Riverwalk Kitakyushu

Here are a bunch of photos for fans of contemporary Japanese architecture. Riverwalk Kitakyushu is a large mall complex near downtown Kokura. Kokura is the larger of two commercial districts in Kitakyushu and was the original target for the atomic bomb which was dropped on Nagasaki.

Riverwalk opened in March 2003 and contains a plethora of options ranging from shopping and dining to art galleries, movies, and a performing arts hall.

Here’s a view of the complex from the northeast.

View of Riverwalk from the northeast

Below is a picture of Lia standing on one of the many bridges over the Murasaki River (murasaki is Japanese for purple). The southeast face of Riverwalk, complete with video screen towers in the background.

southeast view of Riverwalk, with Lia in the foreground

The building complex itself is a mixture of open-air walkways, arcades, and completely enclosed areas, all of which contain shops, restaurants and the other destinations. The yellow section is a combination of parking garage (further left than can be seen in the above image), shopping areas, a movie theatre and a game center with video games and assortment of coin-eating machines.

The red conical shape includes a performing arts hall which I’d guess can seat about 2000 people. I’m not sure of the exact capacity as I’ve only been inside once—to see a performance of Shakespear’s King Lear interpreted by a Japanese theatre company—and didn’t feel up to counting the seats. The show was fabulous even though I didn’t understand the dialogue,.

If you ask me, the brown section looks like an overly suntanned wedge of gouda cheese, a section of chocolate mousse, or something jawas might get around in (note, if that link doesn’t work, try here. has shopping and salons on the bottom three floors, and the top contains the local NHK studios. NHK is Japan’s national broadcaster—the Japanese equivalent of the CBC, BBC, or PBS. NHK is funded by a monthly tax on television ownership.

The black section, as with the others, has shopping on the lower floors and other stuff above. I’m not sure what all the “other stuff” is, but there’s an art gallery—a branch of the Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art—and offices.

There have been a number of excellent shows at the gallery. We’ve seen exhibitions about astro boy and the evolution of robots in pop culture and science in Japan from the 1930s onward, a show of traditional Japanese scientific and medical illustrations, and a collection of prints by the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher.

A standard feature of Japanese department stores is the basement food court, and Riverwalk is no exception. There’s a grocery store and a vast array of restaurants and fast food places. Plus the ubiquitous omiyage shops. Literally, omiyage means “souvenir,” but the souvenir is usually some sort of food.

The tiny figure standing with his legs spread is Jarrod posing with Riverwalk behind him. This is from the south side of the building, an area which includes Kokura Castle (a replica of a Japanese castle but more about that later), a park and Kokura City Hall.

Jarrod posing with the south face of Riverwalk in the background

The Japanese may not be Christian, but they certainly get into the commercial holiday spirit. Here’s a view of the festive lights from across the Murasaki river.

Riverwalk at Christmas, from the east

Here’s a closeup of one of the Christmas displays:

Closeup of a Christmas display

Another closeup. This was taken on the afternoon of December 22, 2003. No snow in sight. This mobile is the same one that is lit up in the photo above.

closeup of a Christmas mobile

Here’s a picture of the same mobile, taken from the ground.

closeup of a Christmas mobile, from the ground

And finally, a photo juxtaposing traditional and contemporary architecture. This photo shows Kokura castle as viewed from within the Riverwalk complex. Kokura Castle is a replica of a traditional Japanese castle. I’m not sure when it was built, but it is constructed almost completely from concrete. While this may seem surprising, apparently it was very common for a samurai to burn down his own castle when his lord died. As such, very few original castles exist but the construction industry has been more than willing to supply the demand for concrete replicas.

Kokura Castle viewed from Riverwalk

4 thoughts on “Riverwalk Kitakyushu

  1. Thanks for sharing your photos with us. The closeup of the mobile, from the ground, is a great shot! T thinks its very interesting how you showed both the contemporary architeture together with the old traditional buildings. Must be neat to see Buddhas next to fast food restaurants and stuff.

  2. Hey Ed, how fun to see pictures of Riverwalk again…I almost miss the place – but then I remember all the bizarre, and, well, you know….
    By the way, never did pay the T.V. tax (there’s an advantage to pretending you don’t know any Japanese at all!)

  3. We pay the NHK lady when she comes to our door. Every two months, like clockwork. We also see her around the neighbourhood in what passes for normal-people clothes in these parts, and Jarrod sometimes sees her on his way to or from school. I was hoping that paying off NHK would’ve reduced the suspicious looks from the neighbourhood grandmothers but I guess I was wrong.

  4. Thank you for sharing the pictures. It also has helped me recall the name of the castle and riverwalk I visited with my host family back in 2003.

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