In the southern end of Japan lies another metropolis filled with numerous attractions for foreign travelers to enjoy. Tourists looking to enjoy modern architecture, beaches, food stalls, shopping centers, or parks will surely not be disappointed by paying a visit to the largest city of Kyushu Island known as Fukuoka.
Fukuoka City of the Fukuoka Prefecture – One of the Largest Cities of Japan
Aside from being the largest within the island, Fukuoka is also among the most populated cities in Japan, falling within the range of 5th - 7th place, over the years. It is located on the northern shore of Kyushu and shares a closer proximity with Seoul than with Tokyo. Fukuoka has served as a vital harbor city for several centuries. In fact, during the 13th century, the Mongol invasion forces chose to use it as a landing point. The city also carried an important role in Japan’s medieval history, as it served as the home of a powerful daimyo, or feudal lord, of the Chikuzen Province.
The year 1889 marks the start of Fukuoka’s transition from being a samurai district to being a modern city. On April 1, Fukuoka was merged with Hakata, a former merchant, and port district. Initially, the new city was supposed to take the name Hakata but several samurai warriors forced authorities to use the name Fukuoka, instead.
However, the original area of Hakata is often still referred to by its old name. The train station and dialect of the city also bear the same name, going by Hakata Station and Hakata-ben, respectively.
Since the 20th century, the government of the southern metropolis has gone above and beyond to make it among the best cities to visit. Some of its noteworthy milestones include:
- The Fukuoka Medical College (now known as Kyushu University or Kyushu Daigaku) in 1903
- The Fukuko Streetcar Service in 1910
- Fukuoka-Osaka-Tokyo Flight Routes in 1929
- The Fukuoka Airport in 1951
- The Fukuoka Zoo in 1953
- Subway Services in 1981
The Weather and Climate of Fukuoka, Japan
The city of Fukuoka is bordered by mountains on three sides, while its northern side opens to the Genkai Sea. It has a subtropical climate, which means that tourists can expect a hot and humid environment during the summer and a relatively mild winter season. On average, Fukuoka experiences approximately 63 in of precipitation every year, particularly from June to September.
There is not a lot of snow in Fukuoka, with winter temperatures rarely dropping below 0 degrees Celsius. Cherry blossoms start to bloom by late March, marking the arrival of the warm, sunny spring season into the region.
The tsuyu, or rainy season, comes a few months later in June and often lasts for about 6 weeks. During this period, the temperature can range from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius, accompanied by humid weather. Come summer, a similar, or increased, humid environment can be experienced, amidst temperatures that soar up to 37 degrees Celsius.
The best season to visit Fukuoka is considered to be autumn when the climate is relatively mild and dry. However, several typhoons can be expected between the months of August and September.
Visiting Seaside Momochi – Home of the Fukuoka Tower, Fukuoka Yafuoku Dome, Momochihama Beach, and More
Situated along Hakata Bay, Seaside Momochi is a modern waterfront that was developed back in 1989 to hold the Asia Pacific Expo of the same year. It features an attractive design consisting of wide streets lined with trees, contemporary structures, and spacious parks. Furthermore, no electricity lines or phone lines can be seen above ground, making the area look even more picturesque.
The site houses several of Fukuoka’s top tourist destinations including skyscrapers, museums, and beaches. Tourists can reach Seaside Momochi by taking a bus from the Tenjin Station or the Hakata Station. Using the Nishijin or Tojinmachi Subway Stations, the area can also be accessed by taking a 20-minute walk.
1. Fukuoka Tower
The Fukuoka Tower was established during the same year Seaside Momochi was built in honor of Fukuoka City’s 100th anniversary. It is 234 meters in height, making it the tallest tower in Japan to be located by the sea. The structure follows a futuristic design and makes use of more than 8,000 mirrors for its exterior. Visitors may observe the city from a bird’s eye view from the tower’s three-story observation deck that stands 123 meters above the ground.
It is open every day of the year from 9:30 AM to 10:00 PM (until 9:00 PM during October-March), except on the last Monday and Tuesday of June. Visitors are required to pay an admission fee of 800 yen but foreign travelers can avail of a 20% discount by showing their passports.
