Fukuoka was sometimes called the Port of Dazaifu (大宰府, southeast from Fukuoka). Dazaifu was an administrative capital in 663 A.D., but a historian proposed that a prehistoric capital was in the area. Ancient texts, such as the Kojiki, Kanyen (found in Dazaifu) and archaeology confirm this was a very critical place in the founding of Japan. Some scholars claim that it was the first place outsiders and the Imperial Family set foot, but like many early Japan origin theories, it remains contested. Fukuoka is sometimes still referred to as Hakata, the central ward of the city.
In 923, the Hakozaki-gū in Fukuoka was transferred from Daibu-gū in Daibu (大分, northeast from Dazaifu) the origin of Usa Shrine and established as a branch of the Usa Shrine at Fukuoka. In Ooho (大保, south from Dazaifu), there are remains of a big ward office with a temple, because in ancient East Asia, an emperor must have three great ministries (大宰, 大傳 and 大保). In fact, there is a record in Chinese literature that a king of Japan sent a letter in 478 to ask the Chinese emperor's approval for employing three ministries. In addition, remains of the Korokan (鴻臚館, Government Guest House) were found in Fukuoka underneath a part of the ruins of Fukuoka Castle.
Kublai Khan of the Mongol Empire turned his attention towards Japan starting in 1268, exerting a new external pressure on Japan with which it had no experience. Kublai Khan first sent an envoy to Japan to make the Shogunate acknowledge Khan's suzerainty. The Kamakura shogunate refused. Mongolia repeatedly sent envoys thereafter, each time urging the Shogunate to accept their proposal, but to no avail.
In 1274, Kublai Khan mounted an invasion of the northern part of Kyushu with a fleet of 900 ships and 33,000 troops, which included troops from Goryeo on the Korean Peninsula. This first invasion was compromised by a combination of incompetence and storms. After the first invasion of 1274, Japanese samurai built a stone barrier in length bordering the coast of Hakata Bay in what is now the city of Fukuoka. The wall, 2–3 metres in height and having a base width of 3 metres, was constructed between 1276 and 1277 and was excavated in the 1930s.
Kublai sent another envoy to Japan in 1279. At that time Hōjō Tokimune of the Hōjō clan (1251–1284) was the Eighth Regent. Not only did he decline the offer, but he beheaded the five Mongolian emissaries after summoning them to Kamakura. Infuriated, Kublai made another attack on Fukuoka Prefecture in 1281, mobilizing 140,000 soldiers and 4,000 ships. The Japanese defenders, numbering around 40,000, were no match for the Mongols and the invasion force made it as far as Dazaifu, south of the city of Fukuoka. However, the Japanese were aided by another typhoon which struck a crushing blow to the Mongolian troops, and the invasion was thwarted.
It was this typhoon that came to be called the Kamikaze (Divine Wind).
Fukuoka was formerly the residence of the powerful daimyo of Chikuzen Province, and played an important part in the medieval history of Japan. The renowned temple of Tokugawa Ieyasu in the district was destroyed by fire during the Boshin War of 1868.
The modern city was formed on April 1, 1889, with the merger of the former cities of Hakata and Fukuoka. Historically, Hakata was the port and merchant district, and was more associated with the area's culture and remains the main commercial area today. On the other hand, the Fukuoka area was home to many samurai, and its name has been used since Kuroda Nagamasa, the first daimyo of Chikuzen Province, named it after his birthplace in Okayama Prefecture and the “old Fukuoka” is the main shopping area, now called Tenjin.
When Hakata and Fukuoka decided to merge, a meeting was held to decide the name for the new city. Hakata was initially chosen, but a group of samurai crashed the meeting and forced those present to choose Fukuoka as the name for the merged city. However, Hakata is still used to refer to the Hakata area of the city and, most famously, to refer to the city's train station, Hakata Station, and dialect, Hakata-ben.
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