So you have one day in Fukuoka, one of the exquisitely understated travel destinations in Japan, meaning that while it is positively a nirvana of retail therapy and foodie finds, it is also blissfully free of tourists. Surprising when you consider that it is also the gateway between Japan and the rest of Asia, linking Japan to Seoul and Shanghai and making it an ideal stopover in on your travels across Asia. Fukuoka, despite the lack of tourist hordes, makes for an incredibly easy travel spot of itself – unlimited day passes on public transport for tourists means easy and affordable sightseeing, while many of the Fukuoka attractions have free entry. The subway is easy to use, and with a laid-back atmosphere and friendly population, this unassuming city is your oyster. Of course, 24 hours seems a pitifully short time in any destination as worthy as this, but with this Fukuoka one day itinerary you’ll have all you need for a perfect stopover in Fukuoka. Be sure to take a look at this guide to best things to do in one day in Fukuoka so that you can get the most out of your short time, making your one day in Fukuoka the highlight of you trip, instead of merely a layover.
With such a limited amount of time, you’ll want to be up early. Fukuoka airport is five minutes from Hakata Station and the center of the city, so if you only arrive in the morning, don’t despair; you’ll be able to launch right into the thick of things! Before you step off the bus, or out of the hotel room into the city air, here’s a tip about the seemingly interchangeable use of Fukuoka and Hakata: they’re essentially the same place. The cities of Fukuoka and Hakata, once divided by a river, were united in 1889. Fukuoka, comprising mostly of samurai, got to name the city, while Hakata, a city of merchants, determined the naming of anything cultural. Now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s get to the fun stuff, starting with a truly local breakfast! With the time limitations of a Fukuoka day trip, breakfast should be a quick affair, saving the big meals for later, so pop into a kombini (convenience food store) and grab some onigiri (a rice ball) for breakfast. It’s a simple, quick and cheap – exactly what you need for a jam-packed itinerary! It’s also incredibly authentic, being the breakfast that many residents of Fukuoka would enjoy.
Now that you’re fed and equipped with some snacks for the day ahead, head to the temple district for a cultural exploration. First stop; Jotenji Temple. The temple was built in by Shoichi Kokuchi–the same man who brought udon and soba noodles to Japan (thank you Shoichi Kokuchi!) as well as allegedly being the forefather of the city’s infamous Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival. Next, walk the couple hundred meters to Tochoji, a Shingon temple dating back as early as 806! Here you can see the largest wooden statue of the seated Buddha in Japan. Shofukuji is open 24 hours every day, so you can really squeeze this in wherever you’d like, but since it’s only walking distance away from Tochoji it makes perfect sense to head there next. Shofukuji is an awe-inspiring Fukuoka find, being the very first Zen temple constructed in Japan. It was built in 1195 by Buddhists, practising a religion that dates back to the 500s in Japan. Once you’ve had some quiet time in this profound place of history, take a short walk to Kushida Shrine where you can see one of the ginormous antique floats from the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival, as well as dedications to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu and the Susanoo–the God of Sea and Storms.
After a morning of mindfulness and reflection, you’ll probably be in the mood for a bit of modern madness; it’s time to get your shopping on! You can ask any local for the best things to do in one day Fukuoka, and you can be guaranteed that shopping in Fukuoka will be number one on the list! There are so many excellent places to get some retail therapy in, but my suggestion – Canal City! Head over to giant shopping complex, perhaps stopping on the way for a quick helping at one of Fukuoka’s best ramen spots – Hakata Ikkousha – situated directly between Hakata Station and Canal City, and a place that happens to appear on our list of the best ramen in Fukuoka! If shopping is not your idea of time well spent, or if your credit card is beginning to smoulder, fear not; Canal City offers so much more than the chance to shop. Not much to look at from the outside, the architecture within is an intricate winding construction of curved red brick and waterways. Every fifteen minutes you have the opportunity to catch a crowd-pleasing fountain show, full with 3D visualisations, a light show and AR technology that allows you to interact directly with the show! Whilst in Canal City you can see another of the historic Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival floats and stop for a bite at the Ramen Stadium where you can try up to ten different type of ramen.
