Sunday, April 18, 2010

360 degree Fukuoka - Travel Special

Looking out of my balcony on this bright sunny day, I can't but marvel about this place which has been home to me for the past 3 years. Everything about this place is so very nice except my office (Roti, Kapda aur Makaan ke liye kaam toh karna hi padega na :P)

Jokes apart, Fukuoka is technically the most populated city in the Kyushu island of Japan. Certainly not as happening and densely populated like Tokyo, Fukuoka is a metropolitan city with lush greenery. It cannot be called as a tourist destination but this place forms a central region from where you can cover most of the places in Kyushu Island and this is what I exactly did. So, I bring to you here in these series of posts my travels around this part of the globe.
Fukuoka as seen from my apartment
Traveling in any part of Fukuoka or Japan is a pleasure. Fukuoka has a well developed and perfectly streamlined transport system. If you know Japanese people, you will understand  what I mean by perfection.

Buses arrive on the dot of the minute and leave on the dot. (I used to wait for hours for buses like 5E and PP49 in front of my college to take me home.... now this is like a cakewalk). You can check bus schedules here

Subway runs through the entire city making traveling a sheer pleasure. So beat the traffic and hop onto the subway (Well I must tell you here that traffic in Fukuoka is 1/10th of Bangalore's traffic jams). Limited Express and Shikansens zig zag to the rest of the country.   Limited Express take a longer time to reach any destination but are cheaper than the Shinkansens. Shinkansen as you all know is the bullet train but then you also need to pay a good price (Everything comes with a price tag) but then please do travel in one just to enjoy the speed of this train.

The main/hub station here is the Hakata Station/Hakata Eki. So, you can just book your ticket and zoom away to the destination. You will also find a lot of maps, guides, places to be visited in the destination et al for  your guidance. If you can't find an English one please do ask at the Information desks. The biggest problem here however is the language. English speaking people are less and Japanese people do try a lot to help you. So, if you trying to converse with them, please don't rattle off in English, please speak as slow as possible emphasizing each word and using as much of actions as possible. The below links will help you in timing your trips without much hassles. You can check Train schedules, fares, arrival, departures - here.

And if you didn't know, Fukuoka also houses an International Airport (My odyssey to India :)).

So lets now roam about Fukuoka now. Hop on Shilpa's Express as we discover Fukuoka. :) A point of note in any Tourist place is please ask for English pamphlets or maps for the place. Mostly the pamphlets will be displayed at the entrance and if there is no English pamphlet, please do ask for the same at the counter. Strict advice to veggies, please carry food around as you might not get much of veg stuff. 

My first stop is at Nokonoshima. This is just simply beautiful garden in Nokonoshima Island.  You can roam around the place and enjoy the beautiful flowers and scenery. Take a bus to Noko Ferry Port and then the Ferry to Nokonoshima Island. You can then either  walk to Nokonoshima Garden or else take the bus to the same (For people with leg problems, the climb is quite steep so please take care).   The best time to visit this place is during Sakura/Cherry Blossoms. 
The left side of the garden

One of the flower beds
Another flower bed
Right side of the garden

Cherry Blossoms
Lets next stop at Uminonakamichi. This is popular for the Dolphin Show and the Aquarium. (Psst. Psst.... I really love their dolphin show which is so very sweet and the Aquarium too.. so you have to just tell me that you are going there and I will be the first one to accompany you :P). Besides these, you have a theme park, not exactly theme park, rather a large area with rides, cycling path, lot of outdoor activities for kids (its actually for kids but then no harm in letting out the kid in you :D ). For this you will need to take a bus to TNC, Momochihama and then the Ferry to Uminonakamichi Island. 
En Route Uminonakamichi
Marine World --- Dolphins here I come

Aquarium - this is real big one (Ok the biggest I have seen :))

Play Time
Momochihama Beach and Fukuoka Tower is something you wouldn't certainly want to miss out in Fukuoka. Although, this is an artificial beach, this is also the most in demand place in the summer times to escape from the humidity :). So you can have a nice swim in the beach and relax and enjoy the cool breeze. Below is a view of Fukuoka Tower and the beach from my office.

Ohori Koen Park is another must-see place during the cherry blossoms where the entire park is covered by these trees. Its just a totally pretty site.  This is 2-km stretch park wherein you can take a walk or just relax enjoying the beautiful scenery around. A large pond in between attracts a lot of birds too :). So, take a break and chill pill here.

