Fukuoka – The Ultimate Travel Guide
Things to do, where to stay, places to eat and where to have fun - everything you need to know about Fukuoka, right here.
Fukuoka is the main city of the Japanese island of Kyushu, located on its northern coast. It is also Japan’s fifth-largest city, with a population of around five million. As a result of its proximity to the Asian mainland, Fukuoka has a long history as a point of exchange between Japan, China and Korea, something which has given the city a uniquely cosmopolitan nature.
Although rarely as high a priority as Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto for tourists to Japan, Fukuoka is a richly rewarding destination to visit. Its fascinating history and unique culture together with its modern, forward-looking ethos resulting in a city where there’s much to explore and enjoy.
To help you get to grips with Fukuoka we’ve put together a comprehensive guide. Keep reading to find out the city’s top things to do, its best restaurants, hotels and much, much more.
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When to visit Fukuoka
Although Fukuoka is pleasant year round, most would agree that spring and autumn are perhaps the best times to visit. Both seasons promise amiable climates, perfect for exploring the city on foot. Fukuoka is particularly inundated with visitors in spring as the cherry blossoms begin to bloom.
For more information, check out our Year Round Fukuoka Weather and Seasonal Events Guide.
Ranking among the tallest structures in Japan, Fukuoka’s Fukuoka Tower is a symbol of the city’s lofty ambition to become a truly world-class city of the future. Located on reclaimed land along Hakata Bay, the tower is the crowning glory of the city’s Seaside Momochi development, a project originally conceived to house the 1989 Asia Pacific Expo.
The tower’s sail-like design echoes its location and the 8,000 mirrors that clad the exterior never fail to make the structure gleam in the sun. Fukuoka Tower is now one of the city’s top tourist draws, its three-story viewing platform offering unrivalled views over the city and the sea. Fukuoka Tower even received the rare accolade of being spectacularly destroyed by Godzilla in the 1994 flick Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla.
Sun-Sat 09:30 – 22:00
Things to Do in Fukuoka
Fukuoka is a city with a rich history, proud culture and great ambition for the future. Consequently, it isn’t lacking in things to see and do. Take a look at our top picks, below:
Torn down in the wake of the Meiji Restoration, today, all that remains of Fukuoka Castle is ruins. Once, the castle was the largest on Kyushu, but as a reminder of Japan’s feudal past it was deemed surplus to requirements. The ruins – a few turrets and ruined walls – are now part of the surrounding Maizuru Park, named in honour of the castle’s other name, Maizuru Castle. Walking through the ruins, especially if one is armed with a strong imagination, can be a richly rewarding experience, especially so in the spring among the blooming cherry blossom flowers.
Dating back to 757, Kushida Shrine is Fukuoka’s most significant. Dedicated to an obscure deity, Ohata Nushina no Mikoto, the shrine acts as the city’s most central place of worship as well as the site of one of its most anticipated festivals, the Yamakasa Gion Matsuri. The festival, which usually takes place in early June, brings the whole city out onto the streets and involves as its central event a huge parade featuring giant floats and portable shrines.
Shofuku-ji Temple is notable as the first in Japan dedicated to Zen Buddhism, a strain of the religion imported from China. As was the Zen style, the temple is of a very rational and considered design and features, of course, a Zen garden. The wood used in its construction has been destroyed and rebuilt on many occasions, though its look remains authentic. A visit to Shofuku-ji promiss a serene break from the maelstrom of the city and a lesson in Buddhist history at the same time.
Built in 1242, Joten-ji Temple belongs to the Tofukuji sect of Buddhism. Although a great little temple to explore, Joten-ji’s claim to fame is of a culinary nature. Enni-Ben’en, the temple’s founder, who had spent many years learning from Zen masters in China, is said to be the man who brought udon and soba noodles to Japan. Impressive.
A temple of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism, Kanzeon-ji was constructed in 746. Once one of Japan’s most influential, the temple went into decline as power centres shifted toward the end of the Heian Period. Today, only a handful of the original buildings remain. Nevertheless, a number of historically important artefacts remain on the site, including two wooden early Buddhist statues of distinguished provenance.
