Japan is not only famous for its stunning castles, but also for its castle ruins – the ones near Ohori Park in Fukuoka being a particularly stunning tourist attraction. Near to what remains of the castle is the Korokan Ruins which is a small museum where you can learn more about the building that used to stand there and see the unusual artifacts on show.
Built about 1,200 years ago, Korokan was a guest house for foreign diplomats in the center of Fukuoka, mainly used during the Nara and Heian Periods. The influence of foreign diplomats can be seen in the artifacts that have been discovered there – Chinese porcelain that dates from the seventh century, as well as glassware from Western Asia.
Located next to a baseball stadium, the museum is a large hall which focuses on an open excavation pit. Preservation work on the site began in 1999 and the open pit allows you to see the treasures that were found in the ground, many of which are still intact. A hole littered with broken crockery shows you the state in which the items had existed for hundreds of years.
As well as what has been left on the ground, many artifacts have been repaired and put on display, with items such as jugs and other large vessels, bowls, plates, and decorated fragments of porcelain. If you think that traditional Japanese buckwheat pillows are uncomfortable (with that rattly crunch as you lay your head upon it), then take a look at the ‘Three-color glazed pillow’ on display (basically, a pretty brick) and see how far they’ve come in terms of uncomfortable bedding.
At one end of the hall is a reconstruction of the part of the guest house, ingeniously built in a cutaway style so you can see the various materials and techniques used to build it. Next to the structure, you can step down to the level of the pit and get a closer look at the raw materials of antiquity.
And of course, the pièce de résistance – the poo sticks. Anyone who grew up watching Winnie the Pooh and discovered the game ‘Pooh Sticks’ with a snigger, may I introduce you to literal poo sticks, or as they are labeled – ‘wooden stick as toilet paper.’ It seems like the Japanese of days gone by were gluttons for punishment with their brick pillows and twigs for wiping their rear ends. Either way, an exhibit of such amusement is probably the highlight of the visit.
Open daily from 9 to 5, the museum is free and well worth popping into if you’re on your way up to the castle anyway. At the time of our visit, the volunteer in the hall (who spoke English very well) was more than enthusiastic about giving us a rundown of the history so we left feeling very much informed and very thankful for modern inventions like soft toilet paper.