The Port of Kitakyushu is a major port on the northern shores of the island of Kyushu, the third largest island of Japan. Located adjacent to the Port of Kokura, the Port of Kitakyushu is about 150 kilometers west-southwest of the Port of Hiroshima. The city was created in 1963 when five independent municipalities (Kokura, Moji, Yahata, Tobata, and Wakamatsu) were merged. Seeking to be a hi-tech research center, the Port of Kitakyushu Science and Research Park contains nine research organizations and four universities. In 2003, more than 993 thousand people lived in the Port of Kitakyushu.
The Port of Kitakyushu is a leading manufacturing center for Japan, with heavy industry a major contributor to the city's economy. Its industrial center, Yawata, is home to many plants producing iron and steel, cement, heavy chemicals, and glass. Ships, machinery, metals, and chemicals are produced in the Wakamatsu district. The Port of Kitakyushu is also an important deep-sea fishing base for western Japan. Nippon Steel is a major employer in the Port of Kitakyushu, and the city is home to Zenrin, the maker of mapping and navigation software. StarFlyer airlines (Japanese) is headquartered in the Port of Kitakyushu. Bridgestone Corporation opened a new plant in the Port of Kitakyushu in 2009 to produce radial tires for mining and construction vehicles.
The ancient Port of Kitakyushu was an important gateway between Japan and the Asian continent, and it was a leader in Japan's modern industrialization. The area was first noted in history when the Kokura Castle was built in the 1600s and a castle town grew up around it. It soon became a prosperous governmental and commercial center.
In the late 1800s, the Meiji government recognized the future Port of Kitakyushu's geographic value as a crossroads for land and marine traffic, as it had been for ages. They installed port facilities and railroad lines, making the Port of Kitakyushu an important modern distribution point for goods.
In 1901, Japan's first government-managed steel works were built in the Port of Kitakyushu, creating a foundation for key industries in the city. Contributing much to Japan's industrial development, the chemical, electrical, ceramics, and steel industries grew up in the Port of Kitakyushu.
In 1963, modern Kitakyushu resulted from the merger of five independent municipalities: Tobata, Moji, Wakamatsu, Yahata, and Kokura. Today, the main Port of Kitakyushu handled the area's international trade, while the Port of Kokura is used for the domestic distribution of goods, and the Port of Doukai serves industry.
Within the Port of Kitakyushu is Kokura. Kokura was the first target of the "Fat Man" bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki in August 1945. Kokura escaped that fate because of a cloud layer that obscured the target, leading to the expression "Kokura's luck" used in Japan to describe events when a person avoids something unpleasant without knowing it.
The Port of Kitakyushu's Tanoura Container Terminal was constructed in 1971, and growth in international commerce for western Japan has centered on the terminal. In 2003, the Hibiki Container Terminal was opened to expand that economically-valuable center.
Economic declines in the 1970s and 1980s forced the Port of Kitakyushu to implement new regional policies and change its industrial structure. The Port of Kitakyushu authority constructed three new ports (a seaport, an airport, and an e-port) and promoted the development of new industries in the semi-conductor, automotive, and environmental sectors. The Port of Kitakyushu is also working to attract new high-tech industries, including industrial robots, biotechnology, and integrated circuitry.
Today, the Port of Kitakyushu is western Japan's largest port for international trade and domestic distribution. The city is a major contributor to industrial and economic development for the island of Kyushu and the Yamaguchi area on the mainland island of Honshu as well. With its proximity to the Asian continent, the Port of Kitakyushu is a major port for daily connections with many East Asian countries.