A Weekend Getaway To Fukuoka City
Gourmet Comfort Food And Family Fun
August 6, 2020
Families, Neighborhood Guide
Welcome to a weekend of city living and great comfort food in Fukuoka. Read on to find out how to get the best of its two downtown cores—with kids in tow!—over the span of two days.
Maybe you’re not quite ready to leave Tokyo over the weekend just yet—we do recommend to keep staying at home! But, while daydreaming about your future endeavors, why not consider a weekend getaway to Fukuoka City? You are sure to find lots of fun for the whole family in Kyushu’s largest urban center with unbeatable cuisine and a rich and unique history and culture.
If you need reasons for a weekend getaway in Fukuoka…
Besides its renowned tonkotsu (“pork bone”) ramen, did you know that Fukuoka also has incredible meats for yakitori and yakiniku (grilled meat)? What’s more, it is the undisputed home base of other great and underappreciated Japanese soul foods, such as Mizutaki—a light chicken hot pot—and Motsu Nabe—an offal hot pot?
History buffs should also give Fukuoka a second look. Northern Kyushu was the historical point of contact between Japan and the Asian mainland as is evidenced by the many firsts which Fukuoka is famous for, like Japan’s first Zen Buddhist temple and first bowls of both udon and soba noodles!
Fukuoka City is a bustling metropolis in its own right with convenient shopping, delicious local coffee shops, and lots of kid-friendly eateries. If you want a little bit of everything that makes city life here so great, while still beating the summer heat and humidity, look no further than a weekend divided between Hakata and Tenjin, the two downtown districts.
Oh, and by the way, I love Fukuoka so much that after many many summers spent studying Japanese in its cafes and sustaining myself on late-night ramen, I decided to relocate here with my family. So, ready for a weekend getaway to Fukuoka?
How to get to Fukuoka from Tokyo
Fukuoka is very do-able as a weekend trip, even with children in tow. The easiest way to get here is to hop on a flight from Haneda to Fukuoka Airport. The flight will last a little under two hours and discount fares are usually available between ¥10 000-20 000 one way. The airport—located inside the city—is only a 5-minute subway ride to Hakata Station, Kyushu’s main travel artery.
You can also arrive at Hakata Station by bullet train if you fancy a train trip all across central and western Japan. If you have some extra cash to spend, the Nozomi Shinkansen can get you to Hakata without a transfer in five hours for ¥23,000. Otherwise, you can take the Hikari train to Shin-Osaka and switch to the Sakura Shinkansen to arrive in Fukuoka in about six hours.
Hakata Station: Kid Fun, Shopping, and a Stellar View
Start your first day at Hakata Station, where you will first arrive for your weekend getaway whether you come in by Shinkansen or plane. To give your kids a breather after all that travel, head to the department store Hankyu, opened in 2011 as the flagship of the renovated station complex. The seventh floor has something for the whole family, starting with a complete train set with a mini-replica of the station, as well as other Fukuoka landmarks right when you disembark from the elevator.
Half of the floor is dedicated to children’s goods, toys, clothes, and accessories, with a “kid’s space” for babies and toddlers. The other half is for home goods, where you can purchase fancy dishes and tableware made in Kyushu. When you’re through with shopping, head back to the elevator and take it to the rooftop—picturesquely decorated with plants and flowers, a small shrine, and a miniature train for the kids to ride around on. Climb the stairs behind the train to find an observation deck with a panoramic view of the city and mountains surrounding.
If you still have spare time before 11 a.m., when the restaurant floors open, consider omiyage shopping on the north side of the main floor of the station. Two specialties of Fukuoka are mentaiko—“spiced cod roe”—which can be found in many forms (even a senbei “cracker”!) as an omiyage and sweets flavored with Amao, Hakata’s super juicy local strawberries.
Although there are many delicious options, you can’t go wrong with Torimon—a disc-shaped Japanese-Western fusion treat filled with white bean paste, butter, and cream! For lunch, head to the 10th floor of the Kitte/Marui building at the station for soba and udon at Sobachaya Hanagen Honzenan (そば茶屋 華元 本膳庵), a restaurant with an over 50-year history in the Hakata area where noodles are made fresh daily.
