Fukuoka is located in the south-west of Japan. Its moderate climate, beautiful scenery and great location have made it popular with travelers both from within Japan and without. Fukuoka was ranked the best city in Asia by Asiaweek magazine several times over, was chosen by Newsweek as one of the world's top 10 boomtowns, and has been ranked multiple times by Monocle Magazine as one of the most liveable cities in the world, and the best shopping city in the world!
kilometers from Tokyo
kilometers of beautiful beaches
Fukuoka Prefecture is part of Kyushu, a large island to the south of Honshu, Japan's main island. Close to both mainland China and Korea, it is an important hub linking Japan with the rest of Asia and beyond.
Fukuoka City is the capital city of Fukuoka Prefecture, and has a population of approximately 1.5 million people. It is situated on the Sea of Japan (or the East Sea), and is well protected from the stronger elements of Japanese weather - earthquakes and typhoons are rare, summers are warm, and the people are friendly.
Fukuoka's renowned cuisine (the city has more restaurants per person than anywhere else in Japan) and warm-hearted people will make your stay here a pleasure. Foreigners are still not too common a sight in Fukuoka, so you will be sure to enjoy plenty of attention, and people are always happy to help you, even if your grasp of the language is not perfect. In addition, Fukuoka is bursting with culture: its many art galleries, museums, and theaters will give you your fill of the Japanese arts, while the nightlife is the best on the island.
Fukuoka is also unparalleled in convenience - the international airport is a mere 10 minutes from the center of the city by subway, and from there it is only another 10 minutes by bus or bicycle to the nearest beach. Japan's famous shinkansen (bullet trains) will take you to any city in Japan in short order, or you can fly to Tokyo in an hour and a half.
Fukuoka City is often said to be the oldest city in Japan, and may have been a prehistoric capital. It bears the marks of several unsuccessful invasions, and a lot of more peaceful international trade, as the closest port to China and Korea.
Historical Key Points
- Dazaifu, now part of Fukuoka City, was the administrative capital of Japan in 663A.D.
- Fukuoka was attacked by Kublai Khan’s armies twice, but both times terrible storms destroyed most of the Mongol fleet. From these storms came the word “kamikaze”, or “divine wind”.
- Two of Japan’s oldest festivals are held here yearly: Yamakasa (since 1241) and Dontaku (since 1179).
- Saint Francis Xavier landed at Fukuoka in 1550, bringing Christianity to the country.
- In 1580, during the warring “sengoku” period, the city was almost entirely burned down several times.
- Fukuoka’s castle was burned to the ground during the upheaval of the Meiji Restoration, in the late 19th century.
- The current city of Fukuoka was created in 1889 by the merger of two cities, Fukuoka (run by the samurai) and Hakata (run by the merchants). Hakata was selected as the new name, but a group of samurai crashed the meeting and forced the name to be changed to Fukuoka. Old grudges die hard, and some people still refer to the city as “Hakata” even today!
- In 1954, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio stayed in Fukuoka for their honeymoon.
- Fukuoka suffered extensive damage from Allied bombing during the Second World War; thus, there are few pre-1945 buildings in the city.
- Fukuoka was destroyed on-screen in not one but two Godzilla films, Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991) and Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla (1994).
The nightlife in Fukuoka has a huge variety of venues where you can enjoy just about anything from a cup of ‘sake’ with friends in a quiet ‘izakaya’ to a crazy night of dancing at a top club.
Izakayas (Japanese pubs) exist on virtually every corner and offer wide array of alcoholic beverages and foods (both cooked and otherwise!). As Fukuoka is famed for its ‘shochu’ (a spirit made from either rice, wheat, barley or potato), a glass of shochu along with some ‘sashimi’ (raw fish) and you could easily be mistaken for a local!
If clubbing is more your thing, Fukuoka will have something to suit you. There’s an extraordinary variety of music, ranging from hip-hop to trance to regular Pop. Look out for ‘nomihodai’ (drink as much as you want) deals, which allow you to pay once at the door and then drink for free all night. Be aware that since about 2010, Japanese police have begun enforcing an old law that prohibits dancing after midnight or 1am, so most clubs don't allow dancing into the night anymore.
After Dark – Our Favourites
FubarOne of the best and cheapest nights out in town. Located on Oyafuko-dori in the middle of the entertainment district, Fubar is a top club with friendly staff and an eclectic mix of music to suit all tastes. Trying a ‘Jody Special’ cocktail is a must!
The Happy CockDon’t let the name put you off – this club is regularly packed, and plays great dancing music all night long.
Fireball Sports BarA must for all sports fans. Whether you want to watch the local Fukuoka Softbank Hawks baseball team or sports from your home country, Fireball will have what you need! The food is great too!
Dark RoomThis self-styled “urban rock bar” is the hangout of choice for Western rock starts passing through Fukuoka. The décor fits the name, but in summer you’ll love the roof terrace!
British Pub MorrisA semi-traditional English pub in the middle of the nightlife area, offering Guinness on tap, and a wide range of pub food.
