Day 7 Fukuoka

Fukuoka is a neat stop if you’re not coming from Tokyo. The highlight of Fukuoka was the little eatery we ran into at 9pm near canal city where we had good Saga beef.

In front of Hakata station were lighted trees and a Christmas tent with stollen


We went in December. So notice the Christmas lighting.


My favourite after dark activity is eating chocolates with green tea in the hotel room. Open up all the food purchases from Hankkyu food basement. My light supper.

Yummy Japanese food from basement of the department stores like Takashimaya, Isetan, take your pick.


We were on our way to the red light district in Nakasu. As it was raining, we couldn’t find our way. Himself said he saw men running towards a dark alley.

December is not the best month to see action on the red light dustrict.

Exiting Nakasu station you’ll be disappointed because it’s next to a river and quite your usual touristy thing.

The red light district is across the river from Canal City which is a huge shopping mall. Near the South Building of CC and Grand Hyatt. Although I didn’t see any ladies standing around since its cold. Walking past, you see photos on the shops. Just in case any of you have young children and you’re concerned. It’s nearer to Tenjin side.

North building of CC is across the road from Nakasu station and near shopping and museum and a nice river. There’s Takashimaya and the basement of Riverrain mall has a shop selling nice Le Creuset.

But he chose to walk away towards the Takashimaya Riverain Mall. There’s a Fukuoka Museum of Asian Art. Cross the street, there’s a sheltered street of malls which were closed by 8pm

At the end of the street we spotted an escalator going upwards to Canal City. Near Canal City is an interesting food street as well as the red light district.


I didn’t try these roadside eateries. Not willing to be charged exorbitant prices and have the yakuza after me. After all this is around the red light district.

The highlight of Fukuoka was the little Inn we ran into at 9pm near canal city where we had good Saga beef.


Menu on the wall. But we can’t read Japanese. No worries, there’s Google translate.


Grilled saga beef.

It was an accidental discovery of a small eatery, Hibiya(火備屋) of which we had yakiniku and saga beef. For 5 plates of beef, tongue and chicken and 2 glasses of sake, cost 4600¥ and the place to ourselves. Mr Masato Mimura and his wife. We will return another night to try the yakitori or skewered meat with live squid swimming in the tank along the street. (Upon checking the Internet, there have been several Japanese reviews but no English review. I’ll give it 3 stars. More of a casual place seating about 6 pax maximum. ) It could only sit a few people around the counter at most.


Address: 2-11 Kamikawabatamachi Hakata-ku Fukuoka Fukuoka

The ramen stadium is on 5F of Canal City. It’s a consolidation of many ramen stores.


Canal City looks dated and huge. At 830pm the shops are nearly empty. We tried to have a drink at the Muji cafe buy they’ve stopped serving.

The Muji store is huge with furniture and books. Very lifestyle concept. But closes early.


In Fukuoka, I will stay near Hakata station and JR Kyushu Blossom Hakata Central. It’s so convenient to take subway and lots of shopping near Hakata. Book early as the rooms go off fast. Mine didn’t come with breakfast. When I checked TripAdvisor, some apparently do.

Rooms are new and tasteful. There’re English and Mandarin speaking staff. Its on left side of Hakata station. There’s no shelter on front porch but it’s not an issue for me. Hotel is next to Sun Plaza which has an underground passage to Hakata station.

For the right price I will compare Forza and JR Kyushu Blossom favourably. (I’ve stayed in both). Both are equally near but different sides of the station.

Getting around
Get a day pass for 620¥. You make it back in 3 trips. Gets you from Fukuoka Airport to Hakata station to the major stops like Tenjin, Nakasu (red light district) , Ohori Park (rated #1 on TripAdvisor) and our mistake of going to the wholesale fish market at Akasaka.


Ohori Park was unimpressive. We will return at night to see the winter illumination. Nothing to see at the fish market, not even restaurants for fresh seafood. But no problem, just hop on the subway train.

At Tenjin there’s a Mitsukoshi department store where we bought huge persimmons and gingko nuts. Didn’t seem to see the gingko nuts elsewhere in Fukuoka.

Signature foodstuff
Horse meat
Saga beef
Aso milk and pudding
Puffer fish and fish roe –
mochi stuffed with red beans. It’s a hit and miss.
We found a temporary outlet by Ishimura at the side of AMU EST department store just as we were going to Yodobashi. Best mochi.

Bought persimmons for dad. Huge and not so perfect at 150¥ each. Strawberries are currently in season and apparently the best in the land.

Matcha powder for his sister, from a shop along Tenjin underground.

