15 Things to Do in Fukuoka
Fukuoka prefecture sits atop the Japanese island of Kyushu. The area is a little more friendly and casual than Tokyo, and although it is not as big, it attracts a lot of tourists. Super tasty ramen, massive modern cities, and a unique local culture, Fukuoka has it all.
The prefecture has become a travel hub connecting not only Japanese islands but other countries as well. Often used as a jumping off point from Japan to South Korea or Taiwan, Fukuoka airport is notoriously cheap, just like the prefecture itself. Full of mod-cons, but without the price tag.
So if you love the amount of things to do in Tokyo, but find the crowds and traffic just too overwhelming, then here are 15 things for you to do in Fukuoka.
1. Shop at Canal City
Canal City is the biggest shopping centre in the prefecture and a must see for lovers of Asian architecture. Not only does the mall boast a 13 screen cinema, over 250 shops, and a wide range of restaurants, but also has an artificial canal running through the middle of it. The water rushes through the open area between the shopping complex and the hotel attached to it, and filters into a beautiful water fountain that is also used as a stage for live performance throughout the day.
Canal City looks like it jumped out of a science fiction anime. It's tall, curved buildings, with balconies on every level make you feel like your shopping in the fanciest of locations.
2. Visit Fukuoka’s Cat Island
Ainoshima is just a twenty minute ferry ride away from Hakata City, and as soon as you step off the boat you will be swarmed by cats. There are a few cat islands around Japan, but Ainoshima has the nickname Cat Heaven. This little island was once a bountiful fishing port, but with modernization, there has been less and less business. The population is mostly elderly, a shrinking community of old Japanese. But whilst the people may be going down in numbers, the cats are rocketing up.
These cats are tough, feral felines who came to the island for the fish and then multiplied. Now they stay for the tourists who come bearing treats. It’s not taken them long to realize visitors are a source of food, so they’re not shy at all. If you want to drown in a sea of cats, this is the place for you.
3. Eat Hakata Ramen
Hakata ramen is local favorite. Often translated to Pork Bone Broth, visitors could be forgiven if they found that name off putting at first, but Hakata Ramen is actually a beautiful porky stew that is even richer and more filling than the soy sauce broths used in most parts of Japan.
Named after the main business district, Hakata ramen is recognisable by its light creamy colour and the lack of a super size option. If you really must have a bigger portion, you can get a refill, this is because the noodles are thin and absorb the broth too quickly, meaning that in the extra time needed to eat a super size, the noodles would have gotten soggy.
Hakata ramen is known throughout Japan because of its tastiness, and can now be found in every major ramen shop, but trying it in its birthplace is a must.
4. Swim at Momochi Beach
Dreams of immaculate, sandy beaches and emerald waters come to life at Momochi Beach. This artificial beach stretches for a full kilometre, and showcases the beauty of Fukuoka. Constructed on reclaimed land, the beach manages to surpass any of its natural counterparts in the prefecture. Attached to the beach is an artificial island, populated with shops. So when you have had your fill of sun and sea you can visit Marizon Island, it has restaurants, shops, a wedding hall, and even a ferry port. Also along the coast you'll find a museum all about the history of the area, how this beach used to be a prominent trading post, and at one point in history the main connection between South Korea, China and Japan.
5. Drive Across Kanmon Bridge
Known as the gateway to Kyushu, Fukuoka City is connected to the main island of Honshu via Kanmon Bridge. This part of the river is the narrowest point of the Kanmon Straight, and thus has been tactically useful in the past. This bottle neck was a battle ground in 1185 between the Genji-clan and Heike-clan, and also between Japanese forces and an allied fleet of ships from America, Britain, France, and the Netherlands in 1864.
6. Go Big at Miyajidake Shrine
They do things big at Miyajidake Shrine. This shrine is home to not only the biggest taiko drum in the world, but also the biggest Shimenawa, or rope talisman. The rope is quite a sight being 2.5 meters in diameter and 13.5 meters long. It is wound tightly, draped across the shrine like an obese snake. The drum has a diameter of 2.2 meters and is housed in it’s own separate building. Every year, on New Years Day, the drum is struck and can be heard for miles around.
