Located in southern Japan, Fukuoka is unhurried. The surrounding region is afforded with a diverse landscape. From beaches to mountains to hot springs, greater Fukuoka is a place to be experienced. Slowly. The only thing fast about Fukuoka is the distance from the international airport to the city center – a mere 10-minute taxi drive.
Fukuoka is a slice of food heaven. For an authentic local experience, look no further than a yatai, an unpretentious outdoor food stall (that is constructed and deconstructed nightly) and seats about 6-8 diners. Numbering over 150 and found on the banks of the Naka River, each yatai has its own specialty and unique ambiance, which encouraged us to hop from one to another as often as possible, sampling the best of Fukuoka’s nosh – world famous Hakata ramen, yakitori, motsunabe (a stew comprised of pork guts), and karagi (fried chicken). Sharing is very much a part of the yatai community culture. A businessman seated next to me offered his chicken sashimi. I was a bit cautious, as the raw chicken had been set aside for a while, but decided to jump right in.
Another reason to visit Fukuoka is for the beer. Okura Beer is brewed and served only at the Okura Hotel in Fukuoka. The microbrew’s reddish brown hue imbues clean and curious character, just like the town itself. To this day, Okura beer remains my all-time favorite.
With a dearth of tourists, the locals of Fukuoka make an effort to befriend foreigners. Two university students we met at a yatai, invited us to post-dinner drinks at an Irish bar. We were soon among friends. The following day, they picked us at our rakuten (local hotel) to drive us to Daizafu, a smaller town 20 KM outside Fukuoka in the countryside, known for its impressive cultural sights.
The city is great place to experience modern Japan. The locals are proud of the city’s bike paths, local baseball team – the Softbank Hawks, annual sumo tournament, festivals, and zen gardens. No wonder Fukuoka was listed as the 12th Most Liveable City in the World in 2013.
There is a charm about Fukuoka that one just has to experience (or taste).