Voodoo LoungeThis bar distinguishes itself with its large stage, variety of live acts, and 100-yen beer nights!
You'll never spend an uneventful day in Fukuoka!
Fukuoka has more restaurants per person than anywhere else in Japan! The competition means restaurants have to be great to survive, and Fukuoka is rightly famous throughout Japan for the quality of dining here. Experience the freshest fish, the spiciest wasabi, and the best that Japanese cuisine has to offer.
There are enough different types of Japanese food that you’ll never need to eat the same thing twice, but almost everyone starts with sushi. As Fukuoka is a major port, the fish are brought straight from the water to your table. One restaurant even lets you catch your own fish, then tell the waiter how you’d like it cooked!
Fukuoka is the home of “ramen”, often given a bad reputation by the instant noodle variety, but some of the upscale ramen restaurants here will change your mind!
Another Fukuoka specialty is yatai, portable street restaurants that are set up every evening and serve a small menu of hot food. After dark some of the main streets in Fukuoka are lined with these tiny restaurants, which are a great place to meet people. Walk around the Tenjin and Nakasu areas, and pick one at random, for a great evening out!
Our Favourite Restaurants
ZauoA fishing restaurant – your table is a boat, and you eat what you catch!
IppuudouThe best and most famous of the Hakata ramen noodle shops, this chain has even started to spread overseas. Go at off-peak hours, to avoid the long lines!
Hotto MottoThis take-out only restaurant has delicious “bento” meals at incredibly low prices. A favorite of students!
HamakatsuA huge variety of breaded meats, served with all-you-can-eat soup, rice, salad and pickles.
ChabudaiWarm, friendly atmosphere and a set-price menu (all items 300 yen, or all-you-can-eat for 1500 yen) make this a great place for informal parties.
Private Dining TentenThe amazing Japanese-style décor and great location (in the same building as the school) make this place a must-visit. And the food’s not bad too!
HyoutanzushiOffering some of the nicest sushi you’ll ever eat, this restaurant has won numerous awards, but is still remarkably reasonably priced.
Mos BurgerA “local” fast food chain serving burgers and fries with a Japanese twist.
As a gateway between Japan and the rest of Asia, Fukuoka has more than its share of art galleries, and some of the best museums in Japan.
The Kyushu National Museum is a world-class museum just a short train ride from the city centre. Built at enormous expense, it is architecturally astounding, while not overshadowing the permanent exhibitions of important Japanese artifacts it contains.
The Asian Art Museum is located on the top floor of one of the most high-class department stores in the city, beside a beautiful indoor atrium. Its constantly-changing exhibitions of art from around Asia and welcoming atmosphere bring in a young crowd. The prefectural and city art galleries offer more traditional, but no less beautiful, fare.
For a taste of living history, the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum can’t be beat. In addition to displays on a variety of traditions, local artisans are on hand to give you the chance to experience such arts as weaving, traditional musical instruments, and pottery.
These are just a taste of the culture Fukuoka has to offer!
Museums and Galleries – Our Favourites
Kyushu National MuseumThis is only the fourth national museum in Japan, and its amazing architecture has drawn visitors from across the country. It's a train ride out of the city to nearby Dazaifu, but it's well worth it.
Fukuoka City MuseumIn the lovely Momochi area, this museum hosts several permanent exhibitions on local culture, as well as major revolving exhibitions from around the world.
Fukuoka Prefectural Museum of ArtThis unassuming gallery is a little hard to find, in Suzaki Park in North Tenjin, but runs some great exhibitions.
Fukuoka Art MuseumIts location in the middle of Ohori Park gives this gallery a relaxed atmosphere that makes an hour or two spent here seem rejuvenating. Permanent exhibitions of local and foreign art mix with revolving modern exhibitions.
Hakata Machiya Folk MuseumThe place to go to experience traditional arts for yourself. Try weaving, playing instruments, or pottery.
Music and Theater
Both modern and traditional Japanese theatre are well represented. Hakata-za is Fukuoka’s famous “kabuki” theatre, where the biggest names in Japanese theatre come to perform. It’s not cheap, but the spectacle is definitely worth it! For a more affordable option, there are often free noh and kabuki performances in the Ohori Park noh theatre.
The theatre at Canal City shows world-famous long-running musicals, such as Disney on Ice, and the Lion King, though in Japanese of course!
The best of Japanese and Western musicians regularly play at Fukuoka’s multiple major venues, including the International Center, Zepp Fukuoka, Drum Logos, and Marine Messe.
Fukuoka is famous for its local music scene, called “mentai rock”, which you can hear at smaller venues all around the city. With tickets starting from 1000 yen, this is a great way to get a feel for upcoming bands!
Finally, the area around the central Tenjin train station is a meeting-place for unsigned bands to busk for small crowds, hoping to make their debut.
Music and Theatre – Our Favourites
Hakata-zaThe most spectacular of traditional Japanese theatre comes here.
Gekidan Shiki at Canal CityThe premier location for long-running musicals such as Aida, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, and more.
Zepp FukuokaA star-studded list of Japanese and overseas bands play at Fukuoka’s premier concert hall.
