Is it Hakata or Fukuoka? And is it Worth Visiting?

For this Japanese city, one name just isn’t enough. 

Have you ever wondered why you arrive at Hakata Station when your ticket says Fukuoka? 

Well, you’re not alone.

Fukuoka, also known as Hakata, is a city with dueling identities, and each has a rich history and vibrant present. And while this tale of two names might be the main attraction, Fukuoka has plenty more to offer curious travelers than a unique history.

We’ll explore the founding history of this foodie paradise and discover the can’t-miss attractions that make Fukuoka a top destination on Japan’s travel map.

A tale of two names

Fukuoka didn’t always have an identity crisis. 

Originally known as Hakata, it was a vital trading hub with connections to China and Korea, bustling with artisans and merchants. This changed in the 17th century when Lord Nagamasa Kuroda christened Fukuoka in honor of his ancestral land. 

Fast-forward to 1889, and as modern governance structures took shape, the 2 names merged occurred in somewhat contentious circumstances. 

During the city’s renaming process, supporters of both titles—Hakata and Fukuoka—couldn’t settle on a single name. 

The story goes that in a decisive, yet slightly ridiculous, meeting where some legislators were supposedly locked in toilets to sway the vote, the chairman, a former samurai from Fukuoka, broke a tie in favor of Fukuoka. 

And thus, the city was officially named Fukuoka. But the name Hakata lives on in the old district, train and bus stations, and local businesses, a choice that continues to perplex visitors and locals alike​.

Culinary paradise: Fukuoka’s food scene

If you’re just starting to plan your trip to Fukuoka, make sure you carve out time to sample the famous local cuisine. 

Yatai food stand, Naka river bank, a tourist enjoys a bowl of Hakata Ramen also called Tonkotsu, famous local food specialty, thick noodle soup with pork fat. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Tonkotsu ramen: A local invention

Fukuoka’s claim to culinary fame is tonkotsu ramen, characterized by its cloudy, rich pork-bone broth and thin, firm noodles. This dish, perfected in Fukuoka, is a staple at local ramen shops, including the famed Hakata Issou, where the aroma of simmering broth beckons locals and tourists alike​.

Beyond ramen: Other culinary delights

While ramen might be a highlight, Fukuoka’s gastronomic landscape has other exciting dishes to get stuck into.

  • Mentaiko

Spicy marinated cod roe that’s a favorite local delicacy.

  • Yatai Stalls

Mobile food stalls where you can enjoy everything from ramen to yakitori.

  • Hakata Gyoza

These pan-fried dumplings are often doused with a citrusy ponzu sauce.

  • Chicken Nanban

Marinated fried chicken slathered in a sweet and tangy sauce.

  • Motsunabe

A beloved comfort food, this hotpot dish traditionally features beef or pork offal.

  • Udon

Served in a distinct style, this udon is topped with spicy cod roe or tempura.

  • Sasa Dango

These sweet rice dumplings are delicately wrapped in bamboo leaves.

Must-visit attractions in Fukuoka

Once you’ve filled up on Ramen, there are plenty of things to see and do in Fukuoka, thanks to its treasure trove of cultural and contemporary attractions.

  • Ohori Park

A serene escape in the city center, perfect for leisurely strolls or boat rides.

  • Fukuoka Castle Ruins

Located in Maizuru Park in the middle of the city, these ruins offer a glimpse into the past.

  • Canal City Hakata 

A massive shopping and entertainment complex for visitors to enjoy.

  • Fukuoka Art Museum

Snuggled in the heart of Ohori Park, this museum boasts a diverse art collection.

So, is Fukuoka worth visiting?

No matter what your style of travel is, Fukuoka has a little something for everyone.

Whether you’re drawn by the intriguing history, the delicious culinary scene, or the diverse cultural offerings, Fukuoka seamlessly blends tradition with modernity. That’s what makes it an essential destination on any Japan itinerary. 

Have you ever been to Fukuoka? Tell us your favorite thing to do in this exciting city in the comments below. 

Don’t just take our word for it—pack your bags and prepare to arrive at Hakata Station. For extra help planning your perfect Japanese rail trip, contact Japan Rail Planner today.