Learn more about Japan’s lesser-known city, Fukuoka.
Land of mentaiko (marinated roe of pollock and cod), and birthplace of Hakata style ramen (Ippudo and Ichiran), Fukuoka is said to be the laidback cousin of Tokyo sans the tourists and noise. Though a quaint city, it is the central hub of Kyushu prefecture and is filled with many cultural sights that have that old Japan feel. But don’t worry, you’ll find that whatever you enjoy in Tokyo, you will definitely find in Fukuoka as well. So before you overlook Fukuoka while planning your Japan trip itinerary, read on to discover what it has to offer.
THINGS TO DO
Check Out a Yatai
Yatai is probably Fukuoka’s most iconic cultural symbol. These street-side food stalls serve up delectable Japanese fare from 6 PM to the wee hours in the morning. Take your pick from over 150 yatais scattered all over the city, and each with its own specialty like traditional yakitori, Hakata style ramen, and mouth-watering mentaiko gyoza. Chase down these dishes with an ice cold beer and spark up a fun convo with the (tipsy) friendly locals!
Fukuoka is a place for any budget, whether you’re looking for cute trinkets or designer labels. So Sassy girls, you must take note, Tenjin is the biggest shopping area in the city. It is made up of department stores, shopping malls, and independent brands. You can find typical high street labels Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 in this area alongside unique local brands. On the other hand, apart from luxury goods, you can find a million food options in the Mitsukoshi and Daimaru food basements.
Canal City is a welcome break from all the walking that you’ll do in Tenjin. This shopping complex is built around a canal, hence the name. Here you will find a number of mid-priced brands from Muji to Western labels like Adidas. If you’re just a casual window shopper hoping to stroll around for leisure, then this is the place for you.
Sick and tired of all these common brands? Daimyo is where the fashionable crowd goes to get their fix of vintage pieces. The area is filled with boutiques, second-hand stores, and other independent retro shops. Need a break from shopping? You can also people watch while sipping on some coffee in those cute cafés in the corner.
Visit the Sumiyoshi Shrine
A trip is never complete without some sightseeing! Take a short trip to Sumiyoshi Shrine and revel in the glory of the big sumo wrestler statue. The shrine is small in size but it is packed with all the Japanese culture that you need. It is said to be dedicated to the gods who protect people during their travels. Just a tip: The best time to go is during spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and the weather just absolutely perfect.
Stroll around Tenjin Chuo Park
Enjoy nature at its best and appreciate the scenery of these recreational parks. Located in the middle of Tenjin, the Tenjin Chuo Park is a great place to relax amidst the hustle and bustle of the busy area. You will see the locals enjoying their lunch or having picnics on the grass. It is also a popular place to go for a run or other recreational activities to keep yourself active and fit.
PLACES TO EAT
Fukuoka has a wide array of dining options from upscale restaurants to side street yatai stalls. You will never run out of options to eat and compared to Tokyo, you will only be paying a fraction of the cost. Here are a few suggestions on how to get started on your restaurants-to-eat list.
Sushi Yamanaka Honten
You can’t leave Japan without having a proper sushi meal! Although pricey, Sushi Yamanaka Honten is one sushi resto that does not skimp on quality. Opt for the omakase menu to have a taste of everything—your taste buds will thank you for it. And take as many photos as you can; its sleek and minimalist interiors will give you Instagram-worthy posts!
Sushi Yamanaka Honten, 2-8-8 Watanabe-dori, Chuo-ku
This mid-range popular food chain is actually from Tokyo, but the Fukuoka branch is the only one outside of the capital. Here you’ll experience melt-in-your-mouth top quality A-5 wagyu beef, yakiniku style! Make sure to get the set menu to have a taste of all the beef parts, from the tender belly to the super soft tongue.
Yakiniku Champion, 10/F Fukuoka, Hakata-ku, Hakata-eki Chuo-gai 1-1 JR Hakata City, 092 409 6812, www.yakiniku-champion.com/hakata
After a day of non-stop sightseeing (or all out shopping!), Hachibei is the perfect place to relax and enjoy some grilled yakitori goodness. Instead of the usual cramped yatai stalls, you’ll get to enjoy your yakitori in a lovely dining area where you can watch the chefs grill your skewers to perfection.
Hachibei, 1-4-27 Kego, Chuo-ku 092 732 5379
A household name in Japan and around the world, Ichiran is a Fukuoka original that specializes in tonkotsu (pork collagen) broth or Hakata style ramen. With many outlets scattered all over Japan, there’s no better way to experience this classroom setting resto in its very hometown. And not to mention, the tallest Ichiran—over 10-storeys tall—is located here!
Ichiran, 5-3-2 2F Nakasu Hakata-ku Fukuoka-shi Fukuoka-ken, www.ichiran.co.jp/english
Tempura no Hirao
Tasty, cheap, and fast tempura that is perfectly fried. This counter-style tempura joint only serves the freshest catch of the day, so we know they don’t compromise on quality. The classic sweet ebi (shrimp) tempura is always a favorite with or without the special sauce!
Tempura no Hirao, 1/F Tenjin Toho Building, 2-6-27 Tenjin , Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, 092 752 7900
WHERE TO STAY
For those who want to take in the sights and sounds of Fukuoka, Richmond Hotel Tenjin is a great accommodation choice. The 3-star hotel’s proximity to nearby shopping areas and other major attractions is a definite plus factor. Don’t miss the hotel’s delicious ¥1,000 breakfast buffet, which offers both Japanese and Western influenced delicacies.
Richmond Hotel, 4-8-25, Watanabe-dori, Chuo-ku, www.fukuoka-tenjin.richmondhotel.jp
For those on a budget, Hotel MyStays is another option to try. Situated in central Tenjin, Hotel MyStays has a great location amidst many bars and restaurants that surround the area. It is also an ideal place for your barkada if you want to experience Fukuoka’s nightlife.
Hotel MyStays, 3-5-7, Tenjin, Chuo-ku, www.mystays.com/e/location/fukuokatenjin
OUT OF TOWN
If you have time to spare, take a two-hour bus ride to Yufuin, a popular hot spring resort that is almost like a small town in itself. Enjoy the little stores that sell various items like artisanal food and crafts, or grab a bite to eat in those cozy boutique cafes. Most importantly, you should experience what it’s like to stay in a ryokan (traditional inn)! The ryokans of Yufuin are spread out around the town, but we’ve got a few recommendations for your first stay:
A beautiful marriage of traditional and modern architecture, this luxury ryokan is nestled in the midst of a small village up in the hills. You’ll be far from the busy main road, which makes this ryokan more tranquil and peaceful.
Sansou Murata, 1264-2 Yufuincho Kawakami, Yufu, Oita Prefecture, www.sansou-murata.com
This mid-range small ryokan is situated in the center of town, which makes it a good location for some sightseeing and leisure walking. It is a common style ryokan so everything from the food to the rooms are done in the traditional way.
Hinoharu, 1082-1 Kawakami Yufuin-cho, Yufu-shi, Oita Prefecture, www.hinoharu.jp/english
In partnership with Cebu Pacific (they just launched the Fukuoka route this month!), Sassy Manila is giving away 2 tickets to one lucky winner! Sign up for the giveaway below and get a chance to bring your travel buddy to Fukuoka!*
*The sign up period for this giveaway has ended. Stay tuned for more exciting freebies!