Fukuoka (福岡) is the capital of Fukuoka (prefecture) and the largest city on the island of Kyushu with 2.5 million citizens including its suburbs.
Classed as being among the oldest cities in all of Japan, Fukuoka is on the northern side of Kyushu Island. Since it has these ancient roots, it still clings to traditional culture and a way of life that is reflected within its eateries and its buildings and sights.
Many people love living in this attractive city because of the greenery and its metropolitan feel. It ranks twelfth in the most desirable places to live in Japan.
The city is circled by lovely mountains on three sides, and the fourth side opens to the north into the Sea of Genkai.
The interesting thing about Fukuoka is that a land reclamation site now houses the modern day city and more building is proceeding on man-made islands.
Fukuoka is a modern city, divided historically by the central river into two separate cities, Hakata (博多) and Fukuoka (福岡). The main railway station and port are still known as Hakata Station and Hakata Port. There are city centers in both Hakata and Tenjin.
There is a Tourist Information Center in Tenjin with English speakers available under the Nishitetsu Fukuoka station. For information in English, visit the Rainbow Plaza, located on the 8th floor of the Inter Media Station (IMS) building. The IMS is accessible by subway and is just a three-minute walk from the Tenjin station. In the middle of Hakata JR train station there is a Tourist Information Center (sometimes with English speakers) with brochures in English, Japanese and other languages. They can help with transport information and bookings. On the third floor of the ACROS building, near Nakasu, you can find more information in English.
The surrounding cities and towns make up the prefecture of Fukuoka.
Fukuoka is a good starting point for first-time visitors to Japan. Being a sizable, modern city it’s still not hard to get around. A subway connects most of the city’s main attractions, providing transportation between Hakata, Tenjin, Fukuoka International Airport, Meinohama, and Nishijin (where you can find Fukuoka Tower and the baseball ground of the Softbank Hawks: Fukuoka Yahoo Dome). The main station in Hakata marks the terminus of the Sanyo Shinkansen bullet train. The Kyushu Shinkansen line also terminates here, and links the Sanyo Shinkansen directly with Kagoshima, at the southern tip of Kyushu.
Best time to go
Hot humid summers are the norm for this part of Japan, and the winters are quite mild. Rain falls more heavily from June to September with June and July seeing more rain than other months. This is obviously why those months are the most humid but the good news is that it rarely snows here. The typhoon season is in August and September so autumn is probably the driest and most time to visit Fukuoka.
A word of warning here – there is a fault line running right through Fukuoka and they have experienced some rather strong earthquakes in recent years. However, one of the fault lines expects quakes every fifteen thousand years so visitors may be lucky to miss any rumblings.
Fukuoka has its own airport with a high speed trains bringing people into the city. There are also ferries and hydrofoils available, and this is a great way to see Fukuoka from the sea. Within the city are three subway tracks so it is quite easy to get around.
The Nishitetsu train can be found in Tenjin, and visitors can take the local train around the area or the rapid train. Both have the same price and are connected to Dazaifu which makes it extremely easy for tourists to see what they are interested in.
For those who want to try out the local bus, look for Hakata station bus terminal. For a small ticket price, the visitor can get on the bus which loops between Hakata and Tenjin. Also look for the bus which takes people directly to Marinoa City where there is an excellent shopping mall.
Of course, the easiest way to see landmarks and places of interest is on the City Loop Bus Green. There are also tours on offer that will take people to all the ‘hot’ spots. Therefore, if a place like Dazaifu Temangu Shrine is on the menu, this is the most convenient way to get there. Try buying the one day pass which also qualifies the user for some discounts in outlets and shops around the city.
If in this part of the world, it is quite a common trend to take the ferry over to the islands. They can be reached by road, but the ferry is more interesting. Try out the dinner/sightseeing tour which includes French cuisine in its price for something just a little more glamorous.
Taxis are in plentiful numbers and, depending on what size the vehicle is, there are set prices. Even sightseeing tours can be booked like this and makes the journey more intimate and comfortable.
