Not too long ago, the travel360.com team were honoured to receive an invitation to stay at the Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk. Coincidentally, our schedule coincided with AirAsia X’s inaugural flight from Kuala Lumpur to Fukuoka, so we jumped at the chance and took the literal first flight to the city. It was cold and windy, so thankfully Hilton picked us up from the airport. In no time, we arrived and were greeted by the graceful Mrs Mio of Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk.
Now, Fukuoka might be lesser known than Osaka and Tokyo, but it is certainly no less exciting. Fukuoka was awarded the title of one of the most livable cities in the world by Monocle, notably for its ‘beaches with clear water and an exceptional dining scene’.
What to Do in Fukuoka
1. Canal City Hakata
Next to airports, no place feels more familiar in a foreign land than a mall. So if you’re feeling a little tired after the long flight, you can unwind at Canal City Hakata. This shopping complex houses over 250 shops, restaurants, cinemas, game centres and a canal that runs through the middle of the mall. One of the main highlights of Canal City Hakata is the fountain show that is held every night.
2. Ōhori Park
Ōhori Park is the place to get your dose of peace and serenity. Tourists and locals come here to run, cycle, walk their pets or relax by the bench overlooking the pond. While most of the area is free for people to roam about, there’s also Ohori Park Japanese Garden that charges a small fee in exchange for a stunning view.
3. Shofukuji Temple
Temples and shrines are aplenty, but quite a fair bit of them have been commercialised and sometimes too crowded. So if you’re looking for something different and authentic, you can check out Shokufuji Temple, Japan’s first Zen temple built in 1195. None of the areas in this temple is open to visitors. Only monks are allowed to visit. But you can still walk around it and admire the spiritual significance it has over Japanese history. If anything else, the temple has a lot of cats.
4. Momochi Seaside Park
Momochi Seaside Park has a few attractions nearby that you can visit back-to-back, including Fukuoka Tower that was built in 1989 to mark the 100th anniversary of Fukuoka. Just like any other tower, the appeal of this building is the sight you can see from up above. From its observation room at 123 metres up, you’ll have a 360-degree view of the entire city and its surrounding mountains.
Then there’s the Momochihama Beach, a man-made beach that’s popular for swimming, soccer, volleyball or simply people-watching.
5. Fukuoka Castle
Fukuoka Castle is an important historical monument dating back to the 17th century, involving figures such as Tokugawa Ieyasu and events such as the battle of Sekigahara. Now what’s left of the castle is only its ruins due to the Meiji Restoration period.
From March to early May, Fukuoka Castle ruins is the perfect spot to marvel at sakura in their full bloom. For the rest of the year, it is still a beautiful place to sit down and contemplate life’s decisions, the duality of man, and whether you really need to pursue that grad school education you’ve been ruminating.
What to Eat in Fukuoka
1. Food Stalls (Yatai)
Yatai is the only odd one out in this list because it’s not a dish, but rather, a cultural food experience. In fact, it is not that far from the concept of food trucks that is so popular here in Kuala Lumpur.
In a yatai, a row of food stalls are set up, each with seating that can accommodate around six to seven people. Here is where you can immerse yourself in the local atmosphere, eating and drinking together with locals, from students to salarymen in their black suits. Sometimes even if it’s lightly drizzling, the shops would still be open as a place of refuge for good hot food.
2. Hakata Ramen
While you’re at one of the yatai, don’t miss Fukuoka’s signature dish – the Hakata Ramen! It is best known for its version of tonkotsu, the pork bone broth used for the soup. You can choose noodles’ level of softness and they will boil the noodles accordingly. You can also ask for noodle refill to make sure all that leftover soup doesn’t go to waste.
Other than yatai, Hakata Ramen can be found at most ramen shops in Fukuoka, the highly-rated ones being around Hakata Station.
Motsunabe is heaven in a bowl. It is a hot pot dish made up of beef or pork offal, cabbage, leeks bean sprouts, garlic and topped with soy sauce or miso. Delicious and packed with nutrients, it’s everything the body needs. To make sure you are not wasting any of the remaining soup, add some rice or noodles to finish it off.
If internal organs are not your cup of tea (or bowl of soup), then you can opt for mizutaki instead. It’s yet another hot pot special from Fukuoka, but uses chicken broth instead. And just like motsunabe, you can add lots of vegetables and finish them off with rice like the true-blue Asian that you are.
With Fukuoka being the cultural melting pot between Japan and Korea, mentaiko is one of the results of this marriage. It originated from Busan during the war and is a tarako (salted cod roe) marinated in red pepper for that extra spicy kick. Served with rice or alcohol, you can find mentaiko in most yatai and izakaya (pub).
Where to Stay in Fukuoka
There are a lot of hotels in Fukuoka that we can recommend, but we would like to take this opportunity to highlight our host, Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk. Now, we can go on and on about the five-star amenities that they have – including luxurious rooms, multiple restaurants and bars, breakfast area with exciting themes. Yet Hilton’s reputation speaks for itself.
What we do like to mention, however, is the exceptional hospitality from the staff of Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk. The weather might have been cold, windy, and it may even have been drizzling sometimes, but their warmth made up for it. We like to give a special shout-out to Mrs Mio who accompanied us throughout the video shoot (ed’s note: and put up with my endless blabber with genuine conversation). Not to mention many other staff who were delightful to talk to and kept us laughing throughout the stay!
What makes Fukuoka a delight to visit is definitely the sights and food, but what makes it hard to leave is the people. So if you’re planning a trip to the city any time soon, we hope you’ll enjoy the sights, taste good food, and maybe even meet a Mrs Mio like we did 🙂
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