Ohori Park is Fukuoka’s largest area of urban greenery. Built in the 1920s, it was inspired by Hangzhou’s West Lake, though its pond was originally part of the Fukuoka Castle’s moat system. Today, the pond is split in two by a series of artificial islands. The many paths through and around the pond make it popular with walkers and joggers, as well as with visitors looking for a scenic spot to relax. In the spring, the park becomes one of Fukuoka’s best cherry blossom viewing spots, whilst its summer fireworks display attracts upward of 400,000 spectators.
ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall
While the name given to the ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall may be hard to swallow, its integrative, green design certainly is not. One of Fukuoka’s landmark buildings, ACROS is a complex of office and commercial space built by pioneering architect Emilio Ambasz. The stepped terraces of luscious greenery that make up one side of the building blend perfectly with their surroundings, wonderfully recalling an overgrown Aztec temple or Italian hillside. Like Fukuoka Tower, the building is a statement of intent from this forward-looking city.
Tenjin Central Park
The site of the above building, Tenjin Central Park is one of Fukuoka’s best green spots. The ACROS building backs onto the park, its pitched, terraced side giving the illusion of extra space as well as a welcome sense of grandiosity. A large patch of grass in the centre of the park is perfect for picnicing or a couple of al-fresco drinks in the evening, whilst the rear portion of the park features some quaint Western-style architecture and a fountain made from the remnants of the old Fukuoka government building.
Although labelled a park, Yusentei is actually a Japanese garden in its most classic form. Built in 1754 but only opened to the public in 1981, Yusentei Park features a large koi pond, many strolling paths, miniature ‘mountains’, well-established trees and plant-life and an atmosphere of serenity and calm you’ll find in few other corners of the city.
Fukuoka City Zoo
Fukuoka City Zoo, or to give it its proper title, Fukuoka City Zoological Garden, whilst not huge, makes for a great morning or afternoon activity for the whole family.
For a more in-depth look, check out Fukuoka Zoo – Your Complete Guide.
Tue-Sun 09:00 – 17:00 (Closed on Monday)
Marine World Uminonakamichi
Fukuoka’s aquarium, Marine World Uminonakamichi, is rated as one of Japan’s best. The tank-tunnel is impressive, but the main event, the Large Panoramic Water Tank, is hard to beat. The huge tank is home to 10,000 fish of over 80 species, including 150 sharks. If you’re organised, pre-arrange a scuba session and get even closer to the action.
Sun-Sat 09:00 – 17:30 (hours vary by season)
Fukuoka Asian Art Museum
Fukuoka Asian Art Museum is the world’s largest single collection of Asian modern and contemporary art anywhere. With over 2,800 works from every country and region of the continent, the museum’s scope is wide but the collection never feels overbearing. In fact, the various exhibitions and displays guide the visitor through the collection at a good pace, explaining but never oversimplifying what is on show. Well worth a visit, even for the casual art fan.
Thu-Mon 10:00 – 20:00 (Closed on Wednesday)
Fukuoka City Museum
Due to Kyushu’s close proximity to the Asian mainland, Fukuoka has historically been a centre for cultural and economic exchange. Today, the city remains proud of its history, one celebrated at the Fukuoka City Museum. Exhibitions chronicling and explaining the city’s history and its current position are enlightening and presented with skill.
Tue-Sun 09:30 – 5:30 (Closed on Monday)
Fukuoka Prefectural Museum of Art
Housed in a great example of Japanese architectural modernism, the Fukuoka Prefectural Museum of Art is the city’s leading art gallery and exhibition space. The permanent collection focusses on artists from Fukuoka and Kyushu more widely, whilst the temporary exhibitions offer a mixed bag of local and international talent.
