and do.
Kokura Castle is one of the most popular attractions in the Port of Kitakyushu area. First constructed in 1602, it was destroyed in the 1865 war between the Choshu and Kokura clans. The castle was fully restored in 1990 and now contains the Matsumoto Seicho museum, a castle garden, and a folkloric museum in the castle keep. The Kokura Castle is the only remaining castle in the Fukuoka Prefecture. The grounds are loved for their beautiful cherry blossoms and the Edo-period Shirasu lighthouse. Visitors can see a video illustrating life in the Edo-period or ride in a palanquin like the castle lord would have.
In the Port of Kitakyushu's Kokura Minami ward is a rare karst plateau, Hiraodai, where the mountains are covered with grass and round gray rocks. The area is popular for hikers and campers, and it contains many fascinating caves. Opened to the public in 1977, the Shonyudo cave is a water cave that divides into two branches, one wet and one dry. Hiraodai Countryside Park contains a 22-hectare lawn with an observation platform, a wild grass garden, and a fruit tree garden. Visitors can join other making buckwheat noodles, art flowers, ceramics, and woodwork.
Nippon Steel created Space World in 1990. This Port of Kitakyushu theme park offers many attractions that will thrill the whole family. The park includes a Space Camp, created in partnership with the United States' Space Camp foundation, with a curriculum that includes the same equipment that NASA astronauts use. Courses are available for different age groups. Also in the park is the Space Museum that exhibits moon rocks, the Mission to Mars giant video with the sense-surround experience, and the Black Hole Scramble roller coaster that moves through total darkness. The Zaturn rocket-coaster offers a thrilling 130 kilometer-per-hour ride. Other adventures include an "alien experience," water ride, a year-round ice-skating rink, and several attractions for small children.