Fukuoka Travel Guide and Itinerary

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Fukuoka City, with its booming start-up ecosystem and youthful population, exudes a hip vibe that gives its storied history as a former castle town a fresh perspective.

About Fukuoka 

The city of Fukuoka, hailed as the start-up capital of Japan, was designated a special economic zone in 2014 and is a prime destination for young entrepreneurs looking to carve a space for themselves in the tech industry. Compared to Tokyo, its more hectic cousin, Fukuoka’s relative affordability, pleasant environs and more laid-back vibe make it a great draw for locals and tourists alike.  

Tucked away in the north coast of Kyushu island, happily situated between mountains and Hakata Bay, the capital city of Fukuoka prefecture boasts an enviable mix of urban and rural attractions. Here, ancient shrines and even a preserved Edo-period castle are just as accessible as the country’s tallest seaside tower and a gallery dedicated to the study of robots.  


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Fukuoka is known as a seaport, but it’s also an important railway terminus — Hakata Station, the largest on Kyushu island, serves as the gateway to Kyushu as part of the Sanyo Shinkansen line from Osaka and the Tokaido Shinkansen line from Tokyo. It’s also where you’ll begin exploring the much-touted JR Kyushu Railway line; the island has its own large network of Shinkansen, local and limited-express trains. Purchase a two-day subway pass (less than US$7 for adult fare) for unlimited rides on the Fukuoka City Subway lines to make exploring this city a breeze. 

Fukuoka’s mild climate means you can expect a cool season from November to February, and humid summers between June and August. The best time to visit is March, when the city has slightly warmed up after the chilly months and the cherry blossoms begin to bloom all over town. 


Highlights for the Traveler 

The tech scene is big in Fukuoka, but the city’s roots remain deeply entrenched in its over 400-year history. Its beginnings date back to the establishment of Fukuoka Castle in the early 1600s, built by feudal lord Kuroda Nagamasa. The castle still stands today on Fukusaki Hill, albeit with reconstructed border walls and gates. It’s where you can spend the afternoon walking in and around the historic site (entrance is free) and Maizuru Park that surrounds it.  

For a dose of nature, Ohori Park is a 40ha reserve with a 2km jogging trail that hugs its central pond feature. The park is also home to the 470-seater Ohori Noh Theater, with its impressively intricate traditional dance stage built entirely out of cypress wood.  

As for manmade wonders, there’s Fukuoka Tower the tallest seaside structure in Japan, at 234m; the top floor is an observation deck that gives you a panoramic view of the coastal city. If you’re looking for some high-tech educational entertainment, drop by the City Science Museum to find Robosquare. Both young and old will have a ton of fun at this gallery of over 100 types of robots — spot the well-known Aibo companion robot dogs, as well as Pepper, the humanoid automaton with a touchscreen attached to its torso. Pepper is a familiar sight in Japan; manufactured by telco Softbank, it’s made appearances in various Softbank stores and on numerous advertisements since 2014. 

It’s easy to get lost in the maze of eateries in Fukuoka city. One must-visit site is the row of yatai, or mobile food stalls, that line the bank of the Naka River. Have your pick of over 100 open-air shops selling a multitude of eats, from yakitori and oden, to, of course, hearty Hakata ramen in creamy, savoury tonkotsu broth.   

Take note of Fukuoka’s annual calendar that’s teeming with traditional festivals. At the beginning of each year, the Tamaseseri festival at Hakozaki Shrine (3.5km from Hakata Station) sees parishioners competing against each other to catch a wooden ball that’s used to divine good fortune and a bountiful harvest for the year ahead. In the same month, it’ll be hard to miss the stunning kachi-mairi (parade) of geisha and shrine maidens of the Toka Ebisu Festival, hosted by the eponymous shrine just 3km from the city center. 

The warmer seasons are an exciting time to check out some of the more famous celebrations, with the most well-known being the Dontaku Port Festival in May, where a giant parade stretching over 1,230m begins in Gofuku-machi and ends at Tenjin Station in the city center. In July, watch as men clamber onto elaborate floats in the Hakata Gion Yamakasa summer festival. And you can’t visit this historic city without a sumo experience — catch the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament in November. 


Header photo via Shutterstock.com

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Recommendations list to be updated.

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