Fukuoka Attractions

June 23, 2023

Paul Kay

If you are a frequent traveler, have you visited Japan? If so, I’m sure you have seen attractions in Tokyo. Have you been to Osaka? We decided to visit Fukuoka when we based ourselves in Osaka. We visited Fukuoka during sakura season, and the background will show you how beautiful it is during this time. In order to travel to Fukuoka for a day trip, we needed to travel via the JR Shinkansen. You can read the economics of a JR pass in our post on the subject. I can tell you it was a great decision and also a huge money saver for us.

We decided on our own tour after doing a little research online. Madeline and I needed to take the Shinkansen to Hakata station. We took the Hyatt Regency Osaka hotel shuttle to the Osaka JR station. From there, we went to tracks 7/8 to board the JR to Shin Osaka where the Shinkansen was. We caught our Shinkansen train in our reserved seats on the Green Car. After a 3-hour journey, we arrived at Hakata Station in Fukuoka. 

The photo above is what you see when you exit Hakata. It was springtime and the beautiful flowers were on display for all to see.

We wondered why it was called Hakata Station and not Fukuoka Station. The Japanese use Hakata and Fukuoka somewhat interchangeably. Japanese reference the city by its older name, Hakata, which was the old city—the ancient trading port that grew up around the harbor. Fukuoka came later, and originally referred to the town that grew up around the castle of the local feudal lord during the seventeenth century. Fukuoka was where the rulers were, and Hakata is where you did your business.

We were only going to be in Fukuoka for about four hours and that included lunch, so I made a route map using Google Maps. Madeline and I wanted to see the major temples, the shopping street and finish up at Ramen Stadium for lunch. We needed to use the subway to get to Gion to do our walking tour.

Here is a brief idea of the roadmap we used. You’ll see Tochoji temple very close to Gion station. After Tochoji, you go to the street and make a right and then the first right and you’ll approach Shofukuji Temple. From there you go southwest to the Naka river, and you’ll pass the Kushida shrine on your left. We visited it on the way back and instead went to the Kawabata Shotengai. We came back to Kushida and then went to Canal City and Ramen Stadium for lunch. The final destination was Gion station. You get an idea that it was a large rectangle walk with a few diversions. The entire tour with lunch took about 4 hours.

Subway view of Hakata Station showing Gion as next step in Fukuoka Japan

After arriving at Hakata station, we took the Kuko line one stop to Gion. This is where our little walkabout took place. Our first stop was Tochoji Temple since we looked for it in the subway exit sign and as soon as we exited, we could see the temple.

Tochoji Temple

2-4 Gokushomachi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken, Japan 812-0037

Entrance of Tochoji Temple in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

Tochoji was a great photo opportunity. It is a temple with a 30-ton wooden Buddha and a pagoda. Finding it was very easy and people came to visit both for the temple and for the sakura.

Sakura with pagoda structure Tochoji Temple in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

The temple dates back to the year 806. Sakura were blooming all over the place. We needed more sakura pictures.

Sakura in full bloom Tochoji Temple in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

The trees were simply beautiful, and people were standing beneath various trees and waiting for their photo opportunity.

Madeline in pink with sakura trees in Tochoji Temple in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

Madeline was no different. She waited her turn, and I was able to take a picture of my beautiful wife.

Tochoji’s main attraction is the largest seated Buddha statue, but it is a recent addition being installed in 1992. When we came, the Buddha was not being shown for some reason. There were plenty of other things to look at and absorb. Maybe Buddha will be back when you visit.

Temple artifacts in Tochoji Temple in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

Artifacts were on display and the picture above shows just some of them.

The temple has a number of centuries old treasures including a revolving bookcase filled with sacred writings. It's thought that pushing the bookcase around one turn gives you as much karma as reading all the writings inside. 

Pagoda in Tochoji Temple in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

There was also a very interesting five story red pagoda on the grounds. You see it with a weeping sakura in the foreground.

Cemetary in Tochoji Temple in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

Nearby is a cemetery which has the graves of several of the feudal lords who ruled Fukuoka in the Edo-era. Also interred in the cemetery is a priest known as Kukai who founded one of Japan's major schools of Buddhism.

Shofukuji Temple

6 Gokushomachi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken, Japan 812-0037

Entrance to Shofukuji Temple in GIon area Fukuoka Japan

This temple was next on our list and only a short walk from Tochoji. Shofukuji Temple was Japan's first Zen Temple first built in 1195. It was founded by Eisai, a priest who introduced both Zen Buddhism and Tea to Japan in the 12th century. The temple has been destroyed and reconstructed many times. It’s a 6-minute walk from Gion to the impressive sanmon gate of the temple. 

Pagoda in background amid trees in Shofukuji Temple in Gion area Fukuoka Japan

Once we stepped inside, we could see an interesting pagoda amidst the trees. It was home to the Buddhist monks who lived and worked here. It was off limits to tourists but still beautiful.

Azaleas foreground sakura background in Shofukuji Temple in GIon area Fukuoka Japan

There were beautiful gardens all over the temple. Azaleas were in bloom in the above picture.