7. Relax in Ohori Park
Unfortunately Fukuoka Castle was torn down during the Meiji restoration, but its moat lives on in the beautiful Ohori Park. Right in the middle of the massive city of Fukuoka lies an oasis of picturesque serenity. The old castle moat has been converted into a fabulous public park where you can relax and escape the concrete surfaces. The moat was refashioned to resemble China’s west lake, and has three islands dotted around the water, all connected to the shore by narrow bridges. Each of them provides a wonderful view of the park.
8. See the View From Fukuoka Tower
Speaking of wonderful views, Fukuoka Tower is known to be the best view in the whole prefecture. Perched just above the amazing feat of engineering is Momochi artificial beach. From the top of the tower you can see out towards the Genkai Nada sea between Japan and South Korea, or in land to Momochi park and Fukuoka city beyond it. Standing at an impressive 234 meters high, making it one of the tallest towers in Japan, Fukuoka Tower is a must see. The tower is particularly spectacular as it twinkles in the night time. The night lights make for a powerfully romantic atmosphere or just a pleasant backdrop to the city.
9. Get Spiritual at Nanzoin Temple
Just twenty minutes on the train from Fukuoka City and you can leave the megacity and enter a peaceful slice of spiritual Japan. In the tiny town Sasasugi, you’ll find picturesque scenery, beautiful nature and fun-filled hiking trails. Along the trails are hundreds of Buddha statues, all in various different poses, looking quite different from the familiar fat, sitting Buddha. But the star attraction is the giant, 41 meter long lounging Buddha statue. This statue stretches further than the height of the famously big Kamakura Buddha in Kanagawa and is truly a sight to behold.
10. Explore Dazaifu Tenmangu
This temple is dedicated to the God of education Tenjin and an ancient scholar who embodied his teachings; Sugawara. The temple is known for its gorgeous grounds and charming classical style bridge whose arched nature represents man’s journey through the past. If you are a student in Japan then you need to go to Dazaifu and pick up a good luck charm, the God of education will be sure to influence your fate.
11. Have Fun at Uminonakamichi-seaside-park
Botanical gardens, playgrounds, an amusement park, sports fields, a water park, a zoo and an aquarium all in one place? That’s Uminonakamichi Seaside Park! They are a family orientated park that is ready for any and all-day out plans. Whether you want to pet dolphins at Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, see the blooming spring flower, ride a Ferris wheel or just have a picnic in a nice open area, this place has you covered. It also has some great cycling routes and over 2000 cherry blossom trees, so it is a fantastic place to go during the spring hanami season.
12. Ride a Canal Boat in Yanagawa
Nicknamed the Venice of Japan, Yanagawa is really something else. Wide canals are a rare sight in Japan, normally they are only big enough for a couple koi carp to swim through, but in this little town visitors can take a romantic gondolier ride through the water ways. Be sure to pick up some eel while you’re here as it is the local delicacy. You can even eat it whilst being taken down one of the many canals.
13. See Kabuki at Kaho Gekijou Kabuki Theater
This is a fantastic way to get a real taste of authentic Japanese culture. This theatre offers special tours so you can see the behind-the-scenes sections of the theatre, and even get to play with props and act out your very own scenes on the stage. Kabuki theatre is odd, maybe even deranged, but it is uniquely Japanese and always makes for an unforgettable experience. Don’t worry if you don’t speak too much Japanese either as a great deal of the performances are to music, and any parts that are not will be full of physical comedy and bizarre body language.
14. Ride the Mt. Sarakura Cable Car
Take this cable car up Mt. Sarakura and you will be transported into a whole new world. See the city of Kitakyushu as you never knew possible from the dizzying mountain heights. The view is at its best once the sun goes down and the city is lit up like fairy lights. This location gives even the weariest travelers a newfound perspective for just how big the metropolises of Japan are, and how many people inhabit them.
15. Eat Hakata Torimon
This is quite possibility the most delicious omiyage from Japan. If you don’t know, omiyage are presents that people in Japan buy for their friends and co-workers after visiting somewhere. There are all sorts of different kinds in beautiful packaging showcasing the location you’ve just visited, but Hakata Torimon is extremely delicious. Made from white sweet bean paste mixed with butter, this cake has a truly decadent filling.