A HUGE mahalo to Cassie L., who has been living in Fukuoka for the past five years, teaching English. Her insider tips and suggestions are fantastic, so I’m excerpting them here with her permission:

What to Eat in Fukuoka

Fukuoka Specialties:
— Mentaiko – spicy red caviar
— Tonkotsu Ramen – really stinky pork bone ramen
— Seafood in general – including weird things like Sea Cucumber (Namako), Fish Testicles (Shirako), and controversial things like Whale (Kujira).
— Yuzu Gosho – a spicy condiment made from Yuzu citrus. In Fukuoka, it is often out on the tables in restaurants — especially places that serve Gyoza.
— Torimon – sweet little buttery yellow manju-like cakes. They’re one of the most popular souvenirs to bring back from Fukuoka.
— The Crazy Ice Cream Flavors from the little shop along the busy street to Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. They have fun flavors like Tofu, Potato, Rose, Black Sesame, Corn, etc.
— Yatai Shops – Yatai are “outdoor food carts.” They can be found on streets throughout the city, but the ones along the river in Nakasu are probably the most well-known in the country.
— Buta Bara – Fried Pork on sticks; the most popular item at Yakitori Restaurants and at festivals in Fukuoka.

[Fun Fact: Yakitori Shops are supposed to have Fried Chicken, but in Fukuoka/Kyushu, you can get all sorts of fried meat. This is not the case for the rest of the country. Additionally, it turns out that festivals in other prefectures don’t even *sell* Buta Bara unless it’s at a Fukuoka-themed stall —- something that I was both surprised to discover, then teased for by my colleagues who called me a country bumpkin. (Apparently, my assumption that the rest of the country had Buta Bara everywhere is a classic mistake made by people who have only ever lived in the inaka of Fukuoka/Kyushu).]

Kitakyushu Specialties:
— Yaki Curry – Baked Curry and Rice dish in Mojiko
— Bamboo Shoots from Oma in Kokura
— Yaki Udon – Fried udon noodles instead of Soba noodles
— Uni Ice Cream – Sea Urchin Flavored Ice Cream. This is technically a Shimonoseki Wharf Specialty, on the other side of the water from Mojiko.
— Fugu Blowfish – In Shimonoseki, they call it “Fuku” instead of “Fugu.”
— Bananas – Mojiko.

[Fun Fact: Mojiko Port was one of the only Japanese ports open to foreigners and foreign trade back when Japan closed itself off to the outside world. Hence, it has a few European-style buildings, and it famous for having exotic fruit like bananas.]

Kyushu Specialties (that can be found in Fukuoka):
— Basashi – Raw Horse Sashimi (delicious!)
— Raw Chicken Sashimi (also delicious!)
— Chicken Namban – a popular fried chicken dish from Miyazaki. It’s basically just fried chicken with tartar sauce, but it’s good!
— Imojochu – an alcohol made from potatoes (often sweet potatoes). This is the drink of choice for most Fukuoka/Kyushu people — especially business men. I recommend drinking it “mizu wari” (mixed with cold water) in the summer and “oyu wari” (mixed with hot water) in the winter.

Things to Do in Fukuoka (and Nearby)

Downtown Hakata/Tenjin:
– Visit the Yatai (Outdoor Food Carts) in Nakasu along the river.
– Visit the Pokemon Center in Hakata Station, or go shopping in Canal City.
– Watch a Kabuki show at Hakataza Kabuki Theatre.
– See the view from Fukuoka Tower, and visit the tiny “Robot Land” exhibit they have there.
– Go to the beach at Momochi Seaside (behind Fukuoka Tower).
– Watch a baseball game at Hawks Town in the Yahoo Dome. The Fukuoka team is the Softbank Hawks.
– Hakata Ningyou Dolls are famous here. Buy one as a souvenir, or find a place that’ll let you paint your own.
– Hakata Textiles are also famous, but expensive.
– Enjoy the restaurants in the Daimyo district.
– Go clubbing in Tenjin at night, but beware of the “No Dancing After 1:00am” law, lol.

