Fukuoka is one of Japan’s fastest-growing and most dynamic cities. Situated on the north coast of Kyushu, the country’s third-largest island, the city is famous for its relaxed lifestyle, great food and booming startup scene. Local videographer and photographer Tatsuhiko Esaki takes us to some of his favorite city-center spots — we drop in to chic venues and picturesque locations that demand a snap or two.
9AM: Breakfast at Matsupan
Matsupan is one of Fukuoka’s finest bakeries; you can smell the aroma of buttery breakfast delights — over 60 types of baked goods are produced each day — from a couple of blocks away. The staff are all smiles, as they point to a cozy upper-floor seating area, where patrons can eat and chill out. matsu-pan.com
- Bento box it: Going on an all-day adventure? Then pick up a bento from a local mart or supermarket as packed lunch. Evah Dining Macrobiotic in JR Hakata Station offers yummy vegan creations that cater for all tastes.
10AM: Morning hike at Aburayama Citizens’ Forest
“High above the city is where I spend my free time,” says Tatsu, while crossing a bridge that’s built some 50m above the forest floor. The view of the city is stunning and runs from Fukuoka’s coastline all the way to Dazaifu city in the south. “The forest gets the best of the seasons, whether it’s the changing leaves in fall, or the cherry blossoms in spring.” welcomekyushu.com
1PM: Tea at Yusentei Teahouse and Gardens
The Yusentei structure — formerly a feudal lord’s home — was built in 1754 and opened as a park in 1981. Today, the teahouse provides a lookout over a landscaped garden. In a quiet corner, Tatsu is presented with a cup of matcha and a plate of delicate traditional sweets. The tea session is especially soothing after a morning in the mountains. yusentei.com
3PM: Afternoon trip around Daimyo
If Tokyo has a hip district in Daikanyama, then Fukuoka has one in Daimyo. Amid the area’s cool shops and cafés, there are also pretty little nooks where budding photographers can linger a while, and point and shoot. “There’s also this new place called Daimyo Soft Cream that’s to die for. There are queues for it even in winter.” daimyosoftcream.com
- Cool beans: Coffee in Fukuoka has grown in quality and popularity, thanks in part to café owners and connoisseurs like Honey Coffee’s Izaki Katsuhide. He leads Mikatajuku, a group made up of purists who buy and use beans from growers in Africa and Central and South America.
5PM: Evening views at Fukuoka Castle
Once the largest castle in Kyushu, Fukuoka Castle is now seen as a structure of ruins, bound by stone walls that span 20,000m2. It’s far from what it looked like in its heyday, in the early 17th century, but the fortress still stands out in the city landscape. “The walls run in concentric rings toward the center, providing perfect vistas of the city,” says Tatsu.
10PM: Some tipples at Bar Leichhardt
Discerning drinkers would know that the profile of local whisky has grown in recent years. In Fukuoka, the best stuff can be found at Bar Leichhardt, which is owned and managed by Yu Sumiyoshi, a Taketsuru Senior Ambassador (the title is named after Masataka Taketsuru, the chemist who opened Japan’s first whisky distillery in 1923). The bar exudes a mood reminiscent of a stylish Bond movie scene, and stocks over 3,000 bottles of spirits. For a quick one, ask for the tasting set of three Japanese whiskies. leichhardtcafe.blog73.fc2.com
8AM: Morning workout at Fit in Fukuoka
For a fresh start to the day, opt for a sweat session at gym and yoga studio, Fit in Fukuoka. Get in some planks and pushups with American owner and coach Adeline Ross, who runs events for locals and foreigners. Ross also holds out-of-the-city group classes — like a trip to Itoshima district (westwards of the city), where a short yoga session in nature is accompanied by a healthy brunch in an organic food café. fb.com/fitinfukuoka/
This article first appeared in the February 2018 issue of Smile magazine.