First things first. When you get to Kokura station, head to the tourist information counter and get this:
Not only is this booklet full of useful information and maps, it also contains a lot of discounts/special offers from shops. Thanks to this, most of the things that we went to was about 20% cheaper than what it should have been. This is the 2015 version, and the offers are for until the end of this month, but I think they should have an updated version for 2016.
After determining that we didn't need to buy any one day passes (buses are supposedly 100 yen, and the one day pass 800 yen, so we were advised not to buy a pass. And at any rate, we walked everywhere), we headed to Aruaru city, which was right next to Kokura station
Aruaru City is an anime/manga themed shopping centre, and it's really all about anime. REALLY.
And there are loads of Gacha corners too (and these corners are bigger than any that I've ever seen):
I even spotted a birthday pillar for anime (or are they game?) characters:
If you're an anime/manga fan, you will definitely want to make a trip here. However, because the adult material is placed next to the regular stuff, you may not want to bring small kids around the shops. At least, not without scouting them out first, if you want to avoid any uncomfortable questions.
But, it is possible to bring the kids to the Kitakyushu Manga Museum on the 6th and 7th floors.
The 6th floor is the special exhibition floor, so we didn't go there. You can buy tickets at the 7th floor, but if you're using the coupon booklet, show it to the staff instead of buying it at the vending machine. Also, the museum barely allows you to take photos, which explains why I have exactly one photo of the place.
There is, however, a lot of opportunity to read manga, including a few English ones, like a 2007 copy of Shojo Beat. The Vampire Knight, Crimson Hero, Absolute Boyfriend chapters were really natsukashii (nostalgic) for me. There's also a huge manga library at the end, but I didn't really browse there, so I have no idea if it's entirely in Japanese or if there are English titles there too.
After we got our fill of Japanese pop culture, we decided to go traditional and headed to Kokura castle. It's a little far, but you can follow the signs on the road, so it's quite easy to get there:
And this isn't the entrance to the castle, but it is the entrance to the free part of the garden, which we walked through to get to the castle.
Exploring the garden:
|This picture is of the paid area|
While Kokura Castle is smaller than Kumamoto castle, I think I may prefer it because the exhibitions are a lot better. Apart from the cutouts below, there was also a show on life in olden Japan, a chance to "race" with a courier, ride in a palanquin, etc. It's a lot more interactive than Kumamoto castle's exhibits.
And the view from the top:
Not to mention the view from outside:
We headed to a slightly different station after this, so we passed by these gorgeous flowers!
As well as these two cats who clearly know that they're the boss.
Before finally exiting.
Ok, this has carried on for much longer than I expected, so I shall break it into two (although I have a suspicion that Mojiko is going to be much shorter). Come back tomorrow for part two~