A couple of years ago my wife and I went to Kokura for the day. From Fukuoka it is only about an hour by car or train, so it isn`t too far away. It`s a big industrial city now and actually it has been since the industrial revolution back in the Meiji Period.
In medieval times Kokura was a beautiful castle town located right at the tip of northern Kyushu overlooking the very important Kanmon Straits. There was basically one route out of Kyushu in ancient times and that was via Kokura. On the other side of the straits sits another important trade town named Shimonoseki.
During the medieval period the region was called Buzen. Notable rulers of Buzen were the Hosokawa and Ogasawara. Legendary swordsman Musashi Miyamoto was a guest of the Hosokawa for many years who lived in Kokura and Kumamoto. Another notable person related to Kokura is Lady Tama Hosokawa, also known as Gracia after becoming a Christian. Married to Lord Tadaoki Hosokawa and the daughter of Akechi Mitsuhide.
Kokura castle was built by Hosokawa Tadaoki in 1602. The castle had a unique design known as the Karazukuri, no other castle in Japan can be found with this design. Hosokawa was rewarded with the Kokura region by Ieyasu Tokugawa for his services during the Sekigahara campaign. Thus, Kokura was a Tokugawa stronghold in northern Kyushu.
Hosokawa gathered merchants and skilled artisans from around the region and offered them commercial and industrial protection policies so the castle town could grow and prosper. Kokura is in a prime location to Korea and China so Hosokawa supported foreign trade for the merchants.
In 1620 Tadaoki retired to Nakatsu castle and his son Tadatoshi took over as lord of Kokura castle.