The largest city on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, Fukuoka is actually two towns merged into one: Hakata on one bank of the Nakagawa River and Fukuoka’s Old Town on the other. A historic place with easy access to Kyushu’s stunning interior, it’s a city that offers plenty for adventurous tourists.
Fukuoka’s subway service runs from the city’s airport through to the city centre. There are three lines in total. Bus services can be found running from the main train station at Hakata. Flat–rate passes help make using the city’s ultra reliable public transport an affordable alternative to taxis.
Fukuoka’s draw is its slow pace, a world away from the neon of Osaka and the relentless speed of Tokyo. This is perhaps best seen at the stunning Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine on the edge of town. Associated with Tenjin, the Shinto god of learning, its peaceful gardens come alive with students dressed in traditional costume praying for good luck in their exams. But even if you’re not studying, coming here is worthwhile. The perfectly kept ponds and lawns and the immaculate temples put it on a par with the more well-known religious sites of Kyoto.
For a taste of more modern culture, head to the peerless Fukuoka Asian Art Museum. This gallery is dedicated to modern Asian art in all its forms, from sculpture to sound pieces. It’s designed to reflect the Asia of today, hence there’s no traditional work on show. The Fukuoka Art Museum, however, does house some ancient Buddhist artefacts and pottery dating back to the city’s time as Japan’s key trading post with mainland Asia.
Fukuoka-jo, the city’s castle, may now be a ruin, but its grounds offer unparalleled views of the city, and the nearby parks are perfect for a rest after a long day.
Japan’s love of cats is legendary. And if you’re into all things feline, Fukuoka has a treat in store. Nearby Ainoshima Island, easily reached from town, is home to thousands of strays and is certainly a step up from the usual cat cafés.
Architecture buffs should be sure to visit Tenjin Chuo-koen, home to a number of old western buildings. The former Prefectural Hall is over 100 years old, a rarity in a country where so many buildings are brand new. The nearby gardens are also worth wandering around if you have the time.
Fukuoka is all about ramen. Finding somewhere that sells this heady broth is easy. Just look out for the yatai, or street stalls, which crop up at night along the riverside in the city centre. Alternatively, try Ramen Stadium, which has eight different ramen restaurants, all of which hit the spot.
The covered market at Yanagibashi is well loved by locals shopping for fresh produce. There are a number of food stalls here, but if you try just one thing, make it Yanagibashi’s own fish burger. Wash it all down with a uniquely blended tea, readily available throughout the market.