Fukuoka was magical, zen and mysterious, like the buzz the wind has after a hard rain.
Why do we travel?
Jet lag, sickness, stomach aches, a general sense of confusion, expenses, early morning red eye flights, the possibility of eating in the worst restaurants, and staying in pest infested hotel rooms. We pack our bags mind-numbingly, always confused about what to bring, brave airport traffic, subject ourselves to being searched, patted down, unclothed at times, to be faced with hundreds of tiny tedious yet all important daily decisions and all of that before even leaving. Once on the plane, you’re sweaty, clueless as to what to do for the next hour or day, sitting, waiting, and hoping patiently.
We were for the longest time a nomadic people, always on the move, going through worse travel conditions than what we have today, to find greener pastures, new lands, and shiny opportunities. Today, most of us sit in front of our computers, hopefully doing a job we enjoy, to pay bills and taxes at the end of the month, to continuously live the same routine at every new dawn.
We travel to break the norm, to attempt to regain a sense of adventure, arriving in foreign ports, exhausted yet immediately fulfilled. It is human nature to challenge the rule of monotony and to continuously be curious.
I travel to search for discomfort. To be put in situations that don’t make sense, to push my mind to think beyond my daily routine, to learn, and ultimately become a better version of myself. I travel to realize what I’ve been doing wrong, learn how I can mimic the good I find in another cultures, and to feel small, humble, inconsequent, or at awe with the world we live in. I travel to be real, to go back to what it means to being human, to munch on life one morsel at a time.
After our food binge in Osaka and before we even attempt to cover the immensity of Tokyo, I wanted to experience Japan in a different light. Fukuoka is part of the island of Kyushu, which sits at the most southern part of the archipelago. The Kyushu region is mostly known for having the largest active volcano, Mt. Aso, lots of hot springs, the unfortunate event of the atomic bomb being dropped on Nagasaki, Saga origin beef, the Ryuku islands that extend all the way to Taiwan, and finally, for being home to Japan’s 5th largest and most overlooked city: Fukuoka.
This may sound like you might be arriving in another jungle of buildings, affronted by flashing lights and large billboards you can’t read, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how different this city is from the top 4. There is just something so very beachy in the air. Not only are you geographically, right by the sea, but you actually feel like the ocean is right there, which sometimes is not the case in large coastal metropolitan cities.
Fukuoka’s main areas are Hakata and Tenjin, both central locations with everything from amazing food, at every corner, as I’m starting to discover seems to be customary in Japan, different styles of shopping and cultural landmarks. From these two areas you can discover the rest of the city’s neighborhoods which are never really far from each other and all connected through an unhurried and easy to navigate subway system.
A couple things struck me while walking around Fukuoka. First, the city looks like the trendiest 80’s inspired design location I’ve seen in a while, and it gives you nostalgic modernity in a very humble demeanor. Second, you may actually feel like you are just exploring. Unlike Tokyo, Osaka, or even Seoul and Shanghai, which are not far away, there aren’t many landmarks and must see monuments in the city. In fact, I believe that you should come here just to experience a laid back Japanese lifestyle that will make you feel like you actually live in the city. They manage to blend everything from high to low end restaurants, shops, museums, local and international brands in a vibrant, open minded and seamless way.
Here’s a list to get you started on your Fukuoka adventure:
Museums and Exhibits
– Fukuoka Art Museum: 1-6 Ohorikoen, Chuo Ward
– The Asian Art Museum: 3-1 Shimokawabatamachi, Hakata Ward
Nature and Culture
– Ohori Park: Ohorikoen, Chuo Ward
– Momochi Seaside Park: Momochimama, Sawara Ward
– Tenmangu Shrine in Dazaifu: 4 Chome-7 No. 1 Saifu, Dazaifu
– Keya Beach: Itoshima
– Daimyo district, Chuo Ward
– Tenjin, Chuo Ward
– Hakata ward
– Rec Coffee: 1 Chome-10-3 Maidashi, Higashi Ward
– Rankan Coffee: 1 Chome 15-10 Gojo, Dazaifu City
– Manu Coffee (several branches across Fukuoka): Border Tower Bld 1F, 3-11-2 Watanabe Street, Chuou-ku; Ishii Bld 1F, 1-1-3 Daimyo, Chuou-ku; 1-14-7 Haruyoshi, Chuou-ku; 1-14-7 Haruyoshi, Chuou-ku; 1-7-9 Hakataekimae, Hakata-ku
Where to Eat
– Shin Shin Ramen: 3 Chome-2-19 Tenjin, Chuo Ward
– Niku Niku Udon: 5-106, Kami Kawabata, Hakata Ku
– Hakata Ippudo: 1 Chome-10-1 Yakuin, Chūō-ku
– Kawayoshi: 494-4 Mitsuhashimachifujiyoshi, Yanagawa
– Daruma: 1-2-15 Daimyo, Chuo-ku
– Tenzushi: 3-11-9 Kyomachi, Kokurakita-ku, Kitakyushu
– Yamanaka Honten: 2-8-8 Watanabedori, Chuo-ku
– Yakitori Daishizen: 2-16-1 Ohashi
– Toriden: 10-5 Shimo Kawabatamachi, Hakata-ku
– Hakata Motsunabe Hakkei: 8 Chome-164 Kamishirouzu, Kasuga-shi
– Sushi Sakai: 3-13-31 Akasaka, Chuo-ku
– Sato: 5-6-13 Itazuke, Hakata-ku
– Yakitori Musashi: 5-3-23-1 Watanabe-Dori, Chuo-Ku
– Seimonbarai: 5 Kamikawabatamachi Hakata-ku
– Chikae: 2-2-17 Daimyo, Chuo-ku
– Kiharu: 3-21-28 Haruyoshi, Chuo-ku
– Hakata Hanamidori: 3-6 Giommachi Hakata-Ku
– Tempuratakeuchi: 6-64-1 Imamitsu, Chikushi-gun, Nakagawa-machi
– Motsunabekeishuu: 2-17 Nishinakasu Chuo-ku
– Bars along Oyafuko Dori street
– Club X: Dai19 Line Bldg. 6F, 1-8-38 Maizuru, Chuo-Ku,
– Happy Cock: 9F Mountain 5 Bldg., 2-1-51 Daimyo, Chuo-ku
– B R I C K Sound Bar: 2 Chome−1−14, Daimyo, Chuo Ward
– Two Dogs: 1-9-21 Maizuru, Chuo-ku
– Bar Leon: 1-23-12 Ohashi Minami-ku
– Akatan: 1-13-12 Daimyo, Chuo-ku
– Deux C: 3-19 Nishinakasu Chuo-ku
– Bar Oscar: STAGE1大名 6F, 1 Chome−10−29, Daimyo, Chuo Ward
– Zokuningen: 3-11 Nishinakasu Chuo-ku
– Momota: 5F Match Bldg. 1-10-14 Daimyo, Chuo-ku
– Glam Rock Bar: 1F Shin-Tenjin bldg., 1-23-4 Imaizumi Chuo-ku