The fifth biggest city in Japan (by population) and the biggest in Kyushu, Fukuoka, is a southern mecca of cultural diversity, adventure, and seasonal delights. It’s located at the doorstep of Asia, meaning that it’s long been a popular destination for international travellers from the Asia region, but it’s relatively untouched by western tourism, making it feel like a well-kept secret.
Fukuoka will host the ‘19th FINA World Championships 2022 Fukuoka‘ and the ‘The 19th FINA World Masters Championships 2022 Kyushu’- two of the world’s most exciting water sports events, which have been postponed to 2023. The 19th FINA World Masters Championships 2022 Kyushu attracts more than 10,000 swimming enthusiasts from about 100 countries and regions. The event will see international competitors over the age of 25 battle it out across five key disciplines (swimming, water polo, open water swimming, artistic swimming, and diving) and is set to put the city in the global spotlight. If you’re flying in direct, Fukuoka Airport is Kyushu’s major international hub, located just five minutes by subway from the city centre.
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If you plan to explore Kyushu, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll pass through Fukuoka, and here are just a few reasons to extend your stay in this vibrant city.
See a side of Fukuoka city you didn’t know existed with a scenic coastal cycle around Shikanoshima Island. Connected to the Hakata area by land, the island is best known for being the discovery spot of the Gold seal. The Gold seal historians say Chinese Emperor Guangwu presented it to a local monarch in 57AD. This Gold seal is currently on display at the Fukuoka City Museum. But there’s far more to this island than its ancient history.
Grab a bike from the Shikashima Cycle rental shop located near the island’s entrance and head out on a mission to see for yourself. At around 12 kilometres in circumference and with a relatively flat landscape, it’s easy to cover the entire island, restaurant and cafe hopping or just taking in the seaside views over a leisurely afternoon.
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Fukuoka City Museum
Want to get a better overview of the culture of Fukuoka and just how this underrated but incredibly culturally fascinating city came to be? Then plan a pop into the Fukuoka City Museum. What makes Fukuoka so special is the city’s clear cultural mix, thanks to its position at the doorstep of the wider Asia region, and the museum showcases Fukuoka’s role as a gateway for trade and culture exchange between Japan and the Eurasian continent, in a way that’s both comprehensive and easy to understand. Highlights also include the Gold seal mentioned earlier in the Shikanoshima Island section and a detailed display of the high-speed, float racing Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival, one of Japan’s most spectacular traditional events.
Paper lantern painting experience at Kadota Chouchin-ten (Lantern Shop)
A symbolic piece of the Japanese landscape, lanterns have played several key roles throughout the nation’s history, both practical and decorative. Kadota Chouchin-ten is located in Hakata’s Old Town– an area that once flourished as the hub of Hakata, Japan’s largest trading port city in the medieval era. The area retains that old-world ambiance. At Kadota Chouchin-ten, you can learn all about the creation of this iconic motif and even try making your very own lantern design. Lanterns similar to the ones you see in this store and hanging throughout Japan’s cities actually came from China. However, the foldable design is a pure piece of Japanese innovation, just one of the fun facts you’ll learn if you sign up for a workshop.
Kadota Chouchin-ten is a piece of Fukuoka legend, and it opened in 1895. It’s currently managed under the watchful eye of the 4th generation of this lantern-making family. The store also crafts many of the lanterns you’ll see on display throughout the city’s major eateries if you make it to Fukuoka’s Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival, which runs annually in July. The workshop only takes about an hour (including drying time), making it an easy, accessible workshop for all types of travelers.
In addition to the Kadota Chouchin-ten workshop, there is more information on Hakata’s Old Town here.
WeBase HAKATA Kimono Experience
Consider renting out a kimono from WeBase HAKATA in central Hakata for a little throwback fun. The hostel offers guests a more laid-back approach to the kimono experience, where guests can pick, mix, match, and dress in a simplified version of this iconic piece of Japanese fashion. If you’ve ever wanted to experience wearing a kimono but were overwhelmed with the layers, work, and commitment that goes into getting dressed up the traditional way, these kimono rental packages offer an affordable, easier alternative that looks as good as the real thing. WeBase HAKATA is also a great place to stay for those looking to travel in a social and budget-friendly style; just look out for the giant SHIP’S CAT.
A locally loved attraction but very well-kept secret, Yusentei Park is a compact but stunning little Japanese garden located in Fukuoka’s Jonan Ward. The first Japanese Garden in Fukuoka to be centred on a lake was built in 1754 as part of the city’s sixth feudal lord – Kuroda Tsugutaka’s home, but today is open to the public. In the park grounds, you’ll also find an artfully positioned teahouse serving up traditional Japanese sweets and matcha, all backdropped by a picture-perfect view that transforms with the passing seasons.
Nakasu River Cruise
You might think you’ve seen all of Fukuoka on land, but to get a whole new perspective on the city, you’ve got to explore by boat, and the best way to do that is by hopping aboard the Nakasu river cruise. The cruise, which departs from Fukuhiro Deai Bridge, takes guests on a 30-minute journey through the neon-lit waters of central Fukuoka.
It’s a picture-perfect way to wrap up a day admiring the city’s many charms. Guests can bring drinks like coffee on board. Be sure to book prior to the tour. If you’re lucky, the boat’s guide just might put on a live performance.
Fukuoka Hakata Yatai Barakamon
A culinary icon of Fukuoka is the yatai, small, free-standing food stalls that typically take up residence in the city centre of Tenjin and Nakasu. One of the joys about exploring these teeny lively, semi-exposed restaurants is that each stall, while its premise may be similar, is as unique as the folks that run and frequent it.
