Closer to Busan, South Korea than Tokyo or Osaka even, Fukuoka is a significant city in Japan for culture, festivals, food and scenery. The dominant metropolis on the island of Kyushu has more people than Kyoto (1.5 million) and exerts considerable cultural clout across the country. The fact that Fukuoka is one of, if not the oldest settlement in Japan helps.
The vibrant ward of Hakata is particularly venerable and the origin point for a vast array of culinary staples in the national diet. Vital festivals like Dontaku Minato Matsuri and Gion Yamakasa take place in the area and Hakata Station is a major point of arrival and departure in Fukuoka.
Culture galore is on hand too in this city halfway between Shanghai and Tokyo. Most expressly, it takes the form of impressive landmarks like the Fukuoka Art Museum, Genko Historical Museum and Kyushu National Museum. All three embody major institutions in Japan and combine with the likes of Maizuru Castle, Nokonoshima Island Park and elegant temples and shrines to provide a rich mélange of attractions.
Fukuoka’s Top 10
10. Nokonoshima Island Park is a paramount recreation spot made especially beautiful with cherry and plum blossoms in spring.
5. Hakata Machiya Furusato-Kan is a peerless open-air cultural museum.
9. Shōfuku-ji is a serene Rinzai Zen temple.
4. Fukuoka Tower is a seaside behemoth and one of the most recognisable man-made landmarks in Japan.
8. Sumiyoshi-jinja is a major shrine that hosts the Nagoshi Taisai festival.
3. Genko Historical Museum is a fine archive of the Mongol Invasions with resplendent exhibits of weaponry and military paraphernalia.
7. Tōchō-ji is a Shingon temple that dates back to the 9th century.
2. Fukuoka Art Museum has contemporary works by the likes of Chagall, Miró, Warhol, Rothko and Basquiat.
6. Fukuoka Asian Art Museum contains a prolific collection of masterpieces from the continent.
1. Kyushu National Museum is a modern gem that provides a comprehensive look at the history of the island.
- Kushida Shrine – Built in 757 AD, a 1,000-year-old gingko tree shades this shrine.
- Higashi Koen – This place was the site of Mongol attack in 1242.
- Hakata Machiya Folk Museum – Depicts a typical town in Hakata during the Meiji and Taisho eras.
- Korokan – Diplomatic guest housing during 8th- to 12th-century Japan
- Hirao Mountain Villa – A very old traditional Japanese house, set in Woodland Park.
Fukuoka Art & Culture
- Fukuoka Asian Art Museum – One of the largest and most varied Asian art collections in the world.
- Fukuoka Tower – With 8,000 half mirrors wrapped around a 234m high structure, Fukuoka Tower can be seen from most parts of the city.
- Atago Shrine – This shrine, atop a hill, is dedicated to the “God of Wishes”.
- Akarenga Culture Centre – This two-story red brick centre in earthquake-prone Japan arouses curiosity.
- Yusentei Park and Villa – This villa at Tajima was built in 1754 by Tsugitaka.
- Hawks Town Mall – In the Mamochi area, ideal for a mammoth shopping experience with many shops and a Hard Rock Café inside.
- Canal City Hakata – This complex commercial facility combines shops, restaurants, an amusement area, movie and musical theatres and hotels.
- Iwataya – This department store known for luxury shopping is 250 years old.
- Canal City Shopping Area – You can get anything from traditional crafts to high fashion here.
- Eeny Meeny Miny Mo – You can find almost any high-end designer products here.
Gay & Lesbian Fukuoka
- Crescent Moon – This bar and club is a popular gay spot, but the friendly master here doesn’t speak much English.
- Morning Tei – Listed among the gay restaurants and cafes for coffee and breakfast.
- The Gym – For customers under 40, this three-floor apartment offers comfortable accommodations to gays.
- Golgo – Very sparsely furnished accommodation for gays, but the friendly staff speak limited English.
- Gold Sign – With a GS sign on the door, it’s a clean place with small cabins for fun and sleep.
- The Riverain – People-watching is a popular past time here.
- Dazaifu – A day trip to this wonderfully authentic Japanese village would be among your best day trips.
- Ohori Park – A beautiful place surrounding a large lake, this park is great for picnics as well as a stroll.
- Tenjin Underground City – A great shopping complex to escape inclement weather, but shopping is expensive here.
- Nokonoshima – Famous for flower fields, this island has a swimming beach and camping ground.
- You may like to visit popular entertainment sites like Space World, Wonder Park and Big Air on a rainy day.
- From March through September is the best time to catch a Japanese baseball game featuring the local Hawks team.
- Wonder Park, a popular gaming centre, attracts kids and adults equally.
- There’s plenty to do besides shopping at Kawabata Dori.
- Visit Fukuoka Dome, the first retractable roof stadium of Japan.
Hakata Gion Yamakasa is of the Japan’s pre-eminent annual festivals. The Kushida-jinja Shinto shrine event lures up to 1 million spectators and is both an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property and one of 100 Soundscapes of Japan. The festival takes place from July 1-15.
Hakata Dontaku also cements Fukuoka’s status as a premier festival city. Well over 800 years old, the boisterous civic festival is the most venerable in the country and features copious costumes on parade every May 3-4.
The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks play to sell-out baseball crowds at the Fukuoka Dome.
Kyushu Basho Grand Sumo Tournament takes place every November at Fukuoka Convention Center.
Setsubun, or Bean-Throwing Festival, ushers in spring across Japan.
When To Go
A subtropical climate injects Fukuoka with some of the most desirable weather in Japan. Hot summers and mild winters typify the average year in the city, with July and August firmly in the 75°F (24°C) to 90°F (32°C) temperature range. June and July do, however, get about ⅓ of the average annual total rainfall of 64 in (1,626 mm).
Winters are not that difficult a slog in Kyushu, with temperatures seldom below the 32°F (0°C) mark and scant snowfall. For ultra-pleasantness and the best of all worlds, visit in the months of May or October.
Take note: cherry blossom season in Fukuoka is in late March or early April.
Fukuoka Airport serves the likes of Busan, Beijing-Capital, Shanghai-Pudong, Hong Kong, Tokyo-Narita, Tokyo-Haneda, Osaka-Kansai, Manila, Singapore and Taipei-Taoyuan. Close to 20 million people use the second class airport, number four in Japan in total passenger movements, every year.
The shinkansen, however, is the way to travel in Japan and especially to Kyushu. To get to Fukuoka, catch either the Sanyō Shinkansen from Osaka to Hakata Station or the Kyushu Shinkansen from Kagoshima. Affordable sleepers from Tokyo thrive as well. A rapid hydrofoil service operates from Busan, South Korea to Fukuoka ferry terminal.
Within Fukuoka proper, Nishitetsu bus service and a tidy subway network provide efficient public transport. Moreover, the core of the city is quite pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Taxis proliferate but can be rather expensive.
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