When in this city visitors must try the Velotaxi. This is an exceptionally environmentally friendly way to get from place to place in the city. It is a two seat car which can squeeze through places where a normal car would not stand a chance.
Lastly, bicycles are very popular modes of transport, and visitors can get off on their own to see the sights. They are on hire from all the large hotels, and there are specific bicycle parks where they can be picked up.
Get in to Fukuoka
- Fukuoka Airport (is to the east of the city, surprisingly close to the city centre, the domestic terminal is 2 subway stops away from the Hakata JR station – there is a ~10 min free bus connecting the international terminal to domestic). Within the country, Japan Airlines and ANA fly to Fukuoka from most larger cities, including Tokyo (both Haneda and Narita), Osaka (Itami and Kansai), and Nagoya (Komaki and Centrair Airport). There are scheduled flights to most major cities in China and South Korea, as well as Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Manila, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but the only scheduled transpacific flights are to Honolulu and Guam.
The airport had 4 terminals. T1 and T2 are housed in one building, 5 min apart on foot. The subway station is located under Terminal 2.
- Terminal 1 handles domestic flights to smaller cities (e.g. Sendai, Komatsu, and those around Kyushu)
- Terminal 2 covers larger cities (e.g. Nagoya, Okinawa/Naha, Osaka, Sapporo, Tokyo).
- Terminal 3 is also for domestic passengers, but is not used for departing flights.
- The International Terminal is on the opposite side of the runway and requires a 10-min bus transfer to/from T2. Free, leaving about every 10 min.
From Tokyo, flying to Fukuoka is much faster than the Shinkansen, and not significantly more expensive. The usual one-way fare on Skymark Airlines from Tokyo Haneda is ¥19,800, compared to ¥22,320 from Tokyo Station on the Nozomi Shinkansen, and steep discounts are available if you book in advance (as low as ¥5,300 with Skymark’s “SKY Bargain” discount). The flight takes 2 hr while the train takes five. If you have a Japan Railway Pass (JR Pass), of course, you’ll still want to take the train, though you can’t take the fastest of the Shinkansen (“Nozomi”) with the JR Pass.
Travel by train to Fukuoka
Fukuoka’s Hakata Station is the terminus of the Sanyo Shinkansen (south) and Kyushu Shinkansen (north). Sanyo Shinkansen services are offered from Kokura in Kitakyushu (20 min), Hiroshima (1 hour), Okayama (1¾ hr) and Osaka (2½ hr), and through via the Tokaido Shinkansen from Kyoto (2¾ hr by Nozomi), Nagoya (3½ hr by Nozomi) and Tokyo (5 hr by Nozomi).
If you have a Japan Railway Pass, you cannot use the Nozomi (runs between Tokyo and Hakata) and Mizuho (runs between Shin-Osaka and Kagoshima-Chuo via Hakata), so if you are traveling from Tokyo or Nagoya you will have to take one of the two hourly Hikari trains from Tokyo and change at Shin-Osaka (alternatives are Shin-Kobe, Okayama, and sometimes Himeji) to a Sakura (or Hikari runs between Shin-Osaka and Hakata only late in the evening) service. Travel time from Tokyo to Fukuoka using these trains is 6 hours.
Another option from Tokyo is to take a westbound sleeper express such as the Sunrise Izumo or Sunrise Seto, leaving Tokyo around 10PM, and then connecting to the Shinkansen at Okayama (or Himeji) early in the morning, to arrive in Fukuoka just before 08:30 (or by 09:15 if you have a Railway Pass and use a Sakura service). While this takes much longer and costs more than the Shinkansen (from ¥25,000), it provides the benefit of doubling as lodging and transport.
From Kagoshima, Kyushu Shinkansen Mizuho and Sakura trains make the run to Fukuoka in 80–90 minutes at a cost of ¥10,170. The Mizuho is not valid with the Japan Railway Pass. Most Sakura trains do travel through Fukuoka, connecting Kagoshima to Osaka with no transfers.
From Nagasaki, the limited express Kamome runs hourly (sometimes twice an hour), taking 2 hr and costing ¥4,710 each way.
