Real-time "point and shoot" photographs and anecdotal information from the travels and experiences of rEy Shaun Madolora - Photographer, Traveler, Bicycle Enthusiast, Yogi, Musician, Foodie, Patron of the Arts, and Entrepreneur...
Weekend Guide to Fukuoka Japan
I LOVE FUKUOKA, JAPAN! I really do. It is a beautiful city full of beautiful people, and it is a great example of an environmentally conscience city that has done a spectacular job of promoting green space in a dense, urban environment. It is the perfect city to spend a long weekend (4days/3nights) if you’re already traveling in Japan or in nearby South Korea, northern China, or Taiwan. It’s easy to fly into and navigate and has great public transportation.
It is also a city that illustrates the positive impact the bicycle can have on traffic, the environment, health, and a city’s culture if advocated! Fukuoka is no Amsterdam, but it is very close when it comes to bicycling.
Here is my weekend guide to Fukuoka and why I love this great city:
1) Bikes Prevail
You notice the influence of bikes in Fukuoka as soon as you arrive in the city. Bicycles are everywhere and ridden by every type of person! The longer you walk the less cool you feel as it seems like everyone is riding a bike except you. If you aren’t riding a bike then you’re a minority! The sidewalks are designed to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists and there is bike parking everywhere. For an avid cyclists like me Fukuoka is like a dream where the bicycles have overtaken the automobiles and Fuokoka is a great city to explore on two-wheels.
The tourist information booths are going to direct you to Cross Country Bikes for your bike rentals but we got ours from Fukuchari Bike Rentals (Map #1) because their rental hours are longer and their rate is 1,000JPY cheaper (~$12USD) for the day. They also spoke better English and directed us to great sights and restaurants.
2) Green Buildings
The ACROS Building (Map #2) is like a green building on steroids. It’s terraced roof has more than 35,000 plants representing more than 76 species. The area around the ACROS building is fun to explore with parks and a shrine which makes a visit to ACROS a must on a trip to Fukuoka! Choose a staircase (there are two at the base of the garden) and walk up one side of the building and down the other. The views at the top are magnificent even if the observation deck isn’t open. The ACROS Building is one of many green buildings in Fukuoka and you will come across many in the Tenjin and Hakata areas.
This ain’t the shit you ate in college. The ramen in Fukuoka is famous! We had ramen several times during the weekend, but my favorite experience was at Nagahama Ramen (Map #3). This restaurant has a great outdoor setting and the ramen was outstanding! The ramen stalls (yatai) in Nakasu are also a great option, but there is no shortage of ramen restaurants especially in the Hakata area.
4) The Parks
You are never far from a park in Fukuoka. This is good for us because we love to stay active when we travel and I have a physique to maintain! The parks are a great place to escape, get some exercise, or participate in other activities like paddling or fishing. Be sure to visit Nishi Park (Map #4) on your bike tour of the city for some great views of the coast. A visit to Ohori Park and Maizuru Park are a must (Map #7). There is a Starbucks in the center of Ohori Park that is a great place to relax and do some people watching while sipping on a latte. Ohori Park is also a great place to run and bike and has a 2km jogging track. The lake here is beautiful and you don’t feel like you’re in a huge city when in the middle of this park.
5) The Sights
Sightseeing in Fukuoka is a lot of fun mainly because the most interesting sights are in fairly close proximity to each other and can be reached on foot (via the metro - Tōjinmachi Sta.) or by bike. The Yahoo Dome (Map #5) and the Fukuoka Tower (Map #6) are two great sights to visit and are surrounded by some nice beach parks. The beach in front of the Fukuoka Tower is a great place to grab a drink. Attend a SoftBank Hawks’ baseball game in the Yahoo Dome if they are playing that weekend!
6) Sex and the City
I personally am not an advocate for the sex trade. After all, a guy like me with a beautiful girlfriend and these good looks has little use for such a thing, but the red-light district of Fukuoka is famous and is worth a visit at night when illuminated by its neon lights! Nakasu (Map #8), Fukuoka’s red-light district, has over 3,500 restaurants, ramen stalls, pubs, hostess bars, and rooftop beer gardens (in the summer months). It is an absolute spectacle to explore at night and a great area to have some drinks.
For me no trip to Japan is complete without experiencing sushi and Fukuoka has you covered in this area! The most affordable option to feast on sushi is at a “Kaiten” Sushi restaurant, or conveyor-belt sushi. This will allow you to try a number of sushi concoctions and alleviates any language barriers that might exist because you can simply point at the item you want to eat. These restaurants usually have picture menus as well in the event you want to order an item that is not on the conveyor-belt. Be sure to order some miso soup!
Our friend Tanaka at Fukuchari Bikes recommended an outstanding Kaiten Sushi restaurant near the Akasaka Sta. (Map #9). From the metro head south on Taisho-dori Ave. and take a left at the second street you come to. The restaurant is one blog down on your left (sign has a ship with sails). This place magical!
8) Wandering Tenjin & Hakata
There are some cities where you can simply get lost in and find yourself wandering for hours without even knowing it. It is easy to do this in the Tenjin and Hakata areas (Map “*” and area encircled in blue) of Fukuoka. When you set out to explore this area by bike or foot there is no reason to have a destination in mind as there is something interesting around every corner in the form of a boutique, cafe, bakery, bar, or restaurant. There are also a few shrines in the area as well as some spectacular architecture. This is where the arcades and cinemas are concentrated as well as some cool bookstores where you can hangout. You will want to book your hotel in or near this area.
This area is a mecca for shopping and you’ll find luxury brands like Prada, Gucci, and LV mixed with more affordable brands like H&M and Forever21. There are huge malls like Canal City (Map #10) and Solaria as well as department stores like Mistukoshi and Daimaru (no reason to mark on map because they are so huge and very visible in Tenjin).
You can find every kind of restaurant in this area serving local cuisine and anything else you can imagine from Mexican to Indian and everything in between. There are cute little bakeries and cafes as well as well as ice-cream stands. The local boutiques are super hip and fun to check out even if you’re just window shopping. If it is raining then the underground area under Tenjin is massive and worth checking out even if the weather isn’t bad.
This is a great area to hit happy hour at a Asahi, Kiran, or Suntory branded bar (there are many), but remember that you can rack up a 3,000JPY (~$40USD) tab rather rapidly and in a couple of rounds as this is Japan!
*A long weekend (4days/3nights) will run a couple around ~$750 (excluding flights) which includes staying at a moderately priced hotel, good daytime meals, happy hours, nice dinners with desert, and transportation (metro and bike rentals).
**As always a special thanks must go to my beautiful girlfriend (as well as my travel companion, personal trainer, and nutritionist), Vania Lanas, who is the mastermind behind all our travel itineraries and makes sure that I return from all our adventures alive!
Rey Shaun Madolora is a professional photographer, avid traveler, competitive cyclist, yogi, foodie, and entrepreneur who is based in Austin, Texas when he is not exploring the world. This is his second trip to Japan.