Fukuoka is the most populous city on Kyushu island and its main city. It is also the largest metropolitan area West of the Osaka area. It was once two cities, Hakata and a castle town named Fukuoka were joined to form this large city. The population of its metropolitan area is over five million.
It even has an international airport so if you want to catch all of Japan from Kyushu to Hokkaido it is an excellent place to start you trip. It boast a quite a few attractions by itself. Below are the major ones.
How to get there
Fukuoka airport which connects Fukuoka to major Asian cities is located just east of the city. By land, you can get to Hakata station using the Shinkansen (Hakata station is the terminus station for the Shinkansen on Kyushu), from Tokyo the trip takes around 6 hours, from Kyoto, it takes 2 and a half hours. From Nagasaki you can take the limited express for 4,700 Yen, the trip takes a little less than 2 hours. You can of course also take a bus which takes longer and costs considerably less.
Things to see and do
Fukuoka has its share of attractions, the most popular one is Ohori park, a nice city park with pond in the middle. Ohori means large moat in Japanese, the names derives from the fact that the center of the park used to serve as a moat for Fukuoka castle. The lake itself was modeled on the garden style of West Lake in China. The park was opened in 1929 and has been a popular place for locals and tourists ever since. To get there get out at the Ohori Koen Subway station.
Near th City museum is also the Seaside Momochi, a futuristic park which has among other attractions a Robosquare where you can see the newest inventions in robot technology for consumers, the Fukuoka Yafuoku Dome for baseball fans and the 234 m tall Fukuoka Tower.
Just opposite to the park is the Fukuoka Art Museum, opened up in 1979 one of its main attractions is an impressive collection of Buddhist statues, it also has modern artwork from all over the world. Admission is 200 Yen.
For those more interested in Asian art then the Asian Art Museum which has an excellent collection of (mostly) 20th century art from all over Asia. This is a great chance for people to get to know artists not well known in the West. The Asian Art Museum is near the Nakasukawabata Subway Station, entry is 200 Yen except during special exhibitions when I can be higher.
If you like to know more about Fukuoka itself and its role as gateway of trade and cultural exchange between Japan and the continent then the Fukuoka City Museum is for you. The museum has a large collection of artifacts, the most priced on being a small zeal from a diplomatic mission initiated by the Chinese emperor to Japan during the Han dynasty (206BC- 220AD). The museum is 15 minutes walk from the Nishijin station, tickets are 200 Yen.
Had enough of museums? Lets take a look at shrines and museums then. Actually Fukuoka isn’t overstocked in the category but there is at least a temple and a shrine you might want to lay your eyes on.
One is the Kushida shrine, founded back in the 8th century it is dedicated to the Sun Godess Amaterasu. It is a major shrine during festivals. The most notable festival in town the Hakata Gion Yamakawa festival held in early July is for example centered in it. If you happen to be in Fukuoka at that time be sure not to miss it. To get to the shrine take subway to Gion Subway station.
Temples tend to look more impressive than shrines, for an authentic Japanese temple head to Shofukuji Shrine, the first Zen temple build in the country dating from 1195. The temple itself cannot be entered but the temple grounds themselves are attractive on their own. The Shofukuji temple is just a short walk away from Gion Station.
Fukuoka Castle used to be the largest castle in Kyushu, however it was torn down during the Meiji Restoration and was never rebuilt. Its ruins are however a popular destination, the castle ruins are situated in Maizuru Park, which is especially beautiful during the Cherry blossom season. The park has a number of walking lanes which are enjoyable all year around. To get to the park take the train to Ohori Koen Subway station or ideally walk there from Ohori Park.
When you are hungry you should definitely head out to the city´s famous food stalls (Yatai) which are almost a symbol of Fukuoka. These outdoor foodstalls are all over the city but are especially numberous on the southern end of Nakasu island. Dishes you should try out include yakitori (grilled chicken), Hakata Ramen and oden. To get to Nakasu Island you exit the subway at Nakasu Kawabata or Minami Tenjin stations.
All in all, Fukuoka is a nice city which has more or less everything that large cities offer, if your time in Japan in limited you might want to give it a day or two before you head out to see other things.