I’m guessing some of you are already planning your first quarter trip for 2019, so I thought now would be the perfect time to FINALLY publish my Fukuoka travel series. To kick things off is this round-up of the best places we got to see cherry blossoms in Fukuoka during our visit. I have to say, this trip was one of the most memorable ones I’ve had in Japan so far. There was a lot of sakura and a little bit of everything else. My heart feels full just looking back!
The magic of seeing cherry blossoms in full bloom is hard to explain in words, so I’m doing it in photos and videos instead. I hope you guys will enjoy this Fukuoka series. I have a ton to share!
Before, I would easily tell you that autumn is my favorite season, but after spending spring in Fukuoka, I feel like changing my mind. I believe this was the first among all my trips to Japan that I really saw the sakura in their full glory. And what an amazing sight it was.
Sakura season is beautiful and yet it is so fleeting that even the Japanese themselves go out of their way to take it in despite witnessing the sight every year. They sit on their picnic blankets and sometimes just look out in quiet contemplation, snacks untouched beside them; as if hypnotized by the gentle, dancing petals. We visited five spots within the Fukuoka prefecture that really fulfilled my hanami dreams, and I give you a little glimpse in the video below:
Fukuoka is a prefecture on Japan’s Kyushu island, and its capital, Fukuoka City, is the sixth largest city in Japan. It isn’t a place that’s heavily visited by tourists compared to Osaka and Tokyo, which is why I love love loved the less crowded travel experience. A part of me wants to keep this place to myself, but it would be such a shame not to share all the things I saw here. The cherry blossoms in Fukuoka were no joke!
To easily travel around Fukuoka, get yourself an IC card if you don’t have one already. I even had my Hayakaken Card customized with my name. The card itself costs 500 yen but the best part about it is you can use this card almost everywhere else in Japan where there are subways and buses. These are one of the things I love collecting when I travel to different countries. I always feel like I can go anywhere armed with a smart card!
For places like Yanagawa and Dazaifu, the Nishitetsu Train line offers a special roundtrip ticket for a discounted fee that will run from Fukuoka City to Dazaifu and Yanagawa then back. I will discuss that further once I get to my posts about those two places so stay tuned. For now, let’s do this round-up of the 5 places we visited that has really put Fukuoka among my top choices for cherry blossom viewing!
1. Atago Shrine
The Atago Shrine in Fukuoka City is just one of many shrines dedicated to fire god Atago-sama around Japan. Most of these shrines are found in mountainous areas, so there will be a bit of a trek and some stairs involved during your visit, but I promise the sights are completely worth it.
This sacred shrine regularly hosts cherry blossom festivals at the first half of April, but it wasn’t so crowded when we visited. We got to really enjoy the cherry blossoms in a leisurely manner. Aside from that, you can also get a lovely view of Fukuoka City from the shrine’s yard.
On your way to Atago Shrine, you may pass by a series of torii gates along the road. I highly suggest a short visit to that shrine, called the Atago Otojiro Inari Shrine. There aren’t cherry blossoms inside the shrine itself, but it’s such a pleasant and quiet place to visit on a lovely spring day.
To get to Atago Shrine from Fukuoka City:
- Use the Fukuoka City Subway Kuko Line and alight at Muromi Station, then walk for 13 minutes to the shrine.
- Ride the No. 1 or No. 9 Nishitetsu Bus and alight at the Atagoshita Bus Stop. From there it’s an 8-minute walk.
[READ MORE about Atago Shrine HERE.]
2. Nokonoshima Island Park
One of the most stunning parks I have ever been to in my life, the Nokonoshima Island Park is a must-visit for anyone touring Fukuoka during the cherry blossom season. This island park sits right in the middle of Hakata Bay, so you can only get to it by ferry.
It’s such a stunning place, and I think these few photos I included in this post can speak for themselves. Speaking of photos, make sure to allot many hours here because you will GO CRAZY snapping pretty photos. My family and I had a blast posing with the cherry blossoms. (More photos in the individual post!)
Apart from cherry blossoms, the park also has a ton of other beautiful flowers, and the field of rapeseed flowers that overlooks the Hakata Bay is just picture-perfect!
To get to Nokonoshima Park:
- Take the Fukuoka City Subway Kuko Line and alight at Meinohama Station. From here, take the Nishitetsu Bus from Meinohama-eki Kitaguchi Bus Stop and get off at Noko-dosenba Ferry Terminal. The island is reachable by a 10-minute ferry ride.
