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Fun in Fukuoka

For many years, a trip to Fukuoka, Japan was part of the package when working in Korea. Foreigners, especially teachers, were required to get the visas outside of the country and then return to get their alien registration card. The so-called “visa run” was typically paid for by the employer and allowed many foreigners to get a taste of Japan before returning to their life in Korea. These days visa runs are not too common but the city still has a lot to offer.

While many choose Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka as their go-to Japan destination, Fukuoka should not be overlooked. Especially if you are looking for a cheap escape from the hustle and bustle of life in Korea. With tickets starting as low as 20,000 won (yes, that is correct but conditions apply*) and the city fully embracing hostels and AirBnB, you can actually go there without really breaking the bank. With that being said, what can you actually do there?

One of the many department stores around Tenjin Station


In recent years, Hakata has become the go to place for shopping. The central train station is now a huge complex of stores, restaurants, and cafes. Many are a part of a department store and similar to the Korean departments stores, as they contain smaller brand name shops. The basement and entrance to the subway is filled with cafes, shops and restaurants as well. You could basically spend an entire day shopping and eating here.

The start of the Tenjin Underground Shopping area

Tenjin has always been the centre for shopping in Fukuoka. There are a few major department stores located a stones throw away from each other and not to mention the famous underground shopping area as well. This again is another area where one could literally shop ’til they drop. There is also a duty free area here and many of the stores offer tax-back for travellers.

Depending on what you are looking for, Fukuoka has a ton of variety. From trendy shops for clothes and housewares to electronics and cameras. I have always found that there was a little more variety and products in Japan than in Korea.

If you are into photography and even if you are not, Yodobashi Camera and BIC Camera should not be passed up. These two stores are more than just camera shops. They have pretty much everything under the sun. From toys to electronics and pretty much everything in between. Yodobashi is located right behind Hakata Station and is the better of the two camera shops. BIC Camera is located  a block down from Tenjin station. BIC Camera is separated into 3 separate buildings which makes it an interesting shopping experience. Both of these shops off a tax-back option.

If you are looking for more traditional shopping, the Nakasu Kawabata Shopping Arcade might be more your style. There are about 130 shops that offer more traditional crafts and souvenirs. Not to mention that you will also find Owl Family here. This is Fukuoka’s famous owl cafe. It is located near the Kushida Shrine end of the shopping arcade. Be sure to check the times as they only let in so many people every hour. If you miss the time, then you have to wait until the next hour to get in.

Canal City has expanded out from “the canal” down the street with popular shops like Uniqlo and Zara

Canal City is another popular shopping mall in Fukuoka. It seems to be expanding more with new shops popping up all the time. What makes this place special is the canal that cuts through the shopping mall and the water show that takes place frequently. The shop is filled with many of your typical mall stores and cafes. The open air style of this mall might make you a little more relaxed than the dark tunnels of Tenjin.

Canal City at night

Sightseeing and Attractions

Fukuoka is known for being a laid back city compared to places like Tokyo. However, this adds to the charm of this city. So despite having a lot of places to visit, you can still wander around at a relaxed pace. If you are looking for a peaceful start to your day, check out the numerous shrines and temples around the city. The largest of which is the Shofukuji Temple and the Fukuoka old city which is located around the temple. It is a picturesque place with an abundance of nature.

a performer runs across the bridge at the Shofukuji Temple to get ready for a parade.

Within walking distance is the Kushida Shrine. This is an important shrine in Fukuoka and is the starting point for the Yamaksa Festival in July as well as parts of the Dontaku Festival as well. Fukuoka has some of the most famous temples in the area. The most popular of which is the Dazaifu Temple, which is located about 30 minutes away from Tenjin Station.

Dazaifu Temple is extremely busy during the holiday season known as “Golden Week” in Japan.

If you are looking to get a little more sightseeing in, this is your trip. To get to Dazaifu temple, take the train to Omuta and then transfer to the special Tabito Train. This is a special train that takes tourists to the temple site. Each car of the train is beautifully decorated and is decorated to give different kinds of luck. You can even write down your wishes in car #3 to have them taken to Kamado Shrine.

The Tabito Train at it’s final stop in Dazaifu Station

Ohori Park is beautiful in the mornings and many people take advantage of the path around the lake to get some exercise.

Fukuoka also offers a lot of other great sites, not just temples. Ohori Park is a beautiful park to spend the day relaxing or cruising around on one of the many kinds of paddle boats. At the far end of the park there is a beautiful Japanese garden which is perfectly manicured and beautiful. Not to mention that this is the site of the Fukuoka castle as well. So visitors can also catch up on their history there too. A hidden gem is the rotating carousel inside the mister donut on the edge of the park. It is an interesting piece and makes for a unique place to relax after wandering around the park.

