Edited by Elodi Troskie
Fukuoka is a hidden gem all by itself. Smaller and less known than Tokyo yet big enough to offer everything you could look for in a city experience. Fukuoka is the best of both worlds and a must-visit city in Japan! Fukuoka is easy-going and locals are a really friendly bunch. You’ll feel so welcome here. Worth mentioning about Fukuoka is its airport – located right in the middle of the city, it’s probably the most accessible airport in all of Japan. This means that Fukuoka is very well connected to other parts of the country, making it the perfect laid-back weekend getaway. So if you find yourself in the city even just for a few days, here are 10 hidden gems in Fukuoka, Japan that you should scout out!
Despite being home to the largest bronze statue in the world, Nanzoin Temple is questionably little known among tourists visiting Fukuoka. At 11 meters high and 41 meters long, this Reclining Buddha is hardly difficult to miss. Nanzoin Temple was originally built on Mt. Koyasan but was moved to Sasaguri because of threats from anti-Buddhist authorities to destroy the temple. As part of the Sasaguri pilgrimage, one of the three main pilgrimage routes in Japan, Nanzoin is one of almost 100 temples situated along this route. To reach Nanzoin Temple, take the train to Kido Nanzoin-mae, from where the temple is just a three-minute walk.
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Kirin Beer Park
For beer lovers, Kirin Beer Park is a must-visit place in Fukuoka. Kirin is one of only four local breweries in Kyushu, brewing some of the best craft beer in Fukuoka. The brewery offers a factory tour, followed by a beer tasting where you can sample a variety of their freshly brewed draft beers. The guided tours, taking place between 9:30 am and 3 pm every day except Mondays, last about 70 minutes and is completely free as long as you reserve your place in advance. After the tour and tasting, head over to the adjoining restaurant for some of Fukuoka’s must-try local dishes. The restaurant is open daily from 11 am until 10 pm. Another highlight of Kirin is the massive field of flowers where more than 10 000 flowers bloom during spring and summer. To get to Kirin, take the train to Tachiarai Station, from where you’ll walk about 10 minutes to the brewery.
Fukuoka is home to the best strawberries in all of Japan. Its tropical climate makes for the ideal circumstances to cultivate tropical fruits, and strawberry season is in full swing between December and May. One of the best things to do in Fukuoka in spring is to go strawberry picking at one of the many strawberry farms in the surrounds. An interesting activity that’ll be great fun for the whole family! One of the biggest strawberry farms in Fukuoka is Asaka Ichigo, known for Kiyoka, its own variety of strawberries. Or visit Akiyama Gardening, another massive strawberry farm who grows some of the best Amaou in Fukuoka – a variety unique to the Hakata district that has proven to be one of the most popular kinds in Fukuoka.
Yanagawa is a picturesque little town situated off the beaten path of Fukuoka’s city center. Sometimes described as a Japanese Venice, this town is the most charming hidden gem in Fukuoka. The Yanagawa Castle was built in the 1500s and became known as the Water Castle on account of the water canals surrounding it. Back then, these water-filled moats served the function of keeping out enemies. Nowadays, the moats are still in use – visitors can cruise around Yanagawa in tiny boats to sightsee the town. Cruising along the Yanagawa River is the most beautiful in spring when Japan’s famous cherry blossoms are in bloom. Starting at 9 am, cruises depart throughout the day. Tickets can be bought at the docks at 1500 yen for adults and 800 for children.
Kokura Castle is a must-visit destination in Fukuoka that was only recently reopened for the public. The original castle dates back to the early 1600s but reconstruction work was done to repair damage from a fire that destroyed large parts of the building in 1866. The traditional architecture was remodeled to preserve as much of the original castle as possible. The castle is open to visitors and features historical displays and artifacts from the original construction. From the top floor of the castle, you’ll have an amazing panoramic view of the city. The castle grounds, also known as Katsuyama Park, are a public space especially popular for cherry blossom viewing parties in spring. The castle is open daily from 9 am until 6 pm. Admission for the castle and garden is 350 yen each, or you can buy a combo ticket for 700 yen that includes access to the Matsumoto Seicho Memorial Museum.
Canal City is a massive, multifunctional shopping and entertainment complex in Hakata. This is a great place to hang out at night in Fukuoka. With its large variety of restaurants and entertainment activities like a cinema, amusement arcade, there’s much more to do in Canal City than shopping. A highlight of Canal City is the incredible Ramen Stadium that takes up the entirety of the fifth floor, housing all the different varieties of ramen dishes you can imagine. If you’re looking for live entertainment, the impressive fountain-side stage outside Canal City hosts local musicians almost every day. Canal City is just a short bus ride from Hakata or Tenjin Station. Opening hours are from 10 am to 9 pm every day.
Yame Green Tea
Yame is one of Fukuoka’s best-kept secrets. Located in the center of Kyushu, Yame is a rural community that boasts beautiful, mountainous landscapes. This area is relatively small and houses only about 60 000 people. Although it’s small and reserved, Yame is home to a golden egg: the finest green tea in all of Japan. Yame’s green tea cultivation dates back almost a 1000 years when the monk, Eirin Shuzui, planted the first seeds of their kind. Nowadays, local farmers in Yame produce almost all varieties of green tea, often as part of a family business. If you visit Fukuoka, you can try all the varieties of Japan’s highest quality green tea right where they were born.
Mojiko is a charming district that revolves around the port that used to serve as one of the major international shipping centers in Fukuoka, but it’s the architecture that makes it so special. Walking through these streets, you’ll be surrounded by historic buildings that date back to centuries ago. Nowadays, many of these old buildings have been revamped to house cafes, restaurants, galleries, museums and other local businesses. You can spend the entire day exploring the quaint Mojiko Retro! Start your sightseeing tour of Mojiko at the Mojiko Station, the oldest station on the Kagoshima Line. From there, you can walk along the scenic waterfront. To get to Mojiko, take the JR Kagoshima Line for about 13 minutes from the city center.
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The Miyajidake Shrine, located in the north of Fukuoka, is a haven of good fortune and spiritual awakening for many visitors throughout the year. The first day of every month is always a special event for the shrine as the Tsuitachi Mairi ritual takes place at the start of the First Prayer Festival. The roads leading to the shrine are lined with food vendors and stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs, bringing new life to the area until the early morning hours. If you’re visiting the shrine during the day, you’ll catch the beautiful scenery of the road leading to the temple. From the shrine itself, you’ll have a breath-taking view of this scenic road stretching out towards the sea. The shrine is open from sunrise to sunset and prayer times are from 8:30 am until 5 pm every day.
Kawachi Wisteria Garden
The Kawachi Wisteria Garden is the most beautiful natural hidden gem in Fukuoka. If you need a few hours of complete peace, there is no better place to relax than here! Located in the south of central Kitakyushu, Kawachi is famous for its impressive collection of wisteria flowers. The garden isn’t open all year round, so if you catch it open during your visit to Fukuoka, you’re in luck. The garden is open to the public during the wisteria season, which is usually from April to mid-May, and again during the maple season in autumn. If you’re looking for that perfect Instagram-spot, Kawachi is Fukuoka’s best secret spot for photos. The most convenient way to access Kawachi is by car or bus, but if you want to avoid traffic, the best option is to take the train from Kokura Station for about 15 minutes to JR Yahata Station. During the peak spring season, there is a shuttle bus that runs every half an hour between the garden and Yahata Station.
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