The city of Fukuoka is pretty much at the end of the Shinkansen in the north of the island of Kyushu. Famous for Hakata-style ramen and its street food stalls called “yatai”, it’s always been on my list of places to visit. As we were travelling as far as Hiroshima on our most recent trip, it seemed like a good opportunity.
Fukuoka’s famous “yatai”, pop-up food stalls serving up yakitori like it’s going out of fashion, were the primary draw for us, and so we set out to find them on our first evening. It actually took a bit of searching as we didn’t really know where to start. We headed to the Tenjin area and walked for quite a while before we eventually found them along the main road. Then we were faced with that increasingly familiar feeling of “oh my goodness which one do we choose?!” Like at okonomimura in Hiroshima, it’s a case of just picking one and not looking back! We sampled everything from “miso offal” and chicken skin yakitori (skewers), to pork gyoza, to ramen. These yatai are all about informal, quick-fire, but delicious food. They aren’t huge so there’s a lot of shuffling to fit people in, but ultimately you feel like you’re all in it together and part of a yatai family!
We came across a lot of “mentaiko” which is seasoned, slightly spicy, salmon roe, and must be a speciality in the area. We tried grilled mentaiko yakitori as well as some dumplings with shrimp, mentaiko, and cheese which were certainly interesting and quite tasty.
It felt pretty special to be visiting the city famous for one of my all time favourite foods: ramen, and I, of course, had to sample the local version. It goes without saying that it was deeelicious and made me ridiculously happy.
Like any Japanese city, sometimes you want a bit of a break from the hustle and bustle, and a perfect way to do that is with a visit to the Nanzo-in temple a short train ride away. Nanzo-in is famous for its big reclining Buddha, and is quite a sprawling temple complex in the hills. The trains don’t run all that frequently so we picked up some taiyaki (fish-shaped sweets filled with bean paste) and takoyaki (battered octopus balls) from the kiosk in station on our way home.
We really enjoyed the more laid-back vibe in Fukuoka, but also loved that the city also seems to come alive in the evening. We had some great food, drinks, and a bit of late-night karaoke too.
At last it was finally time to leave Japan, and we flew back from Fukuoka to London via Tokyo – which worked out well because we didn’t need to get train all the way back to Tokyo. We certainly had a memorable trip and already can’t wait to go back…perhaps for the Olympics in 2020…?