Fukuoka is Kyūshū's largest city (and Japan's sixth largest) and still growing. It's made up of two former towns, the Fukuoka castle town on the west bank of the Naka-gawa and Hakata on the east. The two towns merged in 1889 as Fukuoka, though the name Hakata is still widely in use (for instance, it's Fukuoka Airport but Hakata Station).
Whatever you call it, this youthful, user-friendly metropolis in Fukuoka Prefecture (福岡県) has a cosmopolitan charm, particularly after dark, peppered with the flavours of its Asian neighbours. Hakata traces its trading history back some 2000 years, which continues today with visitors from Seoul and Shanghai. Among Japanese, the city is famed for its 'Hakata bijin' (beautiful women), SoftBank Hawks baseball team and hearty Hakata rāmen (egg noodles).
If Fukuoka doesn't burst with sights like Tokyo or Kyoto, its friendly atmosphere, warm weather and contemporary attractions – art, architecture, shopping and cuisine – make up for it, and it's a good base for regional excursions.