2. Fukuoka City Museum
Fukuoka City Museum is dedicated to showcasing the cultural advancement of Fukuoka and how it played an important role in Japan’s interaction with the Korean Peninsula. The history museum features several interactive exhibits for visitors to enjoy. Foreign travelers do not need to worry about the language barrier, as the majority of the information displayed comes in English, as well.
Tourists may visit the museum any day from Tuesday to Sunday. It is closed on Mondays throughout the year, as well as from December 28 to January 4. There is an admission fee of 200 yen per person.
3. Fukuoka Yafuoku Dome
The Fukuoka Yafuoku Dome is a seaside stadium with a multipurpose arena. It is the first structure in Japan to make use of a retractable roof for its dome. Other than hosting games, sports, and events, the stadium also serves as the home of Kyushu’s only baseball team known as the Softbank Hawks.
4. Momochihama Beach
Momochihama Beach, or Momochihama Seaside Park, is an artificial beach that stretches for 1 km along the base of Fukuoka Tower. An artificial island called Marizon can also be located at the heart of the beach. This island houses several shops, restaurants, an event hall, and a port connected to a park in Hakata Bay.
Tourists may enjoy several activities at Momochihama Beach including volleyball, soccer, and, of course, swimming. It is open every day of the year and has free admission. The shops within the area are open from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM while the restaurants from 11:30 AM to 11:00 PM.
Robosquare is a modern facility located on the 2nd floor of TV Nishi Noppon. It provides visitors with various opportunities to understand how robots can be used in their everyday lives. The showroom houses more than 200 robots that adults and children can interact with. There are also several performances done by the robots throughout the day.
It is closed every second Wednesday of the month, except for the months of January, July, August, and December. Tourists may pay Robosquare a visit from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM for no additional fees.
Eating at a Yatai – Fukuoka’s Famous Food Stall
If Tokyo has its Michelin restaurants, Fukuoka has its open-air food stalls, individually referred to as Yatai. The city is filled with more than 150 yatais that provide simple but filling meals. A yatai provides a casual outdoor dining experience and can typically accommodate up to eight people at a time. The best place tourists can enjoy different yatais in one go is located in the center of the city known as Nakasu Island.
Nakasu Island features a long stretch of approximately 20 yatais situated along the side of a stream. There are loop buses available from Tenjin Station and Hakata Station that go to Nakasu Island. Tourists may also take the subway and get off at the Nakasu Kawabata Station or Minami Tenjin Station. From there, Nakasu Island can be reached by a 10-minute walk.
The usual dishes served at the yatais include yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), oden (hot pot), and Hakata Ramen, a popular noodle dish that makes use of thin noodles and tonkotsu (a pork bone based soup). Alcoholic beverages are also available.
The operational hours and days of the yatais differ from store to store but the majority of them are open Monday – Saturday, from 6:00 PM to 2:00 AM. Tourists planning to eat at the yatais on a Friday or Saturday can expect waiting times, especially for the popular ones.
Shopping at Canal City Hakata
No metropolitan city would be complete without having its own shopping complex. Canal City Hakata is so massive that it claims to be a whole other city situated within Fukuoka. The shopping and entertainment compound houses well over 200 attractions including restaurants, cafes, shops, cinemas, hotels, and game centers.
Aside from its creative use of colors and shapes, there is also an artificial canal running through the middle of the five-story building, making it all the more interesting. Tourists planning to go on a shopping spree at the Canal City Hakata can expect local and international brands. There is also a similarly diverse selection of food establishments within the complex.
Canal City Hakata can be reached by taking a short bus ride from the Tenjin Station or Hakata Station. For those looking to warm up for their shopping expeditions, a 15 to 20-minute walk is also possible from both stations. The complex is open every day of the year from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM.
Witnessing the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival
Fukuoka hosts one of Japan’s most interesting festivals known as the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival. This is held annually during the first two weeks of July and consists of a race by Hakata district’s seven neighborhoods. In this race, the teams compete by pushing decorated floats called kakiyama floats through a 5-kilometer course within the city.
Kakiyama floats typically stand 5 meters tall and weigh one ton. These floats are not built with wheels so participants of the race have to spray the streets with water and drag them to the finish line. Practice runs and parades are held from the 10th to the 14th day of July. The main race starts in the early morning hours of July 15.
There are booklets available in English that explain the details of the festival. Spectators are free to watch the race at designated spaces along either side of the course. There are also seating options available for additional charges, but most of these instantly sell out the moment they are announced.
