PLACES TO GO
CANAL CITY - I remember Oscar quoted a while back that this place wouldn't look out of place in The Jetsons. A dynamic, futuristic structure that wraps itself around a violin-shaped artificial canal and composes of a multi-screen cinema, a decent amount of shops, a theater, hotels, video-arcades, and for the famished, Ramen Stadium on the top floor. Canal City was designed by American architect Jon Jerde in 1996. Looking at the thing, I think it's obvious the guys probably built a few casinos in his time. It's a bright, catchy-looking establishment that attracts a lot of entertainers and even has dancing water-fountains with accompanying music aka DisneyWorld.
Great place for a date, or to take mom and pop if they're over visiting.
MOMOCHI BEACH - Forget about bothering to see this place in the colder seasons, but once the heat starts creeping its way into Fukuoka this is exactly the place to navigate yourself to.Warm tides,
Picturesque almond sand, weird jumping fish???. Just be careful not to go for a dip after late August because thatfs exactly when the jellyfish come out to play and let me tell you from personal experience ? they have a sting that hurts like a sonofabitch.
After all, this is Kyushu, what better place to bum an afternoon than down the beach.
Though itfs just not the same without fish & chips and rollmop herrings, that doesnft stop the sun being damn hot, and man do the babes like to occupy this place when the rays are out. This place gets so packed sometimes you might have to wrestle somebodies grandma for a decent spot to sit on. That or call out eShark!f.
Momochi also has more to offer than sand, with plenty of restaurants and stalls to gratify the peckish and a library just round the corner should you fancy a good place to break from the sun.
NOKONOSHIMA - Itfs such a pretty place in the summer you half expect to be greeted by a beige-suited Mr.Rourke and his midget Tattoo.
Nice little party-island if ever there was one. Saying that, visit there around 14th May when the place becomes host to ... a jammin' reggae festival that brings a lot of well-known names to Fukuoka.
Some really good grilled fish restaurants.
- Located on the 8th floor of the IMS Building on Watanabe Dori you will find the Rainbow Plaza. This is a good pitstop for sightseerfs and foreign residents alike. Rainbow Plaza is exactly the same as the international plaza you'll find in other big cities in Japan. What that means is that it is the place to go with any of the queries you have about Fukuoka, where they have English-speaking staff behind the service desk waiting to help you out with those queries, advertisement boards for those offering/seeking a job/place to live or to sell furniture or to look for a language-exchange partner, a million brochures on display for every imaginable service a foreigner might find themselves in want of, and a mini-library. Free internet is available there for 30 minute periods on a first-come first-served basis. For those in need of it, the Plaza also offers free counseling days for those with legal, health, immigration, and pyschological problems.
Itfs also a decent place to call (tel : 0927332220;fax - 0927332215) before you decide to come live in Fukuoka for a while, just to find out what the current job/accommodation situation is looking like on the boards.
The Plaza also produces its own bite-sized newsletter in English with some good particulars on Kyushu and the current events in the Fukuoka prefecture. They usually have a compiled list of the concerts, exhibitions, sports games, and whatfs playing at the movies that month.
You can pick up a copy of Fukuoka Now, an essential free monthly tabloid that contains most of the juice on what's happening Fukuoka that current month, (emphasis on the foreign scene) with articles available not only in English, but also Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese. It's a superb little publication that contains info on really anything a weekend tourist would ever want to find out in order to enjoy themselves in Fukuoka, including good restaurant guides and the lowdown on all the bars/clubs that good-looking people like you and me are going to.
Just as a sidenote, the IMS building is also host to the Sony Plaza on the basement floor. They import Western candy amongst other things, so if you are ever grasped with the sudden urge to snack on a Swiss chocolate bar or American sour cream Pretzels, this is the place to seek.
- Although this isn't really any kind of establishment, it's worth a mention as a great place simply to hang-out at. Come Friday or Saturday night at around 2am this little area is alive with babes and guys all coming out of clubs for a rest away from loud music and something to chew-on. This means 'nanpa'-central for any gaijin because you have the benefit of having chicks that are wasted and in a boogy-mood along and every question you ask won't be answered with "What? I can't hear what the hell you're saying!!"