Tue-Sun 10:00 – 18:00 (Closed on Monday)
Kyushu National Museum
Technically not located in Fukuoka but in nearby Dazaifu, the Kyushu National Museum is nevertheless well worth a trip. Only the fourth national museum in the country (the others in Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara) and by far the most recent, the museum has a welcome contemporary feel, helped by its situation in a large, flowing, hangar-like structure of a modern design. The museum stresses its location nicely, focussing on Kyushu’s historically important role as a point of exchange with wider Asia but also broadens its scope to examine general Japanese history from its neolithic beginnings to the Edo period.
Tue-Sun 09:30 – 17:00 (Closed on Monday)
Located in the heart of downtown Fukuoka, the Hakataza Theater is the crowning glory of the city’s arts scene. Although constructed in 1999, the building is of a classic design, right down to its plush interior. Catch here everything from kabuki to Western shows, though be aware formal attire is usually the norm and advanced booking is advised to avoid disappointment on the day.
Hakata Port Tower
Built by the same architect as the capital’s iconic Tokyo Tower, the Hakata Port Tower is just as central to Fukuoka’s visual identity. The tower has become an enduring symbol of Hakata Bay and is still one of the best places to enjoy views out over the sea. Built in a playful, slightly kitsch but undeniably industrial style, it is an excellent point of reference for the city.
Sun-Sat 10:00 – 22:00
Asahi Breweries & Nikka Whisky Hakata Brewery
There’s nothing better for justifying a spot of daytime drinking than a factory tour. Yes, at the end, you’ll be invited to indulge in a few free sample. However, what proceeds this at both the Asahi brewery and the Nikka whisky brewery (owned by Asahi) is a fascinating introduction to brewing and the history of these respected Japanese brands.
Sun-Sat 09:30 – 15:00
Kashii Kaen Amusement Park
Unusually for an amusement park, Kashii Kaen is also one of Fukuoka’s best places to enjoy an array of seasonal flowers. The park tself is pretty standard but a lot of fun, but the rose tunnel, cherry blossoms, tulips and ‘forest’ of tomatoes is extraordinary. Well worth a visit for all budding horticulturists.
Currently closed but will reopen in March 2017.
Canal City Hakata
Billed as Fukuoka’s only “city within a city”, Canal City Hakata is a shopping and entertainment complex featuring over 250 varied shops, restaurants and amusements. International brand stores, local stores, Japanese food, international food – whatever you’re after, you’ll find it here. The carefully designed complex is spacious and the artificial canals running throughout lend it an atmosphere you won’t find in many other shopping malls.
Sun-Sat 10:00 – 21:00
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks
The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks are the city’s baseball team playing in the Japanese Pacific League. Nineteen-time league champs they are a force to be reckoned with in Japanese baseball and one of the most exciting teams to spectate. If you’ve never been to a baseball game in Japan, know that it’s a lot of fun, with the enthusiastic, often choreographed fans doing everything they can to show their support. The Hawks play at the Fukuoka Yahuoku! Dome and tickets for games are very reasonable.
Grand Sumo Tournament: Kyushu Basho
Taking place in mid-November, the Kyushu Basho is the last of the six annual sumo tournaments and thus the last chance for wrestlers wanting to impress. For many, the Kyushu Basho is the best in Japan. As a relatively small city, the event is hotly anticipated in Fukuoka and everyone turns out to show their support in one way or another. The tournament itself is a great spectacle, the perfect blend of tradition and sport. Buying tickets in advance is a must for this one.
Mid-November – Late November
Momochi Seaside Park
Momochi Seaside Park is the name given to the seafront redevelopment on Hakata Bay. As mentioned, the park is home to Fukuoka Tower as well as an array of other shopping, entertainment and dining options. The modern feel of the park combined with its vast range of amenities makes it a great location to spend a day. Momochi Seaside Park is also the location of Momochihama Beach, a one kilometer stretch of sand that becomes very popular in the summer.
A small island off Fukuoka, Nokonoshima is connected to the mainland by a 10-minute ferry from Meinohama. Although close by, the island is a great getaway from the fast pace of the city and because of its size can be covered in a single day. The island’s top attraction is Nokonoshima Island Park, one of Fukuoka’s best flower viewing spots. Visit in the spring for the full effect.
