Fukuoka is quickly making a name for itself as a top travel destination, and there’s no better time of year to visit than during the exciting summertime. Hot weather, awesome festivals and lots of beautiful beaches to explore are just a few of the reasons why you should be thinking about coming to Fukuoka this summer. I’ve compiled my top ten list of things to do in Fukuoka in June, July and August that you really need to be adding to your Japan travel itinerary. Make some space for these summer events in Fukuoka and you’ll quickly realise how you’ve been missing out on one of Japan's most exciting city destinations. All that’s really left to do is book your flights and hotel, then we can begin to go through what to do in Fukuoka this summer - but I’m getting ahead of myself! Here’s my guide to the best things to do in Fukuoka in June through to the end of August, and it might just make you look at some flights after all.
Hakata Gion Festival
One of the biggest summer events in Fukuoka has to be the Hakata Gion Festival – a celebration that takes place on the fifteenth of July which is so unique it has to be seen to be truly understood. The basic premise is that large, ornately decorated floats are raced around the city streets, with each one belonging to a certain neighbourhood in Fukuoka. They are carried by groups of people which might seem a bit crazy, but when you consider that the floats used to be ten meters high and weigh over two tons then you realise it used to be a whole lot crazier. If you want to find out what to do in Fukuoka this Summer that’s really going to let you experience Japan and its truly unique customs, then Hakata Gion is an absolute must see. The day is both peculiar and intriguing for a tourist, and it feels like something that could only ever happen in Japan.
Eat at ‘yatai’ food stands
The warm Fukuoka summer weather makes it the perfect time for locals and tourists to dine outside in one of the many famous yatai that can be found all across the city. Ever heard of yatai? You won’t be the only one; they’re a unique symbol of Fukuoka, more than a food stall, they’re tiny roadside restaurants. Step inside the tented facade of a yatai and you’ll discover a sociable eating experience like no other, where you’ll squeeze in on the small row of seats with other locals who are busy getting their fix of yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and oden (a kind of hot-pot), or grab the opportunity to try an authentic Hakata ramen. To really get an insider’s experience of what to eat in Fukuoka, you can’t beat the simple pleasure of going to a yatai, talking to the locals and tucking into as much food as you can manage.
Go to the beach
With over four-hundred inhabited islands in Japan, it’s unsurprising that it boasts some seriously beautiful beaches - especially on the southern island of Kyushu. Here the sands can as pure and white as anywhere in the Caribbean, and the waters a dazzling array of turquoise and emerald hues. Fukuoka is in a prime location for beach lovers all kinds – for somewhere with a vibrant inner-city coastal buzz try the Seaside Momochi waterfront area, or for more of a laid back surfer vibe head to Futamigaura and check out its legendary Sunset Cafe. Heading to the beach is one of the most popular things to do in Fukuoka in summer for locals because it offers a welcome break from the crazy city life, as well as a much needed cool down from the often-stifling summer heat.
Just off the coast of Fukuoka lies the island of Nokonoshima; a beautiful natural spot that feels worlds away from the intense streets of the city centre. In just half an hour you will be transported to a place with no traffic, few buildings and plenty of scenic landscapes to explore. Take a walk through the Nokonoshima Flower Park and see an incredible display of colourful parklands that look great in all seasons, but especially at the beginning of summer when the hillsides become an explosion of colour. Take a short bus ride to the park, or walk from the port area and get a feel for the unique island life that exists here. For more information, there is also the Nokonoshima Island Museum which can make for an interesting visit if the weather isn’t so great. There is much to be found on Nokonoshima – definitely one of the most charming things to do in Fukuoka. To reach Nokonoshima, it’s best to take the bus rather than the metro to the Meinohama Ferry Terminal, then the boat ride to the island is only around ten minutes.
If you think of surfing, Japan probably isn’t the first place you’d think of - but it’s a very popular sport with the locals! Grab a board and head out to a number of different beaches that have the laid back surf vibe in spades. For more of a desert island vibe with few other surfers, try heading to Nogita beach in the nearby city of Itoshima. Or, if it’s a slice of an Australia-tinged surfers paradise you’re after, Futamigaura beach is complete with cool surf shacks and sunset bars that are sure to make you want to spend every evening watching the sunset with a beer in hand. Discovering these little-known surf spots should be one of the top things on your Fukuoka summer travel itinerary. The high summer temperatures also mean that no wetsuit is required, and although the summer weather does mean smaller waves, that’s no bad thing if you’re a beginner or intermediate rider anyway.
