Fukuoka. The birthplace of Tonkotsu Ramen. Land of mentaiko, sushi, sashimi, sake, strawberries and all things delicious. I recently struck gold and won the grand prize of an Instagram photography competition put on by the folks from the Fukuoka Prefecture! So there I found myself in Japan’s southernmost Kyushu island, alongside 3 other winners (& now travel pals Inex, Ishmene & Larry) from around the globe , embarking on the trip of a lifetime…
Ramen is a good place to start. And Fukuoka City’s Hakata district is Ramen capital of the world. The local specialty here is Tonkotsu Ramen. Walk through the streets and alleyways of Fukuoka City and you will no doubt pick up the porky-cheesy funk of Tonkotsu broths, being slow-cooked for hours and hours. It’s rich. It’s creamy. It’s unadulterated, turbo-charged porkiness. Each bowl typically comes with thin ramen noodles, char siu pork belly, soy-cured egg and seaweed amongst other condiments. There are countless Ramen bars here to explore, ranging from internationally renowned franchises like Ippudo and Ichiran to local stalwarts like Hakata Issou and Shin Shin.
But there’s more to Fukuoka City than its Ramen bars. Take a stroll or jog round gorgeous Ohori Park. Make a visit to Yanagibashi Market to see fishmongers, butchers, grocers and bakers going about their day-to-day trade. Feast on superb sashimi and nigiri without breaking the bank at Tenjin sushi hotspots Hyotan or Chikae. Try Mentaiko (spicy fish roe) – a Fukuoka speciality – at Hakata Ganso Mentaiju. Pop by the Ishikura Sake brewery – the city’s oldest – for a sake tasting paired with their marvellous Mitzutaki chicken hotpot. Take in the sights of the stunning Sumiyoshi and Kushida shinto shrines. Or enjoy superb shopping in Tenjin district’s towering department stores and their enormous, basement-level food emporiums.
Within a short train ride or drive of Fukuoka city, paradise awaits. Rest and relax at the exquisite Daimaru Besso Onsen – a 19th century hot-spring Ryokan with world-class Kaiseki cuisine. Pick the juiciest and sweetest strawberries at Ichigokirari farm. Don a Kimono and take a pilgrimage to the serene Daizafu Tenmangu Shinto Shrine. Cruise along Yanagawa’s picturesque waterways, visit the beautiful Ohana house and feast on the city’s signature dish – Unagi no Seiro-Mushi (Steamed Eel). Or discover artisans like Shiro Kunimitsu blacksmiths in Omuta who have been crafting Katana blades and knives fit for Samurais and Emperors for centuries.
What a joy it has been discovering Fukuoka, feasting on its first-rate food and getting to know its people – some of the friendliest, kindest and warmest I’ve encountered in Japan. My thanks to our generous hosts from the Fukuoka Prefecture and JTB for hosting this most epic of trips. We will be back!
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Fuokuoka Prefecture on this gifted trip. As always, all opinions expressed here are my own. This is not a paid post (and I was under no obligation to write anything up about the trip). Just sharing the highlights on here for the love of it and for the benefit of anybody considering a trip to this most fabulous of regions in Japan.