After the hustle and bustle of your shopping experience, take a moment for quiet mindfulness. If your time in Buddhist temples has taught you anything about enjoying the present, put some of that into practise at the beautiful Ohori Koen (Ohori Park). To get there you’ll need to head to Nakasu-Kawabata station to catch the subway to Ohori park, a pleasant city park with a lake at its centre, perfect for a leisurely stroll around the lake, and maybe a coffee break. If it just so happens that the idea of a walk in the park and the pull of manicured green spaces appeal to you more than the idea of a busy morning of shopping, you have the option to skip the shopping trip and head straight to Ohori, which you can then (having saved yourself a great deal of time) follow up with a visit to Uminonakamichi Seaside Park. Here you will get to experience the amazing seaside appeal of Fukuoka, and perhaps even a nearby Fukuoka beach. Uminonakamichi one of the Fukuoka must see places and could take an entire day to explore with several different areas including a mini-zoo, extensive flower gardens and an amusement park, among other fun and thrilling facilities.
If you’re in the mood for a floral feast-for-the-eyes, you will be wowed by the millions of flowers planted around park and if you happen to be in the area in late March to early April you will be privileged to the spectacular sight of 2000 cherry trees in bloom.
If you opted for the shopping trip and Ohori Park, you’ll have some time to make your way over to the Fukuoka Castle ruins, a short distance from Ohori Park. The Fukuoka Castle ruins (I repeat, ruins!) are worth it for the historical aspects, as well as the excellent view from where the foundations of the keep remain. Not only does this vantage point offer a sweeping panoramic view of the city, but if you plan your trip at the right time of year you will be privy to a sea of sakura in bloom. It’s not difficult to imagine why someone would choose this spot to set up shop–or fortress. As beautiful as it is, don’t linger too long, there are more amazing views to be had! Hurry over to Fukuoka Tower, where you’ll get a 360º degree view of the city. You can’t ask for a better photo op! Have a cocktail or two at the top, but be sure not ruin your appetite just yet; a feast awaits at your next stop; Tenjin, Fukuoka food central!
One of the most delightful things to do in Fukuoka is to indulge in delicious freshly plucked oysters grilled over a charcoal pit in the Kakigoya Oyster huts along the Itoshima coast, but under your time constraints, you can go for the next best thing. In Tenjin, you can find izakaya (Japanese pubs) that serve small plates of snacks and drinks. An ideal spot to unwind and have some nibbles before enjoying the Fukuoka nightlife and one of the places to find oysters, which are usually shipped the same day straight from Itoshima!
After an action-packed day, one in which you’ve been holding out for the big meal, you can finally enjoy the feast you’ve been waiting for; piles of gyoza, the famous delicacy mentaiko, and of course, you know it, Tonkotsu ramen! Thin noodles served in a creamy pork-bone-based broth with big slices of tasty, well-cooked pork on top, and adorned with as much spring onion and garlic as your heart desires, Tonkotsu ramen is everything you want in ramen and is the epitome of Fukuoka food. This local dish is best eaten at one of the hundreds of yatai (wheeled street stalls) in Tenjin. These stalls are take groups of 8-10 people; perfect for groups of friends, or better yet, the opportunity to make new friends! Don’t be intimidated if there are already locals inside; you are welcome to join the party. Here you can enjoy your Tonkotsu ramen with the local delicacy mentaiko (marinated fish roe) and can often top up on either pork or noodles or a side of gyoza, so that you be sure you’ll want to pop the top button of your jeans on the way out
Depending on how you are doing for time you could take a stroll through Tenjin underground city after a dinner; a 600 meter long underground space boasting 120 shops this is great for the travellers who love shopping as much as the residents of Fukuoka. Alternatively, you could skip straight to the party! Tenjin has many small streets and alleys with hip bars and restaurants you can explore to get a feel for the area’s nightlife and if you’re feeling adventurous you could end off your Fukuoka one day itinerary in the safe but seedy red-light district of Fukuoka; Nakasu. This popular, if somewhat disreputable district offers more than just adult exploits; here you can find restaurants, bars and clubs which will see you enjoying yourself late into the night. If ever you return to Fukuoka (which you no doubt will, if for nothing else than a steaming bowl of Tonkotsu ramen!) hopefully this time with more than 24 hours, arm yourself with this exciting list of things to do in Fukuoka!
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