Fukuoka / Hakata
A light-hearted metropolis
Kyushu’s largest city, Fukuoka is one of the most likeable places in Japan – indeed, despite the fact that it’s not exactly a household name abroad, it regularly pops up on global best-places-to-live lists.
While it boasts few actual sights, there’s a certain Kyushu-stylejoie de vivre here, best exemplified at the umpteen rustic street-side yatai, where locals slurp happily away on their ramen while knocking back beer, sake or whatever takes their fancy. Until recently, the city was an industrial nonentity, notable only for its transport connections to Korea and the rest of the island, but its renaissance has been remarkable.
When you are cruising the Pacific Ocean with MSC Cruises you’ll find that Fukuoka is a squeaky-clean metropolis; it deserves a day of any cruiser’s time. Highlights here include one or two excellent museums and ranks of eye-catching modern architecture – most notable in the latter category are Canal City, a self-contained cinema, hotel and shopping complex built around a semi-circular strip of water, and Hawks Town, which forms part of a major seafront redevelopment incorporating venues for shopping, eating and entertainment. If you feel like something more educational during your MSC Grand Voyages cruise, head for Fukuoka renowned festivals and folk crafts, which are presented at Hakata Machiya Folk Museum.
As with any self-respecting Japanese city of this size, Fukuoka maintains a lively entertainment district, in this case crammed onto the tiny island of Nakasu, though it’s safer on the wallet to head for the less glitzy bars and restaurants of Tenjin, the city’s main downtown area. There are also a couple of excellent sights just south of Fukuoka: the ancient temple town of Dazaifu, once the seat of government for all of southern Japan, but now a pleasant backwater best known for its collection of temples and shrines; and the healing waters of nearby Futsukaichi Onsen.