With the legendary Nishinihon Ohori festival coming to its sad end last summer, this summer it’s time to find your next favourite fireworks display in Fukuoka. Luckily for all of us, there are so many to choose from because firework festivals are such a historically important part of Japanese culture. In the nearby city of Kurume, you will find the Chikugogawa Festival; a dazzling display of over eighteen-thousand pyrotechnics that’s often said to be the best in western Japan. For a smaller but just as magical experience, try the Yume Hanabi Festival in Ogori and marvel at its waterfall-themed finale – it’s enough to rival that of any of Japan’s big firework festivals. Firework displays are perfect for anyone who wants to know what to do in Fukuoka in July and August, and for more date and time information all you need to do is have a quick look at Kyushu’s firework calendar.
Obon is a special Japanese celebration of the ancestors. Every year, festivals take place all over Japan during the summer months and wherever you are, it’s a fantastic opportunity to look at one of the most intimate celebrations in Japanese culture. Fukuoka’s Obon festival is called Mitama and it takes place at the Gokoku Shrine in the center of the city from the thirteenth to the sixteenth of August. The shrine is decorated in more than six thousand lanterns that illuminate at night, transforming the shrine into one of the most stunning locations in the city for a short period. The Japanese also like to honor their dead through dance, so expect to see plenty of performances taking place all across the city during this time. As well as all of this, food is a big part of the celebrations so you can expect to get stuck in to some local favorites as provided by the city’s symbolic yatai. Seeing an Obon festival is certainly going to be one of the most interesting things to do in Fukuoka in summer – if you love Japanese culture, you don’t want to miss it.
Tenjin Chuo Park/ACROS Building
The Tenjin Chuo Park is a small but pleasant park located in the central Tenjin area, but it’s not really one of the must do things to do in Fukuoka in Summer. What definitely is though, is the ACROS building that looks over it – a towering terraced building that is an award-winning example of eco-architecture. Each terrace is alive with plants and trees and it is estimated that there are a whopping fifty-thousand plants from over one-hundred species on the building. Walk up and around the steps garden and you will see just how dense the ACROS building is. Walk far enough and you will come to an observation deck that gives you panoramic views of the city and the stunning building below – just be aware it’s only open on weekends or on holidays.
Visit a beer garden
Beer gardens are big business in Fukuoka, and you have everything from high-end cocktail bars to roadside drinking dens right in pretty much any direction you choose to point your feet in! During the hot summer months, the temperatures regularly reach highs of over eighty degrees Fahrenheit so it’s always wise to cool down and have a bit of downtime at one of these lively nighttime spots. For somewhere that really knows what they’re talking about when it comes to beer, try going to the Asahi Brewery beer garden – I don’t think there’s anywhere that will serve fresher beer than here. If you’d prefer somewhere with a view, the Hotel Centraza Hakata rooftop bar is on the twelve floors and stands right in the middle of the downtown area just next to Hakata Station. You can fit it easily into any Fukuoka one-day itinerary and there’s even the option to go for an all-you-can-drink option here if you’re feeling in the mood!
Unimonakamichi Seaside Park
If you had just one day in Fukuoka then the chances are the only park you’d see is Ohori, but just across the bay on a tiny spit on land lies Unimonakamichi Seaside Park; a huge and just as stunning parkland that stretches all the way from the mainland and out into the ocean. When I say huge, it’s roughly four kilometres long which means that I’d recommend renting a bike and using one of the many bike lanes in the park because it’s easily the best way to get around. Spend some time walking through the grounds and taking in the stunning flower displays that are a major part of many visitors Fukuoka summer travel plans. Depending on which time of the year it is, tulips, sunflowers and cherry blossoms are all regular in the park, giving it a burst of colour whatever the season – especially in summer. Apart from the flowers, you will see play parks, sports fields and even a zoo all within this seemingly endless stretch of land - so it wouldn’t be difficult to spend all day here.
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