Outside of Hakata/Tenjin:
– Visit Kokura Castle and try the Tea Ceremony at the castle gardens tea house.
– Visit the Old Port Town of Mojiko, then take a 6-minute boat ride across the Kanmon Straight to the Shimonoseki Fish Market and eat Fugu sushi.
– Visit Fukuoka’s most famous Shinto Shrine in Dazaifu, called “Dazaifu Tenmangu.”
– Visit the Reclining Buddha in the Chojabaru/Sasaguri area.
– Ride the tram to the top of Mt. Sarakura and hanglide off the mountain! Or enjoy a lively dinner at the “All You Can Drink” Beer Garden at the top of the mountain, overlooking Kitakyushu City.

Fun Things to Do in General:
– Go to Karaoke
– Eat at a 100-yen Kaiten Sushi (conveyor belt sushi) place. Every plate is only 100-yen (about one US Dollar).
– Eat Mentaiko (Spicy Red Fukuoka Caviar).
– Ramen is famous here. Try the restaurants called Ichiran or Ippudo.

Outside of Fukuoka, But Within the Island of Kyushu:
– Visit Nagasaki City’s China Town, the Atomic Bomb Memorial and Peace Park, and take the Skytram to the top of the mountain at night for a gorgeous view in Nagasaki Prefecture. Attend the Lantern Festival if you’re traveling in January/February.
– Visit the Takachiho Gorge in Miyazaki Prefecture, which also houses one of Japan most sacred areas and shrines.
– Visit Beppu, Yufuin, and Kurokawa in Oita Prefecture. These towns are the Onsen Hotspring Capitals of Japan.
– Visit Kumamoto Castle, Mt. Aso, and many of the sites used for filming the newest Rurouni Kenshin movie. Dance with Kumamoto’s black bear mascot “Kumamon.”
– Try a Hot Sand Bath in Kagoshima Prefecture, on the volcanic island of Sakurajima.
– Visit the Ceramic Villages of Saga Prefecture, and watch the Hot Air Balloon Festival if you’re traveling in Autumn.

Outside of Kyushu, but Still Nearby:
– Visit Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island in Hiroshima Prefecture, which had that famous red torii gate in the water. Feed the deer, eat oysters and deep-fried manju cakes and Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, then go to Hiroshima City and visit the Peace Park and Atomic Dome.

Other great Fukuoka resources & reccommendations

  • Cat Toth’s #FindingFukuoka blogs. (Follow her @thedailydish.)
  • Melissa Chang’s Fukuoka blog. (Follow her at @Melissa808.)
  • Day Trip advice from Trip Advisor forum post
  • Fukuoka/Hakata tourist info
  • Fukuoka Now
  • Tonkotsu ramen at Ramen Stadium
  • Akamaru ramen at Ippuro in Tenjin
  • Sushi at Torakatsu
  • Hot Pot at Iroha (Fukuoka is known for hot pot)
  • Boat ride on Yanagawa followed by a meal of unagi
  • Zauo – catch your own fish restaurant
  • Sushi at Taro (need reservations for prix fixe)
  • Beef tongue at Tanya
  • Kawaya (yakitori) in Kego
  • Testunabe (gyoza) in Nakasu
  • Yatai in Nagahama
  • Gokuraku temple – buddhist temple w/ frog statues
  • Nabe & chicken sashimi at Torizen Daimyouten
  • Yakitori at Mikuma Maizuri
  • Sumo matches
  • Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Nagasaki – largest theme park in Kyusuhu, nicknamed “The Kingdom of Light at Night” (2 hrs from Fukuoka, JR train or catch a bus from Hakata station)

A special mahalo to others who helped with tips:

Toby T., Malia H., Christine R., Forest F., Crystal Y., Kyle K., Hannah C., Erica M., Ed S., Melissa S., Anderson L, Olivia R., Michi from Airbnb.

>> For recommendations for other cities and countries, visit my On The Road page.

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