Sunny, friendly Fukuoka (福岡) is Kyūshū's largest city and Japan's eighth-largest population centre. It's made up of two former towns: the castle town of Fukuoka on the west bank of the Naka-gawa and the merchant town of Hakata on the east bank. Although the two towns merged in 1889 as Fukuoka, the name Hakata is still widely in use (for instance, it's Fukuoka Airport but Hakata Station) and a cultural touchpoint.
Hakata traces its trading history back some 2000 years, and this tradition continues today with visitors from Seoul and Shanghai. Among Japanese the city is famed for its SoftBank Hawks baseball team and hearty Hakata ramen.
Fukuoka's welcoming feel makes it a great gateway to Kyūshū, and warm weather and contemporary attractions – art, architecture, shopping and cuisine – make it a good base for regional excursions.