The city of Fukuoka, also known as Hakata, is one of Japan’s unsung culinary destinations, not to mention one of the country’s most pleasant and livable urban centers.

A version of this post originally appeared in Postcards from Boutique Japan, our occasional newsletter (sign up here). For an even more in-depth and mouthwatering introduction to Fukuoka’s remarkable food, don’t miss You have to eat these dishes in Fukuoka!

Sake, clams and fish from an izakaya in Hakata, Fukuoka, Japan
Sake, clams and fish from an izakaya in Hakata, Fukuoka

Ramen in Fukuoka, Japan

Those who are fortunate enough to have visited Fukuoka usually know of it thanks to one of its most famous offerings: tonkotsu ramen.

If you love thick, rich ramen — packed with umamitonkotsu hits the spot, and Fukuoka is Japan’s tonkotsu capital.

Ippudo, Japan’s most famous international ramen empire (with shops throughout Japan and the world), began in Fukuoka, and it is the tonkotsu variety that ramen lovers outside of Japan are most familiar with.

Yatai in Hakata: Japan’s Food Cart Scene

Foodie travelers from around the world tend to speak of street food in hushed, reverent tones, and yet – despite its incredible culinary culture – Japan is notably lacking in street food, especially when compared to other countries in the region.

But thankfully for street food lovers, Fukuoka is Japan’s most notable exception. Yatai are food carts that have all but disappeared from most (though not all) of Japan, yet they remain a staple of Hakata’s culinary landscape.

Tonkotsu ramen from Fukuoka, Japan
Tonkotsu ramen originated in Fukuoka

Of course, Hakata is not all ramen and yatai, and despite these casual delights the city has a pleasantly cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Fukuoka is the gateway to the southern island of Kyushu (featured in our post on Japan’s best places most travelers miss). Direct flights to Fukuoka are available to and from throughout Asia, and the shinkansen (bullet train) connects Fukuoka with Kyoto and Tokyo to the east, and Kagoshima to the remote south.

Reclining Buddha at Nanzoin Temple in Fukuoka, Japan
Reclining Buddha at Nanzoin Temple in Fukuoka

Fukuoka also plays hosts the official November sumo basho (tournament) each year!

With all it offers, it’s no surprise that the city was featured in the excellent Rice, Noodle, Fish, a project backed by Anthony Bourdain-san himself.

Fukuoka is a fantastic city for food lovers seeking a unique slice of authentic Japan!

Fukuoka, Japan (aka Hakata) is one of Japan's top culinary destinations, renowned among foodies for its tonkotsu ramen and yatai food stalls.