- Located on Watanabe Dori (the 'center' of Fukouka) on the same side as the Mitsukoshi but a couple of blocks further north is this tidy little pub on the 4th floor of a nameless building. Look for the colourful rainbow sign at the 1st floor entrance.
This place is not so much international as in itfs there strictly to to cater for foreigners, but it is staffed by them, and as a result English is the dominant language in the premises. It's a Snack bar minus the expensive cover you would pay anywhere else, with a karaoke room and drunken salarymen everywhere. Staff behind the bar are chatty and welcoming and most of the Japanese who go there are there to practice their English and make foreign friends, thus are quite approachable.. It's not everybodies cup of tea, the International Bar, for a start, itfs quite small and not a place you can hide away on your own in the corner, the price of the drinks are a little on the steep side - 500 for a beer, 700 for a cocktail. Some nights the place is as quiet as a cemetary, but still, it has itfs perks, some cool regulars, tasty food, a relaxing pull-up-a-chair-by-the-bar sort of atmosphere, great staff members who are genuinely enjoying themselves, and music not so loud you have to scream in order to have a conversation. You'll always see a few foreigners huddling around a table at the weekend, but just note that this it's not really a 'Friday-night' kind of place with a thumping atmosphere but more of a pub you might drop into for a pint on the way to somewhere else. Not really the kind of place to go pick-up chicks - though I'm not saying it doesn't happen, wink wink.
Open everyday from 18:30 - 2 am
SAM & DAVES
- NishiDori, next to the Tenjin Center Hotel and above Kitamura Camera. 3F
Sam & Daves is a franchise club that originally comes from Osaka and has only recently spread down here to Kyushu. Most of the staff there are foreigners but I'd be disinclined to call it a 'gaijin night-club' since the ratio of gaijin to Japanese clubbers probably favours the Japanese proportion. The club is smart and modern looking with trendy-lighting and a dancefloor a little larger than most of the others in Fukuoka. The DJfs have got some talent and the place pulls in a good-size crowd on the weekend ? sometimes it even gets real ass-to-wall. Do the hot chicks go there? Yes they do.
Sam & Davefs is probably the best choice for the new guy in town. Other places such as Safari and Happy Cock might pull in a sluttier crowd, but Sam & Daves offers what most are used to ? musical anthems to suit the masses, unshocking drink prices, special events, and chicks galore.
Mon + Tue Closed. Wed + Thur Open 7pm ? 4am No Cover. Fri + Sat Open 7pm ? 5am. Charge- Men 2000 yen 2 drinks free, Women 1000 yen 1 drink free from 9pm.
THE DARK ROOM
- Tenjin Baccus Building 8F. OyafukuDori. A little further past the Yoshinoya at the entrance of the street.
This is a gaijin-run club/pub or 'Urban Rock Bar' as it likes to call itself in the magazine ads. If good music is what you're looking for, you're likely to find it at the Dark Room. If a cramped, dingy, overexposed and almost non-existant dancefloor is your flavour you'll also find it at the Dark Room. This is the most eforeignf of the clubs you can find in Fukuoka and there are nights when it seems as if there arenft any Japanese there. Despite a 1000 yen for 3 drinks special the Dark Room doesnft crowd up much even on weekends. There's nothing wrong with the staff, or the price of the drinks, I think it's just the dodgy atmosphere and
However, there is one saving grace in the form of a rooftop patio which opens during the summer, a little more spacious than downstairs and great in the summer, a nice place to chill out in the baking 34 degree nights you can get in Fukuoka on occasion. Thursday night is probably the busiest night for the bar, when they offer 100 yen cans of beer. This and the rooftop are a lethal combination for a good time.
Far too many regulars even on a Saturday to offer a clubby atmosphere. The Voodoo Lounge offers a similar deal and has a more balanced mixture of Japanese and foreigners alike.
Thursday 9pm-10pm 100 yen beers.9pm-12pm 300 yen Corona. Friday & Saturday 1000 yen 3 drinks free (or 500 yen before 11)
VOODOO LOUNGE - From Oyafukudori Yoshinoya go one block East (towards Watanabi Dori) and then take a left. You should see 3rd floor sign.