The Japanese Gardens at the back of Ohori Park

The city offers so many places to have fun for the family as well. Space World amusement park in the Uminonkamichi Seaside Park is a well known attracting. Not to mention that is also an aquarium there as well. There is also the Fukuoka City Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the numerous museums, and exhibitions for the while family.

Getting Around

Fukuoka is a modern city with many kids of transportation options. Do be aware that taxis are significantly more expensive than buses or the subway. The best way to get around is via the subway, in my opinion. You can get a day pass for the subway that will give you unlimited rides for just over 600 yen. If you have a full day planned, this is the way to go.

For those a little more active, many hostels and bikes have rental bikes. Here is a link for one to check out. This is another preferred way to get around the city. The sideways are surprisingly scooter-free and have ample space for you to ride. Not to mention that the city is surprisingly bike-friendly with many places to lock up your bike.

Eating and Drinking

There are so many places to choose from but there is one thing that you absolutely must try and that is the Hakata Ramen. This is what the area is famous for and for good reason. It is very delicious and completely different to many of the Korean noodle dishes. The broth is almost creamy and very savoury. The noodle are thin and a little chewy. Many places will offer this with a side of gyoza as well. The combination is epic.

Hakata Ramen with a side of gyoza for 1000 yen. Shin Shin Ramen is located in the basement of the Kittie Building in Hakata Station

If you are looking for Western food, the city has full embraced this as well. From burgers to pizza buffets, you can pretty much find anything that you want. There are even a few British Pubs around Canal City as well. Many of these places feel like a theme restaurant but overall they offer decent food at a premium. Also note that there are plenty of non-Japanese places around such as a Filipino restaurant in the Nakasu District.

Tagsta coffee is for those with sturdy legs and an eye for art. This cafe has no chairs but has a small gallery attached to the cafe.

Fukuoka has also embraced the cafe culture as well. There are a ton of coffee shops around but there are also a number of great cafes offer mind-blowing coffee and a quiet atmosphere. Coffee is not much more expensive than it is here and you will often notice that many places will also serve beer as well. Tagsta Coffee has a great art gallery attached to it and is an interesting concept… no seats. REC Coffee in Yakuin Station and Hakata Station are noted as one of the best shops in the city.

The Nakasu District at night

Nakasu is the entertainment district having many different types bars, karaoke rooms and pachinko parlours. This is a place that comes alive at nice for all kinds of reasons. Most notably because of the Yatai Tents that open up along the river. These tents are famous and get really busy. Serving all kinds of food and most notably ramen. Do be aware that this place does get super busy and long lineups are common.

Fukuoka’s famous yatai stands

Getting There

There are plenty of options to get to Japan and they keep getting cheaper. The top two options being the hydrofoil and by air. Flight tickets from Busan are getting remarkably cheap to the point where a round-trip ticket for this particular trip were less than a round-trip ticket to Seoul on the KTX. However, for weekend and holiday travel, ticket prices do get a little pricey.

In my opinion, flying to Fukuoka is the best option. Simply take the Gimhae Airport shuttle from the Taehwa Rotary Terminal (guide here) and then get off at the first stop (International Terminal). Typically Air Busan and Jeju Air have really cheap tickets and fly out of Gimhae regularly.

Upon Arrival, take the free shuttle bus to the domestic terminal in Fukuoka. From there you can jump on the subway to the city. The shuttle takes about 13 minutes to get to the domestic terminal and from the airport to Hakata Station it is about 5 minutes. The subway ticket should be about 260 yen.

Where to Stay

There are many options and many hotels to suit your budget. Many of the hotels are suited more for Japanese business travellers, so keep in mind that your room will be small have only the essentials. For families perhaps AirBnB is a better option. However, it is more important to get a good location than anything.

Hakata Station

My preferred area is around Hakata Station for the simple fact that everything is right there from subways to trains to buses and now numerous shops and restaurants. Literally, everything is right there. It is also on the airport line, so again when you have to leave, it is only 5 minutes to the airport.

Tenjin is another great place to stay as it is a central location near shops and a major terminal. It is also near the main subway line and only a few minutes from Hakata Station.

For more information on Fukuoka check out Fukuoka Now! which has many guides to the city and festivals.

* Flights that are dirt cheap often have restrictions like the amount of baggage you can bring. For example a one-way ticket to Fukuoka from Busan was 20,000 won (plus fees and taxes) but you were only allowed 1 10kg carry on bag. No checked baggage and any additional bags cost 30,000 won each.

Jason Teale is a freelance photographer and writer based in South Korea specializing in travel, Cinemagraphs, food, and documentary photography. Available for assignments in Ulsan, Busan, Seoul, and nationwide.