Kushida Shrine, Fukuoka

Where to stay

  • Hotel Il Palazzo: Design fans who want to splurge can opt for this red-brick contemporary opus by the late Pritzker Prize-winning architect Aldo Rossi. hotelilpalazzo.com
  • Hotel Monte Hermana Fukuoka: Just south of Tenjin, this mid-range hotel offers stylish value for money and a female-only floor. www.monte-hermana.jp/fukuoka
  • The Life Hostel: Offering everything from dorms to family rooms, this industrial-chic hostel
    in Canal City is a firm favorite. thelife-hostel.com
  • ANA Crowne Plaza, 3-3-3 Hakata-Ekimae, Hakata-ku; +81 92 471 7111; www.ihg.com. The hotel is conveniently located near Hakata Station, which is the jump-off point for other cities on Kyushu Island.
  • Dormy Inn Hakata Gion; Budget chain hotel with clean, fuss-free rooms, a natural hot spring bath, a breakfast buffet and free late-night ramen.
  • Grand Hyatt Fukuoka, 1-2-82 Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku; +81 92 282 1234; fukuoka.grand.hyatt.com. If you feel like splurging, the centrally-located, five-star Grand Hyatt Fukuoka is arguably the city’s best hotel.
  • Hotel Century Art, 5-15 Hakataeki-Chuogai, Hakata-ku; +81 92 473 2111. A straightforward lodging choice for the no-nonsense excursionist. Housed in a charming Art Deco building located near subways and entertainment hubs, this three-star hotel has the basic amenities and aesthetic allure down pat.
  • Kashima Honkan; Budget ryokan in a historic building with understated tatami rooms and two friendly felines.
  • Smile Hotel Hakata, 3-5 Kamiyacho, Hakata-ku; +81 92 262 6678, www.smile-hotels.com/hakata. Small but decent rooms located 650m from Gofukumachi Subway Station. Downtown Fukuoka is a 10-minute walk away.
  • WeBase Hakata; Funky hipster hostel — check out the astronaut cat statue at the entrance — with private rooms and dorms, plus an extensive library.

Where to eat and drink

  • With the Style. This trendy hotel is a popular date spot — it’s got an Italian restaurant, a swanky bar and outdoor cabanas around a reflecting pool. withthestyle.com
  • Startup Café. This library-like space on the first floor of the city’s Fukuoka Growth Next startup incubator is open to all, making it a good place for traveling digital nomads to work (WiFi and charging of devices are free). You can also recharge at the cozy third-wave coffee shop Honey Coffee and bubbly Awabar, with evening drinks come 6pm. startup.fukuoka.jp/startup-cafe
  • Sofu Coffee. A cute café run by an even cuter couple. Load up on their specialty coffees and seasonal shaved ices. sofucoffee.blogspot.jp
  • Aji No Masafuku, 1-1-1 Tenjin, Chuo-ku; +81 92 712 7010; www.masafuku.com. Head here for value-for-money teishoku (set meals), such as the assorted sashimi set and fried pork cutlet set.
  • Awabar; This bar is located in the new Fukuoka Growth Next startup incubator and the energy here isn’t the only thing that’s bubbly. “Awa” means “foam” in Japanese, and accordingly, they only serve things with a bit of fizz.
  • Café del Sol, 1-14-45 Daimyo, Chuo-ku; +81 92 725 3773. One of the best places in the city for dessert like pancakes with ice cream.
  • Champion Hakataeki, 1-1 Hakataekichuogai, Hakata-ku; +81 92 409 6812. A go-to place for yakiniku (grilled meat), including wagyu and ox tongue.
  • Citadel;Barkeep Yoshimitsu Obara has a veritable chemistry lab of homemade liqueurs lining the shelves and a penchant for coffee cocktails. The mint-infused coffee mojito will keep you partying late into the night.
  • Hyotan Sushi, 2/F and 3/F Shintenkaku Building, 2-10-20 Tenjin, Chuo-ku; +81 92 722 0010. This restaurant draws snaking queues for its melt-in-your-mouth sushi.
  • Ichiran Ramen, 5-3-2 Nakasu, Hakata-ku; +81 92 262 0433; www.ichiran.co.jp. One of the most popular Hakata ramen restaurants in the city. Customers are seated at individual counters, to encourage them to concentrate on their meal instead of getting distracted by conversation.
  • Ishiya, 3-36-37 Hakozaki, Higashi-ku. Head here for budget eats like seafood okonomiyaki, which comes with a free salad and sweet potato fries.
  • Naka River District. This red-light district is home to more than 150 yatai (open-air food stalls), serving up dishes like yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers) and Hakata ramen.
  • Nakasu, Hakata-ku. This brightly-lit area is filled with restaurants, bars and clubs, as well as yatai (Japanese mobile food stalls).
  • Tempura Hirao, 1/F, Tenjin Toho Building, 2-6-27 Tenjin, Chuo-ku; +81 92 752 7900; hirao-foods.net. Crunch on some freshly fried tempura at this tempura joint near Tenjin Station. Waiting lines are usually long, so first-time Fukuoka travelers who want to check out this highly praised specialty restaurant are advised to start queuing from as early as 10.30am.
  • Todoroki Saketen Yakuin Stand;Itching to try some of Kyushu’s famous shochu (hard liquor distilled from grains, sweet potatoes or vegetables)? This little standing bar in a boutique liquor shop offers 45ml or 90ml glasses of the beverage, as well as info on the producers and occasional classes, so you can really appreciate your purchase.
  • Yakiniku Daiki, 3-14-26 Otemon, Chuo-ku; +81 92 711 8129. Reputedly the best yakiniku (Japanese grill) in Fukuoka. The restaurant’s top-grade wagyu is sourced from all around Kyushu Island.
  • Yanagibashi Market, 1-5-1 Haruyoshi, Chuo-ku. Also known as Hakata’s kitchen. Here, you’ll find the freshest fish, meat and vegetables from more than 60 stalls.
  • Yayoiken, 2-48-8 Hakozaki, Higashi-ku; +81 92 643 8071; www.yayoiken.com. Here, you’ll have to order your bento box via a vending machine. Fret not, however, as there are photos and English descriptions to guide you along.
  • Yoshikzuka Unagiya, 2-8-27 Nakasu, Hakata-ku; +81 92 271 0700. This popular restaurant was established way back in 1873, so they’ve had more than a century to perfect their grilled eel!

