Fukuoka, otherwise known as Hakata
Vibrant and sunny, with an abundance of tasty local dishes, Fukuoka is the economic and cultural heart of the island of Kyushu, its identity forged by centuries of trade with its Asian neighbors.
It was its location, nestled on the northwest side of the island of Kyushu, facing Korea and China, that decided the destiny of Fukuoka. The city quickly became the gateway to foreign influences in Japan, and both the Chinese writing system (kanji) and Buddhism crossed through Fukuoka in the fourth century before being adopted by the government.
The city of Fukuoka was, in the past, divided by the Nakagawa River:
- to the north, Hakata, the merchant class district
- to the south, the stately city of the Kuroda Clan, Fukuoka.
Lively and engaging, Hakata is still at the heart of it all, and has conserved many of its traditions today.
When visiting, experience the famous Hakata Gion Festival - held every year at the beginning of July, seven of Hakata's neigbourhoods will compete in a race where they must carry some rather extravagant floats on a five kilometer course through out the city. This is an event not to be missed! If you would like to know more of its origins, including the history of Fukuoka, visit the Machiya Folk Museum, where you will discover the roots of the people and culture of Fukuoka city. The museum is close to another major tourist destination, Kushida Jinja. This Shinto shrine, built in the year 757, dedicated to Amaterasu and Susano, is also where the Hakata Gion Festival is centred around. What's more, traditional Noh performances can be viewed here during the summer. If you are visiting in November however, Fukuoka is one of four Japanese cities (with Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka) to host sumo competitons every year.
Stocks and shopsSimilar to Osaka, Fukuoka has a rich culinary identity. It is most famous for its ramen. Each region has its own variation in Japan, but here guests enjoy tonkotsu ramen (or Hakata ramen), prepared with pork bone broth. When visiting Hakata, it is almost a must to go eat a bowl of ramen in Nakasu Yatai (the small island near the mouth of the Nakagawa). Take a stool in front of these little food stalls that line the river, and let yourself go in this joyful atmosphere that surrounds you, along with fellow ramen fans!
Past the Nakagawa River, the city is noisy, busy and lively. Welcome to Tenjin, with its department stores (Daimaru, Mitsukoshi) and shops by the thousands, its legions of employees in suits, and avenues lined with buildings. A huge area devoted to business and shopping, and a stone's throw from the neo-futuristic shopping mall complex Canal City.
A ride on one of the two subway lines in the city brings you up to Momochi district, otherwise known as Hawk Town because of the baseball stadium (Fukuoka Dome) where the local team, the Softbank Hawks, play. There, in front of the waterfront, Fukuoka Tower dominates the city from its 234 meters and offers a panoramic view. From the tower you can see ant-sized vacationers enjoying the artificial beaches, lovely during the summer season.