Each stall typically seats up to eight people at a time and, more often than not, serves belly-warming booze and classic izakaya fare, thick oden, ramen, gyoza dumplings, and the like. However, there’s no hard and fast rule about what a yatai has to be, so if you’re feeling adventurous, consider an evening of yatai hopping. To begin, we recommend starting at Barakamon yatai in Tenjin. Barakamon serves as an excellent baseline of what to expect, plus, most importantly, the food is delicious.
JR Hakata Station’s illuminations
You know it’s Christmas time when lavish, twinkling light displays overtake Japan’s cities, and Fukuoka’s JR Hakata Station is home to one of the best. Known as Hikari no Machi HAKATA, the event has been running for over 11 years, now and is just getting more visitors with each passing year.
The 70 meter long “LED SKY WALK’’ path, installed on the ceiling of the pedestrian deck on the second-floor of JR Hakata Station offers an excellent vantage point for admiring the seasonal illuminations while JR Hakata Station square is home to a cute European-inspired Christmas Market, selling Christmas goods, food, and drink. Running until Christmas day, it’s well-worth braving the cold for.
Hotel Torifito Hakata Gion
A contemporary hotel that mixes modernity, the city’s history and sleek innovative interior design, it sounds like centrally located Hotel Torifito Gion is trying to fit a lot into one hotel package, but they’re pulling it off. Positioned in the lively Hakata district, Hotel Torifito Hakata Gion opened in 2020, and its strong concept and uniquely Fukuoka style charm has made it a popular city hotel.
The interior is infused with traditional Fukuoka motifs, like the city’s much-loved lanterns and mural style wall-sized photos of Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival, making it a fun and immersive way to enjoy the city’s key charms. The restaurant located on the lobby floor is also one of the hotel’s strongest points, in the morning, they offer an impressive breakfast spread, both showcasing Fukuoka specialities like mentaiko and yatai-inspired noodles as well as more continental offerings.
*The areas and facilities featured in this article have been following measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This was also carried by taking extra precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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Words: Lucy Dayman
Fukuoka City is the most populous city on the island and is often regarded as the capital of Kyushu. Fukuoka is packed with attractions, including the lively city centre to exhilarating outdoor experiences. It is also home to some classic cultural experiences that help shape the region’s unique traditional landscape. The city centre is only a 5-minute ride away from Fukuoka Airport- a Kyushu tourism hub for domestic and international travellers. It is the host city for the “19th FINA World Championships 2022 Fukuoka” and "19th FINA World Masters Championships 2022 Kyushu", which have been postponed to 2023. The “19th FINA World Championships 2022 Fukuoka” is scheduled to take place in July 2023 and "19th FINA World Masters Championships 2022 Kyushu" will be hosted in August 2023, which will add even more excitement to this vibrant city.
Shikanoshima Island is best known for being the discovery spot of a gold seal. It is the perfect place for a scenic coastal ride while enjoying the breeze, being connected to Hakata area.
*This phone number will will connect you to Fukuoka City Tourist Information Center (Hakata Station General Information Center)
Address: Shikanoshima, Higashi Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture 811-0323
Located near the entrance to Shikanoshima, there is a cafe/bike rental store where trekking, mountain and kids bikes are available. The friendly staff will give you tips on the cycling route.Phone: 81-50-3459-2956
Address: 417-1 Shikanoshima, Higashi Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture 811-0323
An excellent way for connecting Japan to the world with many routes available. Through the Fukuoka City Subway, you can reach the city centre in 5 minutes for a very convenient experience.Phone: 81-92-621-0303
Address: 778-1 Shimousui, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture 812-0003
A social and budget-friendly style hotel located in the centre. It also offers a kimono rental service where tourists can stroll around the area in a piece of Japanese history and fashion.Phone: 81-92-292-2322
Address: 5-9 Tenya Town, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture 812-0025
You can learn about the creation of lanterns and make your very own design. The workshop offers a fully immersive hands-on experience and the fun facts of this symbolic piece.Phone: 81-92-271-5766
Address: 11-8 Kamikawabata Town, Kamikawa, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture 812-0026
The first Japanese Garden in Fukuoka to be centred on a lake. This compact but stunning Japanese garden is an excellent stroll for a few hours of relaxation in a peaceful setting.Phone: 81-92-711-0415
Address: 1-46, Yusentei, Jonan Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture 814-0122
This museum showcases Fukuoka's role as a gateway for trade and culture exchange between Japan and the Eurasian continent in a way that's both comprehensive and easy to understand.Phone: 81-92-845-5011
Address: 1-1, 3 Chome Momochihama, Sawara Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture 814-0001
A contemporary hotel that mixes the city's history with a modern and sleek innovative interior design. Its location is highly central and convenient, with excellent access to Fukuoka's iconic attractions and beyond.Phone: 81-92-283-7060
Address: 8-24 Reisen-machi, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture 812-0039
It's a 30-minute journey through the neon-lit waters of central Fukuoka, giving you a romantic perspective of Fukuoka. Admire the gloriously illuminated landscape for a perfect way to end the day.Phone: 81-80-5215-6555
Address: 6-29 Nishi Nakasu, Chuo Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture 810-0002
Explore the traditional part of Fukuoka's foodie culture with this yatai food stall. It serves Fukuoka's traditional and culinary delights, including ramen and gyoza dumplings which will satisfy your appetite.Phone: 81-70-4783-1512
Address: 2-13-1 Tenjin, Chuo ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture 810-0001
A commercial complex of Hakata station and serves as an essential hub for Kyushu. During Christmas, the site is covered with sparkling lights displays, showcasing another beautiful city attraction for the public.Phone: 81-92-441-5941
Address: 1-1 Hakataekichuogai, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture 812-0012