A “MODERN, AUTHENTIC AND WARM” CITY FUKUOKA2017.04.28
Although it is the capital of the island of kyushu, fukuoka is built on a human scale. You can enjoy both urban comfort and bustling city life while still being close to beaches, the sea and the countryside.
When asked to name the best thing about their city, the inhabitants of Fukuoka all give the same answer: “It’s a good place to live”. It is indeed true that Japan’s 6th largest city has many good attributes: its ideal climate resembles the Mediterranean, it has sandy beaches, a compact city-centre affording easy access to surrounding districts on foot or by bike, incredibly fresh food and a very buoyant nightlife. Fukuoka, capital of the island of Kyushu, has all the pleasant aspects of a large city, without its inconveniences. Here’s why.
Crossed by two rivers, the Hii kawa and the Muromi Kawa, the city is situated to the northwest of the island and faces towards the Japan Sea, which has helped to foster trade for a very long time. It continues to open up its borders to the rest of the world. Historically it is believed that this is where many foreign visitors first set foot on the Japanese archipelago. Nowadays, Asian tourism is very important to Fukuoka (From Korea, China, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam), as demonstrated by the mix of visitors on every street corner.
Originally from the South of France, Virginie Marmol arrived in Fukuoka 5 years ago. She really enjoys the city, which she describes as the most “Marseille-like” in Japan. “There’s a lot of energy. Fukuoka is modern, authentic and warm. It’s quite common to stumble across a temple when strolling through the city centre: a good example is the Kushida jinja, home to the Yamakasa, a richly decorated 13-metre high festival float on permanent display. I really enjoy the paradox of continuing these traditions in this essentially urban environment. I would recommend taking a tour of the temples in the Hakata neighbourhood, and visiting Fukuoka tower for a breath-taking view, and don’t forget Momochi bay and its beaches.”
Fukuoka is full of charm and attracts tourists and entrepreneurs who are invigorated by the city’s exceptional energy. With start-ups and funding to support creative business, the local economy is continuously developing. This is a city of two faces, and Fukuoka’s modern character emerged in 1889. In that year the trading town of Hakata and nearby samurai-dominated territory merged to become the modern city of Fukuoka. Remnants of that time are still visible, whether it’s the local delicacy of ramen to be found in the area around the station, or the iconic little dolls crafted locally.
At Robosquare, anyone who is curious about science and innovation can discover the latest Japanese inventions. Or there’s Acros, an eco-friendly architectural treasure that was designed by Emilio Ambasz in 1995. Its name is a contraction of ‘Asian crossroads over the sea’, and the structure was designed as a series of stepped terraces completely covered in plants. Inside this green lung located in the Tenjin district, you can watch concerts, attend conferences or visit an art gallery. Volunteer guides also offer walking tours of the city.
▲Robosquare displays Japan’s latest robotic creations.
* From October 2017, the Robosquare will be located inside Fukuoka’s science museum.
DISCOVER LOCAL CULTURE
Several local companies offer cultural workshops, visits and outings. Situated in the lively district of Tenjin, Suito Fukuoka organizes a great number of activities that offer visitors the opportunity to discover different aspects of Japanese culture. For example you can learn about wearing the Wasomi kimono, go to a Kyushu sake tasting, learn how to make nigiri sushi with a Japanese chef or master takoyaki making. The choice of activities is rich and varied, and the cost is modest. In addition to these daily workshops, there are also many one-off events listed on the agency’s site that offer a great introduction to local culture. “Some Japanese people also take part in these workshops,” says Virginie Marmol, a French employee. “It’s a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world while having a good time,” she adds. Hakata machiya furusato-kan organizes Hakata doll-painting with a local craftsman. The location offers a good opportunity to learn more about the city and its heritage. Last but not least, a local volunteer-guide association organizes personalised day or half-day group tours of the city, where you can pick one of the itineraries they have listed on their internet site, or create your own. Contact them online or directly at their office in Fukuoka’s Acros.
▲Workshops organized by Suito Fukuoka and by Hakata Machiya furusato-kan (held in Japanese) offer the opportunity to paint Hakata dolls ※Photo by Jeanne TAKADA for ZOOM JAPAN
FUKUOKA REVEALS ITS SECRETS AT NIGHT
Bars, izakaya and street stalls, this city likes to party. It also has a varied and tasty local cuisine for you to discover. Fukuoka is known for its unequalled friendliness. After dusk, bars and izakaya (gastro pubs) in Nakasu and Daimyo light their lanterns and welcome customers from all walks of life. To prolong the night, you can dance into the early hours in the clubs of Oyafuko. This city has also developed the Japanese “yatai” street food culture in a unique way: these intimate stalls serving popular food can only accommodate 10 customers at a time. They can be found all over Japan, but are a particular characteristic of Fukuoka. Around a hundred yatai a year are set up in the districts of Tenjin and Nakasu-Kawabata, and in the vicinity of the harbour. Here, people cram together to eat, drink and socialise. In the summer this conviviality spreads down to the beach where you can book a barbecue in Momochi Bay. Fukuoka’s gastronomy is renowned nationwide. Because the restaurants are so close to the harbour, the fish appears to have jumped directly from the fishing net on to your plate, meaning that the sushi and sashimi are always exquisitely fresh. Noodles, yakitori and other vegetable and meat stews (nabe) are also local specialities that come highly recommended. Just take the Japanese’ word for it, as the taste of Fukuoka attracts gourmets from all over the archipelago, whatever the season.
