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Thursday, 16 February 2017

5 Reasons to Visit Fukuoka

Recently, I was asked to talk about my 10 top reasons for visiting Kyushu. But perhaps because I'm moving from Fukuoka to Sasebo, I started thinking about all the good things about Fukuoka instead, and ended up with my top five reasons on why you should visit Fukuoka! I really think that Fukuoka is severely underrated as a tourist destination/place in Japan to live in. I love it so much and I always recommend people come because:

1. Fukuoka airport is incredibly conveniently located.

This may not sound like a big deal, but it has a lot more hidden benefits that you think. Fukuoka airport is located in Fukuoka city (unlike Narita, which is located in a DIFFERENT PREFECTURE), and it's only two stops (maybe 5 minutes) away from Hakata, the major JR hub and five stops (maybe 10-12 minutes?) away from Tenjin, the shopping district.

This means that getting to and fro your hotel takes very little time, and you can actually take a taxi if you want without spending your holiday budget.

Story time: once, I was in Tokyo and managed to get one of those later flights (i.e. After 8 am, which means I don't have to stay at the airport hotels). But even though I left for the airport early, I ended up having to run to check in, which left me annoyed with the location of Narita and Peach airlines.

Anyway, moral of the story is: this would not have happened in Fukuoka because the airport is so close by! (Haneda airport isn't as badly located but Fukuoka airport is still more convenient).

So if you're coming to visit Kyushu, start and end your trip from Fukuoka. There are direct flights (yay SIA) every day and trust me, you'll appreciate the convenience.

2. Fukuoka has an un-intimidating size.

Another true story: I moved to Fukuoka in March of 2013, after living in Tokyo for a year. When I went back during the summer (either August or September, I don't quite remember), I promptly got lost in Shinjuku station. That is how confusing Tokyo is (to me, anyway). There's the JR lines, the subway lines, and probably a few more that I've forgotten about.

On the other hand, it's fairly easy to navigate around Fukuoka.

Hakata, Tenjin, Fukuoka Tower and Marinoa City are all along the same subway line. And even if you have to change to a bus (for Marinoa City), that's only one change! Or you could take a direct bus from Hakata/Tenjin. Navigating around Fukuoka is a lot easier, in my opinion.

Plus the size of Fukuoka means that you can spend the morning at Nokonoshima:

Where there is plenty of nature (my dad and sis visited in January where none of the flowers were blooming and they still loved it). Take a boat back and walk (yes, walk) to Marinoa City, which is an outlet mall, shop to your hearts content, and then go back to Tenjin/Hakata/Nakatsukawabata (aka the city area) to eat yatai for dinner or whatever. All in one day.

3. Fukuoka has both mountains and rivers

This was actually one of the selling points when a teacher was talking about Kyudai (back when I was still at TUFS).

Because Fukuoka has both mountains and oceans, you can get the best of both worlds, especially in terms of food.

And speaking of food:

4. Fukuoka has AMAZING food

Hakata ramen is perhaps the most famous Fukuoka dish (Ichiran is from Fukuoka). But Fukuoka also has...


Yatai is basically street food, so if you're Singaporean, think hawker stalls before the government put them in hawker centres.

Fukuoka is famous for its yatai, and one of the few places where you can still find it (they've basically died out, except during summer festivals and those serve different fare). Even in Fukuoka, the numbers are slowly decreasing because of certain laws (or so I read online).

The only one that I've gone to is 小金ちゃん (kokinchan) because it's really good which means that I never bothered trying other places. Plus it invented yakiramen (fried ramen) so when I bring people to yatai, I just come here.

I'm not sure about other shops, but 小金ちゃん does have an English menu, so even if you don't know Japanese, you can still come (it's not that cheap though, so be prepared)

Yatai will magically appear at night so this is definitely a dinner place.

5. Ease of travelling to different places

This may apply more to living in Fukuoka rather than visiting it, but when I was living in Tokyo, I hated having to travel out. Or within, for that matter. Going to Tokyo Disneyland requires me to change trains at least three times. Going to Yokohama was the same. By contrast, getting out of Fukuoka is easy: just take a train (or bus) from Hakata or Tenjin.

I know that people on holiday are much more motivated to travel around, but wouldn't you prefer to have less fuss?

Possible day trips from Fukuoka (aka you leave in the morning and come back at night) include:

Yanagawa, the Venice of Fukuoka (and also the place of really good eel dishes) - spring is a good time to go.

Dazaifu, which is a famous temple area. It's famous for its plum blossoms (February) and has some pretty good autumn foliage too (October/November, depending on the year)

You can get to these places from Tenjin, and Nishitetsu has ticket sets too.

Huis ten Bosch, which I've probably talked about a thousand and one times.

Kokura, which has a really beautiful castle.

Mojiko, which has a really retro feel and is famous for its baked curry (baked banana curry sounds weird but it's actually really good!). You can fit both Kokura and Mojiko into the same day, or you can take your time and explore each place slowly. You can also take a ferry from Mojiko to Karato market (in Yamaguchi) and have lunch there, and perhaps go to the aquarium too.