- If coming from Hakata Station Bus Terminal, directly take the Nishitetsu Bus and get off at Noko-dosenba Ferry Terminal. The island is reachable by a 10-minute ferry ride.
[READ MORE about Nokonoshima Island Park HERE.]
Our visit to Dazaifu was mostly centered around touring Dazaifu Tenman-gu, and I have to say this is probably the most beautiful shrine compound I have visited in Japan so far. It’s about half an hour away from the Fukuoka City Center by train and absolutely worth the trip!
The shrine itself is quite a sight, but you can spend so much time exploring the nooks and crannies found in the shrine grounds. Everywhere you turn is lovely. We found a little quiet corner where the sakura trees were abundant, and it’s a nice place to rest your feet after walking so much. Where else to do it but underneath a cherry blossom tree right?
If you’re a bit tired and hungry from all the walking, go right ahead and stop by the many shops lining the way to the shrine. You can pick up mochi stuffed with strawberries and the specialty umegai-mochi as a snack!
To get to Dazaifu from Fukuoka City:
- From the JR Tenjin Station take the Omuta Line Limited Express Train, then switch to the local Dazaifu Line at Nishitetsu Futsukaichi Station. Alight at Dazaifu Station. The shrine will be just a 250-meter walk away!
[READ MORE about Dazaifu HERE.]
If you’re looking for a more unique way to see cherry blossoms in Fukuoka, then Yanagawa is the way to go! It’s about an hour away from the Fukuoka City Center, but it is here where you get to experience literally gliding underneath the cherry blossom trees in a wooden boat. Without a doubt, this scenic ride through the moats of the Yana River is the highlight of your visit to Yanagawa.
Most of the boatmen don’t speak English, so it’s sad that we didn’t quite understand many of the historical things he discussed on the boat, but I really loved when he sang us a local song about Yanagawa.
Yanagawa is actually farther from Fukuoka City compared to Dazaifu, but the two places can be visited within one day if you like. We actually came to Yanagawa in the morning and rushed off to Dazaifu in the afternoon using the Nishitetsu train ticket I mentioned above. That allows you to visit both places in one day for a discounted price. I’ll talk about it in their individual posts later. If you really want to explore though, allotting one whole day should be good enough.
To get to Yanagawa from Fukuoka City:
- From the Nishitetsu Fukuoka (Tenjin) Station, take the Nishitetsu Tenjin-Omuta Line and alight at the Nishitetsu Yanagawa Station. There should be various companies offering the Yanagawa Punting experience about 5 minutes away.
[READ MORE about Yanagawa HERE.]
5. Maizuru Park
This was a semi-accidental discovery for us actually. We didn’t really include this park in our itinerary, but when we decided to walk around one evening after dinner, we saw the lighted sakura trees from the distance like a beacon. This park is just about 15 minutes’ walk from Fukuoka center Tenjin, and it’s built around the Fukuoka Castle ruins. The ruins were already closed so we just lingered around this area.
I have never seen cherry blossoms all lit up like this at night before. It really provides a completely different look to the cherry blossoms. They look a lot pinker, don’t they? I of course prefer them in the mornings even though they look more white less pink then.
To get to Maizuru Park from Fukuoka City:
- Use the City Loop Bus and alight at Heiwadai Korokan-mae or at Fukuoka Jyouato Fukuoka-shi Bijyutsukan Higashi-guchi. From there, it’s less than 10 minutes away by foot.
- Use the Nishitetsu Bus and alight at Otemon or Heiwadai-korokan-mae Nishitetsu Bus stop. From there, it’s less than 10 minutes away by foot.
- Use the Fukuoka City Subway Kuko Line and alight at Akasaka or Ohorikoen Station. From there, it’s less than 10 minutes away by foot.
I hope I’ve given you a good preview of what to expect from this series. I’m really excited to share this series with you because I’ve managed to snap a ton of pretty pictures and make some nice travel videos that hopefully highlight the beauty of spring in Japan as well as the feeling of seeing the cherry blossoms in Fukuoka.
Spending spring in Fukuoka was so therapeutic for my soul. What is it with Japan that draws me to it so much? The experience of exploring this country is always so different depending on the place and the season. Often it feels like wondrous surprises are always waiting at every corner, be it sights or food. No matter how many times I’ve come and gone, I cannot get enough.