It’s time for A to Wa of Japan again! Last week’s post was about things beginning with ひ (hi) and we looked at hitsumabushi (櫃まぶし).This week we are looking at things beginning with ふ (fu). A big thank you to those who joined in with suggestions this week:
Japan Australia suggested Fuji-san (富士山 / Mount Fuji), fugu (フグ / blowfish), furin (風鈴 / a Japanese wind chime), and Fukuoka (福岡 / a city and prefecture in Kyushu); Zooming Japan suggested Fukuoka, Fukui (福井 / a city and prefecture in Chubu), Fukuyama (福山 / a city in Hiroshima Prefecture), and Fuji-san; and Jay Dee suggested Fukushima (福島 / a city and prefecture in Tohoku), Fukuoka, furikake (振り掛け / a dry Japanese condiment, usually served with rice), Fukui, Fuji-san, futon (布団 / Japanese bedding), fundoshi (褌 / traditional undergarment for men), and Fuji Safari Park (富士サファリパーク).
There were some really great ideas this week, and in the end I decided to write about…
I think the first time I ever hear of Fukuoka was in the film Lost in Translation, when John and Charlotte run into ditzy actress Kelly. It’s a place that’s become a lot more well-known now, especially since KLM launched their service from Amsterdam to Fukuoka earlier this year, making it much more accessible than it used to be. Fukuoka City (福岡市), the capital of Fukuoka Prefecture (福岡県), is on the northern shore of the island of Kyushu, approximately 550 miles from Tokyo.
I’ve never been to Fukuoka, and I’ve never been to Kyushu but, along with many other destinations in Japan, it’s on my list! This year, Fukuoka was ranked 12th in a list of the ‘world’s most livable cities’ by Monocle magazine, due partly to its green spaces in a metropolitan setting.
Fukuoka has everything you would expect to find in a modern Japanese city; as this Guardian article Why flourishing Fukuoka has something for every traveller says: “From zen gardens and temples, to youth music, bars and shops, the Liverpool of Japan has delights at every turn”.
Whilst Fukuoka doesn’t have a huge amount in the way of traditional sightseeing spots, there are certainly places which are well worth a visit. One of the attractions I always hear about is the vast amount of food stalls, or ‘yatai’ (屋台), scattered throughout Fukuoka and in particular along the banks of the Nakagawa. Naturally, these open-air food stalls are most popular on Friday and Saturday nights when the weather is nice, but they are open most of the time. These yatai serve food such as yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), oden (hot pot) and the dish everyone wants to try: Hakata Ramen (a kind of tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen).
If you’re after a bit of history and culture, Fukuoka has that too. Shofukuji (聖福寺), the first Zen temple constructed in Japan, is an attractive building with nice gardens, founded in 1195 and most recently rebuilt in 1911.
This temple looks really interesting but, personally, if I were to visit Fukuoka I would be heading straight to Nanzoin, a temple which is a little out of town in the Sasaguri area.
Nanzoin appeals to me because of its huge reclining Buddha statue. You know how much I like big Buddhas!
You can read more about the temple and see some really gorgeous photos of it here.
If castles are your thing, Fukuoka also has castle ruins in Maizuru Park. Fukuoka Castle (福岡城) used to be the largest castle in Kyushu, but it was torn down after the Meiji Restoration (1868 – 1912). Now, the castle park is a prime spot for cherry blossom viewing in spring.
One of the best times to visit Fukuoka (if you can find a place to stay) would be July, to coincide with the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival. The festival is held in the first half of July and finishes with a race of festival floats in the early morning hours of July 15th. As well as the race of smaller floats, there are displays of larger floats across the city. Here’s a great article about the festival from Fukuoka NOW.
Next week we’ll start with へ (he), so please leave a comment below suggesting a topic for things beginning with へ. Topics can be anything, as long as they are connected to Japan – food, places, people, characters, whatever you want to hear about! Just remember that the words you suggest must be Japanese words.
I look forward to hearing your suggestions! (*^_^)v