During our trip to Japan, we spent our last few days in the vibrant city of Fukuoka. We’re not the kind of travellers who hit the main sights in a city, so this guide might be a somewhat alternative version of “what to do in Fukuoka” when you compare it to other websites or guidebooks. I’ve put together a summary of some of my favourite things to do in Fukuoka, including a few places to eat (and grab a coffee of course).
Architecture and city views at ACROS Fukuoka
Let’s start with one of my favourite things to do in Fukuoka. The ACROS Fukuoka building, designed by architect Emilio Ambasz, is quite the extraordinary spot. The building, which houses the Fukuoka Symphony Hall (amongst other things), also doubles a unique, terraced urban garden. Made up of 15 leafy levels, the building beautifully injects some green space into the city. It’s free of charge for the public, and after zigzagging your way up the stairs and along leafy pathways, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic city views. What’s not to love?
Matcha espresso at No Coffee
Japan is all about the matcha! During our trip we tried matcha flavoured everything and drank a whole lotta matcha tea. As much as we love tea, deep down we’re just a pair of dirty coffee fiends. In Fukuoka we were lucky enough to find a spot which combined our love for coffee with our new found love for matcha. Enter No Coffee and their signature iced Matcha Espressos – yummy! The coffee spot itself is located in a small corner building, decked out with a minimalist grey concrete interior. Enjoy your caffeine fix from the step-style seating inside, or perch on the wall outside and watch the world go by.
Cost: 550 yen
Udon noodles at うどん和讃
Whilst うどん和讃 (don’t ask me how to pronounce that) might not be the easiest eatery to find, it’s certainly worth hunting out. The eatery is actually located on the 2nd floor of the building (click here for google maps location), but once you’re up the stairs it’s easy to find. The next challenge: the menu. There’s no English menu available here, and unlike a lot of Japanese eateries there’s no pictures of food either (the usual strategy is just to smile and point at something that looks tasty, then hope it is). After just spluttering out random words like “udon” and “tempura”, the friendly and patient waiter helped us make our selection. We were served a delicious portion of cold udon noodles with a sauce, and a side of tempura.
Cost: Approximately 700 yen per person
Meet the robots at Robosquare
No trip to Japan would be complete without meeting a robot. Fortunately you can meet loadsa robots at Robosquare in Fukuoka. Entrance is free and you can easily spend an hour playing with all the different robots, from Hello Kitty to Paro the therapeutic harp seal. Whilst you might not spend a great deal of time here, it’s still one of the more fun, novelty things to do in Fukuoka. Staff are on hand to help with demos and information is provided in English, although understandably a lot of the robots only speak and can compute Japanese (it’s a good excuse to practice your linguistic skills). Don’t forget to give AIBO, the robotic dog, a little stroke!
Unwind on Nokonoshima Island
Just a short ferry ride from the mainland, you’ll discover the small and tranquil island of Nokonoshima. We spent a day strolling along its quiet roads, enjoying the sea views and admiring the spectacular blooms of wild flowers and orange trees. If colourful, show gardens are your thing you can pay a visit to Nokonoshima Island Park for 1200 yen per person. We were personally happier exploring the wild side of the island alone, rather than paying to shuffle past people taking selfies with a load of flowers (we could see them through the fence). On the island you’ll also find Nokonoshima Camp Village and beach, which if you visit it out of season, as we did, you’ll have all to yourself (I imagine it can get very busy during the summer months).
Getting there: Ferries leave from Meinohama Ferry Terminal (you can check the timetable here)
Cost: 230 yen per person each way
Sashimi at Nagahamasengyo Market
No trip to Japan would be complete with out a big helping of fresh fish. And where better to sink you teeth into a raw slice of tuna than a local fish market? Nagahamasengyo Market is one of the biggest fish markets in Japan. Don’t go expecting cute little fish stalls – this is an industrial looking wholesale market that only opens to the public once a month. Fortunately you can still witness the wholesale action from the viewing platform (take the stairs to the left of the building), and most importantly sample the catch of the day. On the first floor there are a number of restaurants to choose from, so have a stroll around and see what takes your fancy. Many have sample dishes on display outside (or pictures on the menu) so you don’t have to worry about reading the Japanese menus. We opted to try a sashimi bowl which was full to the brim with an assortment of fresh fish.
Cost: 980 yen for the sashimi bowl pictured below
Stroll (and enjoy some free reflexology) in Ōhori Park
…or run if you prefer. Fukuoka’s scenic Ōhori Park centres around a large lake and is a hit with local joggers and Sunday strollers alike. Not only is this park pretty to look at, it’s also beautifully organised – in true Japanese style – with lanes for walkers, runners and bikes. If you feel like a workout there’s even various exercise stations dotted around the lake. My favourite part? At a couple of spots you’ll find reflexology points built into the pavement. I had a great time attempting to follow the instructions, occasionally crying out in agony, and providing much amusement to the locals who were passing by.
Have you visited this part of the world? What are your favourite things to do in Fukuoka and the surrounding area? Let me know in the comments below.