Best of Fukuoka – great sights, good eats, cheap shops
Fukuoka translates to fun. It is a small city – for Japanese standards – and easy to navigate. The city reminds me a bit of wonderful Budapest, as Fukuoka was also once divided into the west bank dominated by Fukuoka castle and the east part, still known as Hakata. Merged in 1889 it is now modern but has preserved its compact layout.
Starting centrally from our apartment located near Tenjin Station, we pretty much walked to all major sights (scroll through post for more info and location):
❤ Fukuoka castle ruins – enjoy a fantastic city panorama
❤ Mandarake – for anime and manga fanatics on a tight budget
❤ Book Off Bazar – rewards bibliophiles and fashionistas on a tight budget
❤ Kihinkan Hall – for its early 20th century European flair
❤ Canal City – family entertainment mall, known for its ramen restaurants
❤ Ichiran ramen – top of the notch Japanese cubicle ramen restaurant originated in Fukuoka
❤ Sumiyoshi Shrine – very first shrine of its kind built for the gods believed to protect sea voyage
❤ City Museum – relax at the green area guarded by huge French statues
❤ City Public Library – Japanese modern architecture and Japanese umbrella lockers
❤ Fukuoka Tower – marvel at the mirror covered high rise (but go for free to the Hilton)
❤ Momochi seaside park – stroll along Fukuoka’s superb beach and sea
❤ JAL Resort Sea Hawk Hilton Hotel – free panorama over the city
❤ Hawks Town Mall – fun and food break
❤ British Pub Morris – meet a friendly Japanese after work pub-food crowd and Fukuoka’s international salary folks
❤ Dazaifu – for 8 more attractions, if you need a day-break from Fukuoka
We are in Tokyo now, but I like to think back and share our weekend mission touring some major sights without rushing from place to place. Aaron, a badass Irish bloke, lost his soul to this city, has been teaching English in Fukuoka ever since, showed us around.
First thing we passed when walking out the door. Mandarake. The famous and fantastic Japanese toy store for adults (no sex toys), filled with used Japanese action figures, manga, anime and everything else to please nerdy fantasies. Life-size Darth Vader stands at the cash register. Do I need to say more? Location: 2-9-5, Daimyo, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
Book Off Bazar. Another great quality second hand place for literature (yawn) and clothes (yes). I am just popping this tip into here, in case sightseeing wears out and shopping needs kick in. The picture might be a bit misleading – not all is 200 yen, in fact the good stuff is around 500 yen to 2000 yen and the designer racks can set you back 10000 yen but finding the right piece is part of the fun. Location: North Tenjin building (is full of affordable shops/the second hand is on 6th floor), 4-3-20 Tenjin, Chuo Ward, Fukuoka
First impression, Fukuoka is delightfully small.
Second impression, it is true that Fukuoka is known for its Hakata bijin – beautiful women – in Japan!
Somehow ending up in the backstage area of a city festival during our walking tour, we definitely saw some dazzling costumes as well.
Back on the walking tour track.
Kihinkan Hall. Built in 1910, inspired by French renaissance architecture. Location: 6-29, Nishi Nakasu, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
Canal City in Hakata. Huge recreational shopping complex with hourly fountain shows, restaurants, cinema and ramen.
Location: 1-2, Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
Canal City derives its name from the artificial canal running through it.
Don’t miss the mega mumins in front of their Mumin Bakery and Café.
You can buy Japanese dog accessories here as well.
Visit ladies in space uniform selling coffee at the Gundam café.
Canal City’s ramen stadium is the place to try Ichiran – the ramen guru in Japan, serving soup while customers sit in separate cubicles.
Water is free and served in koppu which means glass or cup and is written in foreigner friendly Katakana.
In contrast to foreigner-scare Kanji.
The alternative location for Ichiran is downtown, 1-10-15 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka.
Back to traditional.
Sumiyoshi Shrine. The tutelary temple of navigation, also a place promoting Japanese poetry in the middle ages. Location: 3-1-51, Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
The wooden ema wishing plaques will have characteristic images of snakes and ships. Unlike in western religion, the (white) snake is a symbol of good luck and fortune.
Hand washing ritual before entering the temple.
Walk through fascinating Japanese tori gates with bright red lacquered pillars.
We even saw omiya mairi, a Shinto tradition where a newborn baby, around a month old, is taken to the local shrine to be introduced to the gods residing there, asking for a blessing to a healthy genki upbringing.