For historical reasons, Fukuoka’s train station is called Hakata. If you search for schedules to “Fukuoka” online, you will likely be given an itinerary for Fukuoka station, located in Toyama, in Hokuriku district of Japan.
Overnight by train with rest stop
If you hold a Japan Railway Pass, and you wish to travel overnight from Tokyo (or any other distant city), you may want to split up your journey, stopping at an intermediate destination en route in order to sleep somewhere. The Railway Pass covers your transportation, so you only have to worry about paying for a hotel. You could stay near major stations like Nagoya, Kyoto or Shin-Osaka, or pay less at a smaller transfer point such as Himeji.
As an example, you could leave Tokyo at 18:30 on a Hikari service and change in Shin-Osaka to a Kodama, arriving in Himeji at 22:11. In the morning, a Sakura service leaving around 7:00 will get you into Fukuoka just after 9:00.
Many overnight bus services run into Fukuoka from other parts of the country.
The Moonlight overnight bus runs from Osaka Umeda to Fukuoka in 9½ hr (¥10,000 one way); The Kyoto overnight bus runs from Kyoto to Fukuoka, also in 9½ hr (¥10,500 one way); and the oddly-named Dontaku runs from Nagoya to Fukuoka in 11 hour (¥10,500 one way).
Willer Express has a service from Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe from ¥4,800 with advance purchase tickets as cheap as ¥4,100. Other services are Nagoya (¥5,400), Okayama (¥4,300) and Hiroshima (¥2,500). They have an English website with online booking available. Discounts for tickets purchased 21 and 14 days in advance.
If you’re really ambitious, Nishitetsu bus runs an overnight service, the Hakata, from the Shinjuku expressway bus terminal in Tokyo to Fukuoka non-stop. The ride, at just over 14 hr, is Japan’s longest overnight bus service (¥8,000 for economy class ¥12,000 for high seasons, ¥15,000 for business class and ¥19,000 for 1st class, some round-trip discounts are available).
JR Kyushu’s Jet Ferry the Beetle hydrofoils to Busan (South Korea). It runs five times a day and takes just under 3 hr for ¥13,000 (¥24,000 round trip discount fare; ¥20,000 round trip on weekdays). They are quick, but in 2005 one hit a whale and had to be towed back to Busan. Since then, the JR Kyushu Jet Ferry Inc. plays sounds that whales dislike using speakers to avoid further accidents. An economy-class ticket on the Meimon Taiyo Ferry from Osaka to Kita Kyushu costs ¥6,000 (20% discount if booked online); tickets in other price ranges are available.
Three times a week Kyuetsu Ferry Co runs a service to Joetsu in Niigata and then on to Muroran in Hokkaido.
Fukuoka is served by 3 subway lines. The Hakata subway station, located under the JR Hakata Station, can take passengers straight to Fukuoka International Airport (6 min, ¥250), and to Tenjin, the city’s de facto downtown district, and other major stops. An all day subway pass Ichinichi johshaken costs ¥600 on weekdays, all day passes on weekends and some holidays, called Ecopasses, are ¥500, while a ticket to the next station Otonari kippu ¥100;, and most commonly travelled distances ¥200 and up. The local rechargeable contactless smart card is called Hayakaken and is compatible with other smart cards like PASMO (Tokyo) and ICOCA (Kyoto and Osaka).
Fukuoka is well served by Nishitetsu buses. Buses around the Tenjin and Hakata area cost ¥100. Outside that area, prices go up slightly to about ¥440 for greater distances.
Downtown is small and compact enough to potentially wander around on foot. In the Tenjin area, Tenjin Chikagai (underground city) runs under Watanabe street and has many shops. It also connects the Tenjin and Tenjin Minami subways stations with most major department stores and the Nishitetsu Fukuoka station. There is a passenger tunnel which connects Hakata and Gion subway stations and is useful during the frequent rains in summer and the bitter cold winds in winter, the latter of which is close to some of Fukuoka’s temples and shrines.
Taxis are available; they start from about ¥550, not the cheapest way to go. Some drivers speak English, but it’s best to have your destination written down in Japanese if you do not speak the language. Velotaxis are also available; they are ¥500 for the greater Tenjin area. Also, an environmentally friendly option is the human operated bicycle taxis.