Beppu, which famous for its onsen, including the "hells". My cousin did this in a day, but I would recommend you take your time and spend a night there (because there's Yufuin and other places to go).

Other places include Nagasaki City (my friends did this as a day trip, but I stayed overnight so that's the blog post I linked to), Itoshima (if you can drive), Karatsu (lots of history there) and a whole host of others.

If you want to spend a night outside of Fukuoka, then you have Kumamoto (both the city and the Nagasaki area), Kagoshima, and literally the whole of Kyushu.

For those of you planning to take the Shinkansen away, get the JR Kyushu Rail Pass. There's a northern Kyushu and "whole Kyushu" option so you can adjust based on where you're planning to go.

Possible Itineraries 

I've been linking to many of my old posts above, but here are some ideas on what you can do if you're planning a trip to Kyushu, starting and ending in Fukuoka

If you only have one day, then these are a few options

1. City-themed

Morning: Go to Canal City. On the way, stop at the owl cafe (you will pass it if you come from Nakatsukawabata station) and make a reservation! Enjoy your time at Canal City shopping, or explore Kushida shrine and the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum (you can cut through the shrine to get to the folk museum)

The owl cafe only serves drinks so don't plan to eat there.

Lunch: Choose between the Ramen stadium and Moomin Cafe. Both are delicious 😋

Afternoon: If you take the subway one station towards the airport, you'll reach Gion and you might want to go to Mochikichi to get senbei and matcha ice-cream (the ice cream is incredible). Take the subway one station in the opposite way and you'll be at Tenjin, with the underground shopping centre and Line store!

For dinner: Sushiro (at Tenjin) or Yatai would be my recommendation! If you like motsu (intestines) Hakata station (two stations from Nakatsukawabata, four from Tenjin) has a really good teppanyaki place called Tenjin Horumon.

Note: if you're planning to station hop a lot, get the one-day subway pass (620 yen)

2. Momochihama

Morning: Fukuoka Museum, which is right down the lane from Fukuoka tower (you can really just walk there in less than five minutes). If you're a fan of history and know Japanese, I think you'll enjoy the place.

Lunch: I don't really have restaurants that I recommend here, but if you come during oyster season, there should be an oyster hut behind Fukuoka tower.

Afternoon: Fukuoka tower! And if you speak Japanese and made reservations, there's a cookie icing class (I can pass you the email)

Evening: head to Nishijin, which should be available by bus (or walk to Fujisaki and it's the next stop). Nishijin is near Seinan university and if I remember correctly there are a few historical sites too (guidebooks available at the airport should have more). You can find tons of restaurants, karaoke places, Don Quixote, etc here.

3. Best of both worlds

Morning: head to Noko port and take the ferry to Nokonoshima! You can spend as much time as you want there, and the food is pretty good. If you're going to the island park, do take note of the bus and ferry timings so you won't have to spend too much time waiting. Nokonoshima has a bunch of different flowers depending on the season.

Afternoon/Evening: When you're back, head to Marinoa City for shopping!

To eat: I recommend Kisuimaru (喜水丸) which has really good seafood dons and decent tempura, so there should be something for everyone.

4. If you have a car

Go to Itoshima. In the summer, I'd recommend Shiraito waterfalls, where you can fish (and eat the fish), have nagashi somen, and enjoy the cool water. On the way back, stop at the famous kakigoori shop.

During the end of the year/any other time, you could drive around like what my family and I did. We started with lunch at a kakigoya (we had a late start) and the oysters and other seafood was fantastic. We then went to the mataichi salt factory to see how salt was made and to have salt pudding, and then to Meoto Iwa to see the famous rocks, and basically just stopped whenever we saw something interesting. Itoshima has some breathtaking coastlines!

These four are what come to mind instantly, and if you combine them with day trips, I think you could easily spend a week here and not be bored. And of course, if you decide to tour the whole of Kyushu, you can probably spend one or two weeks here! I'll need time to prepare, but hopefully I can give a list of places I've been and what I recommend(:

If you have three days:

You could spend all three days in Fukuoka city, but if you have three days, I'd recommend taking at least one day trip. For example, if you're arriving in the morning, spending two nights and leaving at night on the third day:

Day One: Momochihama area (Option 2 above)
Day Two: Kokura and Mojiko
Day Three: City (Option 1 - so you can leave for the airport with the least amount of time)

If you have five days:

Spend a few days outside the prefecture! For example:

Day One: Fukuoka City
Day Two and Three : Head to Kumamoto (either the city or Mount Aso). Or perhaps go to Nagasaki.
Day Four: Dazaifu or Yanagawa, depending on what time you come back to Fukuoka
Day Five: Momochihama area

You can replace Kumamoto with Nagasaki, or perhaps just use days two, three and four for Kagoshima or something like that.

I will be testing out a roughly seven-day tour when my family comes for my graduation so I will report back after.

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