Shinto Meets Shopping: An Afternoon of Culture and Consumption
After lunch, you can take a leisurely stroll to nearby Sumiyoshi Shrine (or a 2-minute bus ride from Hakata if the kids are tired). This beautiful complex is the oldest of all Sumiyoshi shrines in Japan, with a history of over 1,800 years. It was an important historical shrine for marine safety where travelers would stop off to pray before departing for China or Korea, especially during Japan’s medieval period. After taking in the quiet serenity of the shrine, walk for about eight minutes to the Canal City complex, an architecturally stunning mall built with circular passageways wrapping around a large fountain garden.
At Canal City, everyone can rest and be enchanted by the hourly fountain shows—when you hear the chimes, head to the middle of the complex. Whether you feel like shopping for clothes, sporting goods, accessories, or gaming in the large Taito Station game center, Canal City can easily take up the better part of your afternoon. While relaxing on the ground floor, children will love eating Dipper Dan’s crepes by the fountains and exploring the Ghibli store, the Moomin store and cafe, and the huge Hamley’s Toy Store.
As your day is winding down, just outside of the complex, there is a yakiniku restaurant called Bakuro (焼肉のバクロ)—a Fukuoka chain. There, you can have fantastic grilled meats with accompaniments, such as miso soup and salad, in a cozy environment that is very open to kids.
Tenjin Chikagai & Daimyo: Oshare and Hip Fukuoka
The morning of the second day begins in Tenjin, the other central hub in Fukuoka. Depending on where your accommodations are located, you can enter Tenjin via the Tenjin station on the Kuko (Airport) subway line or Tenjin-Minami station on the Nanakuma subway line.
Before it gets too busy, you can spend the morning exploring the underground city within a city, “Tenjin Chikagai.” The two Tenjin stops drop you off on either end of it and you can find lots of shopping in a luxurious atmosphere. In fact, the underground is designed to look like a fancy street with stained glass windows of famous paintings decorating the hallways! Once you have had your fill of the alleyways themselves, you can follow any of the tributaries into department stores that suit your fancy.
For the little ones, though, the department store Daimaru is the best bet as it has an extensive children’s floor, complete with designer clothes, many toys, and entertainers on the weekends, and a Tully’s “Coffee With U” that has child-sized chairs, picture books, and a huge stuffed bear.
When you’re feeling peckish, head to the nearby Daimyo area, known for its hipster cafes and cool shops. For a chill Fukuoka experience with no pretension and great un-fussy food, why not stop off at the restaurant Temujin for dumplings and a beer in a relaxed environment? Temujin is a local favorite whose gyoza are unique—made with minced beef instead of pork—and healthy since the filling is rounded out with a plethora of vegetables.
Once you’ve eaten your fill, take a short walk to Kego Shrine—an urban oasis in the middle of Tenjin. The shrine, dedicated to the gods of calamity and restoration, is a commonplace of Shinto wedding ceremonies for couples wishing to protect the house and family from disaster. In adjacent Kego Park, surrounded by department stores, such as Mitsukoshi and Solaria, there is a small children’s playground and many places to sit and enjoy the modern juxtaposition between spirituality and the consumer-driven city.
Siphon Coffee & Ramen: Last-Minute Fukuoka Gourmet Picks
In the later afternoon, should you have the time, check out Solaria Plaza right next to the park. Solaria has a mix of luxury and affordable shopping and cafes on almost every floor, as well as many options on the restaurant floors for an afternoon caffeine break and treat. While there are many tasty treasures to find here, I particularly recommend Noda, a local coffee chain with siphon coffee and amazing cakes. Although the vibe is rather stately, the comfortable sofas make it appealing for those with young children while the staff has always been friendly to my family, even when my daughter once woke up from a nap with explosive crying while I was having tea.
For supper, you cannot finish the weekend getaway to Fukuoka without having eaten tonkotsu ramen, so why not save the most famous meal for last? From Solaria, head to nearby Ichiran or Ippudo, two of the most popular local chains of ramen. Ichiran is less kid-friendly since it has separated booths for eating, but the main store of Ippudo has kids’ chairs and mouth-watering tonkotsu. It’s always my go-to. If you don’t mind a little spice in your ramen, the “aka-maru” is killer and the one-bite gyozas on the side are always worth it.
Wash it all down with some digestion-aiding (and complimentary!) cold rooibos tea and you’ll be perfectly full and happy for your trip back to Tokyo!
Tempted by a weekend getaway to Fukuoka? When it’s safe to travel again, don’t hesitate to tag us in your souvenir pics using #SavvyTokyo on Instagram!