If you can get a hold of a bicycle, it is probably the best way to get around. Parking does become a problem in some areas, but in Tenjin there are long term (06;00-23:00) underground parking areas, which are free for the first 3 hr. BIC Camera’s 8th floor, which is opposite Kego shrine, has free bicycle parking from 10:00-21:00.
In addition to the free parking in Tenjin, street bicycle meters are another great spot to park a bike. Much like many shopping centers around the world, it takes about ¥100 to release the bike lock, that wraps around the front wheel to be connected back into the slot. For a safer bicycle parking, use two bike locks and chain the front and back tires to the body of the bike.
Major Attractions and Sights
Fukuoka City Museum
On the northern side of Hakata Bay, find a great Marine Park called Uminonakamichi. Here, you’ll find the great amusement park which has just about everything one would need for a fun day out. There are beaches to relax on, an aquarium to wonder at nature’s diverse sea-life, and a petting zoo and gardens for the kids.
For history buffs, a trip to the local museum is a must. Fukuoka City Museum has many items on display which gives some insight into the local history. Look for the sensational gold seal of the city. Fukuoka Art Museum houses many different pieces from many countries in Asia. Then, for some truly ancient history, try a visit to the Higashi Koen Genko Historical Museum which gives an insight into the Mongol Invasion.
Interesting stuff! There are great examples of thirteenth century armor on display and for convenience it is open on the weekends.
Being Japan, there has to be festivals going on practically every month and Fukuoka is no exception. One of these, held for fourteen days at the beginning of July, is one of the oldest celebrations in its history. The seven hundred year old Yamakasa dates back to the thirteenth century no less and it has a very odd story. Apparently, a priest saved this city from a deadly plague being emitted from a moveable shrine where water was systematically thrown over the crowd.
These days though, only men or small girls are allowed to carry similar shrines around a set course. These are extremely heavy and the whole thing has been made into a race of sorts. This is an extremely popular event so expect to be rubbing shoulders with many thousands of people when it is on.
Hakata Dontaku, another very old festival held in the city in early May, has no less than eight hundred years of history. This falls in the Golden Week, the national holidays, and is attended by millions.
For just lazing around, a trip to the beaches for a spot of sunbathing. Or, for the energetic, try out the skiing in this part of the world. There are parks and cinemas, shops and all kinds of architecture to take photos of so there is always something to do. Try out Kyuka-mura Beach or Keya Beach for the water sports and the action centered within the hotels and bars here.
Big Air is where the snowboarding and skiing fans will congregate. The venue is open all year round and it has some rather exceptional jumps etc. This is not real snow, of course, but visitors should be comforted by the fact that there are no chemicals used in the snow making process.
Space World ( Supesu Warudo) is home to some great entertainment which includes the amazing, one hundred meter high Ferris wheel called the Space Eye. There are water rides, 4D theatres to see great movies and roller coasters that would make most of us blanch. This is a wonderful place for some family fun so dress comfortably for an energetic day out.
Tenjin (天神) is Fukuoka’s largest shopping district. You can find here, designer stores housed in towering retail blocks such as Tenjin Core, IMS, Vivre to the east, and Solaria Plaza Vioro to the west. There are also several large department stores, Iwataya, Daimaru and Mitsukoshi (all with food available.) Also, there are boutique areas, including Tenjin Chikagai, housed in a pleasant underground area adjacent to the Tenjin subway station and under Watanabe street. Nishi-Dori and Oyafuko-Dori (actually the same street, separated by Showa-Dori) contains a multitude of stores and restaurants, both mainstream and independent.
The Shotengai or shopping arcades are also good places to shop. In Tenjin, to the west of Solaria Stage you can find a shotengai with great deals and a used kimono store. Near Nakasu, across from Eeny Meeny Miny Mo (a large mall), you can find the Nakasu-Kawabata shopping arcade. Here you can find traditional paper goods, Noren curtains and inexpensive bakeries.
