Sprawled along the coast at the tip of northern Kyūshū lies Fukuoka Prefecture. Part sun-soaked nature retreat, part multicultural metropolis, it has a lot to offer visitors seeking unique experiences. Fukuoka city boasts culture, diversity and world-class cuisine, while the wider area has silent and serene landscapes. Here are some of the top reasons to visit the prefecture.
The gateway to Asia
Fukuoka city is made up of two former settlements: the castle town of the same name on the west bank of the Naka-gawa (Naka River), and Hakata, a trading town on the east bank. In 1889 the two towns merged as Fukuoka and, thanks to its prime geographical location with access to the ocean below the Korean Peninsula and a river leading south towards the inland, the area quickly became a bustling trading post. Today, the prefecture still features famous sites with historical and cultural attractions across various areas.
Fukuoka city enjoys a reputation as a friendly, sunny destination, helped in large amounts by its coastal location. Shikanoshima is a pleasant, rural island attached to the mainland by one road, and offers plenty of seafood restaurants along the bustling streets by the harbour. Ferries leave on the hour (¥680, 30 minutes) from Bayside Place, and sightseeing cruises are available around Hakata Bay. Shikanoshima also has a fishing shrine decorated with deer antlers, with a picturesque beach approximately 5km east of it. Travellers can also visit Nokonoshima Island Park just across the bay from the mainland, a small escape from urban life that has hills that are blanketed with sunflowers in the summer and cosmos flowers in the fall.
Slightly inland from the coast is the expansive, 398 sq km Ōhori-kōen, a park that includes the remaining walls of the former Fukuoka Castle, a wild bird forest, a children’s amusement park and a traditional Japanese garden with a waterfall and a tea house. Other charming coastal destinations include Kitakyushu, the island’s northernmost city known for its springtime cherry blossoms, Kokura Castle and stunning Kawachi Wisteria Garden, and Itoshima, a resort town on the stunning Futamigaura Bay, where the sun sets over two rocky crags known as Meoto Iwa, or Married Couple Rocks.
Cultural and natural charms
One of Fukuoka's most famous tourist attractions is Dazaifu Tenman-gū. Dedicated to the spirit of Sugawara no Michizane, a Heian Period politician, poet and academic who was demoted following defeat, this large Shintō shrine is said to be one of the most important of its kind in all of Japan. Visitors pass through a torii (shrine gate), and out onto a pond designed in the shape of the Japanese character for 'heart'. Plum trees can be found all across the site, including the particularly famous one known as 'the flying plum tree' that is said to be the first to blossom every year and, according to legend, flew from Sugawara no Michizane's home to be with him in his hour of need.
Fukuoka Prefecture is also rich in nature; the Prefecture is not only surrounded on three sides by the sea, but is also located close to beautiful mountains. Hiking and water sports are especially popular. In the centre of the prefecture is the Akizuki Castle Ruins, a rustic historical site that is particularly superb in autumn, thanks to the warming colours of the forest foliage, while further north, nature lovers can also visit Hiraodai to take part in a brisk walk on an elevated plateau that has white limestone rocks scattered over green meadows. Below the ground are limestone caves that can be explored, including Senbutsu Shonyudo, the most famous one of them all.
In the city, the folk museum of Hakata Machiya Furusato-kan is spread across three traditional Japanese townhouses. Guests can view recreations of how traditional neighbourhood units would have looked in the late Meiji era, while inside there are live demonstrations based around Hakata culture led by local craftspeople.
You can’t visit Fukuoka without trying Hakata ramen, a legendary and beloved dish consisting of a milky, super-savoury tonkotsu (pork-bone broth) and thin, straight noodles. Toppings can include shredded green onion, pickled ginger, a semi-soft boiled egg and garlic. The hardness of the noodle can usually be chosen when ordering, depending on how much texture you like. Regional ramen varieties exist across Japan, but recent trends have led to Hakata ramen booming in popularity. The well-known Ichiran chain originates in Fukuoka, while Ramen Stadium, with an entire floor of outlets of all varieties, offers great choice to curious travellers.
Fukuoka Prefecture has the second-largest fig-growing area in Japan, and the famous toyomitsuhime figs are renowned for their sweetness. Other delicacies include the prefecture’s kiwis, strawberries, unagi (freshwater eel) and Yamecha green tea. The city’s open-air food stalls (yatai) are also an absolute must. There are lots of them located across the area, but one of the best places is at the south end of Nakasu Island, where approximately 20 stalls line the waterfront offering a variety of delicious delicacies and regional treats. Tanga Ichiba market in Kitakyushu also offers fresh local ingredients to savour there or at home.
Fukuoka Prefecture is nearly equidistant from Tokyo and Shanghai. Seoul and Taipei can be visited in a one-day return trip. Fukuoka Airport has over 800 flights per week to Asia and 23 other cities around the world, while Kitakyushu Airport has service routes to Seoul, Busan, Dalian, and other destinations. High-speed passenger ships connect Fukuoka and Busan in less than three hours, while there are over 50 flights per day between Tokyo and Fukuoka Airport. More environmentally friendly options are also available, with the high-speed Shinkansen connecting travellers from Fukuoka to Tokyo in approximately five hours.
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Produced by Lonely Planet for Fukuoka Tourism. All editorial views are those of Lonely Planet alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.