Enjoy All the Best Sites and Cuisine! A Beginner’s Guide to Hakata, Fukuoka
Fukuoka Prefecture has become very popular in recent years, particularly among American and European tourists. The large metropolitan ward of Hakata in Fukuoka City is filled with charming sights and a rich local cuisine. This article offers a beginner's guide to enjoying your time in Hakata.
What is the Hakata Area?
The Hakata area is found in the vicinity of Fukuoka City and one possible explanation of its name, which roughly translatable as "many treasures," is that in this area there are many sites of historical significance. There are many different designations of the perimeters of Hakata but it generally seems to refer to Hakata Station and its surroundings.
Hakata is the cultural center of the southern island of Kyushu and, as such, is a bustling and vibrant area. There are multiple international routes that fly into Fukuoka, owing to its reputation as the "Entrance Way into Asia" and a key center for international exchange. Hakata Station lies just 5 minutes by subway from Fukuoka Airport. It is extremely convenient to get to, accessible via the JR local trains and the Fukuoka City subway system, and acts as a terminal for the Sanyo and Kyushu Shinkansen bullet trains.
The Climate in Hakata
Hakata is located in the northern extremity of the island of Kyushu. The climate in the area is generally warm, however, owing to its location in the north of the island. Winter days are generally short, with seasonal winds blowing from the north-west, so you may feel a chill. Moreover, in more inland areas there is a large disparity between the hottest and coldest temperatures. The average temperature in August is 28.2℃, with highs ranging from between 31℃ - 33.5℃ typical during the height of the summer. The average temperatures in the winter are between 2℃ and 4℃, with most days hovering in the single digits.
1. Visit Kushida Shrine, the Site of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Fesitval
One of the quintessential must-visit sites for visitors to Fukuoka is the Kushida Shrine. This shrine is the site of the popular event, the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival. In addition to hosting this festival, the grounds are home to what is known as "Kazariyama" throughout the whole year. Take your chance to see these beautiful floats used in the festival and decorated with dolls and other artifacts from up close. Water that is said to lead to perpetual youth and long life springs forth from the "Reisentsuru Well" and at the "Power Stone" you can test your strength. For 50 JPY you can pull a fortune slip, with fortunes available in English, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Korean.
2. Local Hakata Goods! Making the Most of the Nakasu Food Stalls
The Nakasu District is known as the greatest entertainment district in West Japan, and when night falls it is filled with food stalls adorned with colorful banners. Of course, you will find ramen here, a must-eat for any visitor to Hakata, but you will also find a great deal of other foods, such as oden, gyoza, chicken skewers, and tempura, to name a few. One of the charms of these stalls is the close proximity it puts you in with the other customers and staff. When eating your food shoulder to shoulder with other patrons at small stalls, oftentimes conversations can spring up naturally. As you hop from stall to stall getting a sense of the warmth of the people you meet along the way, you are sure to come to realize the charms of the city. There are also some stalls with multi-lingual menus, so be sure to pay them a visit.
3. Experience the Delights of Famous Local Cuisine
Hakata ramen could be described as the soul food of Hakata. Two features that set this variety of ramen apart are its beautiful cloudy soup made from pork bones that bursts with umami, and also its thin and chewy noodles. Another feature of ramen in Fukuoka is being able to choose how hard, or under-cooked, you like your noodles. From softest to hardest they are; "yawa" (soft), "kata" (hard), "barikata" (very hard), "harigane" (hardest).
Motsunabe is a local form of hot-pot that is very popular. This hot-pot uses a rich flavored soup, with the star of the dish being the beef offal. You will be hooked by the sweetness of the melting fats. You can also get a lot of vegetables by eating nabe, so it's actually very healthy.
Karashi mentaiko consists of walleye pollack roe seasoned with red pepper. It makes the perfect souvenir. Within Fukuoka Prefecture there are around 200 companies that specialize in the making of this delicacy; however, the most well known of them is Fukuya, the first company to make and sell Karashi Mentaiko in Japan. Customers can choose from 4 different levels of spice, from "Nonkara", which removes the spice without compromising on taste, to "Dokkara" which is extremely spicy.
4. Do Some Shopping at Kyushu's Leading Shopping Mall
There are many shopping areas in Hakata, owing to the amount of people that gather there from all corners of Kyushu. One example is the shopping mall Canal City Hakata. From popular brands such as Uniqlo, Mujirushi and ABC Mart, to large duty free stores and also a Laox, it is all here. There are also stores where you can show your passport to receive a discount (Limited to tourists visiting Japan from overseas only). At the tourist lounge, as well as getting information about the mall, you can also avail of a tourist information service that can advise you about Japanese cultural experiences, and also rent an interpreter.
KITTE Hakata, which is a attached to JR Hakata Station, is a massive commercial building built around the Hakata Marui shopping center. It is also home to a restaurant floor offering a wealth of choices. There are five different buildings that come together to form JR Hakata City so here you will find a smorgasbord of different products, from fashion and miscellaneous goods, to food and local souvenirs. As it is located in and around the station area, it is easy to pop in before heading somewhere else or on your way home.
Hakata is bursting with charm and continues to evolve as an international city while building upon its rich culture and traditions. Make sure to use the advice in this article when you visit Hakata to make some wonderful memories on your trip.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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