Located on the northern tip of Kyushu Island, Fukuoka is western Japan’s most happening city and gateway to the country. Set amid splendid natural diversity – bordered by mountains, flanked by sea and dotted with hot springs – the metropolis is an exciting hub of environmental, economic and cultural activity.
Less imposing and frenzied than Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka, Fukuoka is a great introduction to Japan. Ranked as the world’s 12th most liveable city in 2012 by global affairs doyen Monocle magazine, Fukuoka is rich with tradition and modern cultural attractions. Centuries’-old temples and shrines are complemented by contemporary art, architecture, shopping and cuisine, while the city exudes a youthful and cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Fukuoka is renowned throughout Japan for its ramen, and no trip to the city is complete without tasting the distinctive noodles and broth dish. Ramen can be sampled at hundreds of vendors throughout the city, but the best place to experience the local speciality is at Canal City’s Ramen Stadium. As moniker implies, Ramen Stadium is loaded with ramen kitchen (which cover an entire floor) selling regional variations, including local favourite Hakata Ramen.
The city’s many yatai (open-air street food stalls) offer a unique Fukuoka dining experience. Hundreds of stalls – most notably in areas like Nakasu and Tenjin – operate from early afternoon into the evening serving fare like yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), oden (a simmering fish and vegetable hot pot), and the city’s signature dish, ramen. Many yatai have designated seating and sell alcohol, making them a popular with locals and visitors alike.
Situated near the Tenjin area, Yanagibashi Market has a reputation as the “Pantry of Hakata”, is a particular renowned as a great location to sample Fukuoka’s daily bounty of fresh fish and seasonal local produce.
Major shopping zones like Hakata’s Hakata Riverain complex and Canal City, and the Tenjin precinct also offer a myriad of dining opportunities, to suit all tastes and budgets.
Fukuoka’s commercial activity revolves around the city’s business centre Tenjin. Home to a large number of shops and department stores (including Iwataya, Daimaru and Mitsukoshi) and underground mall Tenjin Chikagai, Tenjin is a great location to pick up local fashions and traditional souvenirs – like clay Hakata dolls and handcrafted silk obis (the sashes worn with Japanese kimono). Tenjin’s West Street is particular renowned as a retail hotspot, abuzz with fashion-conscious Gen Ys on the hunt for the latest and greatest trends.
A “city within a city”, Hakata’s Canal City exists as the largest private development in the history of Japan. Located adjacent to Fukuoka's entertainment district and between the commercial and retail core of the city – just 15 minutes’ walk from both Hakata Station or Tenjin Station – Canal City is made up of a large shopping and entertainment complex centred around a 180 metre long canal. A preeminent Fukuoka tourist attraction in its own right, the complex is boasts a fountain (that dances with a water show every 30 minutes) a theater, a futuristic theme park, cinemas, two hotels, and numerous retailers and eateries.
Also with in Hakata, the Hakata Riverain asserts itself as Fukuoka's most sophisticated multi-function complex to date. Light-filled and modern, the complex is lined with European-style boulevards, which brim with an impressive selection of fine shops, dining, culture, offices, as well as a luxury hotel and Fukuoka Asian Art Museum – famous for its modern and contemporary Asian art exhibits.
Hosting the Yahoo! Dome – the home of Fukuoka’s beloved Daiei Hawks baseball team – the Hawks Town shopping and entertainment complex had something to appeal to both sports fans and shopping enthusiast. Located in the Momochi District, just fifteen minutes’ away from Momochi-Koen, the complex features a cinema-complex, amusement park, live music hall, natural hot spring spa, and a 2.5km artificial beach, as well as retailers and eateries of varying natures.