Fukuoka, one of the most beautiful and populated cities in Kyushu. It is also the top ten most populated city among Japan. In this itinerary, I will take you to see all the most iconic places in Fukuoka and make you you will have an unforgettable experience!
Day 1 Morning-Afternoon:
The Uminonakamichi Seaside Park is one of most phenomenally fun and fantastic in value for money in terms of parks. I loved every minute of this park! If you are in Fukuoka with young children and it’s a beautiful sunny day, head here. If you have seen the other reviews, you will no doubt already know that this is a large park. But large is an understatement, it is absolutely sprawling.
First, the logistics. You can get here by stopping at either Uminonakamichi Station, or Saitozaki Station, which is approximately 45 – 50 minutes from Hakata Station. Stop at Uminonakamichi if you want to hit the Whale Cloud / Go Karting / Slides area first. If you prefer to get closer to the Dolphin Playground and Animal area, stop at Saitozaki instead.
When you arrive, there are many different gates or places to choose from to start your day. Each gate has a place to rent bicycles and they even have helmets for the little ones. Me and my friend started at the West Gate which was opposite of where we were heading so we biked the entirety of the park. We rented bikes for the whole day, and the trails for the biking were safe along with parking. Each bike came with a lock so that you can keep track of your rental and not worry about someone taking yours, which I don’t believe would actually happen here. There’s also internal shuttle bus, but it’s not very frequent. We went there on a weekday, and it seems to operate on an hourly basis.
You can check the website to see a picture of the map and you should do so if you have young kids in tow as this place is so large, that you cannot actually get from one attraction to another without quite a bit of walking / cycling. You will be able to see the list of attractions from the website but what is not obvious from the website is the incredible quality and high standards of maintenance this park has at every attraction. The Whale Cloud which is like a huge bouncy was an incredible amount of fun, the Go Kart is well worth the money and you can choose between a Bumpy Route and a Smooth Route, and you get on these motorised cars and drive them on a short, but fun route. The playground with long, fun slides were fantastic. The Waterside Playpark offers a more challenging play area for slightly older children with rope like challenges, the Sky Dolphin play area had more slides and rope play areas. Loads of slides, sand/water to build sand castles and things to do to keep little kids busy and have them burn energy.
While the animal area is not large, it was very well maintained, and the animals well looked after. You get to feed the goats, sheep, ducks and swans, and food can be purchased at 100 yen. You could also pet the Guinea Pigs. You can touch the rabbits and turtles as well. There were beautiful flamingos, monkeys, capybara, peacocks, kangaroos, turtles, cranes, rabbits and many more animals.
On top of all the kid friendly exhibits and play areas, the grounds are expansive, beautiful, and even though we spent 5 hours in the park, we barely managed to cover a quarter of the park. We arrived around 11am and didn’t depart until maybe 4 或 4:30 p.m. Definitely worth a return for!
The one thing that you need to note when coming here, is that there is a lack of food. I am not sure if this is the case on weekends as there certainly were some food areas designated and there were food pictures on the website but they were not open while we were there. Drinks are available in the form of vending machines all over the park but food was not. There was a snack store at the animal area but only selling donuts and ice cream.
Day 1 Afternoon-Night:
The Fukuoka Tower a terrific observation tower on the beach area. It states that the height of the tower is 234 meters. A great way to enjoy a bird’s eye view view of Fukuoka’s city scape. It’s easily accessible by bus from downtown. It can be reached by Koku subway-line or local bus from Hakata bus terminal. A good place to spend some alone time or much more excellent if you’re with friends or family. By day, one can appreciate the beautiful modern architecture of the tower. At night, the tower provides an awesome lights show display that’s very soothing to watch.
Entrance fees varies very much depending age etc. but the maximum fee was 800 yen. The 360 degrees views from the observation deck on top were just great. When I was there the view was unbelievable so I really could see many, many kilometres away. On the ground level entrance area there were also nice shops and a lot of others options to keep you busy. Of course restaurants are also available.
Day 2 Morning-Afternoon:
While in Fukuoka I wanted to go to Nokonshima Island just to explore more of the city. Arriving here was easy, so don’t let the fact that it is an island scare you away from visiting.
Prior to coming, I researched how to get here. From Tenjin Station I took the subway a few stops to Meinohama Station and then walked from there to the ferry terminal. The ferry ride was about ten minutes and was cheap. Entrance fee is 1200 yen. Ferry to the Island costs 230 yen and bus going up to the island park is another 230 yen. Ferry going to the island has hourly schedule, we took the 10:15am to the island and went back by 2:00pm.
