Autumn and spring are the best times of year to visit Japan. On our last trip - end of October -autumn was just starting in Fukuoka. November would be the best time to visit to see autumn in its full splendour, but we did still spot some beautiful , colourful trees.
Our hotel package did not include breakfast which was fine because we preferred to travel to Ohori Koen Station and eat out breakfast by the moat. There is a convenience store just across the road from the moat for all your breakfast needs and the girl assistant in there certainly made my day when she asked if I was over 20 when I bought beer as part of hubbie's breakfast!!!! I think she could see from the fact that I danced around her shop with a huge smile on my face after this question that I probably was.
We spent the day travelling to Kitakyushu but decided to visit Ohori Koen in the evening when we returned. We were not sure whether it would be pitch black and desolate or well lit and populated. It turned out to be pleasantly well lit and filled with people either out jogging or for an evening stroll or just enjoying looking at the lighs on the water. It felt perfectly safe and having an evening stroll there was a good way to unwind before heading off for dinner. Also visited the nearby moat and castle gate which was beautifully lit up at night. Went off to investigate if the castle was lit up, too, but suddenly it started pouring so we hastened back to the subway and never did find out. Subway stop - Ohori Koen.
My camera is not great at night time shots so I will just add day time ones.
On the day we arrived we rushed off to visit Atago Shrine. I choose there because it sounded like somewhere we could visit in the light or dark and our plane did not get in until early evening. We ended up visiting in the dark, just missing the last light of the day by minutes. This was fine, but I feel a daylight visit would be better.
To get there take the subway to Muromi Station and go through exit one; walk straight ahead. You will cross a river with some nice views, then cross a major road. There is a signpost indicating the shrine is up the hill just after you cross the road. Actually there were several shrines on the road: one at the bottom; an Inari fox shrine with distinctive rows of red tori half-way up and then Atago Shrine at the top of the hill. It was OK going with my husband at night but I would not recommend it for a woman on her own at night as it is a bit dark and lonely.
There were quite good night time views from the shrine. You can see Fukuoka Tower in the distance sparkling under the night sky.
The Atago Shrine is apparently the oldest shrine in Fukuoka. It dates from the first century AD and was originally called Washio Shrine. Its name was changed to the Atago Shrine in 1901. A visit there is suppoed to bring good luck and help people give up smokng or drinking. Apparently there are many cherry trees here and it is beautiful in spring.
Most of Fukuoka's temples and shrines are in the Gion area and can be accessed from Gion Subway, but we walked to them from Canal City. The most famous and most beautiful is Kushida Shrine.
Kushida-jinja is right next to Kami-Kawabata - a covered shopping street which was once Fukuoka's main shopping street. If you want to walk the whole length of this street, get off the subway at Namasu Kawabata Station exit 5 and walk this covered shopping street all the way to Kushida Shrine.
Kushida Shrine stores some famous Japanese Festival floats. It was a beautiful flower filled shrine with a line of red tori leading to its inari temple, a main shrine, the floats, statues and a fish pond.
Tocho-ji is a Buddhist temple with a huge wooden Buddha statue which is located upstairs in the temple building. It is quite pleasant to wander around the temple grounds.
Shofuku-ji is a Zen temple. It was founded in 1195 by Eisai who introduced tea and Zen buddhism to Japan. The temple building is arttractively located on a pond.
All three sites are within walking distance of each other.
Canal City is a futuristic shopping centre/entertainment/dining complex with a canal running through it. It is very close to the banks of the Naka Gawa River. It is worth visiting for its futuristic architecture. It has a fountain display every half hour. On the hours the displays are to music, on the half hours they are without music. Next to Canal City there is a pleasant little park called Seiryu Park on the banks of the Naka Gawa River. I also took a wander over the interesting looking red bridge I could see from Canal City and ended up in the red light district.
Canal City is about 10 minutes walk from Nakasu Kawabata Subway Station.
We took the subway to Nishijin Station, exited next to the Fresh Burger Restaurant and went right. Momochi Park is about 15 minutes walk away from the station. The park is located in front of Fukuoka Tower. It is not really a park; it is actually a beach. The fancy church like buildings sticking out into the sea in front of FukuokaTower are Marizon Wedding Centre. Next to the wedding centre you can catch a boat to Marine World. We took a walk down the beach to the Hilton Hotel, the Yahoo Dome Baseball Stadium and Hawks Town shopping and entertainment centre.
Other things around Nishijin Station which we did not visit are Robosquare behind Fukuoka Tower, Fukuoka City museum and the bulwarks against the Mongolian Invasion.
