One of the many places I've always wanted to go in Japan is the famous Wisteria garden- and for this reason I immediately told Chloe I wanted to go there together should they plan to do so on their epic 1.5 month trip in Japan. So we did! But there were other things we enjoyed in Fukuoka other than this main purpose, so let's go one by one!
We stayed in Hakata area while Chloe and Ben stayed in Kita-Kyushu, because I was too slow decide on the hotel, and Chloe did the right thing to book early. However, both of us agree that it was better to have stayed in Hakata area since it is the easiest access to most areas! This excluding Nagasaki, of course. I wish we were able to go to other beautiful places in Fukuoka but we decided to go for only 3 days.
We rented a car which was the most convenient way to travel in Fukuoka, so I apologize if I don't include information on how to get to the places mentioned below. However, these are all accessible by buses or train, just remember to prepare your schedule beforehand!
The hotel we stayed in was at Hotel Monte Hermana Fukuoka. I think that it was a good choice, the rooms were at a decent size, and also it was near the main area of Hakata, near Tenjin Station.
It was almost the end of Spring when we came; this year it became hot quite early (the Sakuras also bloomed so early!) and what I remembered visiting the temple is that it was so hot and quite dusty. But the temple itself is worth visiting. It is one of the most important shrines in Japan, next to Kyoto's Kitano Tenmangu. There are statues of bulls around the temple, and it is said that if you touch its head, you'll become smart.🤔 (I want to insert a socio-political joke but I'm the most un-witty person I know)
The Dazaifu Tenmangu Museum behind the temple. There is not a lack of museums in Daizafu as there is also direct access from the shrine to the huge Kyushu National Museum.
The streets outside are very interesting as, and with shops similar to Kyoto's, and for Architecture enthusiasts, you can find Kengo Kuma's famous Starbucks cafe in the streets leading to Dazaifu.
Nakasu, Yatai and Hakata Ramen
I really enjoyed Nakasu, which is an area in the middle of the Naka River. There are plenty of stalls and I really love going to these stalls and enjoy the warm nighttime air. Yatai is what you call these stalls, but any temporary mobile stalls are called Yatai, usually selling ramen or oden.
Hakata is also famous for its local ramen. Hakata ramen is also called Tonkotsu ramen and its main element is pork, with thin noodles, and the soup broth which is also based on pork, which takes hours to boil. I've noticed that it's not everyone's cup of soup (what a horrible pun), but I like it!
Near our hotel was also Daruma ramen which is famous for Hakata ramen, you might want to try this place if you're visiting!
While driving around after visiting Grin Grin (one of the architecture listed below), we also found this delicious ramen shop! It was totally unexpected and really good!
Apart from the Starbucks branch in Dazaifu, I thought that the below buildings were quite interesting:
Acros is an office building and it stands out so much for the garden terraces that seem to grow from the adjacent park, and makes you wonder how the structure supports this much loading. The interior of the building was also neatly constructed. The columns also seem to be transfer columns, (columns that are not continuous vertically, thus the load needs to be transferred from one column to another downwards) but I need to verify this (or can someone tell me if it's otherwise?)
Grin Grin (which is obviously derived from Green Green), is a park designed by Toyo Ito, and was built more than a decade ago. I personally appreciated the green house, with its organic shape and ground cover about it, which seems less superficial than Ito's other works wherein only the facade is shaped organically shaped and the rest of the building is the general square frame.
The toilets and the benches seemed like they spent too much designing and spending money on these. The bench also doesn't seem too comfortable although it appears as if it was design ergonomically to fit your butt.
This mall is quite known for its eye catching, contrasting colors, but, I didn't really like it.
Tenjin Minami Station entrance
The entrance to Tenjin Minami station was also quite interesting, the supporting structure standing out acrobatically from behind the glass.
Yamanaka honten (sushi)
Designed by Arata Isozaki, our main purpose was to of course have lunch, and being such noobs we went early and queued outside, but so very unfortunately, even for lunch, it was hard to get in without prior booking! So we just appreciated the building from outside. Sad.
