One of Japan’s largest cities, Fukuoka is the administrative, economic and cultural center of the southernmost island of Kyushu and is one of the most progressive cities in the country. Located in Hakata Bay, Fukuoka is bisected by the Naka River, with Hakata, the older eastern part of the city, serving as an important port and trade center. The once-fortified town of Fukuoka grew in importance in the 17th century, and after amalgamating with Hakata in 1889, it became an important cultural center. Today, Fukuoka is home to many fine museums, art galleries, and theaters, as well as sporting events and festivals, most notably the famous Hakata Gion Yamakasa, a two-week 700-year celebration held in July with colorful parades, traditional races, and costumes, along with musical offers. Fukuoka also offers many interesting shopping opportunities, particularly in Canal City Hakata, a city within a city with a waterway that runs through a complex of hotels, restaurants, arcades, cinemas and a theater.
1 Fukuoka Castle
Also sometimes known as Maizuru Castle, Fukuoka Castle (Fukuoka-jō) is a fine example of the kind of lavish 17th-century hilltop home once favored by the country’s ruling elite. While the large surviving structure is only a small part of the once gigantic complex of the original castle – it is believed to cover an area of about 47,000 square meters – it remains an impressive site, perched on a high stone foundation overlooking the Naka River. Highlights of a visit include some of the original castle gates, turrets and towers within the extensive castle grounds (most of which are now part of Maizuru Park), as well as the ruins of an even older guesthouse once used for visiting diplomats, the only one of its kind in Japan.
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2 Sumiyoshi Jinja Shrine
One of the oldest such sites on Kyushu, the Sumiyoshi-jinja Shrine, like its counterpart in Osaka, is dedicated to the protective deities of seafarers, the last of a series of such saints that sailors would visit before taking to sea. to go. Particularly impressive is the Great Hall, rebuilt in the current Classical style in 1623, along with a number of important national treasures, most notably an ancient sword and a copper axe, along with ancient manuscripts and documents dating back to the Middle Ages. Surrounded by a large forest of Japanese cedars and camphor trees, the shrine offers a beautiful view of the Naka River. Hot Tip:Try to time your visit to coincide with one of the shrine’s traditional theatrical performances. Also of interest is a festival held in October showcasing sumo wrestling.
Address: 3 Chome-1-51 Sumiyoshi, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka
3 Kyūshū National Museum
Opened in 2005, Kyūshū National Museum (Kyūshū Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan) is recognized not only for its award-winning architectural design, but also as Japan’s first new national museum in over 100 years. This state-of-the-art building was built to house a large public collection of artwork and historically significant artifacts relating to the island’s rich history. Visitors can easily spend most of the day here. Highlights include displays of prehistoric relics in numerous archaeological digs and exhibits that trace the long history of the island’s importance as a trading link between Japan and nearby China and Korea. There are also a number of important national treasures on display, including the 15th-century art of leading Japanese artist Masanobu Kano, along with many historically significant documents and manuscripts. The museum also houses a café, a restaurant and a well-stocked shop.
Official site: www.kyuhaku.com
4 Kushida Jinja Shrine
One of Japan’s most famous (and oldest) Shinto shrines, Kushida-jinja
was founded in AD 757 and contains many unique features, including beautiful carvings of the Chinese zodiac and a gingko tree said to be over 1,000 years old. The shrine is also famous for hosting the Hakata Gion Yamakasa every July, a spectacular two-week festival focused on prayers for good health and prosperity, including an elaborate race where teams carry heavy wooden floats from the temple to various locations in the city. Other temples of interest include Shōfuku-ji Temple , the oldest Zen temple in Japan, founded in 1195, and Tochoji Temple, founded in AD 806 and noted for having the largest wooden statue in Japan. Other highlights include the tombs of the lords of the Kuroda clan, local feudal lords since the 1600s.