Located in the straight between the Sea of Genkai and Hakata Bay, Shikanoshima Island makes for another great getaway from the city. The island is nationally famous as the site where the golden block seal, now a national treasure, was excavated by two farmers. The seal can now be seen in the Fukuoka City Museum.
For ferry times to Nokonoshima Island and Shikanoshima Island, check out Fukuoka Municipal Ferry Service’s Time Schedule.
Ainoshima (also known as Cat Heaven Island)
A short hop from Shingu Port, Ainoshima is a small, sparsely populated island off Fukuoka most famous for its feline inhabitants. The nickname ‘Cat Heaven Island’ will soon ring true when you’re confronted with a purring horde as soon as you jump off the boat. If you manage to get over the cats, the island is also home to some impressive rock formations and a number of shrines.
Click here for the ferry schedule (in Japanese).
Cherry Blossoms (Sakura)
Fukuoka is a great city for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) with a number of spots to check out. Fukuoka’s cherry blossom season tends to begin in late-March and lasts until early-April.
The best spots to see the flowers are: Fukuoka Castle, Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, Nishikoen (Nishi Park) and Atago Shrine. All are very popular so for a good spot make sure you get there early.
Like everywhere else in Japan, Fukuoka puts a lot of effort into its Christmas illuminations.
The best and most popular Christmas illumination spots in the city are: Canal City Hakata, Ohori Park, Tenjin Chikagai (Tenjin Underground Shopping Mall), Kego Park and Akasaka Chapelle Des Anges.
Fukuoka Outlet Mall: Marinoa City
With a grand total of 169 stores and an array of restaurants, Marinoa City is by far Kyushu’s largest outlet mall. You’ll find here all your favorite Japanese and international brands at discount prices, plus, the Ferris wheel and large boardwalk are there to provide some relief should the shopping get a bit too much.
Sun-Sat 10:00 – 21:00
Like the rest of Japan, Fukuoka loves festivals. These traditional celebrations provide heaps of local colour and are a lot of fun to spectate or even take part in. Check out the best, below.
Watch on as teams of half-naked farmers and fishermen battle it out for a giant 8 kg ‘treasure ball’ at Tamaseseri Festival, one of the three main Kyushu festivals. On January 3rd each year this bizarre spectacle with more than 500 years of history kicks off, and only a fool would miss it. The winning team is said to be a predictor of whether that year will see a bountiful harvest or a good catch.
Hakata Dontaku Festival
The annual Hakata Dontaku Festival sees Fukuoka explode with color, dancing and parades. Dating back over 800 years, it is a celebration of the people of the area and their customs. Culminating in a grand float parade through the city, this is another must-see Fukuoka festival.
Hakata Gion Yamakasa
The climax of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa is a fiercely contested race through the center of Fukuoka. Seven teams, each representing one of the city’s districts, push lavishly decorated floats down a 5 km course in a time-trial style race that takes just 30 minutes to complete. Despite taking place in the early hours of the morning, the race never fails to attract legions of spectators. Get there early for a good spot.
Nishinihon Ohori Fireworks Festival
Usually taking place in early August, the Nishinihon Ohori Fireworks Festival is the biggest of its kind on Kyushu and regularly attracts upwards of 400,000 eager spectators. The impressive display can last for close to an hour, but just as good as the fireworks themselves is the atmosphere of the event. Locals (and the odd tourist) don their yukata (summer kimono) and snack on tasty traditional food, giving proceedings a very ‘Japanese’ vibe.
*Dates subject to change.
Fukuoka comes alive at night. If you do too, check out the following spots.
For more detail, take a look at: Fukuoka Nightlife – Bars, Clubs, Tricks and Tips
Oyafuku-dori Street, Tenjin
Oyafuku-dori, colloquially known as ‘the street of disrespectful children’, is the focal point of Fukuoka’s nightlife. In the past, the street was home to a number of schools and colleges, with the bars, clubs and shops that remain there today originally springing up to cash in on the student yen. If you’re looking for a fun night, search no more, Oyafuku-dori is by far the best spot in town.
