Here’s our list of the best things to do in and around Fukuoka, Japan.
1. Moji Port
Moji Port opened in 1889 and is located to the north of Kitakyushu city. The surrounding area, the “Retro District” is now known as a popular tourist destination. The Moji Port has artfully blended with new functionality as a city with old city streets and historic “exotic” western-style buildings that retain the atmosphere of the era when they were built.
The year-round “Night Fantasy” light show runs every evening from between 5 PM and 7 PM (depending on the season) until 9:15 PM, Monday through Thursday, 10 PM on Fridays through Sundays and holidays. A popular sightseeing spot is the Blue Wing Moji, a large drawbridge for pedestrians, there is a nice view of the Kanmon Straits and the Kanmon Bridge. It is raised six times a day, and it is said that the first couple who cross the bridge soon after return will get together. Minato House is a market selling fresh seafood from Kitakyushu and Shimonoseki has souvenir shops and restaurants.
#2. Kawachi Fujien Wisteria Park
Wisteria is a plant that grows all over Japan and it has captivated Japanese people for a long time. The flower clusters hang down for the tip of the plant’s long vines and sway beautifully in the wind. At Kawachi Fujien you can enjoy the grand sight of these beautiful wisteria flowers. Kawachi Fujien is a private wisteria garden established in 1977. It is open only during wisteria season and when the leaves change colors in autumn. Generally wisteria is said to be at its best at the beginning of May, but since the climate of Kyushu is warmer, the best time to visit Kawachi Fujien is in late April.
Approximately 150 trees comprising of 22 types of wisteria in a variety of colors grows in an 10,000 square meter area. There are many attractions to see in the garden, including two kinds of wisteria tunnels, an 80 meter long tunnel (263ft) and a 220 meter long (722ft) tunnel, wisteria domes and wisteria trellises. There are huge wisteria trellises at the end of the tunnels and you can see wisteria trees which are more than 100 years old. It can be very crowded during the blooming season, so avoiding weekends and peak times is recommended.
Fukuoka’s open air food stands (Yatai) are possibly the city’s best known attraction. Yatai can generally seat about seven or eight people and provide an atmospheric outdoor environment to enjoy various foods that are generally simple and filling. There are over 150 yatai scattered across Fukuoka but the best place to find them is on the southern end of Nakasu Island.
Located in the middle of the city, Nakasu Island has a long row of around 20 yatai that are attractively situated along the water. Typical dishes enjoyed at yatai are grilled chicken skewers (yakitori), hot pot (oden) and most famously Hakata Ramen, a local noodle dish featuring relatively thin ramen noodles in a pork bone-based soup (tonkotsu). Various alcoholic drinks are also available, and help make the yatai a great place to get in touch with the locals, although many of the “locals” happen to be Japanese tourists visiting Fukuoka from other parts of Japan. Yatai are typically open from around 6 PM to around 2 AM, except when the weather is very bad.
Chanobunkakan is inside Hoshinofurusato Park in Hoshino Village, located at the southernmost point of Fukuoka close to the Oita Prefecture. It is a beautiful village surrounded by mountains and rivers. The rustic scenery of this area with rice terraces and tea plantations has been chosen as one of 100 Japan’s Best Sceneries.
The Chanobunkakan is a cultural center focused on Japanese green tea. You can study about gyokuro tea (玉露), learn how to make tasty green tea, experience grinding matcha with a mill, making wagashi, as well as drinking many kinds of green tea. Try the specialty, “Shizuku tea” a gyokuro tea which can only be found here.
#5. Futsukaichi Onsen
Futsukaichi Onsen is known as a famous onsen area and has about 1,300 years of history. This location offers easy access to various sightseeing spots. Visitors can go from here to Kyushu National Museum, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine for worship, and historic site tours as well. Why not try Japan’s unique bath culture at a public bathhouse, Gozenyu.
#6. Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine
There are many shrines across Japan that bear the name “Tenmangu”. Each one of these enshrines Sugawara no Michizane. Michizane is worshiped as the god of learning, sincerity, and protection from evil because of his high intelligence. Dazaifu Tenmangu is the original shrine dedicated to Michizane. Michizane, who had been a high-ranking government officer, was demoted because of the slander and political chicanery of his rivals, the Fujiwara clan. He endured a life of extreme hardship and misery in exile at Dazaifu, yet preserved his character by continuing his scholarly studies and never developing hatred for those who had exiled him.
