A port town boasting Japan's oldest Zen temple, biggest festival, and famous ramen
Once a prominent merchant town, Hakata is known today as Fukuoka's business hub, but it also offers a wealth of culture and several major festivals, including the Yamakasa and Gion Dontaku . The latter draws millions of spectators. Hakata's signature ramen brings many fans to the city, too.
Hakata Station is one of Fukuoka's main transport hubs, with excellent connections to greater Kyushu and the rest of Japan.
- The Hakata area's two major festivals—the Hakata Dontaku and the Hakata Gion Yamakasa
- The port with ferry connections to various exotic Kyushu islands and South Korea
- A trip to Shofukuji, Japan's oldest Zen temple
How To Get There
The Hakata area is in front of Hakata Station, a major bullet train station and transport hub.
Hakata Station is the city's main station and connects Fukuoka to the rest of Kyushu and Japan via bullet train. You can reach the station in as little as five hours from Tokyo or two and a half hours from Osaka. The station has a large bus terminal with buses to a number of cities across Kyushu .
The Hakata area used to be a merchant town before it merged with the castle town of Fukuoka to become the modern-day city of Fukuoka . Hakata's distinct personality still remains though, and the area has its own distinct traditions and attractions.
Straight to the top
It's worth spending some time wandering around the station superstructure. While the ground floor is dedicated to the business of trains—and some tasty bakeries—the upper levels of the building are dedicated to shopping. On the roof of the building is a rather un-advertised open-air garden, a great first point of call to get your bearings in Fukuoka and to see the city from above.
A city with big-scale spectacles
The Hakata area hosts two major festivals each year, the Hakata Dontaku and Hakata Gion Yamakasa . The Hakata Dontaku , a parade extravaganza, takes place during Golden Week in May. It is the most attended festival in Japan, with two to three million people attending annually and over 30,000 participants.
The Hakata Gion Yamakasa , held in July, features one-ton floats being raced through the streets of Hakata at 6 a.m. with cheering crowds splashing water onto the participants to cool them down.
Reisen Park, towards Nakasu , is the launchpad for several of the city's lesser-known events, including the now-annual Oktoberfest and the Pride Parade.
Temples and shrines
Hakata has a number of venerable temples and shrines. Shofukuji Temple was the first Zen temple ever to be built in Japan. It was founded in 1195 by the priest Eisai, who introduced Japan to the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism from China. Tochoji Temple houses a 10.8-meter wooden statue of Buddha, one of the largest of its kind in Japan.
Sumiyoshi Jinja is a shrine with close ties to sumo, and a ceremony attended by top-tier sumo wrestlers is held every year before the start of the November Grand Sumo Competition . Each November, many shrines in the area participate in the Hakata Lightup Festival. From dusk until late evening, the shrines are gloriously illuminated.
Trains, buses, and boats
The Hakata area is part of the 100 yen bus loop, and two subway lines converge beneath the station. The Hakata Port area connects Fukuoka to several islands within Japan and to Busan in South Korea. The Hakata Port Tower is free and offers views across the eastern part of the city.
A local culinary treat the world loves
Hakata lends its name to one of the most widely consumed types of ramen within Japan and internationally—Hakata tonkotsu ramen. The pork bone broth is distinctive in taste and aroma, and numerous restaurants across Fukuoka serve the dish. The true Fukuoka way to try this ramen is at one of the city's many yatai street stalls.