Exploring Fukuoka: But why??

I really like the Fukuoka Metro maps. This one includes fare details for all stations.

I don’t know if I failed Fukuoka or if Fukuoka failed me. But after 4ish hours trying to find any semblance of culture or interesting sights I mostly gave up on the town. And I suppose that was to be expected given the cautions I received from others in planning my trip.

I chose Fukuoka based on flight schedules, not because there was something I particularly wanted to see. On this trip the flights were the trip so I’m not disappointed in my decision. Still, I’m really not sure what I missed or what else I was supposed to do along the way. Other than Ramen Stadium, apparently. But I didn’t go there.

I give credit where due: The subway system is super easy and quick between the city and the airport. I am a big fan of that, especially when many Japanese cities have the airport 40+ minutes outside of town.

Starting my Fukuoka Transit Adventure
Starting my Fukuoka Transit Adventure

Added bonus: Each station has a logo and color, along with the letter/number combo, making navigation super easy. It is very similar to the Mexico City subway in that regard.

The logos for every station in the Fukuoka Metro sytem was a cool feature
The logos for every station in the Fukuoka Metro system was a cool feature

I did find a small temple in town and some great dumplings adjacent to that.

A cute temple in middle of Fukuoka; one of few cultural bits I spotted in my wandering.
A cute temple in middle of Fukuoka; one of few cultural bits I spotted in my wandering.
Fresh dumplings and croquettes for lunch in a tiny shop in Fukuoka
Fresh dumplings and croquettes for lunch in a tiny shop in Fukuoka

I also, mostly by happenstance, made it up to the Atago Shrine on a hill overlooking the city. That was pretty nice.

Looking out on Fukuoka from Atago Shrine
Looking out on Fukuoka from Atago Shrine

But I was tired and a little cranky and there wasn’t much going on that I could find. So I headed back to the airport early. I took advantage of the spotting deck on the roof for a bit.

Plane spotting from the deck atop Fukuoka Airport
Plane spotting from the deck atop Fukuoka Airport

Then I got a massage from the shop on the arrivals level. That was a pretty smart choice. Finally, dinner in the food court before heading through security to catch my onward StarFlyer flight to Nagoya.

Pre-flight dining in the Fukuoka food court. Really tasty steak option
Pre-flight dining in the Fukuoka food court. Really tasty steak option

So, did I manage to screw up completely and miss out on something amazing in Fukuoka? Or is it just a relatively low-key destination that wasn’t worth the time as a tourist?

More from my Japanese LCC Adventure

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. For starters, both of the those food pictures clearly illustrated what’s you’ve missed out —

    Fukuoka, specifically Hakata, is THE home of ramen.

  2. Welcome to Japan.
    Its a very automated, self-service country, and for most foreign tourists, its not obvious what to see minus Tokyo and Kyoto (where the beaten path exists). Add in a reserved culture and language barrier, and its hard to find local sights.
    In many parts, cities aren’t the attraction, or at least major ones (looking at you, Nagoya). Fukuoka is close to Nagasaki, known for its Portuguese influences as an early trading port. Hakata Ramen, from just east of Fukuoka, is one of the most popular types. The city of Shimonoseki, east of that, is known for blowfish. Japan is easy to get around on a short layover, but harder to feel fully immersed.

    Also, Jetstar Japan and Spring Airlines Japan are some new players in Japan’s LCC field. Theres also Starflyer, a budget premier airline linked with ANA.

    1. I read up on the ramen bit in a few places but most of what I saw said it was an evening event, not a daytime thing. I’m sure my schedule was a limiting factor in all of this.

      Jetstar and Spring were on my radar but I couldn’t get them to work in my schedule. I did get o fly StarFlyer; that review is coming up!

  3. You go to get the FUK luggage tag ! I have seen them for sale at airline memorabilia shows for $5.00 !

  4. I stayed a night there when I was studying in Japan. The nightlife was pretty good, tho nothing like Tokyo. There’s an interesting old town to check out—Hakata. But I sandwiched my visit between Nagasaki (very sobering) and Karatsu (relaxing on the beach).

  5. I had a day there last year. I enjoyed some temples I found downtown, lunch in the underground mall and then nearby Nokonoshima Island which is an enjoyable ferry ride away

  6. No one I know sees Fukuoka as a tourist destination. So much to see in Kyushu, it’s always just a gateway. Having said that, the foodstall (yatai) scene in the evening along the river is great.

    1. Yeah…I read about those a decent bit but they seemed to be an evening thing. Maybe I got that wrong but I was really only there for lunch time.

  7. Just want to add that it’s standard in Japan now to have letters for Subway lines, followed by a number for each station. Very useful and consistent.

  8. Fukuoka Ramen is actually a lunch time thing. You definitely blew it but it’s not your fault. There is a lot of bad advice floating around about Fukuoka. For instance Ramen Stadium categorically sucks and eating there would be the equivalent of visiting the seaside of Maryland or Maine and eating your meals at Sizzler and Red Lobster. Anyone who recommends that you to you is an idiot about ramen (most Japanese and virtually all foreigners) and should not be trusted to give you any advice. Ippudo Ramen is also not worth a visit unless you like safe Ramen without too much flavor or MSG. Ichiran is fun for tourists and their tonkotsu ramen is actually not bad at all but it’s really high quality fast food for busy people and late night gamers.

    Fukuoka is about deep Tonkotsu Ramen (literally pork bone, not to be confused with Tonkatsu which is probably an import word originating from “cutlet”). You can tell a good Tonkotsu restaurant is nearby at lunchtime because the smell of boiling bones will extend many blocks away, you simply follow the smell and look for a line of people waiting outside. If you are right by the train station Hakata Issou is maybe the closest decent deep tonkotsu house. But be prepared for a line at lunch. I’m partial to Hakata Daruma in Chūō-ku for the great soup flavor and cleaner taste. Some people like a fattier soup. Every deep tonkotsu aficionado in Fukuoka has their favorites. You can get this ramen style elsewhere in Japan but it just doesn’t compare. The Yatai foodstalls in Fukuoka are mostly famous because street food has disappeared from Japan and these are the only relics. If you are a foreigner who doesn’t speak Japanese, prepare to be heftily overcharged by these establishments for food that is non-memorable.

    Fukuoka is also a place to get live squid sashimi. The squid is actually fully dispatched after they pull one from the aquarium for you. It just retains the ability to twitch when you apply lemon juice or soy sauce. The chef will fry the rest for you after you eat the sashimi if you like. Many restaurants can do the same with fish. High end sushi is extremely good in Fukuoka. Much better than any restaurants you are likely to get into in Tokyo. Kawahagi is a summer specialty fish and is eaten with it’s liver as a topping or sauce. It’s a prized delicacy. Amazingly good. You should also try Mentaiko (spicy fish roe) at any local Isakaya bar or restaurant. You can have it grilled but foreigners will like it better in an omelette.

    The real magic of Fukuoka besides ramen is Motsunabe, a stew of finely prepared beef intestine. It’s intoxicating and maybe the best B-food dish in Japan along with good quality Oden. Fukuoka plays with the reputation of eating offal as a private underground affair and a few of the most fun Motsunabe restaurants are sort of secret places with no sign where you have to walk up a random staircase or empty alley to find the restaurant. But it’s also easily found in high end establishments or the train station. Even if you are not an offal fan, it’s truly delicious and you may change your mind. Offal is prized in many parts of Japan, and of extremely high quality, so it’s a great country to try it.

    1. This is great stuff, Andy…thanks! I might have to go back and try again, preferably with more than a couple hours (and not ridiculously jet lagged).

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