Day 0 (29 October 2017)
We landed in Fukuoka at around 5 p.m. I had originally ordered a portable wifi device that I needed to pick up at the HK airport but we went to the lounge and totally forgot about it until we had already boarded the plane! Unfortunately, there was no refund either. So we had to get one when we arrived in Fukuoka instead. It has unlimited data and connects up to 10 devices! It is definitely better than getting multiple SIM cards with limited data usage. The connection and speed was very stable, so it’s definitely worth renting one.
We took the shuttle to the domestic terminal to get to the subway station and made our way to Hakata station. We booked Hotel Centraza which is very close and convenient. After some exploring, we found that there is an exit (East 4) that links directly to the basement floor of the hotel where their restaurant is. We checked into our rooms and explored the JR station area to find dinner. A number of ramen places have ticket vending machines for ordering so you basically don’t need to talk to waiters. (Restaurants in Japan serve ice-cold water, which is something I was not used to at all. Whenever I asked for ‘no ice’ or ‘hot water’, I got weird looks and stares.) We ordered their ‘special’ ramen with beef brisket and seaweed, which turned out to be extremely salty and needed several glasses of water to wash down. Note to self: if the restaurant doesn’t have many customers, it probably means the food isn’t very good.
Day 1 (30 October 2017)
- Yangibashi Market
- Tenjin area
- Hakata area
We headed to Yanagibashi Market as the first stop. To get there, we had to take a bus from the BCD bus stop which was next to the Kitte department store in Hakata, not the bus terminus. Several buses go there actually. The digital schedule is pretty accurate and shows which stop the buses are at the moment.
You actually have to board from the back of the bus and retrieve a ticket which will show the number of the stop you boarded. When you alight, you present the ticket to the driver and pay the fare that comes up on the screen. The driver was nice and patient with us. But the whole process can be time consuming when there are many passengers.
There wasn’t a lot to see or buy at the market as some of them hadn’t opened yet. We were mostly attracted to the stall that sold seaweed and we pretty much bought all his stock for that brand and packet. There is a very nice coffee stall there too. I was attracted to their colourful signs and range.
Next, we headed to Tenjin Chikagai Underground Shopping Mall for lunch and afternoon shopping. We suddenly saw a large group of school kids walking along following their teachers. They must have been on a school trip or something. We walked around the area outside and found City Hall as well. There is also the ACROS building which looks a giant green staircase. It’s truly an impressive architectural design.
We didn’t find much to shop or buy in that underground mall so we went back to Hakata early. Near the Hakata Station, there is the Hankyu Department store, Amu Plaza, Kitte Department store, Tokyu Hands… all within walking distance of the station. Closer to the bus terminus, there is a huge DAISO store. We bought so much there! Souvenir shopping done!
For dinner, we had buffet at the hotel because they had discounts for hotel guests. One free per three or 30% off. This definitely makes up for the awful ramen we had the night before! After dinner, we wanted to do more shopping but discovered that many stores close at 8:00 p.m., unlike in Hong Kong where everything is pretty much open until 11:00 p.m. If you need to shop, must remember to go early! Though Lawson is always a good convenient store to get late night snacks and drinks.
We had a pretty slow-paced day, mainly for shopping. Now that that’s out of the way, the next few days would be all sightseeing!
Day 2 (31 October 2017)
- Fukuoka City Akarenga Culture Center
- Fukuoka Castle Ruins and Maizuru Park
- Ohori Park
- Fukuoka Tower
- Momochi Seaside Park
We decided to buy a two-day subway pass so we can go to more places and not have to buy a ticket all the time. You can only get them if you are a tourist. The ticket machines don’t sell them so you have to go to the station customer service office located in the central gate, not just any of them. I asked several officers where to buy them and got directed all over the station. One told me to go upstairs, and when I got up, they told me to go downstairs! I ran everywhere and finally found the office! It turns out that there was an office on both floors but neither of them knew about the one on the floor they were on! You need to show your passport to get the pass, which costs 700 Yen. It’s much cheaper if you travel long distances or multiple trips since the pass lets you do unlimited trips. It also gives you discounts on some entrance fees to tourists spots if you show them the pass.