Best time to visit Fukuoka is probably late April to May when the wisteria is in bloom in Kita-Fukuoka. Or Cherry Blossom season

Signature plants in early winter
Gold Gingko

Red Tsubaki

Orange Maple leaves


Mizutaki – Hakata collagen based soup
(I didn’t like it.)

Hakata Santoku hocho
(I’ve not managed to find the place)


Ichiran or Ippudo ramen huge persimmon, and the roe. Japanese gingko.

Day 6:

Day 6 Drive back to Fukuoka


On way back to Fukuoka, we passed by a few scenic stops. Probably during the Sakurai viewing season. There’s a Hita bus stop and a Matsubara dam with a
restaurant for a pit stop.

Info on 2016 Fukuoka Cherry Blossom:

Fukuoka Cherry Blossom Forecast 2016 Update

Pine filled forest, running water , stone mountain and red maple leaves.

Refill petrol – there are a few stations around. Keep watch out before you drive in.

Our Nippon Rent a car drop off is just one street away from our hotel JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Hakata Central. So convenient. There’s an incentive/ refund for returning earlier than our appointment. Came up to 48,500 for 3 days for a Toyota Proud 1.8 for 3 pax. We also paid for English translation.

We dropped off our car at Fukuoka at extra charge. Expensive but no other way.

I’m glad we don’t have to wait for public transport in the cold and it’s possible to go to Mt Aso possibly by either travel coach or your own car. Did we really need snow tires? Certainly not. Were we ripped off by the polite Japanese or were they just conscientious? I don’t want to think too much. Not being fluent in the language, I just want to write off as a safe and happy trip!

Underground at Tenjin station

An underground links Sunplaza to Hakata station if you want to avoid the cold. (I think Hotel Forza is nearer to Hakata station than JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Hakata Central . You don’t need to cross the road. It’s on the right side of station while Hotel Blossom Hakata Central is on left. Apparently there’s another JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom on the right side. Yes. I’ll recommend this hotel again. Clean, new and smoke free. But small so go for the biggest size you can afford. Kyushu is anytime cheaper than Tokyo. If you’ve bought a JR pass you can ask for a discount. I only realised later when I read a brochure in Singapore. Ask for it.)


Tiny cubicle to focus on food

Ichiran the famous – “please don’t disturb me while I’m eating my ramen” has an outlet next to our hotel, JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Hakata Central. It’s in B2 of Sunplaza. We saw it at 2pm and went over at 630pm. No queue in sight.


You pay by pressing from a machine then tick your choice of noodle firmness. Ichiran originated from Hakata with its pork bone broth.


Shutters up and you concentrate. In theory. In practice the kitchen staff are so noisy shouting out orders from behind the shutters.

When we arrived in Fukuoka after Tokyo, the shopping was underwhelming. But back to Fukuoka at Day 6 from the countryside and better able to appreciate the shopping.

Around Hakata Station there are lots of shopping including Tokyu Hands, Hankkyu department stall and an entire food basement. In the surrounding convenient store, we bought a Lotte Rum and Raisin chocolate bar for 138¥. Delicious and not too sweet with right alcohol taste. Japanese are famous for more than 100 over flavours of Kit Kat although I’ve only seen 5 flavours so far which are only available in certain seasons or locations eg. Kyushu.

Within walking distance from the Delifrance exit is Yodobashi electronics store. We lost our camera cover and got a non-branded one here. There are at least 5 levels and constant translation over the announcement in Mandarin and French. Tax free at purchases above $108, claimed at time of purchase (show your passport). This is unlike other shops where tax free is claimed after purchase where you can accumulate receipts. Shop closes at 10pm. Others around the station close around 8pm, as a signal the “auld lang sye” song is played over the sound system.


Christmas lights and a live performance, beer, Christmas delights at the Hakata station till Christmas day. Something to do at 10pm. As you can tell, this is ultra slow-blogging.


Day 7: Fukuoka

Day 5 Kurokawa onsen town


In a world of storms
Let there be no wavering
Of our human hearts;
Remain as the pine tree
With root sunk deep in stone.
(Waka by the late Hirohito, former Emperor of Japan)

Yuki ni tae arashi ni taeshi nochi ni koso matsu no kurai mo takaku miekere

Day 5

We woke up for a private onsen in our room, hot spring bath in cool December air. Leisurely breakfast and a walk about the small and quiet village.

Setting off from Shinsen, the Manager helped us program the GPS to Kurokawa So. She produced a map of Kurokawa, that’s how professional!


At Kurokawa, I couldn’t get the accommodation most recommended, Ikoi Ryokan which is next to the bus stop and has 13 onsen. Fujiya comes highly recommended too.


