Fukuoka is home to one of Japan’s busiest airports and serves as an excellent jumping off point for the rest of Kyushu, one of Japan’s most underrated islands. And though it may not have Tokyo’s endless choices or cultural charm of Kyoto, Fukuoka is known for its food and its friendliness; locals are keen to share both a smile and a drink with all who visit. x

When to Visit Fukuoka

Seasons are felt in full on Kyushu and the Japanese mark them in smaller segments than we’re accustomed to in the West. A single year includes a cherry blossom, wisteria, dragonfly, fall foliage, and, of course, rainy season. 

Summer in Fukuoka (which runs from May to early July), like most of Japan, can be incredibly hot and humid. The city’s southern location means two things. One, that late spring and early fall temperatures offer some of the best temperatures (60–75°F or 15–24°C). And two, hanami (cherry blossom) season happens a few weeks earlier, in late March to early April, than in more northerly cities like Tokyo and Kyoto.

What to Do in Fukuoka

Smell the Cherry Blossoms, Wisteria and Other Sweet Blooms

Those hunting for hanami are spoiled for choice when it comes to places to see the cherry blossoms in Fukuoka—it’s actually one of our favorite cherry blossom spots in Japan

Maizura Park near Fukuoka Castle, Ohori Park, Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, Nishi Park and the park at Atago Shrine all have thousands of cherry trees on their grounds, making for spectacular viewings of the delicate blooms from late March to early April. And you’re almost guaranteed to find hanami parties, celebratory picnics, and local vendors selling delicious fare at each.

Take a break from the city and catch a ferry and local bus to Nokonoshima Island Park, a vast seaside greenspace that’s well known for fields of seasonal blooms. From canola flowers to sunflowers and cosmos, spring has Nokonoshima resplendent with petals of all shapes and sizes.

If you happen to visit Fukuoka in April or early May, make a special trip to the Kawachi Wisteria Garden. The enormous canopy of wisteria, which is remarkable both in scale and smell, was created by founder Masao Higuchi as a way to “leave proof of [his] life to the world”. Every year the garden is visited by thousands of patrons who come to wander the purple pathways and take as many photos they can manage. 

Tip: Keep in mind that the tunnels usually reach full bloom during Golden Week, a national holiday in May, and tickets will be required to be booked in advance. 

Fukuoka shopping: Head to Kawabata and Daiymo

While Tenjin and Hakata are the go-to areas for shopping in Fukuoka, you don’t want to miss out on a stroll through Kawabata Shopping Arcade. There are nearly 130 shops lining this arcade, which stretches for 1,312 feet (400 meters) and is the city’s oldest shopping concourse. 

Kawabata is the perfect place to track down traditional Hakata ningyō, clay dolls clad in kimonos; bits and bobs to commemorate the Yamakasa festival; products and fresh seafood from Genkai-nada Sea; delicious red bean soup with mochi in Kawabata Zenzai square; and, of course, ramen shops.

For something a little less traditional, head over to the Daiymo neighborhood (starting around the Akasaka Station). The tightly packed streets are a hub for trendy boutique shops and all kinds of vintage stores. There are also loads of bars with a Western spin, so this is your chance to satisfy any cravings you might have for British pub grub or American fare.

Swing by Sherry’s for thrifted goods, Happy Hunting for antique threads, and NOBO for Japanese styles. Don’t be surprised if you stumble upon American styles on the racks. And be sure to bring plenty of cash—vintage and secondhand shops in Japan tend to be on the more expensive side than you may be used to. 

Anime fans should be sure to make a trip to Mandarake and wander the two floors packed to the brim with goodies from your favorite shows.

Geek Out on Craft Beer in Fukuoka

Fukuoka is a haven for beer lovers. There are loads of brewpubs dotting the streets of the city, offering locally brewed lagers, ales and stouts—although you’ll have to be a bit breezy about your budget here. Drop by Daiymo to get a taste of what the locals drink at Fukuoka Brewery, Craft Beer Creek, Gastro Pub Ales. All within stumbling distance of one another.

For folks who aren’t looking to splash out too much on libations, Asahi Brewery is the brewery for you. A tour of the facility is completely free to enjoy one of the infamous Ashai Breweries and includes a tasting of a freshly-brewed batch of Ashai Super Dry. You’ll learn about the behind-the-scenes production processes, from raw ingredient selection to the brewing itself, as well as the packaging process, and of course, the tasting process.

What to Eat in Fukuoka and Where to Eat It

Japan’s famed tonkotsu ramen, featuring thin noodles in a creamy pork broth topped with chashu (braised pork belly) originated here and is often referred to as hakata ramen, after the port town that merged with Fukuoka in 1889. There are numerous ramen-ya (shops) where you can try the dish, especially around Hakata Station. 

Get a bowl at Ganso Nagahamaya, which has been serving ramen since the end of the Asia-Pacific War, for under $7 USD. Or hit ShinShin for a taste explosion from its shredded wood ear mushrooms. For a cheap, cheerful and consistent taste, you can visit chain spots Ippudo or Ichiran. 