Club X is one of Fukuoka’s top clubs. It is very foreigner-friendly, just 10 minutes from Tenjin Station and reasonably cheap to get in. The music is a mixed bag of hip-hop and chart hits and there is a regular line-up of stellar local and international DJs.
Sun-Sat 22:00 – 05:00
Another central, foreigner friendly Fukuoka club. The big draw of Happy Cock is the cheap all-you-can-drink (nomihodai) offers. On a Thursday, the first 50 people through the door are given limitless booze for just 1,200 yen, whilst on a Saturday all customers pay somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 yen. Not bad. Again, the music is a mix of fairly ordinary hip-hop and chart favorites.
Wed, Thu & Sun 21:00 – 03:00
Fri&Sat 19:00 – 05:00 (Closed on Monday and Tuesday)
Goodbeer Faucets Bar Hakata
The success of Goodbeer Faucets Shibuya branch meant good news for the beer lovers of Fukuoka. With an ever-changing medley of 42 handpicked beers and lagers to choose from you won’t run out of options in a hurry. Plus, the chilled vibe and friendly staff make it a great place to relax after a long day pounding those Fukuoka streets.
Mon-Thu 18:30 – 01:30
Fri&Sat 18:30 – 05:00
Sun 16:00 – 23:00
Fukuoka Red Light District: Nakasu
Nakasu, an area crammed in between the Naka and Hakata rivers, has always been one of the city’s liveliest entertainment districts. Today, the area is known best as Fukuoka’s red light district, an appropriate label but one that belies the fact that there is also a vast amount of bars, cabaret clubs and other entertainment options in the area. Nakasu is a lot of fun, though you will have to swat off the constant attention of the hordes of club promoters and reps trying to entice you into their particular establishment.
Address: Nakasu, Hakata, Fukuoka
Fukuoka has an enviable (and mouthwatering) culinary tradition that the city is rightly proud of and eager to show off.
For a more information on Fukuoka specialties such as motsunabe (hot pot) and tetsunabe gyoza (iron pan dumplings), check out Fukuoka Food Guide – Must Eat Food and Snacks.
Now one of the most popular ramen types nationally, there’s still no better place to pick up a steaming bowl of Hakata ramen than its birthplace, Fukuoka. The rich pork-bone broth, chewy noodles and tender slices of pork are irresistible, and best of all, can be picked up very cheaply indeed. Go forth and get slurping.
Who serves Japan’s best ramen? Now’s your chance to decide. Fukuoka’s notorious Ramen Stadium pits eight ramen restaurants from around Japan against each other in the ultimate taste test. Although there are no prizes, the glory of a packed restaurant is prize enough, whilst the shame of empty seats is more than adequate punishment. If you can’t decide, small taster bowls can be picked up from a selection of different joints, though be warned, even these bowls can be pretty filling. Choose wisely.
Sun-Sat 11:00 – 23:00
Fukuoka isn’t lacking in restaurants, here’s a selection of our favourites.
Hakata Ramen Shin Shin Hakata Deitos
The lines that are commonplace, made up of a decent mix of locals and visitors, make clear the reputation that proceeds this place. And I’d be surprised if anyone was ever disappointed. A rich but not cloying broth, mouthwatering pork and thin noodles. Simple but highly effective. Bowls are pretty small but don’t be afraid to have seconds.
Sun-Sat 11:00 – 24:00
Kawataro Nakasu Head Office
Unbeatably fresh fish in an authentic Japanese environment. Sounds good? Get over to Kawataro. This is one of Fukuoka’s oldest and most well-respected seafood joints, known particularly for its speciality dish: live squid sashimi. Try if you dare.
Lunch: Mon-Fri 12:00 – 14:30, Sat&Sun 11:45 – 14:30
Dinner: Mon-Sat 17:00 – 23:00, Sun 17:00 – 22:30
This place takes its name from the way it cooks its speciality dish, gyoza. Tetsunabe roughly translates as ‘iron pan’; a technique that gives the gyoza a crispy outer skin whilst retaining the juiciness within. This place is cheap and absurdly tasty – don’t miss out.
