I had gone to Fukuoka between Christmas and New Years, taking the lull between holidays and plans to explore a new city in Japan.
I went for about 4 days, and while I didn't have much in the way of specific plans, I ended up really enjoying myself - shopping, relaxing, meeting new people, and taking in the sights.
I flew in early morning, landing at like 9am or so. I took my time leaving and ended up helping an American girl at the airport train station who was doing a visa run from Korea. We chatted and exchanged info on the train with a promise to meet up sometime over the next couple days.
I got to my airbnb, refreshed myself and actually met up with her that afternoon/evening. We tracked down famous Hakata ramen and headed to Canal City.
Canal City is a huge shopping center in Fukuoka, most famous for its Venice-like building structure with canals that flow all through. It also has a beautiful light and water show, with the theme changing every so often. This time it was a One Piece show which we caught unexpectedly while walking between shops.
The next day I headed out of the city, down to southern Fukuoka prefecture to Yanagawa. Yanagawa is a small city famous for its small rivers and canals that have been used for transportation and crops for hundreds of years. As a tourist you can take a ride down the canals with a guide for an unforgettable experience. While I was there solo, the Japanese people on the boat with me were very friendly, especially two young teachers who I chatted with quite a bit (they were also from Hyogo!).
The boat driver was hilarious and very knowledgeable, he even tried a lot of English with me though it was limited. He also told us about this PR video done for the city, which prominently features the canals, as well as the famous Hinamatsuri (girls festival - March 3) decorations made and displayed in the city called "Sagemon". The video is a treasure for the whole city, as almost every citizen took part in its production in some way.
Check out the video here!
(ps. The boat driver singing at the beginning of the song was the driver I was with!)
The boat ride itself was a bit long, about an hour, but time went by quickly with lots of entertainment from the driver and the sights to see. We also made a stop at a shop set up on the river that caters to the boat tours, selling drinks and amazake (low or non alcoholic thick creamy beverage made from fermented rice - it has a sweet taste and is very common in the winter or new year periods, though I can find it in super markets all year round to use in cooking).
(I got hot cocoa)
That night I met up with my new friend again and we hit up food stalls for dinner and drinks before I headed back to my airbnb.
The next day I slept in and met up with a friend who lives in Fukuoka (actually, Saga, but she used to live in Fukuoka city and still considers it her home). I know her from online, which is where we first chatted, but shes also from Kamloops, the city I lived in back in Canada since I was 17 - which I consider to be my 2nd 'hometown' after my actual hometown of Vernon.
Together we went to Dazaifu Tenman-gu, ate sweets while she gave me tips about photography and instagram.
We also hit up the special Starbucks, famous for its funky architecture.
After exploring the shrine and watching money performers (poor monkeys...) we found a smaller shrine behind the main one after following a random path and kinda getting lost. It was really beautiful and there was no one there - surprising considering how busy Dazaifu was.
We headed back into the city and went to Fukuoka tower to check out the night view of the city.
The outside of the tower was lit up, with the trees in the park surrounding the tower also lit up with Christmas lights still.
Inside the tower the view was beautiful. though it was hard to get a picture that did it justice.
After the tower we had dinner at my friends favorite Mexican restaurant before she caught her bus back home. It was great to meet up with her again and chat and catch up. I keep up on social media, facebook, etc but its different when you can actually chat face to face.
The next day was the day of my flight home, though it was in the later evening so I still had almost a full day left in the city. I had a great breakfast near my airbnb, and explored some other places around the city. I wanted to go to a couple museums but they were closed for the winter holidays. I came across one cool shrine in Hakata called Kushida Jinja. Its dedicated to Amaterasu - the Goddess of the Sun and Universe in Shinto belief, and one of the main gods of the religion. The Emperors of Japan are also said to be her direct decedents.
The shrine itself was pretty standard if you've ever been to a Japanese shrine, but what I found cool was the giant Yamakasa on display. Yamakasa are floats used in festivals in Japan and vary in size. The one on display at Kushida is huge, and tells some sort of legend - though I'm not sure which or what it's about.
There is also a lot of other small interesting details at this shrine; stones signed and 'dedicated' by sumo wrestlers, a piece of a wall from a famous merchants house, and a year/zodiac dial attached to the roof of a large entrance gate, among many other statues and carvings.
By evening I was getting tired and just did some last minute gift shopping, ate dinner, and chilled in a Cafe till it was time to head to the airport.
It was a great trip and I really enjoyed checking out a different city. There is still so much I want to see and do though that I missed on this trip, so I can't wait to head back again soon.
I highly recommend Fukuoka to anyone looking for somewhere to see in Japan that isn't Tokyo or Kyoto - there is a lot to see and do, and the culture is different than that of more northern areas of Japan.