Over the past few years, the main shopping, eating and drinking area has been moving away from north Tenjin and the Oyafuko-dori street south towards Daimyo, Kego and Imaizumi. With a different feel to the commercial district of Tenjin, just to the west (past Nishi-dori) is Daimyo, an area filled with small, mostly independent shops, bars and restaurants. Plan on staying all day; for daytime shopping and eating dinner. On Sundays, this area is full of young people out shopping. For a similar feeling area, check out Kego and Imaizumi, two upcoming areas to the south.
- Canal City. A uniquely designed mall, which houses clothing stores, restaurants, rare character shops – including a Studio Ghibli goods shop – and even a well-appointed theatre, is located midway between Tenjin and Hakata, next to the Nakasu entertainment district. If you have time, be sure to catch one of the hourly fountain shows held in the centre of the bowl-shaped complex. However, if you’ve worked up a bit of an appetite while wandering Hakata, Canal City also offers several dining options for the hungry tourist. Indian curry, Japanese lunch sets, pasta, the famous Hakata ramen, sushi and fast food can all be found.
Another large shopping area is the recently renovated Hakata Station area, called Hakata City. It includes over 230 shops, restaurant floor, and roof observation deck. With regards to gift-giving, if you’re pressed for time, take a quick look around the craft and boutique stores in Hakata Station before leaving. Many carry the white clay Hakata dolls that are unique to Fukuoka. Prices range from under ¥1,000 and up. Prices comparable to those found in Tenjin.
In case you are into cameras, computers or other electronics, you can find a huge Yodobashi Camera store right outside of Hakata station. Go out to the eastern side of the JR station (Chikushi Gate), go down 2 blocks and it will be on your right.
The latest large shopping area to open is Kanoha Mall Hashimoto, at the Hashimoto Station which ends the Nanakuma subway line. While perhaps not worth a special trip all the way there, it’s worth a look if you happen to be anywhere near the area.
Don’t miss out on the ¥100 shop. A great place to shop for souvenirs (although many items are made in China), dishes, toys and everything else you didn’t think you needed. There is one located in the bus centre building next to Hakata Station. Another is in Daiei, in Tenjin behind the MINA building.
Hakata Gion Yamakasa
The shopping in Canal City is good, but more unusual shops are situated in Tenjin. Also, Oyafuko-don has some really unusual fashions like goth and everything dark! There is an underground shopping area which links the buildings above so even if it is raining then visitors are protected. There are trend setting boutiques and the young Japanese just love fashion.
Shopping malls abound in the city so there will be designer outlets at every corner. For best buys though, try the Eeny Meeny Miny Mo mall next to Nakusu. Look for the nearby shopping arcade where traditional paper goods are on sale. This is where the locals and tourists shop so expect prices to be very reasonable. Also look for bakeries and outlets selling curtains and the like.
To really rub shoulders with the locals, try the very busy market in Hakata. There are always bustling people here from wholesalers and retailers to local folk. Get everything from fresh seafood to something typically Japanese to take home as a souvenir.
One of the most delicious dishes to eat in Fukuoka is Tonkatsu ramen. This is pork ramen and is a delicacy particularly connected to this city and its environs. Another dish for this part of the world is mentaiko. These are very tiny fish eggs that are prepared in a certain way. Although most of us may think that this does not sound so appetizing, the locals just can’t get enough of it!
For those on a budget, Izakaya restaurants are a great place to get good food at reasonable prices. Even the drinks have a low price so expect to find a lot of students and young people frequenting these places. They all have something different on offer so check them out before opting to sit and take a meal.
Of course, most of us want a taste of home when we are traveling, so look out for the Hard Rock Cafe which serves up traditional American and Mexican food. This one is adjacent to Fukuoka dome in Momochi. The food is excellent and is always the same standard.
It is always possible to find five star venues to eat in Fukuoka, but the fun comes from living like the locals. At dusk every night, little vehicles seemingly come out of nowhere to sell some local delicacies. Try the tempura or yakiniku to get a real taste of Japan.
