Nagasaki Prefecture and Fukuoka Prefecture are located in the southwest of Japan in Kyushu. Both prefectures boast a treasure trove of historical, traditional and cultural wealth. As the two are situated near each other, travellers – more often than not – would make the effort to visit the two together in a trip.
The first time I set foot on Fukuoka, I felt it has the spirit of a small town, but the infrastructure of a large city. Of course, you get to shop and eat like in any city, but its best selling point should be the Hataka Ramen or pork bone broth Tonkotsu Ramen. When it comes to shopping, there is Canal City and Tenjin area with the street front shops and various departmental stores.
If you have enough of ramen, with Fukuoka port bringing in various seafood, you can also try mentaiko. Mentaiko or marinated pollock roe is not unusual in the Japanese food scene and commonly sold by street peddlers. One of the best places to try mentaiko in various dishes is at Ganso Hakata Mentaiju. Make sure you get the set so you can try all the dishes.
An annual traditional festival was happening on the weekend when I was in town. Called the Hakata Okunchi, it has a history of over 1,200 years old. During the festival, devotees give thanks to the gods for the autumn’s harvest. During the procession, an ox-drawn carriage pulls an ornate mikoshi (divine palanquin/portable shrine), while children in traditional kimono, tachi-eboshi (brimless headgear worn by court nobles) and tengan (crowns) walk with the mikoshi.
About two hours from Hakata, a day trip to Nagasaki is highly possible. Nagasaki was the second city of Japan targeted by the Americans with the atomic bomb after Hiroshima, and so a visit to the Peace Park and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is a must. Then there’s the famous Gunkanjima Island or Hashima Island that was once a mining island and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
If you are hungry for something special, Shikairou’s Champon noodles should be at the top of your food list. There are arguably better champon noodle restaurant in and around Nagasaki, but it don’t beat having it at the restaurant that started it all. My tip is to go early so you can see the sun setting over the Nagasaki port as you slurp up the champon.
Getting Around Kyushu
With direct flights from Singapore, Fukuoka is very accessible now. Fukuoka city is also well served by hostels and hotels and there is surely one that will match your budget. With the Japanese yen now more affordable, eating out is not as expensive as it was. A bowl of ramen is around S$12 to S$13 at quick eats such as Ichiran Ramen.
Like the rest of Japan, getting a JR train pass will bring you to more places at a much cheaper rate. There are buses too but if you are travelling in a small group of four, renting a car is definitely another feasible option.