A luxury itinerary: Fukuoka

This Japanese metropolis has long been considered the gateway to Asia, but it is also the gateway to the beautiful southern island of Kyushu. Siobhan Plowman explores all that there is to discover in Japan’s sixth largest city and beyond.

There is certainly no moment to spare when visiting Fukuoka. Bursting with a rich, cosmopolitan population, this city continues to find its place on the world map. In addition to exploring the city, take advantage of its location and head out to some of the nearby towns, including Kurokawa, a charming onsen town famous for its abundance of hot springs and luxury ryokans. Then, upon return to Fukuoka, take the ultra-luxurious Seven Stars sleeper train and experience all that the picturesque island of Kyushu has to offer.

Often referred to as Hakata, Fukuoka is one of Japan’s largest cities with more than 1.5 million residents. Its close proximity to the Asian mainland has resulted in a blending of cultures; the city’s plethora of museums and institutions reflect strong Korean and Chinese influence. In Fukuoka one can find a bit of everything, from traditional shrines and festivals to beaches, islands, shopping and nightlife. Nakasu has been the city’s red light district since the 16th century, and is famous for its collection of yatai stalls alongside the Naka river. A sea of neon lights, these traditional open-air food stalls seat around seven to eight people and are notoriously busy on a Friday and Saturday evening. Fukuoka is also home to one of the six Sumo wresting grand tournaments. Book a zabuton (tatami mat) seat to get fully involved in the experience— angry locals often throw their mats onto the stage when angry. After a long day of exploring, head back and relax at one of the many luxury hotels throughout the city. The Grand Hyatt’s Presidential Suite offers 188 metres of spacious living, complete with grand piano.

Only two hours’ drive from the city is Kurokawa, an onsen (hot spring) resort town with a very quiet and tranquil atmosphere. Located in a forested valley with a river running through the centre, the town has a village-like feel and is free from the larger hotel chains. Public bath houses and attractive boutique shops and cafes line the stone laneways, and little bridges directly connect the ryokan over the river. Explore the various outdoor hot springs on a ‘Rotemburo Meguri’ (‘tour of outdoor baths’) and walk through the town dressed in traditional yukata and geta sandals. For a luxurious ryokan experience, Takefue resort and spa is situated among 32 acres of lush bamboo forest and offers 12 expansive luxury lodges, each housing private outdoor and indoor baths. 

Once fully pampered, head back to the city to board one of Japan’s most luxurious sleeper trains. The opulent 14-suite Seven Stars takes guests on a four-day journey throughout Kyushu, visiting all of the key attractions. Experiences include a walk in Yufuin and watching the sun set over the East China Sea. 

Getting there

All Nippon Airways (Japan’s only 5-Star SKYTRAX rated airline) offer daily flights to Tokyo from Sydney starting at A$863, connecting to more than 40 airports across Japan. More than 20 flights operate daily to Fukuoka from Tokyo.

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From March to May and September to November, Japan experiences little rainfall, clear weather and mild temperatures. These spring and autumn periods are also known for their blooming cherry blossoms and autumn leaves respectively. Summer is to be avoided in big cities, especially Tokyo, as the weather is hot and humid. Winter provides Japan’s famous powder skiing, at its peak between December and February.

 

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