Outside of the park, there are other attractions to explore. Near the ferry terminal on the island are a few shops and places to get snacks. I got a map of the island and walked to the Mongolian Tombs, honestly they were not worth the walk, there was not much to see and no explanation. On my way to the ferry terminal from the tombs, I stopped at two shrines, both were very much worthwhile. I really enjoyed walking the small streets here and seeing what life is like outside the city. This island is famous for flowers, and it seems that different varieties of flowers bloom in different months of the year! I recommend grabbing an island map, seeing the park, and exploring some of the other sites.
Day 2 Night:
Most Japanese outlet stores, especially Premium Outlets are located really far away from cities, mainly so that they can have a sprawling land area. But this means you will need a car or a long period of time on public transportation to get there.
Marinoa City is west of Fukuoka city and it wasn’t difficult to get there. Meinohama is the westernmost stop on the Kuko (orange) subway line, and coming out from the south side of the station, the Showa bus stop is on the left. Look out for the white bus with blue and green stripes. Buses run every 30 min to Marinoa City, so it only took us about 45 min to get there. The bus stops at the north side of Outlet 1.
It’s a well-designed outlet mall, with 2 floors and 4 sections to it. It is mainly indoors, although the Marina side walkways are outdoors. The branded goods are mainly on the northside in Outlet 1, while the sports and casual clothes are in Outlet 3.
Most of the restaurants are on the Marina side, so head towards the Ferris Wheel. The Marina side also has a large Sports Depo store, and large food court area.
There are the usual range of outlet stores, but in particular, Outlet 2 has many Japanese brands which are not found outside of Japan, so may be worth a look if you want something unique. There is also a Lego store for kids.
Had dinner at a restaurant famous for curry, which was one of the best meals in Fukuoka! Was great way to spend the night here, with lots of shopping for all ages, and some unique buys.
Day 3 Morning:
This Kushida Shrine is warmly referred to by the Fukuoka-inhabitants as “Okushida-San”. The first shrine was built in 757 and dedicated to 3 gods. The main building of this shrine was rebuilt in 1585. You will enter through a huge Tori and Gate.
On the grounds you are supposed to drink water from a “raisen” or miraculous fountain which will give you eternal youth. You will also find stationary festival floats decorated with Hakata dolls. In the garden you will see large stones (Chikara Ishi) for fortune telling. There is also a 1000 year old ” Fufu Ginan” tree on the grounds as a symbol of long life. Often “just married” couples come here to worship and we had the luck to meet such couple in a rickshaw on their way to the temple!
After visiting Kushida Shrine you can leisurely walk to this Tochi-ji temple in about 10-15 minutes.
What happened to me seemed to be a spiritual experience. As indicated by others you can walk under the big buddha which I did. At around the halfway point I began to experience powerful sensations in my body starting around my lungs and then moving to my heart area at which point I started breathing heavily. I had no fear at that point, just a sensation of some great power.
As I entered the darkness I began to panic somewhat and tried my phone light, which didn’t work at all, I couldn’t see. So I had the choice of either going back or moving forward. I chose to move forward, groping along the wall in pitch dark, still with this powerful feeling inside me.
After what felt a long time, but probably was only mere seconds I emerged into the light. And at that moment I comprehended that in order to be in the light one must overcome fear of darkness. For many hours after I was pulsating with a deep feeling of the current of life.
I don’t know about the hells reference of this place. But surely it is very powerful. I will never forget my trip under big buddha at Tochoji Temple.
Day 3 Afternoon:
Like most street markets in Japan, this Kawabata Shopping Arcade is covered, which is good regardless if it rains or shine, covering quite a long stretch of pathway with shops lining on both sides that could entertain you.
It was Sunday when we were there and was raining outside, we came by here around tea time and the place was surprisingly less crowded than we expected. Walking around was a breeze then. Shops, mainly into fashion, bags and shoes and religious items occupied most, followed by eateries and cafes, household/lifestyle shops and 2 florist outlets.
Prices here were lower than elsewhere, and it was less touristy. Shop owners were generally friendly and could converse in basic English and you bet that we ended grabbing quite a lot of stuff here!
From here, you could walk to Hakata Canal City, a mere 5-7 mins. Recommended, especially if you want to have a taste of the local culture and lifestyle.
Day 3 Night:
Canal City Hakata is really a massive shopping mall with North, South and East Buildings which house an amazing range of shops and products.
There’s a delightful water show in the man made canal that runs between the mall and Grand Hyatt Hotel. This happens quite frequently through the day. There are also magician shows and more at this area.
All the ramen selection you need on Level 5 at the Ramen Stadium and a wonderful interactive play area opposite this. It’s an educational Arts and Science play area that enthralled both kids and parents.
All in all, you can easily spend half a day or more in this mall. Good for a cold rainy day!
