Hakata Station: The Uber-Enjoyable "Station-City" in Kyushu
There’s an old saying: ‘Getting there is half the fun’. I’m usually inclined to agree with that well-worn adage. However, if Hakata station is your destination, then it may well be more exciting than the journey there.
Extensively rebuilt in 2011 to correspond with the opening of the Kyushu Shinkansen line, Hakata Station is a visually pleasing attraction. It has plenty to offer to locals and tourists alike.
Getting there is easy. If you are coming from someplace further afield than Kyushu, chances are you’ll be riding the shinkansen. In that case, the so-called ‘bullet train’ will make a stop at Hakata. If you are already in Kyushu, you will find that Hakata is the largest and busiest hub of train transport on the island.
You can also get there via subway if you arrive in Fukuoka by plane. And if buses are more your style, then the adjacent Hakata bus terminal will be your last stop.
You probably won’t know where to begin once you arrive. But that’s OK. Indecision feels good at Hakata station. Over 200 specialty stores, 11 movie screens, 46 restaurants and cafes, and one big event hall encompass the shopping center, AMU Plaza.
I would suggest first checking out the station from the front entrance, the ‘Hakata-guchi’ side. There you can take in the full splendor of its refurbished magnificence. A large curving arch covers the entrance of this ‘station-city’, as such multi-faceted stations are now commonly referred to.
The area in front of the station is wide and spacious, replete with small fountains and cherry trees. In spring, the cherry trees are lit up, and in winter, the trees and the station are adorned with a spectacular light display.
This area accommodates various events, markets and festivals throughout the year. Even Tom Cruise has put in an appearance at Hakata station to promote his film, ‘Edge of Tomorrow’.
After imagining what a chaotic scene it would have been to see Tom Cruise waving and blowing kisses to his thousands of fans, its time to take the elevator all the way to the top of the station.
There you will find a scenic rooftop with an expansive view of Hakata.
There are some food stalls, a small shrine, a café, and a cute train for the kids to ride for 300yen.
The view from the rooftop is nice, and on a sunny day (of which there are plenty in Fukuoka) you can see both the surrounding hills and the ocean.
Back down on the tenth floor is where you should start looking for a place to eat. Fueling up for your exploration of the station will be vital. The 9th and 10th floors house two levels of restaurants featuring both international and local cuisine.
There is a really nice green, natural ambiance on the top floors of the station. There are numerous relaxing places to sit amidst lush plants and natural light.
*A word of warning: Try to avoid eating out ANYWHERE between 12 and 1pm. It doesn’t matter how many restaurants there are. There are bound to be lineups at even the least desirable places. That warning will apply to just about anywhere in Japan. Unless you don’t mind lining up with all the other people, then just go before or after that time. Avoiding the lunch rush will allow you to really maximize your enjoyment because your choices will be unimpeded.
If you are a first time visitor to Japan, then you probably want some Japanese food. A couple of nice options at Hakata station are Ippudo and Danshirou Kitchen.
Ippudo is a national chain of ramen restaurants, which has its origins in Fukuoka. Here they serve the ever-popular tonkotsu ramen, a rich fatty pork broth soup. At Danshirou Kitchen the focus is on Okinawan fare. If you don’t have an opportunity to visit Okinawa, then maybe some food from there will satisfy your culinary curiosity. Try the goya champuru, and wash it down with some Orion beer.
But my personal favorite at Hakata station is definitely the Mexican restaurant, Elborracho. There is a wide range of authentic Mexican food at a reasonable price, so if you want to take a break from Japanese, try Elborracho. It is sure to please.
Filling your stomach with delicious food is the easy part. Finding enough time to explore the rest of the station will be a little more difficult. It helps if you have something in mind already. If you do, you can simply ask the English-speaking station staff to direct you to an appropriate shop.
Men, women, and children can all find something to eat, drink, wear or do within the confines of Hakata station. Go to the rooftop, check out the view, grab a tasty meal, do some shopping, see a movie, people watch in a café, or maybe even take a train somewhere. The options are almost endless at Hakata station in Kyushu.