Booking a ryokan in Kurokawa was very efficient. There was an official Kurokawa website, where i signed up, indicating which Ryokan was available on the night I would be passing through. We booked a month earlier and the popular rooms were not available for the Sunday and Monday nights. Our stay came with a room with Kaiseki dinner and breakfast and free onsen.

Kurokawa So was the pricier one. But I’m glad for the choice for its location away from the bustle and the privacy and decent car park space and hotel garden and compound. (This is all on hindsight). It’s not as far from the village as it looks from the map. It’s not the same league as Shinsen.


Kaiseki dinner was in your bedroom. Bad choice as the miso smell lingered.



The lady who set up our dinner also laid out our futon bedding and served us breakfast in a open area of about 4 other couples.

We tried horse sashimi. I can’t tell the difference except that it looked lean and reddish. Sweet and tender. I like beef tartar in France so I’m not squirmish with raw horse meat. But only once for the experience since Kyushu is famous for this dish.

I found the village slightly claustrophobic with its roads narrow for one car size. Many a ryokan was situated on two way drives only the width for one car. Imagine. We saw an inexperienced driver bump his car 3 times into corners while reversing, corned by 2 on facing cars.

Take a walk around the photogenic village and try some onsen with a onsen pass. You can also buy a pass at the counter of any participating ryokan for 1300¥ which entitled you to 3 different onsen valid for 6 months. Entry to each onsen is 500¥ , so this is a saving of 200¥ provided you don’t lose your pass. I didn’t see need for one.

There are not many snack shops but Patisserie Roku is a must try. There are long queues outside. The puff is indeed good. I think it’s the creamy Jersey milk from the Aso region.


We had one on the first day and another on the second day and the apple puff. We forgot about the apple puff and only ate it that night when we arrived in Fukuoka. Still very good. Other popular snack shops include Dora Dora which serves red bean pancake, dorayaki (matcha most popular flavour) and the horse meat croquette shop with coffee.


Foot bath with your family

Here are some fun facts about Kyushu from my friend Bel:

No. of Onsen in Kyushu – 9,716.
No. of Onsens in Japan is 27,671.

Although Kyushu’s land area is only 11% of Japan, its onsen baths account for 35% in Japan. Hence Kyushu has been conferred the title of “Kingdom of Onsen”

On way back to Fukuoka, we passed by a few scenic stops. There’s a Hita bus stop and a Matsubara dam with a Japanese restaurant for a pit stop which must have been popular
during the Sakurai viewing season.

Quite an experience, driving through the pine filled forest, running water , stone mountain and red maple leaves. That was the real highlight rather than Fukuoka.

Day 1 Fukuoka
Day 2 Nagasaki
Day 3 Kumamoto
Day 4 Takachiho Gorge and Mt Aso
Day 5 Kurokawa Onsen
Day 6 Return to Fukuoka

Kyushu – the land that Kublai Khan failed to conquer

We set aside 7 days for Kyushu at a relaxed pace.

Our initial plan was to start with Kagoshima in the south, travel upwards to Kumamoto, the spa-onsen town of Takachiho and Kurokawa and returning home via Fukuoka city.

A week prior, we revised our plan. Leave Kagoshima in the South and UNESCO site of Yakushima for next trip.

I was excited to stay an extra first night in Fukuoka after all the great things I heard, then Nagasaki and continue with the rest.

Day 1
Upon arrival at Fukuoka, we activated the 3 day Kyushu pass and booked train tickets at Hakata station for Nagasaki. (You buy the JR voucher in your home country and activate it in Hakata station for Kyushu. Highly subsidised. Cheaper than driving and the trains are regular. You can check schedule on Google map.) Our hotel upon arrival was Forza at Hakata station. We could have used the JR pass to visit Arita, the porcelain town, 2hrs away from Hakata station. The JR Kyushu pass is very useful and offers discount on the JR Hotels. Train fans should note that Kumamoto has beautifully upholstered trains such as Aso boy from Kumamoto to Kagoshima.


Day 2
The next day, we took the 9.30am JR train for a very comfortable 2hr journey to Nagasaki. Pack your coffee and bento. You can eat in the train although i didnt see any pushcarts. The JR pass is very convenient. Keep them close to you as you’ve to show them when you exit the station.

Why visit Nagasaki?
Before Nagasaki was bombed during WWII, it was historically the only harbor open to the world.

Here you see Chinese, Dutch and Spanish influence. The Chinatown is largest in Japan.

Our hotel Dormy Inn is just across from Chinatown. But there are several hotels such as JAL around the area too. We took a taxi to the Dormy Inn hotel (about 960¥) which had an in house onsen, laundry and dryer. Nagasaki has a tram system which passes all tourist stops. To get to the tram stop at the JR train station, however you have to climb long flights of steps to the overhead bridge and down again. There’s no lift and no escalator.