Day 4 Morning:
Owl cafes are becoming more and more popular! I kinda feel like “cafe” is the wrong term with some of the owl ones though, because at least with Owl Family Hakata, the experience was less about food/drink than it was about just being around the owls. While they do speak a little bit of English, I imagine if you are fluent in Japanese you could talk in length to the staff about each owl’s story and personality.
I know a lot of people are skeptical of animal cafes, and I was skeptical too before going to this one – we’ve probably all been to petting zoos/actual zoos where the animals looked listless and miserable. But from what I could tell, the owls looked very well taken care of here. The space is very clean and cheery, with staff that is passionate about their owls. The owls were previously raised in captivity, not captured from the wild. During the day’s schedule they are rotated to prevent over-handling, and the sleeping owls are kept in a different spot from the active ones.
Anyway, the basics of Owl Family, you can make reservations online, which is highly suggested, but you could also try to see if there’s any open spots depending on the time of day – it can get pretty popular with locals and tourists alike though, so walk-ins aren’t guaranteed. The cafe itself is located within short walking distance of Canal City Mall and Kushida Shrine. In my opinion, it has one of the cutest logos ever! Look for the two orange owls, it’s kind of an ordinary-looking storefront otherwise.
So when you are first called inside, you’ll be taken to an upstairs loft where you will get your drink, and a staff member will give a demo for the first few minutes about what to do and what not to do to the owls there. The demo is mostly in Japanese, but there is a large diagram on the wall with lots of pictures and some English text – our staff member also gestured a lot, so it’s all fairly self explanatory. After you wipe your hands with disinfectant, you get to go back downstairs and are introduced to your owl friends for the next 50 minutes! Because they’re rotated, you never know which owls will be there.
Some of the owls can be a little flighty, so each one will come with a sort of leash (it’s more like a braided rope) that you wrap around your fingers. In the event that an owl does get spooked somehow and tries to fly away from you, the staff will be the ones to contain it, but the rope basically helps it from going too far. There was a Great Horned Owl that required us to wear a thick glove to hold it, but I wish there was something for the medium-sized and littler owls too because their talons are still, you know, just a tad sharper than a cockatiel’s, haha.
The star of the owl family here is the snowy owl, Chip, who gets her own perch near the back. She’s apparently too aggressive to be handled by anyone but the staff. And she’s the same breed as Hedwig from the Harry Potter movies. Trivia: male snowy owls are the ones with almost no gray/black flecks, so in the movies Hedwig was actually played by a male owl.
The gift shop in the loft is actually fairly expansive, and they have a lot of neat things. I picked up a couple postcards that I’ve been keeping pinned up as prints ever since. The best souvenirs though, are the actual photos! If you don’t have a buddy to take photos of you with the owls, the staff is more than happy to help.
This was one of the highlights of my visit to Fukuoka, so if you also love owls and happen to be in the area, I definitely recommend it.
Day 4 Afternoon:
The underground arcade or Chikagai in Tenjin (Tenjin Underground Street) is a good place to go to escape the heat, rain and traffic lights in the world above. There are a ton of shops, most are for women’s clothing though. There are a handful of restaurants and cafes scattered throughout the arcade and you’ll figure out which ones are the most popular by the ridiculous lines snaking out of them. The arcade is a handy way to travel around the center of the city as it connects to most of the major shopping buildings on Watanabe dori and branches off a bit to connect you to city hall, the Acros Building, as well as to some of the office buildings on Meji dori. I usually use the Chikagai less for shopping and more as part of my commute, but I do like to hit up the bakeries there every now and again for an afternoon snack.
If you have a stroller, suitcases or are in a wheelchair, the entrances to the Chikagai are limited. There is one elevator off the street by Iwataya. Most of the shopping buildings will have elevators or escalators to access the Chikagai but if you are there at night, perhaps just using it to get from A to B, you may find your escalator and elevator options limited.
In Japan, they don’t have the extensive supermarkets you see in the West. For Hakata, Ming Department Store is the closest thing to a Western supermarket. The southern half is your typical Japanese style department “supermarket” with counters selling snacks. The northern half is like your Western supermarket with aisles with shelves. This is a good place to find all your grocery needs.
Amu Plaza is located right at the train station. Massive inside and we stumbled upon this gem and walked the 10 floors. There was a great arrangement of shops and we found a bunch of stuff. The coffee shop on the street level is excellent if you like fresh baked pastries. You take a tray and tongs and help yourself, then pay at the end. We had 1 coffee and two pastries and one juice. We ended up buying some surf items on the 7th floor, also a watch and also selected a few clothes.
Hankyu Department Store is maybe great for small stuff or stationery. But service is very average and the tax refund policy for foreigners was confusing. 5% discount coupon for all foreign passport holders. I personally think you could skip this one if you want truly Japanese department store shopping experience.