▲LOCAL GASTRONOMY ① “GOMA SABA”
Fukuoka is one of the few places where raw mackerel is eaten, and it is delicious with sesame sauce. Quite a few izakaya across the city offer this dish on their menu.※Photo by Jeanne TAKADA for ZOOM JAPAN
▲LOCAL GASTRONOMY ② “HAKATA RAMEN”
This dish is a staple in Fukuoka. The Tonkotsu broth, made from pork, may look unappealing, but it would be a shame to miss out on this delicious noodle dish.※Photo by Jeanne TAKADA for ZOOM JAPAN
A BIKE RIDE TO SHIKANO-SHIMA
Do you have the urge to be all alone in the middle of the japan sea? If so, the islands in the bay off fukuoka are just for you.
Around 10 minutes from the city by ferry, the little islands of Shikano-shim and Nokono-shima offer perfect getaways for day-trips where you’ll be surrounded by the gentle pleasures of life.
▲One of Shikano-shima’s beaches
While Nokono-shima is known across the nation for its ancient floral landscapes, Shikano-shima is ideal for sea-sprayed bike rides in the wilderness. The track around the island takes you through stunning marine landscapes along the 12-kilometre coastline dotted with beaches and rocks, passing through scenery that changes constantly. If you wish to prolong your visit on these idyllic retreats then the Kyukamura ryokan offers a hot spring overlooking the sea and the numerous little islands on the horizon.On the return journey, the fittest visitors can take the cycle-route over the summit of the island, through Shiomi-koen Park where there is a viewing platform 170 metres above sea level, looking out over the whole of Fukuoka bay. However, be warned that the climb to reach this unencumbered panoramic view is a tough one. For lunch, the local specialty is sashimi donburi (a bowl of rice covered in sashimi). The choice of fish, as always in Japan, depends on the chef and the day’s catch. Hotel Luigans’s offering is particularly delicious.
▲Bicycles are the best means of transport to discover the island of Shikano-shima※Photo by Jeanne TAKADA for ZOOM JAPAN
To end your island getaway, Shogonji temple makes a wonderful final stop for those in search of peace and spirituality. The temple offers introductions to Zen meditation and the tea ceremony to help you unwind before heading back on the ferry, to the hustle and bustle of Fukuoka.
▲Shogon-ji temple offers introductions to Zen meditation.※Photo by Jeanne TAKADA for ZOOM JAPAN
Take a boat from Hakata port.
The crossing takes: 30 minutes. You can book your boat trip, bike rental, and even restaurant reservation at the tourist information office located in the centre of Fukuoka.
From Fukuoka airport you can reach Hakata, one of the nerve-centres of the city, in around ten minutes for just a few hundred yen (less than £3). This ease of accessibility makes it very easy to stop-over after visiting Tokyo. A dozen restaurants are located on the second floor of the airport building.
“TRAVELLING FROM EUROPE”
In May 2016, Finnair started three A330 Airbus flights a week direct from Helsinki to Fukuoka (in summer only).
Planned schedule (April 27th – October 2017), from Helsinki:
Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 16.30. (Arrival next day at 8.00)
Return from Fukuoka:
Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 10.00. (Arrival at 14.25 pm)
This new service will make it easier to travel to Japan from Europe. So why not choose Fukuoka for your next destination? This stunning regional capital city offers you all you could wish for.
“TRVELLING BY HIGH SPEED RAIL”
The Shinkansen connects Fukuoka to Hiroshima in only 1hr40 (Tokyo in 5 hrs). The famous high speed train is an experience in itself, as it is so enjoyable, practical and comfortable. There are 4 to 6 departures every hour daily. Taking the train is a good opportunity to leave from and arrive in the heart of both cities.
When booking your train ticket, be aware that Fukuoka Shinkansen station is called Hakata, not Fukuoka.
“ACCESS TO ASIA”
Pusan: 3hrs by hydrofoil
Seoul: 1hr30 by plane
Shanghai: 2hrs by plane
Taipei: 2hrs30 by plane
Hong Kong: 6hrs by plane
”ACCESS TO JAPAN”
Hiroshima: 1hr by train
Tokyo: 2hrs by plane or 5hrs by train
Osaka: 1hr by plane or 2hrs30 by train
Sapporo: 3hrs30 by plane
※From ZOOM JAPAN No.49 (March 2017)