We are fortunate to have found ourselves living in Fukuoka City. It is a perfect blend of Japan's techno-metropolitan life, but with a slower and much more laid-back pace. The city is the capital of the prefecture which shares its name. It is the largest city on the southern island of Kyushu, the 6th most populous in Japan, and has a busy international airport, multiple train and shinkansen links, and a bustling ferry port. It also hosts the reigning Japanese baseball champions, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, and the newly promoted football team, Avispa Fukuoka.
The city centre, Tenjin, is home to an incredible number of department stores and retail outlets lining either side of the main road, Watanabe-dori. Within these shopping-meccas you can splash your cash on high-end brands, high-street fashion, or independent boutiques, wedged in-between a myriad of restaurants, cafes, karaoke bars and gaming arcades. Tenjin is such a shopaholic's best-friend that there's even a mall situated underground, home to 150 shops and cafes. Just a stones-throw from the city centre are dozens of backstreets filled with boutiques, thrift stores, cafes and hipsters.
To the East of Tenjin runs the Naka river, a pleasant stroll and relief from the bustling crowds. Cross one of the 17 bridges and you'll arrive on an island named Nakasu. During the day you can visit Nakasu-Kawabata, a slightly old-fashioned shopping arcade that also houses a 10m, 1 ton float from last year's Yamakasa festival. At night, however, Nakasu transforms into a different world. The neon lights ignite, music sounds, and the beer begins to flow. Once the sun sets, this island becomes the city's entertainment district with a plethora of bars, clubs and some rather seedier establishments. If you decide on a night on the town, avoid anywhere displaying the words "ling/lingerie", "lounge", "caba", or "soap". Just trust us on this.
If you manage to navigate safely through Nakasu, you will come upon Canal City- a rather swanky shopping and entertainment complex with a real canal running through it's core. It accommodates over 250 shops, cafes, restaurants, a gaming arcade, iMAX cinema, theatre, 2 hotels and even a Moomin-cafe. Between shopping and eating you can enjoy the live entertainment that regularly takes place on the purpose built staging area (so far we have been witness to a Jurassic World water-park, J-pop performance, gospel choir, and an hourly water show).
Continue your journey east through the city and Hakata will be your next destination. The rather spectacular JR Hakata City (Hakata train station) is Fukuoka's shinkansen hub, with bullet-trains flying in and out on a regular basis, connecting the city with the rest of Japan. The station is also home to over 230 designer stores and one of Japan's largest restaurant complexes. But what really makes this a place worth visiting is the rooftop garden where you can watch planes coming and going from the nearby airport, see the city spread out ahead of you, and marvel at the surrounding mountains- all of which become quite the attraction during a sunset. This part of the city is also home to an Asahi brewery, several museums, temples, and an owl cafe.
Despite its vast metropolitan expanse, Fukuoka's parks are both numerous and spacious. Ohori park for example, rated the city's No.1 attraction on TripAdvisor, is within walking distance from the centre but also hosts it's own subway station for those of a lazier persuasion. Decorated by around 1,000 cherry trees among the ruins of an Edo period castle, this park makes for a delightful respite from the bustling Tenjin. If you're feeling particularly active, rowing boats and pedalos adorn the vast lake at it's centre. Maezuru park, situated atop the castle ruins themselves, makes for a great picnic spot and offers panoramic views of the city. There are also several traditional Japanese gardens dotted about the city: one in Yusentei has it's own tea house overlooking a lake filled to burst with koi-carp.. Fukuoka Zoo also has it's own botanical gardens, which during the summer months host nighttime events.
The north-west of Fukuoka is coastal and as such is home to no less than 20 beaches. Many have facilities such as changing rooms, showers and bathrooms; some host bars and restaurants right on the sand; others offer volleyball courts and jet-skis; and all are accessible via public transport. The most easily accessible from the city centre is Seaside Momochi, a man-made beach popular with families and sports enthusiasts- from here you will be able to visit Robosquare, Yahoo Dome (home of the Softbank Hawks baseball team), Fukuoka Museum, and even sit in the shade of Fukuoka Tower.
This selection is just the tip of a growing iceberg. All in all, Fukuoka is both a great place to live and visit. We hope you see you here soon.