Koi pond in Shofukuji Temple in GIon area Fukuoka Japan

A koi pond was on the property as well and I had a sign language conversation with a Japanese person who was patiently feeding them. He didn’t work there; he was just giving some treats to the koi.

The temple has been reconstructed as recently as 1911. However, the buildings of the temple gave the impression of being ancient with Chinese influences apparent in the design. Other Zen Temples in Japan have some of these features but in a different style. The buildings of the temple are closed but they are still actively used. There's a Zen monastery on site.

Fukuoka Seven Sister Cities

Sister cities of Fukuoka inscribed in stone pillar in Gion area Fukuoka Japan

On the way to the Kawabata Shotengai, we crossed a street, and we noticed a pillar with four names, one of which we couldn’t read. However, we did recognize Auckland, Oakland and Bordeaux. We wondered if these were sister cities. A little research confirms this.

Fukuoka is currently home to nearly 30,000 foreign residents, and it hosts many large international conferences that attract visitors from around the globe. The city has seven sister cities with whom it engages in mutual exchange in sports, culture and various other fields. Fukuoka’s first sister city was with Oakland, California in the United States in 1962. Both are harbor cities—Oakland fronts San Francisco Bay—that share similarities in geography and urban functions. Next came Guangzhou, China in 1979. In 1982, Fukuoka became sister cities with Bordeaux, France. In 1986, Auckland was added. Auckland is known for its rugby, a sport that is also gaining popularity in Japan. In 1989, Fukuoka added Ipoh, Malaysia as its fifth sister city followed by Atlanta in 2005. Interestingly enough, Atlanta and Fukuoka are almost the same latitude (33° N). Last, but not least was Busan, South Korea. I supposed if we traversed the street a bit longer, we’d see all of the sister cities named somewhere.

We found it interesting to see this relationship in such a faraway city from Osaka, not to mention Tokyo.

Kawabata Shotengai

10 Kamikawabatamachi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken, Japan 812-0026

Kawabata shotengai shopping street in Gion area Fukuoka Japan

Kawabata Shotengai is a shopping street. Shotengai is one of the words I learned in my work life in Japan. We had a shopping street in Azabujuban, so the name was familiar to me. We walked about 10-minutes southwest, toward the Naka River and found the shopping street.  

Public behavior modification signs in Kawabata shotengai shopping street in Gion area Fukuoka Japan

We found it interesting that there were many signs hanging from the ceiling urging what I would call public decorum or perhaps good behavior. In the sign above, the man’s wife is reminding him not to ogle. The signs differed in message, but they were all aimed at proper behavior. 

The covered shotengai shopping street runs four blocks and is a good place to see how Fukuoka looked 50 years ago. We were not there for shopping, but it was on the way to our next attraction. The massive Canal City complex was once a shotengai but is now a fancy mall. The traditional shopping streets are fading away in many Japanese cities.

Kushida Shrine

1-41 Kamikawabatamachi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken, Japan 812-0026

Entrance to Kushida Shrine in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

We walked 5 minutes away from the river, retracing some of our steps, en route to the Kushida Shrine. Kushida is a mid-sized shrine in downtown Fukuoka that dates to 757, making it the oldest shrine in the city.

Gardens in Kushida Shrine in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

Sakura was blooming in the inner gardens of the temple complex.

Horse sculpture in Kushida Shrine in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

The shrine is dedicated to Amaterasu, the Shinto goddess of the Sun and the Universe. The shrine has an impressive old Gingko tree in the yard with monuments to the attempted Mongolian invasion of Japan. Kushida Shrine is usually busy with locals and rarely visited by tourists. It's intimately tied into local life with a busy schedule of ceremonies and rituals. 

Hakata Gion Yamakasa 1 ton float Paul in foreground at Kushida Shrine in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

The city's biggest festival, the Hakata Gion Yamakasa is sponsored by the shrine. When the festival begins, it has races through the street streets with 1-ton floats that have no wheels. The picture above puts it in perspective since I’m in the foreground and the float is more than 4 times taller than I am.

Back side of Hakata Gion Yamakasa 1 ton float at Kushida Shrine in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

Here is the backside of the same float.

Torii gates with sakura overhead at Kushida Shrine in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

There was also an impressive grouping of red torii on the grounds that was worth a photograph or two. In the above photo, you can see the red torii in the background and the orange in the foreground with sakura overhead.

Closeup of torii gates at Kushida Shrine in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

In this one, you see the grouping of red torii.

Nobleman chair to be carried at Kushida Shrine in Gion area of Fukuoka Japan

There were plenty of artifacts on display. This one is a chair for a nobleman to be carried from place to place.

Subway leaving Gion area and returning to Hakata station Fukuoka Japan

We continued our walk to Canal City and had lunch at Ramen City and we have a post for you waiting. You can look at our post on restaurants in Fukuoka. After that, we found the subway and took it back from Gion to Hakata. From Hakata Station, we took the JR Shinkansen back to Osaka.

It was a full day but plenty of fun. Hopefully, you will enjoy your time in Fukuoka. You can check out our post on Fukuoka restaurants here. The town is known for ramen so if you love ramen, you’ve come to the right place!

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