There are approximately 6,000 plum trees of 197 varieties in the vicinity of Tenmangu, reflecting Michizane’s lifelong affection and regard for the trees and their blossoms. Perhaps the most famous is the one to the right of Honden (main shrine). Known as Tobiume (the flying plum tree), legend has it that after Michizane left Kyoto for a life in exile, this particular tree yearned so much for him that, uprooting himself, it flew to reunite with him in Dazaifu. In early January of each year, Tobiume is always the very first tree to blossom, and the thousands of other trees quickly follow, producing an incredible sight when the Tenmangu is covered in small pink and white flowers.
Yanagawa is one of Kyushu’s most scenic cities, famed for its beauty. Yanagawa is commonly dubbed the “Venice of Japan”, it is popular for the long canals. There are canals all over the city of Yanagawa, and you can enjoy the scenery from a boat and the helmsman will tell you interesting stories and the history of Yanagawa.
In winter a kotatsu, a table with a hibachi brazier under it and a futon covering it, appears on the boat so you would be warm and comfortable during the ride. At the end of the canal boat ride there is the house and museum of where Kitahara Hakushu, a famous 20th-century poet was born.
After sightseeing, you might want to try a famous traditional cuisine in Yanagawa, Unagi no Seiromushi (steamed eel). It is commonly served in a square red box with seasoned rice and the broiled eel is cut up, plus it is topped with an egg.
#8. Nokonoshima Island
Nokonoshima Island is located in the center of Hakata Bay and is popular for the flowers and many leisure spots. It is also known as “cat island” because of the many cats seen around the island. Nokonoshima Island is just a ten minute ferry ride from the city, but is a great getaway for the local people. Nokonoshima is well-known for its field mustard flowers, cherry blossoms, cosmos and narcissus flowers and when in full bloom the island gets very crowded.
Since the island is so close to the city with great accessibility and rich nature remaining, there is a theme park based on almost half of the whole island, Nokonoshima Island Park. The park takes advantage of the great nature with restaurants and tea houses overlooking the vast fields of flowers and souvenir shops and leisure spots popular to tourists and local people.
#9. Motsu Nabe
When talking about nabe (pot cooking) in Fukuoka, you must not miss motsu nabe, tripe or offal from pig or cow. Fukuoka’s motsu nabe has many fans all over Japan. It is the soul food for Hakata locals, and there are many restaurants serving motsu nabe which is quite reasonable and is very delicious. Motsu consists of rich collagen which is the reason why it is very popular especially among women.
#10. Shiraito Falls
The Shiraito Falls is noted in Fukuoka for its scenic beauty. It is located in the middle of Mt. Hagane, which is 900 meters high. The waterfall is 24 meters long and the highlight is a beautiful white spray made by the falls. There is a 300 year old maple tree called Banryu-Kaede around the waterfall and also hydrangeas can be seen in bloom in the beginning of July. When summer comes, this famous waterfall is for more than just viewing – you can play in the water too!
#11. Hakata Ramen
The most famous food in Fukuoka would probably be the Hakata Ramen, a local noodle dish featuring relatively thin ramen noodles in a pork bone based soup (tonkotsu). There is so many ramen restaurants to choose from in Fukuoka and the variety of the soup varies even if they are all tonkotsu based. Picking up just a few of the popular ramen restaurants loved by the local people would be Shin-Shin, Ganso Hakata Daruma, Issou and Nagahama Number One, which all have different traits to its soup and noodles. It is recommended to try many ramen varieties as you can during your stay in Fukuoka!
#12. Kokura Castle
Kokura Castle was built in 1602 at the beginning of the Edo period. The castle was destroyed by fire in 1866, and the current castle tower is a reconstruction from 1959. The castle’s traditional architecture provides an interesting visual contrast to the neighboring modern shopping and entertainment center. The castle grounds are now known as Katsuyama Park and are a popular cherry blossom spot that is usually in bloom around early April. The modern interior introduces the local history with displays, an interactive zone and a small theater where visitors can get a hands-on and visual experience of past castle life.
The castle’s top floor offers panoramic views over the city. A small Japanese garden with pond and the castle keep as borrowed scenery was opened in 1998 on the castle grounds. The most famous resident of Kokura Castle was the renowned swordsman Musashi Miyamoto who moved here in 1634 as a guest of Tadazane Ogasawara. On the castle grounds, there is a memorial at the spot where he lived. The Niten Ichiryu, the school of swordsmanship based on his style of two swords was based in Kokura.