If you’re looking for ramen but aren’t a chashu fan, be sure to head to the top floor of Fukuoka’s infamous Canal City Shopping Center to Ramen Stadium: a ramen-focused food court featuring different styles from all over Japan. And don’t forget to enjoy the vending machine ordering system! 

Kyushu’s closer proximity to mainland Asia compared to the rest of Japan have given rise to some interesting regional dishes in Fukuoka. Flavors reflect unique influences from Korea and China, and are not to be missed. Feeling adventurous? Try a taste of mentaiko, a spicy version of salted cod roe, and motsunabe, a slightly spicy hot pot with tripe, cabbage, and togarashi peppers in a soy sauce or miso soup. Or keep things simple with tetsunabe gyoza, Chinese-style pork dumplings served in a cast iron skillet.

For an authentic Fukuoka experience, you have to eat at a yatai. Fukuoka famously boasts the largest number of these tiny food stalls, many of which have been serving meals for more than half a century, of any city in Japan. Designed to seat only eight to 10 people for quick meals, the yatai are a beloved part of the city’s culinary culture.

Wander past stalls in Nakasu and Tenjin to find dishes that tickle your taste buds, but be sure not to miss the flaky croquettes at Ahotaleeno (only available on Saturdays), the fresh tempura seafood at Genkai, and yaki ramen (ramen noodles with bone broth and a special sauce that’s then fried on an iron plate) at Kokinchan. 

The long lines at these stalls are certainly worth it, but be aware of your budget. Fukuoka staples may be up to twice as expensive as some restaurants, so be sure to bring enough yen and keep track of your order costs as you go. 

Where to Stay in Fukuoka

Although it’s often seen as one of the more expensive countries to travel to, Japan has a wide range of accommodation options and plenty that are budget-friendly—especially if you don’t mind tight spaces. 

Guesthouses, also called gaijin (Japanese for foreigner), are one such option. On top of being quite affordable (anything from $25 to $60 a day, depending on room type), guesthouses are a great way to meet other travelers. They’re known for their cafes, communal meals and activities, as they are most often used by travelers spending a month or longer in Japan. 

In Fukuok’s Hakata Ward you’ll find many of these spots like Guest House Nakaima, Fukuoka Guesthouse HIVE and WeBase HAKATA, or hostel options like the modern Common de Hostel & Bar. There are also cozier spots like Fukuoka Hana Hostel or Hostel TOKI.

Day Trips from Fukuoka

Rub the Belly of the Reclining Buddha at Nanzo-in Temple

Just a 25-minute train ride from Fukuoka, you’ll find a peaceful giant nestled into a nearby mountain top. The Nanzo-in temple, located in the forest of Sasaguri, is the first amulet-issuing office of the Sasaguri Buddhist Pilgrimage Route, which welcomes more than a million visitors every year. 

While there are numerous giant buddhas found throughout the country, this one is the largest. A gift from Myanmar for Japan’s provision of financial and humanitarian aid, the enormous figure clocks in at 134 feet (41 meters) long, 36 feet (11 meters) high and is thought to weigh around 300 tons. 

Get there: From Hakata station, take the local Sasagurii line to Kidonanzoin-Mae station, then follow the trail to the temple. The buddha is about a five-minute walk from the station.

Sample Mochi While Admiring Shrines in Dazaifu

Once Kyushu’s administrative centers, Dazaifu now serves as home to many important shrines and temples. It’s a great spot to visit for a glimpse of a more traditional Japanese town when you’re seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Best of all, it’s easily reachable by train (about 35 to 45 minutes from Fukuoka’s Tenjin station to Dazaifu station). 

Visitors can wander around Tenmangu shrine, which is dedicated to education and academic success; sample umegae mochi (a grilled yuzu bean rice cake stamped with the plum tree insignia); or spend a few hours at the Kyushu National Museum, which was the first national museum to be built in more than 100 years. 

For the outdoor-enthusiasts, be sure to check out a hike at Mount Homan while in the area. This challenging but rewarding trail takes you to a peak where you can look out over the whole of the Fukuoka Prefecture. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can even set up camp for the night.

Have a Beach Break in Itoshima

Less than an hour from Fukuoka city center, you’ll find Itoshima, a small but mighty beach paradise. From sandy beaches and a robust surf scene to seasonal oyster huts where visitors can enjoy fresh oysters cooked to order (usually from October to March), it’s easy to see why locals keep this peninsula a secret. 

While the best option to get here is by car, more ambitious travelers looking to switch it up on their trip should consider biking—there’s a wonderfully scenic bike route from Fukuoka with smooth lanes and sweeping ocean views. 

Whether you want to know more about the Land of the Rising Sun’s great outdoors or life in its big cities, our most recent articles about Japan will tell you all you need to know.