There are now about 2000 Sumiyoshi Shrines in Japan. Many visitors come to ask for good luck, the avoidance of disasters, safety at sea and protection of ships. There are also bronze spearheads and daggers on display.
Cute protector with a fish in his hand.
My favourite, the fortune draw ship.
A lot of neat temple merchandise to be seen. As well as examples of interesting English. “Your guardian animal is charm”.
If you want be get templed out, there is also Shofukuji, the first Zen temple in Japan from 1195 – but we moved on to contemporary Japan.
Right next to temple grounds was an internationally themed flea market.
Each stand was representing another foreign country.
Fukuoka City Museum. Has artefacts of local history on display. Aaron’s tip for a relaxing stroll along over-dimensional French statues and generous pond. You can see Japanese people picnic here. Location: 1-6, Ohori Koen, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
La Liberte from 1918 by Emile Antoine Bourdelle.
Public library. Makes for a nice stop, as it is close to the museum. Location: 3-7-1, Momochihama, Sawara-ku, Fukuoka
With over 1 million books, you can chose to read foreign newspapers.
But the real reason to visit are those so very clever Japanese umbrella stand lockers. I love Japanese transparent umbrellas, designed so you don’t bump into anyone when riding a bike or walking.
Fukuoka Tower. If you like to tick off another mega tower in Asia, this one is 234 meters high and covered in half mirrors which makes for Fukuoka’s landmark. Location: 2-3-26, Momochi-hama, Sawara-ku, Fukuoka
Before you splash out 800 yen for the entrance, move on to find the same view for free. The observation deck is only on the 5th floor (123 meters) anyway.
Momochi seaside park. The very appealing man-made golden beach! Location: Momochihama Sawara-ku, Fukuoka
Sunny boy and me.
Da artificial beach!
It was the perfect place to try out various Japanese beverages.
And to feed our eyes.
Just watching the sunset over the waterfront. Bliss. The Marizon (the building complex with the chapel to the right) features a fancy wedding parlour. Japanese love their weddings to be big white Hollywood style, for which they create these huge western style stage chapels.
Another attraction is to take a 10 min ferry ride to Nokonoshima Island offering more beautiful swimming beaches – from here.
Next to the Yahoo!Japan Dome, stands tall the JAL Resort Sea Hawk Hilton Hotel – our free lookout! The shadow of the Fukuoka Tower reflected on the Hilton.
Not bad of a sunset!
It was time to go for the city night panorama at the JAL Resort Sea Hawk Hilton Hotel. Location: 2-2-3, Jigyohama, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka City
We actually rode one of those tube shaped elevators.
Take the elevator ride with us, if you like!
View of Hakata bay from floor 36 at about 143 meters. Take that Fukuoka Tower!
The seating lounge wasn’t bad at all either.
Then hotel staff came and offered to take more pictures. Japanese hospitality is legendary.
We learned a bit about Hilton’s hotel history at the media lounge. Our free visit to the Hilton was funny in a way, because in 2010 Paris Hilton jetted into Tokyo airport but was refused entry to Japan (due to her past drug affairs) and had to return right back. Here we are, sitting at her family’s hotel in Japan!
We decided to finish the day, playing at Hawks Town, Fukuoka’s family-fun mall, built on reclaimed land. Although aged, it features the Hard Rock Café crowd pleaser (Aaron swears by the steak), a cinema, bowling lanes, virtual baseball training, and a garish gaming centre. Location: Jigyohama 2-chome, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
Have you ever seen baseball played in a tiny dark room? In Japan, computer-controlled batting cages use video projection to create a life-sized pitcher throwing baseballs. Watch the ultimate training experience.
Japanese gaming parlours are bright, loud and crammed with endless temptations to part with your money. At this specific type of crane vending machine, the winner gets canned tuna.
After a day of Fukuoka trippin’, the sight of edibles at the game centre made us crave for food. Japanese food! There was a choice of Western and Asian restaurants at the mall. We each chose a Japanese set which was only around 1000 yen. Tomek and I went for fish with miso soup and rice. Aaron, the carnivore, went for a mixed meat on vegetables sizzler and consequently hardly touched the veggies.
The perfect ending to our day was at British Pub Morris, the sister pub where we first met Aaron, a prelude to a fun night as he didn’t make his last train home, crashing at our place…
Sitting on Morris’ spacious patio, looking over Daimyo district, we were sipping our goodbye drinks. Location: 7 Floor Stage 1 Building, 2-1-4 Daimyo, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
To life and travel!