If Sapporo isn’t on the main tourist track, then Fukuoka is on a whole other planet. Let’s face it: most of you probably haven’t heard of Fukuoka. Unlike the other big cities in Japan, nothing really stands out as a must-see attraction for tourists, but Fukuoka is lovely and definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. The city itself is Japan’s seventh largest, but the metropolitan area is Japan’s fourth largest with over 5.5 million people. That’s more than Sydney. To my surprise, it’s big enough and important enough to have a U.S. consulate. Who knew?
Fukuoka is located in the far south of Japan on Kyushu Island – the country’s third largest by area and second largest by population. This location puts it super close to South Korea and other parts of East Asia. This proximity to the Asian mainland made Fukuoka prominent throughout history. With the rise of the cities in the north (Kyoto, Tokyo, and others), Fukuoka lost its prominent position, but still retains a more Asian feel than the rest of Japan given its history as the entry point for other Asian cultures. There are a ton of Thai restaurants there and an increasing number of Korean and Chinese tourists. This increase in tourism makes its airport the country’s third busiest after Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports. Most importantly, Fukuoka has been consistently ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world, and after spending three days there, I can easily see why. While Fukuoka may not have the draw or allure of Tokyo, Osaka, or even Sapporo, it’s pleasant, easy to get around, and very pretty.
As I said before, there isn’t a whole lot in the guide book that really stands out, but I did manage to find some gems mostly in the form of museums.
A few highlights of my time in Fukuoka:
Fukuoka Asian Art Museum:
The only museum that focuses solely on modern and contemporary art from Asia post-1965, The FAAM had a great collection of modern works from all across Asia. My favourite was a series of photographs from a Korean photographer who would immerse herself in foreign environments and shoot herself in that setting. Think a super Korean girl dressed like a redneck, posing for a picture in a trailer with a guy with a gun in front of a big Confederate flag. It was brilliant.
Fukuoka Art Museum:
More traditional than the FAAM, the FAM had a collection encompassing some of the less famous works of some of the most famous artists, such as Dali, Warhol, Chagall, Rothko, Lichtenstein, and more. They also had an antiquities section and works from many Japanese artists, including one of the famous pumpkins from Yayoi Kusama, one of the most important living artists in the country. The museum is located next to the lake at Ohori-koen (park) and it makes for a great day of art and walking outdoors.
Fukuoka City Museum:
The history of Fukuoka was outlined in the Fukuoka City Museum. Starting from ancient times through to modernization, the museum is thorough but not overwhelming. It had a cute section on culture and customs – particularly how they differ from other parts of Japan. For example, I learned it’s a custom to give the gift of a fish. Other Japanese people apparently think this is weird too.
Aside from this, Fukuoka was just a nice place to walk around. There were some cute shopping streets and the waterfront was a great walk. Overlooking the beach, the Fukuoka Tower gave 360 degree views of the whole city, and I walked past the Fukuoka Dome – the city’s massive American-style baseball stadium which appeases the baseball-crazed Japanese. After Fukuoka, I headed back to Tokyo for two days and then headed out of Asia. This was my six-month mark. I was sad to be leaving Japan, but excited to see what the UK and the Americas had in store for me. But first, let me take a selfie.
To see more photos of my time in Fukuoka, follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10100351286755351.1073741907.3000370&type=1&l=b74452ca3c