Entertaining Kids in Fukuoka
While it may not be an obvious choice of destination for the winter break, Fukuoka is where I found myself over the recent New Year holiday, with three kids in tow. I had taken my two daughters and niece there to visit my husband's family. We were all pleasantly surprised to find that Fukuoka has some really wonderful—and free or rather inexpensive—kid-friendly sites that helped to keep us plenty busy during our short stay.
While the areas surrounding Tenjin and Hakata stations are quite busy with shoppers bustling here and there, Fukuoka is generally more relaxed and quiet than Tokyo, and yet, as it is close to Korea and China, it is quite international in feel as well.
Most bus and train routes are connected to either Tenjin or Hakata stations, and it was quite easy to navigate the bus and train routes even with three kids. For those with time to spare at Hakata station there are some great kid-friendly areas to visit.
For when you have some time to relax at Hakata station…
Tsubame no Mori
On top of the station is Tsubame no Mori (“Sparrow’s Forest”), which is a quiet roof garden that is a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of Hakata station. There is enough space for kids to run freely and safely in the enclosed space.
The space houses a small rooftop shrine for safe travels, a walkway leading up to the shrine which is reminiscent of the booths often lining Japanese festivals, a free tricycle-riding area, as well as a small electric train that kids can ride for a small fee, and an area that allows one to gaze over the streets of Fukuoka.
Omocha no Chachacha
Underneath Hakata station, between platforms 1 and 2, is Omacha no Chachacha, a play area equipped with wooden balls, blocks and play sets, and books. The play area costs ¥300 for one adult and one child, ¥200 for each additional adult, and ¥100 for each additional child. Visits are limited to one hour. It is recommended to use this play facility while waiting for, or after a train ride, because you must purchase a ¥140 ticket to enter the platform area otherwise.
For when you are looking for a free, hands-on, indoor experience…
Children’s Science & Culture Center
Fukuoka also has a Children’s Science & Culture Center, which is free and open to the public and is intended to teach children about science.
The six-floor building has different themes in each room, such as a robotics room, a music room, a geology room, a biology room, and a computer room. Most of the displays are interactive and many left my children wondering, puzzling, questioning and laughing.
There is also a planetarium next door that has shows playing multiple times per day (adult tickets cost ¥200, high school students are ¥150, and it’s free for younger children). The building also has a 764-seat hall that holds shows and events.
The Center is a five-minute walk from Akasaka train station or Nagahama 2-chome, Homukyoku or Akasakamon bus stops.
For when you are looking for lots and lots of fun outside…
Umi no Nakamichi Kaihin Koen
If the weather is good and you have a full day with restless kids, Umi no Nakamichi Kaihin Koen is a must-visit, fantabulous park. It is quite possibly the best outdoor park (with the exception of high-cost big attractions like Disneyland) that I have ever been to.
The sprawling park has multiple small playgrounds, a number of giant roller slides, a large trampoline, an aquarium, rental cycles and cycling route, the largest pool complex in western Japan and beautiful flowers for springtime viewing (both not available during the winter when we visited), and eating areas as well as go carts and seasonal events. On the day that we visited we were able to make Japanese kites for ¥200 per child. (Previously there was also a large Ferris wheel, but it was taken down in late 2015).
All this in exchange for a very low fee. Adults are ¥410 each, elementary school age children are just ¥80, and younger children are free.
There is a train that runs around the park for convenient travel within the park (day passes are available).
The park is accessible by car, bus (a three-minute walk from the bus stop), ferry (eight-minute walk from ferry stop) or train (adjacent to station). Check this page for detailed information on fees, hours and transportation.
For when you have a car and are looking for good fun indoors…
Fantasy Kids Resort
For those with access to a car, a trip to Fantasy Kids Resort is perfect for a cold or rainy day. The huge facility has enough fun for a full day out. There are five big bounce castles, an arcade room equipped with fake coins (guaranteeing hours of free fun), a big maze, electric cars for kids to drive around a course, two human-sized blowup hamster wheels, a toddler play area, a dress up and picture taking area with a variety of girls’ and boys clothes, and a giant sandbox with clean white sand.
See the floor map of the facilities here.
In terms of amenities. there is a breastfeeding room, an eating area (you are welcome to bring your own food), plenty of kid-friendly toilets, free lockers for bags and shoes, free massage chairs for parents, and plenty of toys to buy for kids unwilling to go home without a gift.
During the time we were there there were a number of shows the staff put on for kids and parents; my daughters participated in a Bingo game that included prizes.
An annual membership fee is required (¥315) and you can pay by the hour (¥430/hour) or for a day pass (¥990 for five hours). See pricing details here.
Even after five hours of sweaty play, my fun-loving four-year-old refused to leave and I physically removed her kicking and screaming from the play area.
All in all we had a fun-filled and enjoyable time in Fukuoka and made good memories. We are already looking forward to going back again!