Lastly, from this section, foodies must try the superb Yakitori (chicken barbecue) restaurants. Even pork and vegetables are served in the same manner – on sticks and grilled over flame. Find a really great one outside Tojinmachi Subway station at exit one.
Hakata is famous for its style of ramen, which has a very pungent smell thanks to a pork rib broth called tonkotsu (豚骨). Enjoy it with pickled ginger and lots of sesame seeds. Save the broth, because you can order a refill of noodles (kaedama) for around ¥300 at many places.
Although there are restaurants all over town serving ramen at various price levels, some of the best joints are yatai, mobile food stalls. The stalls are set up early evening and can be found on major streets; particularly in Tenjin (near the post office), Nakasu and Nagahama-Dori. Also, along the river from Canal City, an entire strip of yatai can be found. Although ramen is the norm, you can find anything from yakitori to Italian cuisine. Brush up on your Japanese or pointing skills as these guys don’t speak English at all. A few tips: respect other customers’ space, don’t go in large groups (split up and assault multiple stalls), and don’t stay too long.
Those who love to be out on the town at night have quite a bit of choice in Fukuoka. Everyone should try the traditional ‘sake’ with friends or go for a jig at any one of the world class discos or clubs in the city. Some have the nomihodai offers on (drink as much as you can) which means once the entrance fee is paid, there is no more expense for the night.
There are traditional pubs all over the place so try out the local brew (shochu). Add in some raw fish in the form of sashimi and the visitor is really living local!
Once six o’clock rolls around in the evening, stalls and vans selling food and drink pop up on every corner of the city. Tenjin is a good place to be when this happens and the stalls spill into the street around the Naka River, outside department stores and malls and in the parks too. This is certainly a good way to experience what people do after work since a snack or two, and perhaps a drink or three, is what most workers want when the working day is done. As this is Japan, there are also plenty of Karaoke bars to hang out in and have fun with the locals.
Yatai, or street stalls, are plentiful throughout Fukuoka and present a great place to grab a bite to eat and drink while mixing with the locals. Yatai are usually a last stop on a pub crawl since they provide cheap eats that taste better after a long night, and it’s easier to start a conversation with a stranger after many beers. Don’t rely on one for dinner! And bring your meishi (business cards) if you have any, because they often get swapped here.
Tenjin, ¥100 by bus from Hakata Station or to the west of Fukuoka Nishitetsu Station, is one of the best places in the whole country to explore Japanese nightlife. This also includes Daimyo, a farther out area which is becoming the “new Tenjin”. Unlike comparable areas in Tokyo, there are no scam bars in Tenjin, and the “snack bars” are not ridiculously overpriced. The area is aimed towards the locals but it is still large, new, fashionable, and full of unique experiences. This is one of the safest places imaginable to drop into a new bar, so why not give it a try?
Some of the smaller bars down the backstreets will often have a table charge of ¥200-500 per person. This usually means you get a tiny bowl of nuts, chips or pickled octopus.
For less adventurous groups, the area abounds with chain izakaya (Japanese pubs) that have picture menus which make it easy for the traveler who speaks no Japanese. Watami わたみ wara wara わらわら are two such chains. Shirokiya, another izakaya, is decent and fairly easy to find. It is on Nishi-dori, across from the Nishtetsu Grand Hotel above Kitamura Camera in the same building as Sam and Dave’s, a night club popular with the hip-hop crowd.
Anything of local interest
One really odd custom in Fukuoka is patting a cow on the head. Odd but true. Cows are revered here and it is considered good luck and brings prosperity and health along with it. To this end, there are statues of cows tucked away all over the place so get the kids to spot one or two and bring untold wealth to the family!
Hojoya is one of the best festivals in Fukuoka. It takes place in September and the Hakozaki Shrine is the place to be. The festival celebrates all things living, and there is a spectacular release of fish and doves to show the reverence that the Japanese have for these creatures. This is the old Fukuoka at its best so try to get along for the fun.
Being in Japan means that the average tourist must visit a Kabuki theater at some point. Hakata-za is a good one and there are different shows on every month. This is one of the most popular shows in town so try to get along to at least one performance.
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