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November 18, 2015

Fukuoka Two-day Tour: The City and the Mountains

Visitors from afar always put a smile on my face. Tokyo-based Kat came to experience Fukuoka for the first time this week and, although she was only here for two full days, we made it worthwhile and covered lots of ground. Day one involved an all-day bike tour to see some of Fukuoka City's landmarks (Ohori Park, the Fukuoka Castle ruins, ACROS building, Nakasu river, Canal City), a lunchtime cat cafe visit, some Daimyo vintage shop browsing, and the obligatory Hakata ramen for dinner. Day two was off to the mountains for Kat's first hike and first onsen experience at Wakasugiyama, followed by a pitstop at the reclining Buddha at Nanzoin, and night-time view of Fukuoka Tower. We finished it all off with a final kaisen-don lunch and purikura session at Hakata Station. Phew! Here are some snaps from along the way...
Day one: After meeting Kat at the station, we got on a pair of mamachari bikes and rode through Nishijin's back streets towards Ohori Park. There, we stopped by to give our regards to Yayoi Kusama's big pumpkin outside the Fukuoka Art Museum.

Fukuoka really turned on the beautiful warm Autumn weather for Kat's stay (and returned to rain on the day she left). Sunday was the perfect day to soak up the sunshine at Ohori Park, and its well-manicured Japanese Garden. At only ¥190 entry fee, it's worth the visit just to breathe in the calm, zen atmosphere.

Next was a quick walk around the Fukuoka Castle ruins. I have only recently discovered the back entry to the ruins where there are abundant tall trees and a good section of castle outer-walls still intact. It also seems to be less popular than the main section of the ruins and virtually nobody has been there every time I've visited, making it a quiet little haven in the city.

(These next two photos are from a week earlier when I stopped off at the Castle Ruins by myself on my way to Tenjin. By the time I returned with Kat, this beautiful Japanese maple tree had completely lost its leaves)

Back onto the bikes, we went in search of lunch. Unknowingly, it seems to have become routine protocol for me to bring guests to the Keurig Neko Cafe lately. With a room full of adorable rescued stray cats (nora-neko) to play with and good lunch and drink options you can't really go wrong.

Continuing our bike ride through Daimyo's streets after lunch, we popped into a few vintage shops before hitting Tenjin. Here's Kat outside the landmark ACROS building with its lush garden still green and summery.

Some Moomin bubble tea from Canal City was enjoyed riverside in Nakasu as the sun went down (we needed the sugar-energy to get us all the way back to Nishijin on the mamacharis!)

 And what's a Fukuoka City tour without a bowl of hearty tonkotsu ramen, a Fukuoka specialty.

Day two: With enough of the city sightseeing out of the way we hopped in the car on Monday and headed out to the mountains; our goal was Wakasugiyama. I posted lots of photos about the first time Kam and I hiked there last month, so this time I was less snap-happy with the camera. You can see more photos of the mountain trail here.

It was Kat's first time hiking in Japan and she had an awesome time. The sun was out again, the hike was peaceful and full of amazing big sugi (cedar) trees, and we had a well-deserved lunch at the top of Wakasugiyama.

There's nothing better than getting clean after a sweaty hike, so an onsen's placement at the bottom of a mountain is ideal. The outdoor shared rotenburo at this onsen in Wakasugiyama are closed on weekdays so we took the private family baths instead. It was my first time to enter an onsen room to find the bath completely empty! We quickly figured out that the wooden key we were given at the front desk needed to be inserted into the wall to start the bath water running (just like in Spirited Away).

Clean and fresh we emerged from the baths ready to do a little more sightseeing on the way home. Nanzoin, with its massive reclining Buddha statue and enchanting temple grounds, was the perfect place to stretch our legs (as if they hadn't had enough climbing for the day).

This year's autumn foliage is yet to show itself in full glory, but this little river full of freshly dropped golden ginkgo leaves was very pretty.

Driving home, we decided it a fitting end to the day to show Kat the landmark of Fukuoka's Momochi Beach: Fukuoka Tower.

By then, it was all over but the goodbyes - a short but very sweet little trip. Thanks for visiting, Kat (and thanks for turning on the sunshine for two perfect-weather days, Fukuoka!) Whenever I get the opportunity to show people around I feel proud and happy to call this beautiful city home.


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