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Why flourishing Fukuoka has something for every traveller

From zen gardens and temples, to youth music, bars and shops, the Liverpool of Japan has delights at every turn

Nearly 15 years on from my first visit, Fukuoka, on the north coast of Japan’s Kyushu island, feels like a city fulfilling its potential. When I stepped off the plane in 1999, the colleague who drove me to my apartment introduced the city as “the Liverpool of Japan”. The analogy had to do with its position as an international port, as well as a spate of minor hits that the city’s Mentai Rock scene produced in the early 1980s.

That run of chart luck, unexpected for a city some 700 miles from Tokyo’s hipsters, reinforced a local spirit of independence, and today Fukuoka seems to have outgrown its old Gateway-to-Kyushu label, seeing itself more as a Gateway to Asia. Its proximity to the Asian mainland has attracted a rich, cosmopolitan population, and with KLM having just launched direct flights from Europe, there’s no reason why it can’t vie for some of the international tourism afforded Honshu’s big hitters.

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