Fukuoka is neither on the tourist trail or known as a food city, but give it a day or two and you might be surprised by both its culinary chops and its aesthetic appeal. Here are seven reasons to visit this remarkable southern Japanese city.
1 – TASTE HAKATA RAMEN IN IT’S HOME
Ramen broth comes in many forms, and one of my favourite types, Tonkatsu, is cooked with pork bones, and originates in Fukuoka. Hakata Ramen is rich, meaty, full of flavour and well worth queueing up for a bowl – it’s as beautiful as it is tasty. By far my favourite is served at the popular little restaurant Hakata Issou.
2 – EXPERIENCE A DISAPPEARING FOOD CULTURE
Yatai’s are small street side stalls that by night seat around 10 people and serve a range of Japanese dishes. Faced with accusations of overpricing and poor hygiene and refuse standards, the Japanese government has long been working to eliminate them and their numbers have largely reduced across Japan in recent years. Fukuoka is the last bastion of this unique culture and although I recommend it for the experience (sitting in an raucous little street stall under a glorified tarpaulin drinking sake and eating tasty Japanese dishes with a bunch of strangers is pretty cool), in my experience they tend to be overpriced and not the best in terms of quality. That said, there are some good ones. I didn’t get to try it but I’ve heard consistently good things about Kokinchan (try the yaki-ramen!).
3 – GET A TASTE OF MENTAIKO
Spicy pollock roe might not feature on your culinary bucket list, but after trying it you might have to make room. The delicious, salty delicacy features in a variety of dishes and snacks all over Fukuoka (try the mentaiko quiche in the domestic terminal at the airport) but for a real taste of authentic mentaiko, try it at Ganso Hakata Mentaiju. Spicy roe with rice and beautiful runny Japanese egg (an additional side dish) is salty, creamy and a little sweet, and possibly the best mouthful of flavours I’ve ever tasted.
4 – TAKE AN EVENING STROLL AROUND TENJIN PARK
At weekends many Japanese parks become popular hang-out spots for entire families and groups of friends of all ages. It’s so popular in fact that you have to pre-book your spot, and an official will go around checking everyone is following the rules. At Tenjin Park, young and old alike sit on blankets eating, drinking and playing games. And if you’re lucky enough to be there during Sakura season the whole thing becomes something even more magical.
5 – TRY FUKUOKA’S MOST FAMOUS SWEET
Every Japanese city has its official sweet treat it seems (a tradition I thoroughly enjoy). Fukuoka’s offering is a kinda dumpling, with a very thin, soft and spongey outer layer, filled with sweet white bean paste (tastier than it sounds), butter and cream. It’s actually one of the more western-tasting sweets in Japan and can be bought from both Hakata and Tenjin station’s and the airport for around $1 each. Defo worth trying.
6 – TAKE A DAY TRIP
15 minutes on a bullet train or an hour on a (much cheaper) local train is the quaint city of Kitakyushu, home to a castle (especially beautiful in Sakura season) and some cute local markets that are both cheaper and far more authentic then those found in more touristy areas in more popular cities. It’s also where you will find one of the world’s most renowned wisteria gardens (open from mid-April through summer).
7 – CHERRY BLOSSOM-FLAVOURED ICE CREAM
Fukuoka isn’t the only city in Japan where you can find sakura ice cream/gelato but the one I tasted at Hakata station is hands down my favourite. Nope, it doesn’t taste like flowers and yep, it is incredibly flavourful – without being too sweet. YUM.
Please share this article on the best things to do in Fukuoka! And if you enjoyed Fukuoka as much as I did and would like to recommend any other things to do in and around the city, let other travelers know by commenting below!