Modern like Tokyo, riddled with shrines like Kyoto, but definitely the cheaper choice; as well as a good start point if you, like us, are Japan-virgins.
Fukuoka is often overlooked by tourists because of its seemingly nondescript location and sights. But those who decide to visit are rewarded with a trip spared from mass tourism.
As Japan’s 6th largest city, Fukuoka is as interesting as Tokyo in its own relaxed way. Artsy shopping streets, subway lines, temples and shrines, and the ever so polite locals, are just some of its shining features.
Let’s not forget one very important thing though: it's the city of Tonkotsu aka Hakata Ramen—a specialty made of pork bones. Please don't commit the grave mistake of leaving without slurping this delicious dish.
Fukuoka Airport (FUK) is the main hub on the Kyushu island, it caters both international and domestic flights. Considering you are already in Tokyo, flying is a much cheaper and faster option.
The subway operates a direct service from the domestic airport to Hakata and Tenjin, around 5min and 12min respectively, making it very easy to reach your lodging.
There is also a FREE airport shuttle that takes passengers from the international to the domestic terminal.
9.30AM - TONKOTSU RAMEN
A hearty start to the day
Getting around: Public transport in Fukuoka is quite pricey, the good news is: downtown is compact enough to wander around on foot.
1DAY subway pass ¥620 (not valid 24hrs but only on date of purchase)
Make your way to Hakata station and head over to Ichiran Hakata for your first bowl of tonkotsu ramen. The best dish to fire up your day of walking and sightseeing.
This simple unassuming restaurant actually has several outlets all over Japan. And like most ‘fast food’ across the country, you need to order and pay via a vending machine which churns out your meal ticket
Another place to try out is らーめん二男坊 博多本店 located outside Hakata station nearby Kagoshima Bank.
You’ll have to decide each component of your dish, so this is where snappy decision-making comes handy. You can customize: the flavor strength and richness of your broth; garlic intensity; presence of pork slices; how much red (spicy) sauce you want added; and the noodles’ texture.
After filling in your preferences, press the call button, and wait for that glorious bowl of ramen.
10.30AM - 5YEN
Curry and coffee under one roof
A secret retro corner in Fukuoka. Run and owned by an elderly couple who are well-travelled and speak English. A cozy café for your coffee and curry fix.
11AM - KUSHIDA SHRINE
Your gateway to Fukuoka’s numerous shrines
Kushida shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Amaterasu, goddess of the sun and universe, and Susanoo, god of the sea and storms. Locals are extremely familiar with this place, while here, you can see them strolling about in a leisurely pace, eating packed lunches, or offering wishes and prayers.
Outside the shrine is a Japanese sweets restaurant, （株）明月堂 博多通りもん川端店, have a peek and do try their matcha popsicle.
12.30PM - CANAL CITY HAKATA
Enter a gargantuan shopping complex
A monstrous place that offers shopping, shopping, and shopping. Also a perfect spot to be hungry since it has plenty of dining options.
1.30PM DOWNTOWN TENJIN
A detour for your fashion flare
Wind through the shady alleys and narrow paths and you’ll find yourself in a world of fashion boutiques, from luxurious brands to hipster style and a bit of vintage in between—there is surely something for everybody.
2.30PM FUKUOKA CASTLE RUINS
Take a stroll and take in the scenery
After running wild in downtown Tenjin, walk towards Maizuru Park where you can find the remains of the Fukuoka Castle. No matter how exhausted you already are from all the walking, among the trees and the lush greeneries of this park, you’ll definitely want to do more. It’s serene, and a perfect place to meditate on your thoughts.
Continue exploring until you reach Ohori Park—another comforting spot for soul-searching.
Gokoku shrine is almost always empty, the massive well-manicured lawn in front of the temple is a good picnic site. It’s so easy to spend the rest of your afternoon here, but try not to, as you still have a long evening ahead!
Stalls to wolf food down
Literally stalls in English. The vendors usually start setting up around 4pm to prepare for the onslaught of evening customers. Do take note that only a few of these vendors speak English, and most stalls don’t have menus with prices on them. It is also polite to ask permission first before taking a seat or taking pictures.
Read our Yatai: Where and What to eat Guide (will be published soon)
Nakasu is the small island in the middle of the city, and also the infamous red-light district. You could either be a passing tourist or a reveler in the countless forms of entertainment available here.
9.30AM - TRAIN RIDE JAPANESE STYLE
Dazaifu served as the imperial capital of Kyushu in the 7th century, at present the city enjoys a much humbler popularity.
10.15AM - THE PATH TOWARDS TENMAN-GU SHRINE
Eateries and souvenirs to feast on
A lively pedestrian-only street right outside the station. It’s supposedly a brief walk leading up to the shrine, but distractions for your eyes and mouth and tummy abound. Expect to spend a good hour here, or more, if you dawdle longer than we did.
11.30AM - TENMAN-GU SHRINE
Wish and pray for academic success
A Shrine dedicated to Michizane, a scholar and bureaucrat who was later deified and given the title Tenjin. As a result, visitors to this shrine are mainly students hoping to pass their exams. Explore and roam elsewhere in the grounds to avoid the bustling crowd of the main area.
12.45PM - KOMYOZEN-JI
Zen like a boss
Once you’re done and ready to move on from the liveliness of Tenman-gu, walk over to Komyozen-ji. A buddhist temple tucked away in a residential side street waiting to treat its guests with a zen stone garden at the entrance, and a moss garden at the back.
Be aware that the stealth photo taking technique you’re most proud of isn’t effective here, so stick to the rule of ‘No picture taking!’. We almost got ourselves in trouble for this one.
Grab a bite at one of the restaurants in the city, or go back to The Path to eat more mochi!
1.45PM - KANZEON-JI
Keeper of an ancient bell
Refuel your sugar levels (by eating more mochi) to power up for a 20min walk towards an ancient temple which houses Japan’s oldest bell. The atmosphere of Kanzeon-ji is the exact opposite of Tenman-gu, you won’t be nudging anybody here as it is almost always deserted. Somehow, you’ll find it cozy and relaxing despite its emptiness.
2.45PM - CAFE KANON
カフェ 観音 ( カノン )
For a quick caffeine fix, a quaint café right across Kanzeon-ji is the place to be. Everything is in Japanese but the owner speaks a bit of English, and will be able to offer some suggestions and take your order.
3.15PM - DAZAIFU EXHIBITION HALL
Japan’s own Stonehenge
Visit this place to see the remains of the Old Dazaifu government buildings. A sight easy to skip but it’s on the way to Tofuro-mae Station which will take you back to Tenjin.
4.30PM - SOUVENIR SHOPPING
Things to buy with your last ¥¥¥
Don Quijote aka DONKI is a favorite store to shop for great discounts. Buy weird-flavored KitKats, Matcha flavored snacks, Pocky, beauty products, and a lot more!
6PM - YATAI
Eat at more Yatais for your last night. Lastly, do enjoy the local bars ‘Izakaya’ where you’ll find yourself surrounded by men in suits drinking away their toxic working day. The best Izakayas are found at the outskirts of the city center.