If you’re looking for a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy traditional and regional cuisine, events, attractions, and beaches, there’s no better place than the harbor city of Fukuoka. You’ll get to experience both old-school Japanese charm and the sights and sounds of an ever-growing city. Fukuoka is located only about 200km from Busan, South Korea, and is a popular hotspot for families for both locals and visitors from South Korea. They’re known for their iconic 400-year-old traditional ninyo, also known as Hakata Dolls.
Hakata Gion Yamakasa
Held during the first half of the warmer July month, the Hakata Gion Yamakasa starts off early during the month and ends with a spectacular timed race throughout seven picturesque Fukuoka neighborhoods. It is, without a smidgen of doubt, the best way to see all the small corners of the city on foot. Participating runners are treated to the bucolic sights of Fukuoka villages and landscape and accompanied by captivating floats along the 5km-long course. The elaborate floats can sometimes weigh up to tons, especially the kazariyama floats.
Uminonakamichi Seaside Park
Sitting across the bay on a peninsula from Fukuoka’s main city center is Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, the prefecture’s biggest. With a near-five-star rating on most travel sites, the park is not just a family-friendly one, it is a respite with a sizzle reel of events and happenings for people of all ages. You name it, they have it – playgrounds, family-friendly rides for the kids, a zoo with a petting area, an open-pool during summer months, well-maintained picnic spots, pathways for cyclers, and beautiful ponds surrounded by charming plants and flowers. It is the perfect Insta-worthy spot.
Because it was built during the mid-Edo period in the mid-1700s for the head of the Kuroda clan, it is a quintessential attraction because you’ll find yourself ticking off your cultural checklist all day long. In fact, you could have lived in Japan for many years and still find yourself still surprised and mesmerized. It was intentionally built without the buzz of a thriving city and away from the crowd. Remember to keep your camera handy and participate in the countless ice coffee and green tea traditional sweet demos held on the grounds.
One of the three leading shrines dedicated to Hachiman god, the holy site is also a commemoration to three ancient Japanese emperors and empresses: Emperor Oujin, Empress Jingu, and Tamayorihime-no-mikoto. The site is home to a large number of culturally-significant sites and also serves as a venue for various traditional events throughout the year. Take a slow stroll along its main hall, hall of worship, tower gate, and then end the trip with a long walk back to the Icho no Torii. Located a mere 5-minute walk from the Jakozaki Miyamae Station subway station, it is a must for those who are interested in checking out or participating in the tradition fortune-telling wooden ball catching festivals. The autumn Hojoya Festival where captured fishes are released into the fields is also another crowd magnet.
Not only does the 234-meter origami-like triangular tower stand out amid Fukuoka’s city center, but its mirrored-glass is also quite a sight to behold too at night. At around 123-meter of the tower is the observation deck which offers awesome 360-degree of unobstructed views rolling out towards the outskirts of Fukuoka. The tower is an epitome of Fukuoka’s modern aspirations and remains the tallest seaside observation tower in Japan. The impressive tower is surrounded by chic cafes, fine diners, quaint traditional restaurants, and sushi and noodle shops. Robosquare, in fact, is just a hop and skip away from the tower.
Nanzoin Temple and its Reclining Buddha Statue
Said to be the largest bronze statue in the world (possibly longer than the Statue of Liberty), the Nanzoin Temple and its Reclining Buddha is quite a sight to behold. A tourist magnet, it manages to draw millions of pilgrims and visitors every year and the number continues to grow. Although the 1995-built reclining Buddha takes the spotlight, visitors will get to enjoy a quiet, tranquil walk along a shady hillside trail near Sasaguri, a quaint traditional village after the trip to the temple. Be on the lookout for smaller but just-as-notable Buddha statues along the way because they’re just as Insta-worthy. You can easily spend half a day at this wonderful, serene attraction.
Although what remains of the original 47,000 square meters of grounds that it used to cover, the remains of Fukuoka Castle, a 17th-century hilltop residence, is worth checking out especially if you love history and culture. There’s only a small portion of former Maizuru Castle left today (parts of it has become a part of Maizuru Park) but it is famous for the thousands of cherry blossoms in April during the Fukuoka Castle Sakura Festival.