What to do

  • Yanagawa. Under an hour on the Nishitetsu Railway and you’re in for a taste of feudal Japan. Take a wooden skiff down the river to enjoy the view, then head to the ruins of Yanagawa Castle and the famous ancient pines of Shotoen Garden.
  • Kase Riverside. From Nov 1 to 4, you can head to the Saga International Balloon Fiesta to see a flotilla of hot-air balloons compete to drop a marker on a tiny target. sibf.jp
  • Ureshino Onsen. About two hours from Fukuoka is an elegant hot spring village that has attracted visitors for centuries. The alkaline waters are said to give you smoother skin. spa-u.net
  • ACROS Fukuoka. A cultural center that’s literally green: it’s covered in a lush stepped garden you can climb during the day. acros.or.jp
  • Itoshima. Just 30 minutes from the city, Itoshima is a natural wonderland where you can enjoy surfing in the summer and kakigoya oyster shacks in the winter. Bring a bottle of Champagne or white wine.
  • Ohori Park. A beautiful green space where people of all ages gather to get their exercise on, from bikers to stroller-pushers to tai chi grannies.
  • Momochi Beach. An uncrowded place to walk along the waterside enjoying the view. Pop over to the 35th floor of the Hilton for a cocktail and the bird’s-eye perspective.
  • Canal City Hakata, Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku; +81 92 282 2525; canalcity.co.jp. A massive dining, shopping and entertainment hub with over 200 stores, including global Japanese brands like Sanrio and MUJI.
  • Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, 4-7-1 Saifu, Dazaifu City; dazaifutenmangu.or.jp/en. This shrine is dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, a scholar and politician of the Heian period, and so is especially popular among students. But even if you’re not one for academic pursuits, you can still admire the shrine’s beautifully landscaped gardens, serene ponds, lush peach trees and colorful structures.
  • Fukuoka Asian Art Museum3-1 Shimokawabata-machi, Hakata-ku; +81 92 263 1100; faam.city.fukuoka.lg.jp/eng/home.htmlStep through the striking yellow geometric entrance of the museum to get your fill of contemporary art from all across the region — the permanent collection here housed more than 2,800 artworks in 2015.
  • Fukuoka Dome, 2-2-2 Jigyohama, Chuo-ku; +81 92 847 1699; www.softbankhawks.co.jp. Watch a baseball game at the home of Fukuoka’s SoftBank Hawks.
  • Fukuoka Tower, 2-3-26 Momochihama, Sawara-ku; +81 92 823 0234; www.fukuokatower.co.jp/english. At 234 meters in height, this is the tallest seaside tower in Japan, providing visitors with 360-degree views of the sea. The third floor of the tower is particularly popular with couples, who hang heart-shaped padlocks on the fence at the Lover’s Sanctuary.
  • Kawachi Fuji Garden, 2-2-48 Kawachi, Yahatahigashi-ku, Kitakyushu; +81 93 652 0334. This is the best place to admire the cherry blossoms in full bloom. But don’t fret if you miss sakura season; the garden is just as gorgeous in late spring, when the wisterias take center stage.
  • Hakata Hankyu, 1-1 Hakataekichuogai, Hakata-ku; +81 92 461 1381; www.hankyu-dept.co.jp. A sprawling department store just two subway stops from the airport. Tourists get a discount card and free WiFi.
  • Hakozaki Shrine, 1-22-1 Hakozaki, Higashi-ku. This Shinto shrine is one of four major shrines in the country dedicated to Hachiman, the god of warriors.