Rooms at Dormy Inn are reasonably priced with breakfast but I’m not a fan although I know some are. The rooms look quite cheap to me. But they’re roomy, clean and look new with no cigarette smell. Counter staff speak English and are helpful and very effecient. It’s right across the entrance of Chinatown and walking distance from the shopping street and tram station. The in-house onsen is safe and clean. For ladies, there’s a password protect. You can do your laundry in the washing machine inside the area while you dip (free). Dryer is 100¥ per spin.
Dormy Inn is reasonably priced and I can see why some people are fans. But I wrote in TripAdvisor that I would prefer staying at Forza which is slightly more expensive. Forza has no onsen and no free laundry and no free noodles after 10pm. (Although I didn’t try the noodles for supper at Dormy.) Let me correct this observation by saying that I’m glad I stayed at Dormy Inn for the experience. I think I paid 14000¥ for a twin size with breakfast. There’s bread and sausages and quite a good spread.


Streamers outside the Nagasaki peace museum, made of little paper cranes.


We didn’t enjoy Nagasaki perhaps because it was raining when we arrived. We didn’t have a good experience at the restaurant opposite the hotel (recommended by the hotel). Seafood bowl of 1990¥ per bowl had uni that tasted off although we didn’t have food poisoning.


It’s not necessary to get the 1-day tram pass if you’re staying near Chinatown.

Otherwise travel light if you’re visiting Nagazaki and moving around by tram. The Nagazaki atomic bomb museum is nearer to the JR train station. So we took a 100¥ tram ride to Nagasaki Peace Park.

Because it was wet and our not very pleasant experience in the restaurant, we didn’t visit the famous Megane bridge area. It turned dark at around 4pm and we couldn’t make out much but it seemed that Nagasaki was quite a international town with Dutch and Chinese influence.

Nagasaki is famous for Castella cake and Chinese style pork belly bun. You can buy the Castella cake everywhere including Tokyo Narita airport. Or at the JR train station.

Try the Nagasaki ramen which has lots of Chinese cabbage piled on top.


(On hindsight I would have skipped Nagasaki and either taken a side trip to Daizaifu or stayed an extra day at Mt Aso. I think Hiroshima would have made a better choice. Compared to other Japanese cities such as Sapporo, Osaka and Kumamoto, Nagasaki seemed like an aging town. Both taxi drivers who took us to and back from the train station were around 80 years old.)


At level 2 of the Daiso 100¥ store in Nagasaki, we saw a long queue waiting for the umbrella repair man. An about to be discontinued craft? So environmentally friendly. His customers are all in the same age group.

From Nagasaki

If you’ve time to kill or your own transport, a fun way of getting from Nagasaki to Kumamoto is via the sea cutting east across. With car on the boat, the sea view is breath taking accompanied by seagulls along the way. As we didnt have our car, the thought of 4hrs including waiting time for bus and boat, we took the Shinkansen, an efficient 2hrs.

Next to Kumamoto.

Kurokawa Town – onsen experience

From Ryokan Shinsen in Takachiho, himself drove 1.5hrs to Kurokawa So 黑川莊. Along the way, there are shops selling farm products if you need a toilet stop. There are eateries but nothing spectacular. The popular driving route would be from Fukuoka to Kurokawa.

But we enjoyed the fields of golden brown and tall pine trees in late autumn with the Aso mountain in front. Very pretty.

Public transport check here:

Make sure you don’t carry much. If you’re not staying for the night. Kurokawa is hilly and an old town. I don’t see lockers for your luggage. Very narrow drive ways from building to building. But the Japanese can manage quite well. So glad we are staying at Kurokawa So which has a decent car park space.

We took a walk around the onsen village. Shops close at 6pm. There’s not much to see or buy. Most people come here to bathe at the onsen. You can get a bath entry pass to hop around the onsen. We only tried the ones in our Ryokan. Males and females use separate baths and on alternate days they are switched.

At the Ryokan Kurokawa So, there are 3 onsen: two open air and one closed door. We took a walk around the village, returned to have an onsen. Nap and had a kaiseki dinner in the room. This is my first time and I recommend not to try it as the smell of the miso paste is still lingering. After dinner, the same staff put out our futon bedding for our night’s sleep.


One of the courses in our Kaiseki dinner. Houbayaki (朴葉焼), a regional food from Gifu and Naga, fish marinated in miso paste, with green shallots and mushrooms cooked over dried magnolia leaf on a stove.

So far I’ve not seen a plate or bowl repeated twice.