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.
Table of Contents
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.