  • JR Hakata City, 1-1 Hakataekichuogai, Hakata-ku; +81 92 431 8484; www.jrhakatacity.com/english. A complex of shops and restaurants above JR Hakata station.
  • Kushida Shrine, 1-41 Kamikawabatamachi, Hakata-ku; +81 92 291 2951. This Shinto shrine, which is said to have been founded in 757, plays host to the annual Hakata Gion Yamakasa — one of Japan’s most fascinating festivals, during which colorful floats are paraded throughout the district every July 15. Fret not if you miss the festival, as the floats are displayed in the shrine for the rest of the year.
  • Kyushu National Museum, 4-7-2 Ishizaka, Dazaifu City; +81 92 918 2807; kyuhaku.com. The fourth-largest national museum in the country houses an extensive collection of artefacts and natural treasures, from swords to pottery, all of which will help you to understand the evolution of Japanese culture in the larger context of Asian history.
  • Nakagawa Seiryu Onsen, 326 Nameri, Chikushi-gun, Nakagawa-machi; +81 92 952 8848; www.nakagawaseiryu.jp. A picturesque countryside onsen (natural hot spring). To get there, hop on the free shuttle bus from Tenjin, which takes around 40 minutes.
  • Nokonoshima Island Park, 1624 Noko, Nishi-ku; +81 92 881 2494. Located around 40 minutes from the city center of Fukuoka, this scenic park is a must-visit during any season of the year. In spring, it bursts into a sea of yellow, thanks to the bloom of nanohana (rape blossoms). In April, you’ll get to see the famed sakura in all its glory.
  • Ohori Park, Ohorikoen, Chuo-ku. Have a picnic at this sprawling, scenic city park. The pond at its center used to serve as part of the moat system of the nearby Fukuoka Castle.
  • Rakusui-en Garden, 2-10-7 Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku; +81 92 262 6665; rakusuien.net/english. Originally built as a villa for a local merchant in 1906, Rakusui-en was converted into a landscaped garden with four tea rooms in 1995. Enjoy a traditional Japanese tea ceremony amidst the garden’s tranquil atmosphere.
  • Space World, 4-1-1 Higashida, Kitakyushu, Yahatahigashi-ku; +81 93 672 3600; www.spaceworld.co.jp/english/access. A theme park with many thrilling roller coaster rides, is just an hour away by train from JR Hakata station. Among the highlights at the Space Museum is a stone from the moon, the only lunar stone in Japan.
  • Tenjin. Fukuoka’s hip commercial district is home to rows of shopping malls, karaoke bars and izakayas (informal drinking establishments).
  • Tosu Premium Outlets, 8-1 Yayoigaoka, Tosu, Saga Prefecture; +81 94 287 7370; www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/en/tosu. Pick up branded goods for cheap at these outlet stores, which are located a 45-minute bus ride from Tenjin station.

Where to shop

  • Tablier. This charming plant purveyor is overflowing with style. Even if you can’t bring home one of the owner’s interesting green growies, there are plenty of vases, knick-knacks and goodies for green-thumbed types. tablier-3.com
  • Oeuvre. A great example of a Japanese “select shop” boutique, where the owners sell a variety of items they love, from homeware to clothing. blog.oeuvre4.com
  • Gyozaya Ninoni. Try some of Fukuoka’s famous pork dumplings at this local favorite. With a plate of seven steamed or fried dumplings costing just ¥250, you’ll see why it’s so popular. ninoni.jp

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