Located at the foot of the iconic Fukuoka Tower, Momochihama Beach is a 1km stretch of artificial beach that features restaurants, quaint retailers, a wedding hall, and a ferry port. Located at the center of Marizon, the sprawling beach also bridges the divide to Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, a popular tourist attraction right across the narrow peninsula of Hakata Bay. Connected to the mainland with a short ferry ride, it’s the place for swimming, sunbathing, and family-orientated sports such as soccer and beach volleyball. You’re actually just a hop and skip away from Uminonakamichi Seaside Park where there is a water park, zoo, wide-open spaces, lawns, and an amusement center.
If you’re trying to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the serene, quiet, and historic Atago Shrine will hit the mark. The fact that it is a little hard to find makes it more of a hidden gem! After the hard work of trekking your way up to the terrain, you’re rewarded with an unbeatable view of Fukuoka from the top of the hill. Atago Shrine itself is a very traditional shrine which many locals visit every year. This includes every New Year for its sunrise and cherry blossoms. Located atop Mount Atago, surrounded by beautiful, rolling greens and blessed with the clean water from the Muromi River, the trip to the shrine will be eye-opening, relaxing and when you’re done, sample Atago mochi and matcha at the attraction’s traditional tea house.
With servicing ferry and bus transportation from the Fukuoka itself, getting to the drop-off point at Nokohoshima is a delightful experience in itself. With 2 buses going to and fro per hour to the Hakata Bay location, the small, serene, and peaceful island which serves as home to less than a thousand locals is a convenient getaway destination. Every cent spent on the island goes towards sustaining the residents and the laid-back lifestyle shows you that a simplified life can be just as rewarding. Top activities in Nokohoshima are swimming, hiking, eating, and camping out under the mesmerizing star-filled sky of Japan.
Just So You Know…
- Fukuoka is a big cauldron of culture, food and history. You can easily sample traditional local food or visit temples, shrines, castles, islands and then make your way around to festivals, events, and entertainment outlets all in a day
- Fukuoka Castle has 47 turrets and a large moat system in place. It was once one of the largest castles in the country
- Canal City Hakata, with 2.5 million square feet of space, remains one of the largest malls in the world, boasting of hundreds of restaurants, retail outlets, 2 hotels, and movie and art theaters
- The beach side attractions of Fukuoka are extremely popular with couples and families because of its picturesque surroundings, shopping and entertainment outlets
- Fukuoka is closer to Seoul, South Korea (540 km) than Tokyo, Japan’s capital (883 km)
- Get Some Culture:
- Head over to a karaoke bar in downtown Fukuoka and let loose. It’s a popular after office hours hangout option for the locals. For more non-Japanese song options, visit attractions like Karaoke-Kan Nishitetsu Tenjin Ekimae or Karaoke Big Echo, Hakata Ekimaedori
- Buy some traditional hand-crafted Hakata dolls as memorabilia or gifts for your friends back home. Take your pick from hundreds of options at Hakata Doll Shop Shogetsudo or make your own at Hakata Doll Shop Shogetsudo. The latter, located 10 minutes from Tenjin Subway Station, offers a short lecture about the history of Hakata dolls, a workshop, and a short tour that ends at Shogetsudo.
- While you’ll learn about the lifestyle and culture of the Meiki and Taisho periods of Japan at the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum, the Kyushu National Museum is where you can check out the large collection of Japanese artifacts like ceramics related to Kyushu history.
- Grab A Bite:
- You can hire a local food and tour guide to take you around for a fully customizable tour around some of Fukuoka’s best eateries and bars
- Chefs are sometimes willing to cater privately to your group by making sushi and ramen right in front of you and then you can wash it down with recommended Sake or Shoju of choice
- Enjoy the unique experience of scoffing down your bowl of noodles on your own at Ichiran at 5 Chome-3-2 Nakasu, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka, 810-0801, Japan.
- Sample the uniquely Hakata region Mizutaki at Hanamidori if you can. Mizutaki is a chicken hotpot broth-based specialty here and it’s an amazing way to spend quality time with your fellow travelers before calling it a day.