Edited by Matthew Wears
The whole of Japan is just bursting with excitement for the up-and-coming Rugby World Cup 2019, but nowhere more so than the city which I call home; Fukuoka. It’s a city located on the Northern shore of Kyushu, an island that it shares with neighbouring host cities Kumamoto and Oita. This is a place I think is unfairly overlooked by travellers coming to Japan to do the Golden Route. Fukuoka offers so much and is so different from other cities such as Sapporo or Kyoto. My city just can’t wait to meet all of the tourists from all over the world, many who never thought to visit Japan, let alone Fukuoka! It may be daunting visiting a new city but don’t worry, there are many Rugby World Cup 2019 packages that can take away that stress. I moved here from Tokyo five years ago and have fallen in love with it. I can’t wait for the Japan Rugby World Cup 2019 so that the city can finally get the recognition it deserves! In this article I’ll be giving you all the information you need before telling you just some of the awesome things to do in Fukuoka, so grab your Rugby World Cup tickets and your guidebook, and get ready to discover Japan’s best-kept secret!
Tips for the city
For those lucky enough to be traveling to Fukuoka for the first time, these are some of my top tips to make sure you have a memorable Rugby World Cup 2019! The Fukuoka rugby stadium is within walking distance from Fukuoka International Airport and is totally unique because it is surrounded on all sides by trees, so even in the city centre, nature doesn’t feel far away. It is called the Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium and has a capacity of twenty-two thousand, which doesn’t sound like much but because of its design, we can get up close and personal to the action. You might be just meters away if Italy’s Tommaso Benvenuti scores an amazing try against Canada in Fukuoka’s first game! The easiest way to reach the stadium is by taking the Kuko subway line eastbound and getting off at the Airport station, and for getting around town you really can’t beat taking the local bus.
If you’re planning on seeing the other cities on Kyushu for the Rugby World Cup, Fukuoka offers an amazing starting point to explore the rest of the island, where the Kumamoto Athletic Stadium and the Oita Stadium will also be hosting some of the World Cup matches, so make sure to take a look at the Rugby World Cup schedule to see what’s on . The city is also really easy to get to from Tokyo and I’d recommend grabbing a Japan Rail Pass which gives you unlimited train journeys for one, two or three weeks! In terms of etiquette that doesn’t apply to the Japan Rugby World Cup, I’d really suggest that you learn just a few Japanese words because although most people speak good English, we’d all appreciate the effort! Another important thing is to carry cash with you at all times anywhere in Japan, as not everywhere accepts card, especially smaller local businesses!
Take a break from the rugby in a traditional onsen
Starting off our list of top tourist sights is one of the island's most famous features; hot volcanic water. If you’re feeling drained as you leave the Fukuoka rugby stadium, then the perfect remedy is to visit a traditional Japanese hot spring or onsen as we call them. Kyushu boasts one of the highest numbers of onsen of anywhere in Japan, and taking a dip in the steamy water is easily one of the most popular things to do in Fukuoka for both tourists and locals. My favorites are Futsukaichi which is just twenty minutes outside the city center, or Hakata-Yu, a hot spring with a crazy 1300 years of history! Or, if you’re planning on traveling to Oita to watch a game at the incredible Oita Stadium, then make sure to visit the nearby onsen resort of Beppu, a town with the highest amount of onsen of anywhere in the country!
Visit a Shrine
One reason I love Fukuoka so much is that there is so much history and culture everywhere you go, and the city has more Buddhist Shrines than even Tokyo or Osaka! If you’re visiting for the Rugby World Cup, Fukuoka is the perfect place to learn about ancient Japanese culture, where Buddhist Shrines and mystical castles are a common sight. Kushida is the city’s most well-known shrine, famous for hosting the fantastic summer festivals alongside having the largest Otafuku mask in Japan! It is located just a short walk from Hakata train station too, so even if you just have a couple of days in the city, you can easily include it as part of your Fukuoka two day itinerary. One of my favourites temples is Atago, a relatively undiscovered shrine with the very best views of Fukuoka! It’s located just out of the city, just perfect for taking a break for the madness of the Rugby World Cup 2019.
Enjoy some local ramen
Fukuoka just so happens to be the birthplace of ramen, so it’s a good excuse to eat as much of it as you want during the Rugby World Cup 2019! We Japanese take noodles very seriously and everyone has their own favorite ramen bar, which to locals is a very personal thing, so make sure you explore the city and find your favorite. The Hakata area is where most of the best ones are located, one of which is Hakata Issou, a ramen bar that nearly always has cues from the front door, and for good reason; its pork ramen is the stuff of legend. If you really want a true Fukuoka experience though, you really must visit a Yatai, a small mobile food stall that sells all kinds of edible delights. You can find these all over the city and make for great places to mix with locals, who will always welcome you inside even if they don’t speak any English!
Explore Canal City Shopping Centre
You can’t take a trip to Japan and not see one of our state-of-the-art malls of the future, and none are more amazing than Canal City. This is nicknamed the "city within a city" and is made up of a crazy two-hundred and fifty shops, restaurants, and entertainment facilities. If you’re looking for things to do in Fukuoka with a family, then this is really where you’ll find something for everyone and I promise it will keep your kids entertained for hours at a time. There is a cinema, theatre, and a games center which would all be excellent if you want to take a quick break from the Rugby World Cup 2019. It is located right in the center of the city, just a ten-minute walk from the Hakata Train Station, and even if you don’t want to go shopping you should go inside just to see the canal that runs through the middle of it! You have to see it to believe it!
Have a night out on Oyafuko-Dori
Oyafuko-Dori is one of the most infamous streets in all of Fukuoka and translates roughly into ‘disrespectful child street’. The name originated from when the street first began to be a popular hangout for teenagers, which quickly became the center of the Fukuoka club and bar scene. Bar hopping along this street is one of the most popular things to do in Fukuoka at night time for all ages, mainly because now it features not only clubs but traditional Izakaya and restaurants as well. If you’re not feeling Japanese cuisine, then don’t worry, you can find pretty much any other type world food here! One of my favorites is the Latin Bar SALSA, a bar and restaurant that regularly has Spanish themed dance nights! The Japan Rugby World Cup will see so many more people in the city, meaning this already vibrant and energetic area will be even more exciting!
Take a trip to Kumamoto
Even though Fukuoka is the main economic and tourist hub on Kyushu, the island offers so many other amazing places that you really must visit, one of which is neighbouring city Kumamoto. Games will be held here for the Japan Rugby World Cup, but you should definitely explore the city and its surrounding area if you get the chance! The main sights include the Kumamoto Castle and the beautiful Suizen-ji Jōju-en, an elegant traditional Japanese garden that is over three-hundred years old. Just a short trip from Kumamoto is the formidable Mount Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan and one of the largest in the world. It’s an area of stunning natural beauty, although the crater has been closed since 2016 due to increased volcanic activity!
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