The ruins of Fukuoka Castle are located in Maizuru Park. To get here take the subway to Ohori Koen Station, go out exit 5, walk along the moat and you will soon see a castle gate on your right. Go through the gate and cross the road, you are now at Maizuru Park. If you climb up the main castle keep you will be rewarded with lovely views over Fukuoka. There is not much of the keep left just the lower walls. Wander around the park and you will discover a few remaining gates and some lovely gardens - cherry tree walk, lime tree walk, the iris garden, a large pond, some sports grounds and a large excavation site where the remains of a famous old Japanese travellers' inn have been found.
If you want to bring a picnic to the park you can exit Ohori Koen Station via exit 4 and you will reach a minimart convenience store before crossing the road to the moat.
There is not a huge amount of Fukuoka Castle left but this is a lovely area for a picnic or a stroll.
When we arrived in Fukuoka, it was cold and wet. We decided to visit the Tenjin area, which was not a bad choice for such a miserable day, as we exited the metro straight into a shopping mall, took a look round there, then crossed the street to another mall, then another, then another etc. In short Tenjin has lots of malls some of which have very good department stores and supermarkets. There are also lots of restaurants.
I don't normally care much for going up towers for the view, but it was a bright, clear day when I happened to be in the area, so I thought, why not?
At 234 metres, the Fukuoka Tower is billed as the tallest seaside tower in Japan (though I'm not sure how many other seaside towers there are as competition) and is the symbol of Fukuoka. The Tower was completed in 1989, having taken 14 months to build at a cost of 6 billion yen, and is supposed to be designed to withstand magnitude 7 earthquakes (the strongest earthquake recorded to date in Fukuoka is magnitude 6).
Entrance costs 800 yen, but we got a 20% discount and free postcard by showing the voucher on my 'Fukuoka Now' map (so it cost us the equivalent of about 5 GB pounds each, which is not too bad).
At ground level, you can look up and see the hollow central shaft above. The lift to the 5th floor observation deck (123m above ground) takes about 70 seconds. There is an excellent view from this deck, and plenty of information boards to identify landmarks.
On leaving the observation deck, you go down one level of stairs to the 4th floor lounge, where you can buy drinks. On the third floor level is the ' lovers' sanctuary', where you can hang a 'love key' (purchased from the ticket counter' to ensure that your love will last forever. We skipped this bit and went back down in the lift for a celebratory ice-cream!
Note: You can buy ice cream in Seven-Eleven shop on the ground floor, but there is a Kita Kitsune Ice Cream shop just outside in the Square, as we discovered too late.
If you arrive in Fukuoka by train, visit the Tourist Information desk on your way out of the station and pick up a free Fukuoka Now map. This street map shows the location of hotels, things to do and subway routes, and includes some vouchers (e.g. 20% off admission to the Fukuoka Tower)
According to legend, this temple was founded in 806 by Kukai on his return from T'ang (China). The principal object of worship in the temple is a statue of a thousand-armed Kannon. In 1992 the 'Fukuoka Giant Buddha' was installed here.
In the temple grounds are the graves of the Fukuoka feudal lords, including Tadayaki, the second lord, from the Kuroda family (Edo period).
Canal City is a retail and leisure complex in the Hakata part of the city. As well as a large shopping mall with 200 shops (I even spotted a Laura Ashley), there is also a theatre and cinema and 50 restaurants and cafes, including 'Ramen Stadium' where you can try the local noodles.
There are supposed to be spectacular fountain displays, but I think we visited too early in the day to see them.
Shops are open 10.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. and restaurants 11.00 a.m. to 11.00 p.m.
Whilst exploring the complex, we encountered a friendly robot.
The ruins of Fukuoka Castle can be found in Maizuru Park, next to Ohori Park. Only ruined walls remain. There is no charge for admission. There are lots of cherry trees in the park, though we were a little late for the best of the cherry blossom.
Information boards in four languages (including English) explain each part of the ruins. The board in the picture (picture 2) describes the ruins of Matsunokizaka-Gomon Gate in Sannomaru (the third ring of fortifications). The Sannomaru area housed residences of the chief retainers of the feudal lord.
I always like to spend some time in a park in any city I visit.
Ohori Park in Fukuoka is very attractive. The park opened in 1929, and is largely occupied by a large lake, with paths round the edge and a series of islands in the middle linked by bridges. You can hire a swan boat to take out on the lake if you wish.
For refreshments there is a Starbucks (if you really must), a vending machine area, and a cafe where you can get a light lunch.
To the south is the Japanese Garden. Unfortunately I was not able to visit this, or the adjacent City Art Museum as they were closed on Mondays (in common with many museums and attractions in Japan).