Address: 1-41, Kamikawabata-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
5 Hakata Machiya Folk Museum
Housed in one of the few remaining Meiji-era buildings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum is a fun diversion found in Fukuoka’s Hakata district. In addition to the many displays of local crafts, this fascinating attraction offers tourists a unique insight into Japanese culture and tradition. In addition to watching these artisans at work, visitors can join in and get a first-hand experience of such ancient art forms as calligraphy and origami. Also fun, especially for kids, is the chance to dress up in traditional Japanese outfits and masks and take part in a variety of ceremonies, such as serving tea. The museum also houses a number of displays related to the many important festivals from Hakata,
Address: 6-10 Reisenmachi, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture 812-0039
Official site: www.hakatamachiya.com/english
6 Dazaifu Tenman-gū
Dedicated to the god of education, Dazaifu Tenman-gū is another well-known temple of Fukuoka. Spread over 3,000 acres, it is also one of the largest in the city, and is particularly popular with students looking to pass exams, often seen buying small wooden prayer tablets to deposit at the shrine. The most important of its many structures is the Dogs, or Main Shrine, dating from AD 905 and replaced many times over the centuries, with the current structure dating from 1591. The site is also notable for its numerous smaller shrines along with the Treasury where many of his most important relics are kept. Also note the attractive gardens, ponds and bridges, as well as the more than 6,000 plum trees.
Address: 4-7-1 Dazaifu, Saifu, Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture 818-0195
7 Ōhori Park
Fukuoka has a number of large public parks worth exploring. One of the most popular is Ōhori Park (Ōhori-kōen), a designated Place of Natural Beauty just a few minutes’ walk from the city center. Takes its name from the large artificial lake it revolves around – once the moat of Fukuoka Castle– this beautiful water park was created in 1929 and is a joy to explore. Highlights include a path that encircles the lake, along with a number of bridges and boardwalks that lead across the water to scenic islands, a special treat at night when these walkways and the park’s many pagodas and pavilions are lit up (try to time your visit plans for the spectacular fireworks displays in August). Another green space worth exploring is Maizuru Park , part of the former Fukuoka Castle and home to a number of sports facilities and an art museum.
8 Nanzoin Temple and the Reclining Buddha
Nanzoin Temple and the Reclining Buddha
Just 15 kilometers east of Fukuoka is Nanzoin Temple, one of the prefecture’s most visited (and most important) Buddhist shrines, attracting more than a million pilgrims and visitors each year. The big draw here is undoubtedly the massive bronze statue of the reclining Buddha, built in 1995 and said to be the largest bronze statue in the world (if New York’s Statue of Liberty had been placed next to it, it is believed the Buddha would have been longer). As interesting as the temple and statue is, the pleasant walk to the site is along a shady hillside from the quaint village of Sasaguri, a route clearly marked and notable for its many smaller statues of Buddha, as well as its picturesque streams, bridges and gardens.
Address: 1035 Sasaguri, Kasuya District, Fukuoka Prefecture 811-2405
9 Marine World Uminonakamichi
Marine World Uminonakamichi (Marin-wārudō-Uminonakamichi) is housed in a large, seashell-shaped modern building near the waterfront of Hakata Bay. It’s an excellent way to learn more about Kyushu’s abundant marine life. The aquarium contains some 70 tanks, the largest of which houses more than 20,000 creatures, and features numerous species of local warm water fish, as well as more than 100 sharks swimming freely in the large panoramic water tank. Other species include a large collection of marine mammals such as seals and sea lions, as well as a number of playful sea otters. Hot Tip: Be sure to stay for one of the animal shows at the on-site Marine Theater, including the fun dolphin and sea lion show.
Official site: www.marine-world.co.jp/english/index.html
10 Fukuoka Art Museum
The Fukuoka Art Museum (Fukuoka-shi Bijutsukan) features a large collection of Japanese paintings and crafts, as well as pre-modern Korean arts and crafts and many important Western artworks and prints. The museum also has an extensive collection of ancient Persian glassware, Chinese, Korean and Japanese paintings and applied arts. One of the museum’s most important modern works is Salvador Dalí’s The Madonna of Port Lligat , and works by Andy Warhol and modern Japanese artists such as Fujino Kazutomo are on display. English language tours are available. Please note the museum is scheduled for renovation from late 2016 to early 2019.
Address: 1-6 Ohori Koen, Chuo Ward, Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture 810-0051
Official site: www.fukuoka-art-museum.jp/english/index.html
Where to Stay in Fukuoka for Sightseeing
We recommend these great hotels near shops, restaurants and attractions in Fukuoka:
- Hotel Nikko Fukuoka: four-star luxury, near Hakata station, relatively large rooms, wonderful concierge staff, indoor pool.
- Hotel Okura Fukuoka: affordable luxury, excellent location, health club with heated indoor pool.
- Richmond Hotel Fukuoka Tenjin: mid-range pricing, near Tenjin station, clean modern rooms, breakfast buffet, multilingual staff.
- the b hakata: budget hotel, convenient location, compact rooms, comfortable beds.