Ohori Park Noh TheatreMany free performances of noh and kabuki theatre, and the great location in one of the city’s most beautiful parks, make this a must-visit.
Sun PalaceThis giant concert hall hosts the biggest international stars.
Fukuoka International Center/ Marine MesseTwo more giant halls where the world’s top stars play.
Drum Logos & the Drum GroupWith four different small concert venues around the city, the Drum Group is the first place to look for a taste of local music.
Tenjin Train StationVisit at night and you’ll typically see five to ten bands set up on the streets around the station, playing their hearts out for tiny groups of dedicated fans.
ACROSS Concert Hall The beautiful tree-covered ACROS building hosts a variety of classical music concerts, including orchestras from around the world.
Fukuoka is famous within Japan for its quality of life, and relaxing is one of the most important parts of that. There’s something for all tastes here!
Ohori Park is one of the most popular getaways – spend time walking around, visit the beautiful Japanese gardens, take a boat out on the lake, or take in the art gallery!
The Round One entertainment complex close to school has indoor sports and entertainment for every fancy, as well as a giant manga collection. Pay one fee to enter and stay all day! There are also of course a variety of movie theatres around town showing original western films with Japanese subtitles (or if you’re feeling daring, watch a Japanese movie with no subtitles!).
Onsen (hot springs) are a national obsession, and there are some lovely ones even in the centre of the city. In particular, we recommend Tenjin Yu no Hana, five minutes’ walk from school, and Taka no Yu, also nearby.
Maid cafes are a new trend, where the staff dress as elegant maids to serve their masters and mistresses. In manga cafes, the walls are lined with comic books, from the famous to the obscure.
Finally, Fukuoka has some beautiful beaches only 10 minutes from GenkiJACS by bicycle or bus, at Momochi. A great way to spend a hot day! You can swim between about May and September each year. Further afield, there are wonderful natural beaches at Uninonakamichi and Fukuma to the north, and Itoshima to the west.
Fukuoka has been chosen by London-based Monocle Magazine as the number one city for shopping in the world, based on the range of brands available, the ease of shopping, and the great atmosphere. The huge department stores in central Tenjin carry every product you can imagine, in stylish and comfortable surroundings. Right next door, the Daimyo and Imaizumi areas have a wealth of boutique shops, both brand name and otherwise, in a semi-pedestrian shopper’s wonderland. You can spend days browsing through second-hand clothing and record shops, or just wandering the back streets.
Tenjin is also home to one of the biggest electronics stores in Japan, Bic Camera, which has two giant locations within a few meters of each other. Together they house almost every piece of electronics known to man, at surprisingly cheap prices!
Nearby Canal City is a giant, amazingly designed shopping and entertainment centre, the place to go to find a Pokemon shop right next door to a kimono shop! And just beside it is the 1.5 kilometer-long Kawabata Shopping Arcade, a traditional shopping street that sells traditional gifts and other items.
Outlet malls on the outskirts of the city, such as Marinoa City, Aeon Mall Lucle, and Torius Hisayama, have shopping at great prices and frequent free shuttle buses.
Finally, if you’re shopping on a budget, the 100 yen stores scattered around town are guaranteed to please. They stock a massive range of high-quality items – you can practically furnish your house here!
Shopping in Fukuoka – Our Favourites
Canal CityHuge and very fun shopping center/entertainment complex. Amazing fountain shows, a Pokemon shop, live music, and more.
Daimaru department storeHuge range of shops, although at quite high prices. Check the underground supermarket for a whole meal's worth of tasters.
Iwataya department storeThis huge department store (it covers two buildings!) has one of the best supermarkets in the basement, as well as a massive range of specialty shops.
Marinoa City outlet mallA little out of the way, but this growing shopping center has loads of outlet stores at low prices, including a Muji store that regularly offers 500 yen clothes!
Fukuoka is home to national-level teams in a variety of sports, and was a contender to host the 2016 Olympic Games! For those who want to get involved, there are community groups for almost any sport in the vicinity of the school.
Fukuoka’s Hawks baseball team regularly wins national championships, and their giant stadium with retractable roof is one of the most amazing in Japan – well worth a visit! The local football team, Avispa, currently plays in division 2 but are looking to move back to division 1, so will be happy for your support. For basketball, the newly formed Rizing Fukuoka play in Japan’s relatively young professional league.
For more traditionally Japanese sports, Fukuoka hosts one of the biggest sumo tournaments, the Kyushu Basho, every November. Tickets aren’t too pricey, and it’s a great chance to see all your favourite wrestlers in the flesh!
Fukuoka also has some famous marathons, including the International Open Marathon Championships, every December, and the Kyushu Ekiden, the world’s longest relay race.
Sports – Our Favourites
Baseball: Softbank Hawks
Sumo: Kyushu Basho
Basketball: Rizing Fukuoka
Fukuoka International Open Marathon
Various youth sports groups
Try bowling, batting, pitching, table tennis, badminton, volleyball, darts, indoor soccer, billiards and more
Practice martial arts