Our first stop was the Akarenga Culture Center. It’s free admission, and you quickly learn why. There is not much to see there except for displays on the history of the building. There are two floors and the second floor showed meeting rooms with desks and chairs. It’s also all in Japanese so I had no idea what I was looking at. They have a library full of reference books and archives so it’s mostly meant for people to do research, not really a place for tourists. Don’t waste your time going in there. It’s good for taking a photo of the exterior, as the building itself is quite impressive.
Next, we made our way to Ohorikoen Station and walked towards the Maizuru Park where the Fukuoka Castle Ruins were. It took about 20 minutes of slow walking. We hadn’t had lunch yet so when we saw a hotdog truck, we rushed to buy some. They were surprisingly delicious! The lady making the hotdogs was extremely nice. Each hotdog was prepared on the spot and made individually fresh from the oven. It was one of the best hotdogs I’ve ever had! I don’t know if she is there permanently, but the truck is located right next to the entrance steps of the Castle Ruins. I highly recommend trying the hotdogs from this lady!
When we finished our delicious hotdogs, we walked up the stairs and arrived at the site. Entry to the site is free of charge. The remains of the castle are mostly the stone walls. It was explained on the information board that it was previously believed that there was not castle tower, but recently, the possibility of its existence has risen. A speculative image of the castle was shown as well. It used to be the largest castle on Kyushu but was almost completely torn down, leaving only the stone walls and some turrets, during the Meiji period.
Maizuru Park itself was a bit of a disappointment as there were no flowers to see. There is peony garden there, which I imagine to be really beautiful when flowers are in bloom. Cherry blossoms are also supposed to be lovely there during March and April. We saw mostly wilted stems and leaves.
We continued our walk towards Ohori Park via some small streets and past some village houses. The park is huge and stretches over 40 hectares of land. There is a large pond with several small islands in middle which are connected by stone bridges. Many locals run and jog in this park. It’s a very relaxing place to spend an afternoon. There is also a Japanese Garden located in the park, which we forgot to visit! We were too mesmerised by the beauty of the pond and the bridges that we wanted to cross them to get to the islands, that we missed the entrance to the garden. (They charge a small entrance fee of 240 yen.) It would have been nice to visit but we decided not to walk back as we wanted to make it in time to watch the sunset at the Fukuoka Tower (more on that below).
There were many swan boats floating in the pond which are available for hire – another thing to try if we have more time. Close to the end of the bridge, there is a hexagonal pavilion extending out to the pond. It’s definitely worth taking a photo there. We also saw many birds all around the park, especially this one tree where they were just perched on every available branch that was there! When we made it to the other end of the park, we spotted a frozen yoghurt shop, Pinkberry and bought froyos and smoothies and pastries there to enjoy with the view of the pond. Great for a rest stop!
We checked the time of sunset was 5:27 p.m. so we decided to head straight to the Fukuoka Tower to watch it. It is located near the Nishijin Station so we took the subway from Ohorikoen Station. It’s actually a 15 minute walk from Nishijin Station. The City Museum was along the way but we had no time to check it out. When we arrived at the Tower, it was 5:20 p.m. We rushed to get tickets to go up. (With the 2 day pass, you can get a 10% discount on the entrance fee.)
We made it up the observation deck just in time to watch the sun set and dusk fall over the Hakata Bay. It was one of the best views I’ve seen from a tower. It’s not to be missed! They had many Halloween decorations on the deck and even a costume corner for visitors to put on the costumes for photos. Some windows had Halloween stickers on them, making it a cute photo frame with the city in the background.
The Tower also has a nightly light up show starting from 6:00 p.m. We decided to head down to the Momochi Seaside Park to catch it but as it turns out, it cannot be seen from that side! So we went ahead to have dinner there instead and watch it afterwards, since it runs until 11:30 p.m. We saw some seaside restaurants and decided to try the one selling skewers and takoyaki. They were delicious! We sat outside and it was surprisingly warm with very little wind – just the right weather for a seaside dinner. After dinner, we walked to the other side of the tower for the best viewing position of the light show. It was Halloween themed, perfect on the night of Halloween!
(End of Part 1)