Meet Sacha of Beautifultravelhangover – a girl raised in the Netherlands who is passionate about exploring the whole world one country at a time. She is currently living in Japan and write about her adventures there and what life is like as a foreign exchange student living in Japan. Today she is sharing her budget travel tips on how to explore Fukuoka city under $25 a day!
Fukuoka is not on the radar of most tourists visiting Japan, but it should be. It is the biggest city in southern Japan and gives easy access to the beautiful nature of Kyushu. Fukuoka is known for good food, friendly people and a bustling nightlife in the Tenjin neighborhood. And when you have had enough of the city you can just move on to the beach or get lost in stretched out forests and mountains. But Japan is an expensive country, especially for backpackers. That is what you thought right? I used to be like that until I went on my first trip to Japan three years ago. I was surprised at how cheap eating out was in comparison to back home in Europe. The same goes for transport. Lodging is still a little bit hard to find for cheap, but it is about the same price as Europe. In Fukuoka there is a place called Khao-san, which also has branches in Tokyo. I stayed in the Tokyo ones and was very pleased, so you could give the Fukuoka one a try for about ¥2500 per dorm bed. Or you could try couchsurfing instead. It is fun and free!
The Heart of the City
The first thing you want to do when going anywhere abroad is explore the city and get familiar with it. And it is free, of course. You will most likely be arriving in Hakata Station, so we will start our journey from there. Hakata station contains some big shopping malls like Hankyu and Tokyu Hands. Looking around in Japanese warehouses is always a fun thing to do. You can find everything from the weirdest geeky gadgets to dresses for dogs and fancy face massagers. During winter time the station is decorated with all kinds of lights and there is a small Christmas market with performances in the weekend, so that is a great time of the year to take a look. But there is always something going on in front of the station during the weekend, so it doesn’t hurt to stop by when you are there.
Close to Hakata station is an area full of temples, starting from Gion subway station. Most of these temples can be visited for free or you can take a peek from the outside. Make sure to visit Kushida shrine, my favorite shrine in Fukuoka. There is a mix of red gates, gorgeous fountain sculptures and a serene atmosphere, in the middle of the city. Another interesting temple is Tochoji. The red pagoda always catches my eye. And you wouldn’t say from seeing the outside of the temple, but there is also a gigantic Buddha statue inside. I might be difficult to find for foreigners, but make sure to follow the markers saying大仏 (daibutsu).
After you got tired of seeing all the temples you can make a rest at Canal City. Another big shopping mall but this one has a canal running through it with a fountain show and other shows every now and then. You can go shopping but it is also nice to just take a look around without buying anything. I will tell you, you will not find another shopping mall like this again. There are even robots running around, if you are lucky enough to find them. There are plenty of lunch options here or you could move on to Tenjin.
Tenjin is more of the same with even more shopping malls. This is the place here the real shopping goes one and there are some malls dedicated to young girls, like Tenjin Core and Vivre. The underground shopping mall connecting the Tenjin subway and train stations brings underground shopping to another level. If you are interested in the nightlife, you are in the right place. Tenjin has plenty of bars, karaoke parlors, game centers and clubs. Mind you, it is expensive so if you are on a budget you’d better skip the night entertainment.
Nature in the City
If you are tired of all the shopping malls (which happens to me), you could take a break from the city bustling in Ohori Park. It is a big park with a big lake including swan peddle boats and a lot of people jogging, strolling, playing or just enjoying the peace and quiet. Especially during cherry blossom season it is a nice place to picnic underneath the blossoming trees. The remains of Fukuoka castle are here as well as the Fukuoka Museum of art. I haven’t been to the museum yet but at just 200 yen it is worth a try.
Want something different? Hop on the subway to Nishijin and walk from there to Momochi Beach side. It is a beach located in the city, with some beach cafes, a big wedding hall (restricted access) and Fukuoka Tower nearby. A lot of locals go there to take a stroll, swim or play beach volleyball. Fukuoka Tower offers a nice view of the city and the beach for ¥800. There is a restaurant and a ‘lovers sanctuary’ there is well, but that’s about it. If you like views of the city bit want it for free, no problem! Atago Shrine has some pretty good views as well so try that out
Luckily Fukuoka isn’t Tokyo, so the transport system isn’t too complicated to figure out. You have the Nishitetsu train, which you wont need much unless you want to go to Dazaifu or somewhere else outside the city centre. Secondly there is the subway with three lines. You can buy day tickets for ¥520 on the weekend or ¥620 on a weekday, or single tickets ranging from ¥100 to ¥340. Lastly you can take the bus ranging from ¥100 yen to ¥420. It is difficult to know which bus stop is yours if you don’t speak or read Japanese. Remember to get on the bus through the middle door and take a ticket from the machine next to entrance. Get off at the front door and pay at the machine next to the chauffeur. The subway is your safest best though. There is a Fukuoka City Tourist Pass, which allows you to take almost all buses, trains and subway in central Fukuoka for ¥820 yen. If you want to include Dazaifu as well it costs ¥1340. If you are staying in the city center (Hakata, Gion, Tenjin) and don’t mind a bit of walking you can save the money and just walk everywhere.
Fukuoka is known for some peculiar foods. One of them is Motsu-Nabe, a hotpot with intestines. Yikes. If you are adventurous, give it a try! It actually doesn’t have much of a taste. It is expensive for ¥3000, but is usually shared amongst a few people. Mentaiko is another peculiar specialty of spicy marinated roe. People all over Japan come to Fukuoka just to buy this. If you find a dish that says mentaiko you can try the local delicacy.
What I want to recommend is delicious, famous for Fukuoka and not too bad on the wallet; Tonkotsu Ramen. A salty noodle soup with pieces of pork and pork broth. The famous brands Ichiran and Ippudo make heavenly Tonkotsu Ramen for about ¥750. There are usually people lined up outside to get a taste of those noodles. The cheaper local restaurants or Hakata Ramen chain restaurant sell it as cheaply as ¥300!
Another great option of eating dinner (or post-dinner / post-drinking) is eating at a yatai, street stalls. You won’t find these anywhere in Japan, except for Fukuoka and especially the Nakasu-Kawabata area. They are small food stalls with just a few seats serving a few small dishes and some drinks. It is not the cheapest (¥400 to ¥900 per small dish) but it is truly a unique experience. Foods range from noodles to yakitori to to French fries to dumplings to oden(fish cakes). Basically the same as Japanese bars, izakaya.
And if you want to be really cheap eat your heart out with McDonalds deals for ¥100, sushi conveyer belt restaurants for ¥100 a plate or a beef bowl at Yoshinoya for only ¥300.
There you have it! You can easily spend one or two days in exploring the places I mentioned above. Always be sure to check what kinds of events are taking place. There are many festivals in Fukuoka and I have seen many gorgeous events like a kimono parade, a lantern festival, a Taiko drum performance, a dance performance and more, all for free!
Here is a summary of the costs;
Exploring the city – Free
Hakata Tower – 800 yen
Fukuoka Art museum – 200 yen
Subway Day Card – 520 yen
Hakata Ramen for lunch – 300 yen
Yatai food for dinner – 1200 yen
Total 3020 yen (25 dollars)