Tourists may reach the location of the festival by taking a 15 to 20-minute walk from Hakata Station to the Kushida Shrine.
Sightseeing in Fukuoka, Japan
Fukuoka is also home to several sightseeing spots ideal for families or those who want to spend the rest of their day strolling around and appreciating the natural beauty of the city. Some of the must-visit places include:
Ohori Park, or Ohori Koen, is a charming city park that features a large pond in the center. Originally, this pond played an integral part of Fukuoka Castle’s moat system; hence, the name of the park, in which Ohori means moat in English.
Tourists may stroll along the walking path built around the pond. This path goes for about two kilometers from point to point and is also ideal for walking pets or jogging.
The park was developed from 1926 – 1929 and follows the design of China’s West Lake. As such, the park has three islands situated in the middle of the pond with stone bridges that connect them to each other and to the mainland.
Other attractions of the park include the Fukuoka Art Museum, Ohori Park Japanese Garden, and Gokoku Shrine. Tourists may reach the park by taking a short walk from the Ohori Koen Subway Station.
Uminonakamichi Seaside Park
Uminonakamichi Seaside Park is a public park located opposite of central Fukuoka. It features playgrounds, flower gardens, open spaces, a water park, an amusement park, and a zoo. The park is ideal for families or tourists who want to relax and have picnics.
There are also several cycling trails throughout the park. Tourists can rent out bicycles for 400 yen for 3 hours or for 700 yen for the whole day. Bus rides are also available within the park for tourists who want to see major sites in the vicinity for 100 yen per ride.
The Shofukuji Temple is famous for being Japan’s first Zen temple, dating back to the year 1195. Unfortunately, the halls and buildings of the temple cannot be entered. However, tourists are more than welcome to stroll around the temple grounds and observe the architectural structures from outside.
Fukuoka Castle Ruins
The Fukuoka Castle used to be Kyushu Island’s largest castle back in the Edo Period. However, as with many other structures, it was almost fully demolished after the Meiji Restoration as a means to get rid of any unwanted representations of Japan’s feudal era. What have remained in the area are ruined walls and turrets.
The site has several walking trails and lookout points for tourists to witness some the most beautiful sights of the city. Late March and Early April are some of the best times to visit the ruins for hanami or cherry blossom viewing.
Hotels Around Fukuoka, Japan
Fukuoka has a large selection of hotels available for tourists who want to spend a few days in the city as not to rush through its many interesting attractions. Some of the best ones are:
- Nishitetsu Hotel Croom Hakata
- Grand Hyatt Fukuoka
- ANA Crowne Plaza Fukuoka
- Hotel Nikko Fukuoka
- Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel
- Daiwa Roynet Hotel Hakata-Gion
- Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk
- Nishitetsu Grand Hotel
- HOTEL UNIZO Fukuoka Tenjin
- Hakata Green Hotel No. 2
Traveling Between Fukuoka, Japan and Tokyo, Japan – Map and Access (Airport, Train, Bus, and Ferry)
Going to and from Fukuoka and Tokyo is possible by using one of four existing modes of transportation, namely:
There are dozens of Tokyo-Fukuoka routes operated by ANA, Jetstar Japan, Peach, Skymark, Starflyer, and JAL on a daily basis. The travel time from the Haneda Airport to the Fukuoka Airport, and vice versa, is nearly 2 hours. Some flights make use of the Narita Airport instead of the Haneda Airport. Plane tickets for a one way ride are regularly priced between 39,000 – 45,000 yen, while discounted rates are available from 6,000 yen to 19,000 yen.
The Tokyo and Fukuoka/Hakata Stations are directly connected through the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen. The train ride takes about five hours and costs 23,000 yen per passenger, one way.
There are night buses operated by Nishitetsu that go from Fukuoka to Tokyo, and vice versa, located at the Shinjuku Bus Terminal, just above the JR Shinjuku Station. A one way trip costs 11,000 – 20,000 yen, depending on the seat and season, and usually takes 14.5 hours.
The Ocean Tokyu Ferry offers daily ferry rides from the Tokyo Ferry Terminal to the Shin-Moji Port. From here, a 90-minute train ride can be taken by tourists to reach Fukuoka. The one-way trip costs 16,000 yen and takes 34 hours.