All around Japan people are starting to venture out after a long, grueling winter tucked into their kotatsu. Spring is on its way, and heading outside to have fun is finally a real possibility. Soon it will be time to pack a picnic, pick up some friends and head for the nearest cherry blossom tree for a Hanami party.
There are plenty of alternatives to Hanami viewings though. Spring is also the perfect time to explore a new place on foot, and there is nowhere better suited for a walking tour than Fukuoka city. Other Japanese cities like Tokyo and Osaka are just too big to walk around, but Fukuoka offers you the chance to see everything that the city has to offer, simply by walking through its streets (as long as you pick the right ones!).
It’s only logical to start any Fukuoka walking tour in Hakata, not just because it is the home of Fukuoka’s biggest train station as well as the closest major stop to the city’s airport, but also because it has so much for you to see. The station itself is an enormous building that somehow manages to be both beautiful and ugly at the same time, but the real treats in Hakata are the beautiful temples you can visit.
Jotenji temple and Shofukuji temple are both peaceful islands in an ocean of hectic streets and busy shops. Shofukuji in particular is interesting because it is the oldest Zen temple in Japan, first built in 1195. These are definitely worth visiting for any Buddhism enthusiasts, or anyone looking for a break from Fukuoka’s hustle and bustle.
Nakasu is the next area over from Hakata, no more than ten or fifteen minutes away on foot. If you are still in temple and shrine-seeing mode then Kushida Shrine is the first stop on the tour. It’s a beautiful, simple shrine dedicated to the gods Amaterasu and Susanoo. If you are all shrined out though then it may be best to head to the nearby Kawabata Shotengai instead. Kawabata Shotengai is one of the oldest shopping streets in the city and a stroll down it is like strolling through the past itself.
There are shops left and right selling traditional Japanese products such as good quality tea, fans, seals and clothing, as well as many traditional restaurants for you to take in too. It’s an interesting place to explore for anyone looking to see a little of Japan’s older side. What’s most interesting about Nakasu though is the juxtaposition of shrines and traditional shopping streets with snack bars and sleazy clubs, because Nakasu is the closest thing Fukuoka has to a red light district.
During the evening the streets are full of hosts and hostesses beckoning people in, as well as drunk salary men looking for a good time. In the day though, only the smallest hint of the area’s darker side remains and walking through it can even be described as pleasant if you end up at the Naka river, which runs alongside Nakasu and which is beautiful in spring time.
Cross over the river and keep heading west and you hit Tenjin. Tenjin is the heart of Fukuoka, at least in terms of shopping. It is filled with department stores after department stores that cater to teenagers, senior citizens and everyone in between. There are also plenty of individual shops including many of Europe and the USA’s most popular brands.
Walking through Tenjin, the fun is in people watching. With so many different shops and stores, every type of person can find what they want here and because of this you can see Japanese hipsters on their way for lunch, old ladies buying tonight’s dinner and young kids looking for somewhere to take Purikura, all whilst you take a break and look out the window of one of the many coffee shops in the area.
You may end up following that Japanese hipster into Daimyo, the area right next to Tenjin. Daimyo is another area that is predominantly known for shopping, but here there are no department stores. Instead the narrow streets are filled with independent shops that cater to Fukuoka’s young fashion savvy type.
Vintage stores, miniature art galleries, second hand shops and plenty of great restaurants can all be found in Daimyo. It’s an area that’s character can be seen on every street in its incredible graffiti murals, unique shops and effortlessly cool inhabitants.
Finish: Ohori park
Ohori park is the last stop on the tour. Here is your chance to get reacquainted with nature at the city’s most beautiful park. After hours of walking through the urban sprawl of Fukuoka city, Ohori park may be a welcome chance to see a little of Fukuoka’s gentler side. The view across the lake at the center of the park is beautiful, and sitting at its side whilst watching the world go by is one of Fukuoka’s best experiences.
That is not to say that there is nothing to do in the area if you are still feeling energetic. The Fukuoka Art museum is incredibly nearby, as are the ruins of Fukuoka castle if you are still in the mood to explore. Best of all Fukuoka is also home to hundreds of cherry blossom trees and if you time it right, you could even fit that Hanami party in as well!
This is just my idea for a tour around Fukuoka city this spring. Maybe yours would include Fukuoka Asian Art Museum instead of Ohori Castle or Hyakunengura Sake factory instead of Jotenji. Whichever way you go, and whatever you take in, Fukuoka is perfect for doing it on foot!
Too see the route I took click here.