I haven't spent much time at the Voodoo lounge which, for me, is only worth visiting every Thursday at 9pm for the 100 yen-a-beer (off the tap) hour. I prefer the Voodoo Lounge to the Dark Room because it feels less like a Social club and you might
SAFARI - Just down the street from the Family Mart on Oyafukudori is this little dance club which doesn't come alive until after 1am. 1000 yen entrance with 1 drink. People start to flood in and by 3 it's a total meat-market complete with Russian and Filipino hookers on a break. Hey, I'm not saying that's a bad thing - it adds to the atmosphere. In fact, I'd say that this is probably the best club for the money in Fukuoka. For those preferring a classy(ish) or at least normal atmosphere I recommend Sam & Daves, however, the dark corners and the Hip Hop ass-shaking atmosphere of Safari reeks of opportunity and endevours it more towards the kind of gaijin looking not for real love but fast love. The inhibition-free dancefloor isn't huge but it gets jam-packed with some fine-looking birds of every nation grinding down to whatever the DJ spins, usually waaay into the early morning. As if that weren't enough, there's a roomy seating area in the back for those with tired feet or people wanting to get to know each-other without having to tear their vocal chords or pass notes.
More importantly, feastings of hot jungle 'pussy'
Fridays & Saturdays only. 1000 yen - 1 free drink. 1am to ???
Happy Cock has a lot more to offer in terms of space and class than most of the other clubs. Whilst not quite Sam & Daves, At the time of writing, it's being reconstructed, and I have In fact it almost has the inverse problem that Happy Cock suffers from in the way that therefs almost too much space and not enough punters to fill it, leaving the single dude in town feeling exposed and finding himself with the need to get talking to a chick quickly or else risk being seen as Billy-no-friends. On their website they have videos of people packing the place out but I've personally never seen it like that except on event nights. Saying that, the staff they're are much friendlier and matey than the moody twats that work at Sam & Daves. But who cares about staff? What's the poon like? Not bad I say, old chap. Pretty much the good type of girl that is sick of finding herself
Open Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 6 - 1AM. Weekend Fri/Sat 6 - 5AM. 1000 yen - 1 free drink
FU-BAR - Oyafukudori, in the same building as The Dark Room.
Upon entry it is clear that there has been some mischief going on with the flyers advertising this as a decent place as you find yourself in a trashy shoebox of a place with barely room the room to move around and hardly the capacity to hold more than 40 people.
The only thing going for this place is it's clever promotion. They use the same tricks as the dudes in Roppongi, people handing out flyers outside and everything really give you the impression that it's one of Fukuoka's better clubs, and yet it completely sucks in comparison to Sam & Daves or Safari. The dance floor is tight and if you ever attempt to cut the rug on it you'll feel like a pachinko ball bouncing off the chests of GI's on weekend release.
Avoid it if you're looking to have a real weekend.
KARATSU BURGER VAN
- not that it's anything to write home about, and frankly, being that I'm not even sure you can access it by anything other than car, it was debatable as to whether or not to include this in the Fukuoka guide. If you head 40km West along Route 202 out of Fukuoka, you'll eventually find tucked away in a little wooden glade, the almost unfathomably famous Karatsu Burger truck. I'll be the last one to say this isn't a decent burger, it is. It's just not so unforgettably good that you'll be shouting it from the hills, and compared to a decent American-style grilled cheese and tomato ghetto burger, it pales. Compared to MOS Burger, it pales.
Unfortunately, it's just another one of Japan's attempts of sandbagging itself into believing every prefecture really has itself it's own gastronomic or monumental masterpiece that is worth going the extra mile to get to, when it is not.
"Go to Hiroshima, try the okinomiyaki, because its... 'special'"
I did, now could you tell me why it's so special?
"Osaka has the best takoyaki." Still trying to find out, why? Tastes the same as everywhere else to me.
The Tokai Tower in Sapporo is written about as if it were St.Paul's Cathedral, but one look at it and you'll laugh and think your Uncle Jim who's the builder could knock something up like that in a day. Sadly, this is often the case with pretty much any prefectural prominance.
So why go all the way to Karatsu for a burger? Because you're bored, and want a nice scenic drive over pretty Kyushu beaches and rocky islets off the coast. And that's exactly what the trip offers. Chilling out with the dudes and enjoying the sun, the sand, and the road. Worth an hour or so in the car, I reckon.