Fukuoka Castle Ruins
This was probably the most disappointing, we thought that we will see something like Nagoya castle or any castle, I mean when you search for it on google a castle photo appears, but that's just what it is: a ruin. You can see an aerial view of the area from here, but that's pretty much it. Not recommended to go here unless it is Sakura season.
Kawachi Wisteria Gardens
For the main purpose of our trip, we had to wake up really early and our target was to drive to the park before it opens and people come flooding in. Up at around 5am, prepared, drove the car and picked up Chloe and Ben from the nearest station to the park, we reached at around 8am but there were already a lot of photographers taking photos! The good thing is at during this time people really respected the purpose of these photographers in taking photos, and nobody dared ventured inside the tunnel while they were taking these shots. Chloe and I sneaked in for a while but we just ran and took 10 seconds worth of shots, and dashed off in embarrassment.
The park has two arched tunnels, one with a lower ceiling and another a bit higher, and once you climb up there are also Wisteria hanging in square frames which are equally as pretty. By the time we walked around there were already a lot of tourists. And by the time we left at 10am, the crowd was already very distracting and you couldn't really see the full beauty of the tunnels.
We're glad that we already learned our lesson and went there earlier to enjoy the magical beauty of these wisteria tunnels.
Literally translates to "A place in the middle of the sea"park, it can be difficult to remember for non-Japanese speakers, but just Uminonaka will do. One of the main reasons we went here is the nemophila. A few weeks earlier we went to a famous park in Tokyo, Hitachi Seaside Park, but OMFG the crowd is crazy! One thing you'll learn about Japan is that it's difficult to go to a famous spot without seeing such a huge crowd, because apparently, even Japanese don't get tired of the beauty of Japan. So I guess tourists who come on weekdays are a lot luckier when going to these places. As I mentioned above regarding the Wisteria garden, we already learned our lesson and also came early, but even so the crowd was still not as horrible as Hitachi Seaside Park, and we really could enjoy the nemophila fields this time.
Inside this humongous park, you'll be able to see fields of Nemophila (May season), other flower fields, a Zoo (which was unexpectedly fun! I went looking for the Capybara), Rose garden, and even a go cart. This park, I think is worth going to next to the Wisteria garden.
Initially we were struggling to find nice cafes to hang around at, but on the last day, we found this street called Daimyo and it's where you can find hip and trendy cafes, shops, and restaurants. It's quite a bit different from Harajuku, as the crowd here is more mature. I wish we could have explored this area more, but we found this area during our last day before our flight (no matter how much I searched previously it was hard to find this instagrammable place)
We spent a bit of time in Marbre Blanc cafe. Just when we were about to enter the electricity went out (such a rare event in Japan, I feel), but they were kind enough to let us in (eventually the electricity came back after a dew minutes). The shop itself was very quaint and I loved the ice cream for the real fruits at the bottom and the ice cream on top! Its set inside a transparent cone which makes it really pretty and instagrammable!
There is also a Line cafe in Fukuoka, however, we didn't go here, and having already gone to the one in Seoul, I really didn't mind.
Near Hakata is also Manu cafe, which was also a quaint cafe and this is where we and Chloe hung around when we were looking for a place to chill after being tired from the travel to the Wisteria gardens.
Hakata is also famous for Mentaiko, so Mentaiko lovers, you have to try their Mentaiko specialties! Besides Mentaiko flavoured seaweed, bread, Mentaiko spreads, paste, you name it-- we also got to try Mentaiko ramen which was really delicious! When we found the shop upon arriving, there wasn't really a long queue, but when we went for lunch, we had to wait for a very long time under the scorching sun! It was worth it though, I feel it's something you can only enjoy in Fukuoka.
Most people go to Tokyo, or Osaka, but if you've been here before, Fukuoka is also an interesting destination. I definitely enjoyed our time there, and it was more laid back compared to other city areas of Japan.