#13. Ohori Park
Ohori Park is the former site of the moat around Fukuoka Castle, established by Kuroda Nagamasa in 1601. It was repaired in 1927 and reopened as Ohori Park two years later. In the total area of 398,000 meters squared in size, about 226,000 meters squared is surrounded for by water. It is a popular place for Fukuoka citizens to come and relax.
A summer tradition in Fukuoka is the “West Ohori Fireworks” is held in the summer. There is a Japanese garden where you can see the dry landscape garden, plus waterfalls and take a stroll in the garden and visit the Sukiya Tea House. There is a round garden path around the perimeter of the pond for jogging and walking, as well as swan boats for the pond, so there are plenty of activities for you to do as you spend a lazy day at the park.
Mizutaki is a famous hot pot cuisine with a hundred years history which uses chicken thighs and vegetables. The simple taste of the chicken broth and vegetables goes well with ponzu sauce. In Hakata it is common to first enjoy the broth, then the chicken and vegetables, then put in rice or noodles to enjoy the soup until its gone. Each restaurant has its unique soup (dashi) and ingredients and in many places there is a person who will let you know how to enjoy the Mizutaki. Mizutaki Nagano, Hakata Mizutaki Shinmiura, and Mizutaki Iroha are the three most famous Mizutaki restaurants in Hakata.
#15. Komyozenji Temple
Komyozenji Temple is a Zen Buddhist temple that was built in 1273 by Tetsugyu Enshin of the Sugawara no Michizane family. Komyozenji’s main attraction is the beautiful Japanese gardens. The temple has two abstract rock gardens that visitors can admire, a front garden, and a rear garden. The front garden is the smaller of the two and is composed of fifteen rocks laid among a plot of raked pebbles. The rocks are distributed so that they form the Japanese character for “light”.
The rear garden can be viewed from the main temple building. The larger garden incorporates a lot of green nature in addition to the stones and pebbles. The garden’s moss patches, rocks and pebbles are laid out as an abstract representation of large land and water bodies. Branches from the maple trees hang over the garden and makes the temple a popular autumn leaf spot around mid-November. Komyozenji Temple is right next to the approach to Dazaifu Tenmangu, so it would be best to take in the sights at these two places when you’re there.
Karashimentaiko or mentaiko (marinated roe of pollock and cod) is a very popular souvenir to buy from Hakata. Mentaiko is loved by not only by the people of Hakata but from people all over Japan. The most famous mentaiko manufacturer, “Yamaya” was established here in 1974. Yamaya marinates the roe for 168 hours in its special sauce creating a rich and tasty mentaiko. At Hakata Station there is a mentaiko museum where you can not only buy a wide variety of mentaiko, try mentaiko rice crackers which goes well with beer and sake.
#17. Blue Dragon Cave (Seiryukutsu)
Photo Credit: town.kanda.lg.jp
The Blue Dragon Cave (Seiryukutsu) is a 3km long limestone cave which was designated as a Japanese Natural Treasure in 1962. History says that it was a training ground for Shugendo, a Japanese mountain asceticism incorporating Shinto and Buddhist concepts. There are exploration tours guided by the Hiraodai Nature Observation Center.
#18. Tachibana Garden
The Tachibana Garden, now known as the Ohana Estate and Garden, is an important cultural institution that beautifully evokes the refined lifestyle of the samurai class from the Edo period (1603-1867), and that of the feudal lords that once governed Yanagawa. The estate was formerly the home of Yanagawa’s ruling Tachibana family. The estate still houses a splendid collection of antiques that have been passed down through successive generations of the Tachibana family, over a period of 400 years. In 1994, the Tachibana Museum was opened to the public. Ohana’s famous garden, Shotoen, is a Nationally Designated Site of Natural Beauty.
#19. Fukuoka Tower
Fukuoka Tower, located at the center of the Seaside Momochi area, was built in 1989 as a monument of the Asian Pacific Expo (Yokatopia), an event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the enforcement of the Fukuoka City organization. The 234 meter high tower is covered with 8,000 half mirrors and is the tallest seaside tower in Japan. You will be able to see the urban functions, nature, and culture of Fukuoka City all at once from the observation room at 123 meters high.
The tower is illuminated in lighting patterns depending on the season, for example, cherry blossom in spring, the milky way in summer, full moon in autumn, and a Christmas tree in winter. Fukuoka Tower is a popular place that is certified as a Lovers Sanctuary for couples in Fukuoka city. There is a story that your love will last forever if you hang a heart shaped love key on the fence at Lovers Sanctuary.