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Fukuoka is the capital of Fukuoka prefecture and the largest city on the island of Kyushu.
Fukuoka is a modern city; most of its buildings are new. Historically, it was divided by the central river into two separate cities, Hakata and Fukuoka, before their merge in 1889. The main railway station and port are still known as Hakata Station and Hakata Port.
The city has two centres: one in Hakata and one in Tenjin.
The surrounding cities and towns make up the prefecture of Fukuoka.
Fukuoka is a good starting point for first-time visitors to Japan. Being a sizable, modern city it's still not hard to get around. A subway connects most of the city's main attractions.
Fukuoka Airport (FUK) is located to the east of the city, close to the city centre. Within the country, Japan Airlines and ANA fly to Fukuoka from most larger cities, including Tokyo, Osaka (Itami and Kansai), and Nagoya. The airport is split into four terminals.
What to see
Tourists visiting Fukuoka should not miss the beautiful Ohori Park located two stops west of Tenjin on the subway. The park has a 2 km jogging track that is popular with locals throughout the year, and has a massive fireworks show every summer.
The Gion area has several historical shrines and Buddhist temples, including the 8th century Kushida Shrine, starting point for the annual Gion-Yamakasa Festival, Tochoji with its 10.8 meter wooden Great Buddha, and Shofukuji, Japan's first Zen temple.
Visit the ACROS building is Tenjin Chuo Park. ACROS has a rooftop garden which is open on weekends and holidays until 4PM, and makes for a good view of the city. The building has a terraced roof that merges with the park and contains some 35,000 plants representing 76 species. Just east of ACROS is the former Prefectural Guest House, featuring turn of the century architecture.
Just northwest of Oyakuko St. is Nagahama, famous for Hakata's Nagahama ramen, with stalls (yatai) that get set up daily to handle the locals who are proud of their ramen. You will most likely smell it before you see it, and if you want a true Fukuoka experience is definitely worth a look if not a full meal.
Fukuoka is the home ground of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, check out a game at the Fukuoka Yahoo Japan Dome, which is about 15 mins walking distance from Tōjinmachi Station of Fukuoka City Subway.
Near the Fukuoka Yahoo Japan Dome, is a stretch of beach known as Momochihama, where visitors can enjoy a bit of swimming and sun.
Tucked into a building near Fukuoka Tower, you can find ROBOSQUARE.
Atago Shrine is a hidden gem near the Muromi Subway Station, with a superb view of the city and Hakata Bay from a hilltop.
Nokonoshima is a small island in the middle of Hakata Bay, which is about 12 km far away. It offers some splendid hiking, swimming, and camping. It is easily reached by a 10 minute ferry ride from the Meinohama Port. It also has the Nokonoshima Island Park that has several well manicured gardens and fields of flowers that vary by the season.
If you are visiting in November, be sure to check out the sumo matches held in Fukuoka. You are bound to see some of the sumo wrestlers out on the streets doing a bit of tourism as well.
Kabuki theatre is also an experience worth checking out. Check times and prices at the Hakata-za near Nakasu. If you don't want to stay for the whole show, or don't have so much money to spend, you can watch part of a show for about ¥800. Ask at the ticket office.
Noh theatre is also a cultural experience that some may not want to miss. There is a Noh theatre in Ohori Koen.
Kashii Kaen is a smallish amusement park next to the Nishitetsu Kashiikaenmae train station, geared more for parents with small children. It has a small ferris wheel, tame roller coaster and the usual kiddie rides, but it also has some extensive flower gardens.
For a good listing of what's happening and places to eat and drink, the local monthly English language Fukuoka Now magazine is a great start.
The area is famous for 2 local annual festivals, the Dontaku (May 3-4) and the Yamakasa (July 1-15), both of which are some of Japan's oldest festivals and draw huge crowds.
For a view of the bay, check out the Bayside Place Hakata Pier:a marine terminal for the regular service ferries for Tsushima Island and Hakata Bay cruise boats. The terminal building has a 8 m tall "Aquarium," with 6,000 fish. The Hakata Port Tower has an observatory 70 m above the ground, allowing for a great view of the port and the streets of Fukuoka.
Rent bikes and tour about the city. There are a handful of shops that have reasonable prices. The cities best treasures are discovered while following any of the many paths or sidewalks. One webpage does advise of a rental facility near the piers, this is false as they have ceased renting bikes as of May 2011.
The park behind Solaria Plaza, Kego Koen, is a great place to go to experience Tenjin's youth culture and do some people watching. Don't be surprised if some of these kids try to approach you for a bit of random conversation.