Ohori Koen Park

Hakata Dontaku is a colorful festival in Fukuoka. Held during the Golden week every year on May 3rd and 4th, this festival showcases really colorful parades and floats, kids and elders in colorful costumes and traditional kimonos playing some traditional instruments or clapping with wooden spoons. Also, this parade includes an International float and Indian dances as well :). Check out the videos below.

Below are the places which are not any tourist attraction and are rather the shopping places of Fukuoka. So, for girls who are mad about shopping and window shopping... please go ahead :P

Two things which are most popular in Japan - One is the point card system wherein you can get some discounts or free gifts and the other is the gift wrappers, I just love the way the shop keepers wrap up each gift for you free of charge. Also, if you are taking any fragile items home, you can always ask the shop keeper to pack with packing material. 

Marinoa City - Well this is like a all-in-all huge shopping mall or rather a shopping playground.... What I like about this place is you can get clothes whichever size and shape you maybe.  (Let me tell you my sad story... I found it hard to find clothes for me because I was overweight and Japanese girls are really slim and trim ... Until I discovered Marinoa City... So am happy happy now...). Please do give these shops a try (you may/may not like) - Axes Femme (I find their clothes a bit different from the other shops), Edwin (for jeans galore), Nittori (1 stop destination for all your home needs...), well you can just roam around and discover this place...
(Secret: Prices are lower during the sale season... but I always see sale whenever I go to this place.... Till now I have seen golden week sale, silver week sale, spring sale, winter sale, autumn sale  .... but stuff is good during sale also ... So go for it...)

Marinoa City
Area: Tenjin

Mina Tenjin - This is a 8 floor mall in the core of Tenjin which caters to probably a lot of things from Accessories to Casuals to Formals to Spa... and whole 2 floors of UniQlo

Underground Tenjin Plaza - Well I just love to walk along this place.... Really cool and certainly doesn't look like Japan. It gives you the feeling of walking in a heritage building. The whole path has kind of cobbled stones feeling and a lot of architecture can be observed on the roofing. Very Good for Window Shopping and enjoying some good view of people loitering around with a hot Starbucks coffee. 

Solaria Plaza, Iwataya and Marco - Well decorated and glamorous malls. Good for window shopping. These are located close to each other so you can get out of Marco, then go to Solaria Plaza and then to Iwataya behind it. Iwataya has a whole floor only for cosmetics and is sure nice to look at all the girls being decked up. In general the entire area is a shopping area, so you can take a stroll around.

Back Side of Solaria Plaza
Shintencho - Another area to spend your time (just behind Solaria Plaza). One shop caught my attention here though. Reimei sells a lot of home decoration articles likes vases, clocks of venetian glasses, tea sets, carpets, night lamps, decoration pieces (although on the costlier side) but worth a try if you are looking for something to take back home. (Well I did find some  Indian stuff here and it seems the owner travels to India to get those stuff)

Area: Canal City 

Canal City - What I like more about this place are the shows which are organized the year round. The mall shaped in a peculiar half-oval structure houses a theatre (3-D movies are also filmed here) as well as many shops. So, you could see a show, watch a movie and then shop about. 

More links of the shows can be found here (Couldn't upload all the videos)

Area: Hakata

Hakata Station - Hakata is the old part of Fukuoka and particularly famous for Hakata Dolls - One of the major souvenirs to take back from Fukuoka. 

Yodobashi - One stop for all electronic items. More popular is the point card which they issue. Each Item you buy gives you some points and you can either use them (which will be subtracted from the total amount) or add them to your second purchase.

Area: Hawks Town/Momochihama

Hawk's Town - Well the main attractions here are the bowling alleys and the theatre. This place also houses some shops for clothes, a 100 yen shop seria, GAP, and the best I like here - Glass land. This place sells glass articles which are really sweet to look at. 

Bowling Alley @ Hawk's Town
HRC (Hard Rock Cafe)
And well that's all about what you can see in Fukuoka. If you want to really stay in touch with what's happening in Fukuoka... You can check out the online edition of Fukuoka Now, a monthly Magazine.

Part-2 will continue with visit to other places nearby Fukuoka. See you till then.........

P.S. All photos and videos have been taken by me/my colleagues.
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