The twin cities of Fukuoka and Hakata (pop. 1,302,000) were originally distinct cities, but merged in 1889 to form the largest city in Kyūshū and 8th biggest city in Japan.
Fukuoka used to be a castle town. Nowadays only fragments of the castle walls remain. Hakata, the commoner's town is the most populated part, and is home to the terminus of the shinkansen line. The train station is therefore known as 'Hakata', while the airport is called 'Fukuoka Airport'.
Fukuoka is a pleasant city to live in, but it isn' a major sightseeing destination. Nevertheless, the city has a few things to be proud of and enough to keep short-term visitors occupied for one or two busy days.
Momochi Seaside Park シーサイドももち海浜公園
The Momochi waterfront is the showcase of Fukuoka's modern architecture. This expanse of reclaimed land on Hakata Bay is located at the western end of the city and is best reached by bus (#305) from Tenjin or Hakata Station. Dominating the skyline, the 234m tall Fukuoka Tower (福岡タワー) is the highest seaside tower in Japan, and the undeniable landmark of the city.
A few minutes walk south of the tower is the Fukuoka City Museum (福岡市博物館). It is famous for an ancient gold seal presented by the Chinese Han emperor to the vassal King of Na (in Kyūshū) in 57 CE. It was discovered on the shores of Hakata Bay in 1784.
Roughly 1 km east of the tower, the Fukuoka Dome (or Yahoo Dome, after its main sponsor) is the venue of the local baseball team, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. It was the first stadium to have a retractable-roof in Japan when it was completed in 1993. It also boasts the world's longest sports bar, where fans can watch a game from inside, sitting along its 188m-long counter. Opposite is Hawks Town, a large mall named after the baseball team. In the same complex, the Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawks Hotel (formerly JAL Resort), designed by world-famous Argentine architect Cesar Pelli, is also worth having a look for its jungle atrium featuring tropical plants, exotic birds and waterfalls.
Ōhori-kōen Park 大濠公園
The huge Ōhori-kōen Park is the former ground of the now derelict Fukuoka Castle. It is located roughly halfway between Fukuoka Dome and the downtown restaurant district of Tenjin. A highschool and sports fields have taken over most of the eastern half of the park, around the castle ruins. The western half is a lake with an island shaped vaguely like Honshū.
In the middle of all this, at the southern extremity of the park, is the Fukuoka Art Museum (福岡市美術館). Its collections are wide-ranging, including both traditional and modern Oriental arts, as well as a few 20th-century Western masters like Dali, Miro, Chagall, Delvaux or Warhol. Particularly noteworthy are the Japanese paintings and drawings, the Honda collection of South-East Asian ceramics, the Matsunaga collection of tea ceremony utensils, and the treasures of the Kuroda clan, who ruled over Fukuoka during the Edo period.
South of the museum are the Nihon-teien (日本庭園), a traditional Japanese garden, and across the road, the extensive Gokoku-jinja Shrine (護国神社).
Hakata boast one of the largest commercial complex in Japan, Canal City, which has some 250 shops and restaurants, an art theatre, 13 cinema screens, several hotels, banks, business offices, showrooms and a Sega amusement park. It has been called a "city within the city" and is a tourist attraction of its own.
Temple-lovers will look for the Tōchō-ji Temple (東長寺), founded in 806 by Kōbō Taishi, the monk who actively propagated the esoteric Shingon sect of Buddhism around Japan. The star attraction is the wooden, 10.8 metres tall, 30 tons Daibutsu (大仏 ; Giant Buddha). Although it is the largest wooden Buddha in Japan, it was only completed in 1992, and as such is not as famous as the ancient Daibutsu of Nara or Kamakura. Nevertheless it is an admirable piece of craftmanship.
The adjacent Shōfuku-ji Temple (聖福寺), near Hakata station, is Japan's oldest Zen temple. It was founded in 1195 by the priest Eisai-Myōan, who imported Rinzai Zen Buddhism from China. As Eisai returned to Japan by way of Hakata, it is here that he established Japan's first Zen temples, before spreading the teachings of the new school to Kyoto and Kamakura.
Every summer the Hakata Gion Matsuri (博多祇園祭り) brings hundreds of thousands of onlookers for what is one of Kyūshū's biggest festivals. The enormous mikoshi, decorated with colourful puppets, can be seen at the very sacred Kushida-jinja Shrine (櫛田神社), near Canal City. The shrine is dedicated to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu and her brother Susanoo-no-Mikata.
Just in front of Kushida-jinja is the Hakata Machiya Furusato-kan (博多町家ふるさと館), a folk museum housed in whitewashed Meiji-era merchant houses. You will find traditional handicraft shops, recordings of the Hakata-ben dialect, demonstrations of Hakata-ori silk weaving (used for the manufacture of kimono), a miniature model of the city in the 19th century, and videos of the Hakata Gion Matsuri.
North of Kushida Shrine, you'll find the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (福岡アジア美術館). Inaugurated in 1999, it is the only museum in the world that systematically collects and exhibits modern and contemporary art from all over East Asia.
20 km east of Fukuoka (50 minutes by train), in the middle of the countryside, lies a great Reclining Buddha Statue in the Nanzō-in Temple. Completed in 1995, the bronze statue is 41 metres long, 11 metres high and weighs 300 tons (about 200 sedan cars), making it about 2.5 times more voluminous than the Daibutsu statues of either Kamakura or Nara. The Nanzōin Daibutsu is not the largest Buddha statue in Japan though. That distinction is earned by the immense Ushiku Daibutsu in Ibaraki Prefecture, which measures 120 metres (390 ft) in height and weighs 4,000 tons.
How to get there
Fukuoka/Hakata is the last stop on the Shinkansen line from Osaka (2h50min, ¥9,350), Tokyo (5h30min, ￥13,440) and Sendai (7h10,￥16,070). There are also direct trains to Nagasaki (2h, ￥2,700), Beppu (1h30min, ￥3,440) and Kumamoto (1h20min, ￥2,070).
There are numerous highway buses to/from Fukuoka. Nishitetsu has buses between Hakata or Tenjin stations and Shimonoseki (1h40min, ￥1,500), Beppu (2h30min, ￥3,100), Takachiho (3h30min, ￥3,900), Okayama (9h,￥7,200), Osaka (9h40min,￥10,000), Kyoto (9h30min, ￥10,500) and Tokyo (14h20min, ￥12,000) among others. There may be discounts when purchasing 4 tickets in one time on some lines (convenient when travelling in group of 4 or more people).
Fukuoka is one of Japan's main airports. What is more, it is located only 1km from Hakata Station, and so can be reached in only 15min from the center. JAL and ANA both have flights to/from Sapporo, Sendai Tokyo (Haneda & Narita), Nagoya, Osaka (Itami & Kansai) and Okinawa.
JAL also has flights to/from Aomori, Akita, Hanamaki, Shinshu-Matsumoto, Okayama, Izumo, Tokushima, Kochi, Matsuyama, Miyazaki and Kagoshima. ANA has flights to/from Fukushima, Niigata, Toyama, Komatsu, Tsushima, Goto-Fukue and Ishigaki.
Fukuoka Airport is only 5min from the city centre by train (￥250).
Map of attractions in Fukuoka