Mon-Sat 17:00 – 23:00 (Closed on Sunday)
Unsurprisingly, Fukuoka has its fair share of hotels. Here’s some of the best:
Grand Hyatt Fukuoka
You know what you’re getting with a Grand Hyatt hotel: 5-star luxury, world-class service and unbeatable convenience. The Fukuoka branch boasts 370 rooms, fitness facilities and multiple bars and restaurants, all within walking distance of Tenjin Station and all of the city’s top tourists draws.
Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk
With a prime waterfront location, over 1,000 guest rooms and a selection of bars, restaurants, meeting space and other faciltities, there’s not a lot missing from the Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk. Taking its name from the team who play next door, if you’re in town for the baseball this place is particularly handy.
JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Fukuoka
Just two minutes on foot from Hakata Station and five minutes from the airport on the subway, convenience is the main selling point of JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Fukuoka. The hotel is also elegantly decorated, boasts a whole host of facilities and takes great pride in its standards of customer service – ideal for any type of traveller.
Hotel Nikko Fukuoka
Again, Hotel Nikko Fukuoka has convenience on its side, being just two stops from the airport and within walking distance of Hakata Station. Again, the service is fantastic, the interior sophisticated and the facilities plentiful. Again, this place would make for a great HQ for business or pleasure travellers.
For those unaware, a ryokan is a traditional Japanese hotel. For immersion into Japanese culture and a taste of the famous Japanese hospitality, there’s nothing better.
Zen Oyado Nishitei
A short walk from Yakuin Station, find Zen Oyado Nishitei, a ryokan that takes hospitality to another level. Simplicity is key; the hotel is not lavish but takes the basics – service, cleanliness, food – very seriously. If you want a truly Japanese experience, you could do far worse than a stay at Zen Oyado Nisitei.
For budget accommodation, hostels are difficult to beat. Here are Fukuoka’s best:
Guesthouse Fukuoka Hana Hostel
Right in the middle of town, Guesthouse Fukuoka Hana Hostel is one of the city’s best budget accommodation picks. Private and shared rooms are available at more than reasonable prices, the atmosphere is inclusive and relaxed and the clientele are international in character. What’s not to love?
Fukuoka Backpackers Hostel
Just 10 minutes on foot from Hakata Station, Fukuoka Backpackers Hostel is another top pick. Facilities include free WiFi, a shared kitchen and free tea and coffee. All rooms are shared but cosy and tastefully decorated. This place is always buzzing with life so you’re bound to make a friend or two during your stay.
092 404 6035
*All prices are for single occupancy and per night unless otherwise stated.
Fukuoka Love Hotels
Romantic break to Fukuoka? Try a love hotel. These palaces of romance and decadence have become somewhat notorious, yet, don’t be perturbed, they make for great places to stay. Love hotels abound and many don’t have too much of an online presence, but find some fantastic options below:
Visiting Tokyo with a loved one? Check out Tokyo’s Top 10 Love Hotels.
If you’re flying into Fukuoka, you’ll be relieved to know that the airport and the city are incredibly close. In fact, in under 10 minutes you can be in the centre of town. From the domestic terminal, jump on the Fukuoka City Subway and Fukuoka is just a few stops away.
For more information, check out Fukuoka Airport (FUK) – Gateway to Hakata and Tenjin.
Tokyo to Fukuoka
Train or plane, that is the question.
Although on Kyushu (an island), there is a rail link between Tokyo and Fukuoka. The shinkansen (bullet train) take around 6 hours, stopping off at various points along the way. The advantage of this is that you can get on or off (if your ticket allows) as you like, taking in a lot of Japan as you go. The best way to go about this is to use a JR pass.
For more info on the various JR pass options, check out Japan Rail Pass – A Guide to the JR Pass
If you opt for the plane option, the journey from Tokyo to Fukuoka takes around four hours and should cost somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 yen. Obviously, the advantages of this option are speed and convenience.