Fukuoka’s most lively neighborhood is distinguished by its particular and idiosyncratic local culture, still on display in its artistic life.
One of Japan’s oldest cities, Hakata holds a particular sway over the Japanese cultural imagination. Long a port city open to China and Korea, it developed a distinct local culture that has influenced all of Japan, from famous Hakata ningyo dolls to tonkotsu ramen. The city of Hakata joined with Fukuoka in 1889. Wander along the streets of Hakata today and appreciate its special atmosphere, characterized by a concerted artistic imagination and respect for tradition.
Hakata is perhaps best known for its exuberant festivals, the most famous of which is the Hakata Gion Yamakasa. A parade departs from the small but mighty Kushida Shrine, full of spiritual artifacts, from Mongolian ship anchors to a lucky fountain said to bring longevity. Get a taste of another kind of spirituality at the nearby Sumiyoshi Shrine. Listen for snippets of the local Hakata dialect.
Visit the ward’s museums to widen your understanding of the local ethos. See the cutting edge of Japanese and continental art at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, known for its wide collection of contemporary Asian art. Get a sense of a more traditional Hakata at the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum, where traditional artisans practice their craft in front of you.
Pick up handmade souvenirs at the folk museum or wander around Canal City Hakata, a “city within the city,” with a huge range of boutiques and entertainment options. Catch a show at the Hakataza Theater.
Hakata is well connected to Fukuoka and the larger Kyushu Region. Fukuoka Airport and Fukuoka Ferry Port are located in the ward, a short subway ride from many major tourist attractions. Fukuoka’s main train station lies within Hakata’s boundaries. A robust bus system supplements the subway to make it easy to reach from anywhere in the city. Car rentals are available from the airport, although parking can be difficult to find near the major tourist sites.
After a long day of visiting Hakata’s museums and more, get refreshed with a visit to the Rakusuien Gardens, where blooming trees and meticulous landscaping offer a pleasant escape.