BY: Frankie Chee
SINGAPOREAN ABROAD IN FUKUOKA WITH...
Teo Chuu Yong
Occupation: Translation co-ordinator
Length of stay: 11 years
Many Singaporeans abroad long for char kway teow and chicken rice, both of which translation co-ordinator Teo Chuu Yong has been unable to find in the Japanese city of Fukuoka. But the 37-year-old is not exactly complaining.
Having lived there for 11 years, he finds the city has no lack of great food, from ramen and yakitori to buffets and cow offal steamboat.
He has been able to find Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese fare, but has not had as much luck when it comes to food from Singapore.
Culinary delights aside, Fukuoka also offers a balanced mix of city activities and natural attractions, with the late autumn season towards the end of the year being the best time for a visit.
The best way to explore the city is by...
Bus, subway or train, which links to most of the tourist spots in, and outside of, Fukuoka City. The city is rather compact, somewhat like Singapore, and its centre is located around three areas: Hakata, Tenjin and Nakasu. The buses and subway all pass through these places.
The Nishitetsu bus and the subway are the most convenient means when moving around within the city. Nishitetsu's 100-yen (S$1.29) bus is recommended as it allows passengers to move around the Hakata-Nakasu-Tenjin zone for that price for any single trip.
If you are travelling to many spots within the city centre in a day, the Nishitetsu bus and the subway offer a one-day pass at 600 yen for unlimited rides within a designated zone. One-day subway passes can be bought from any Fukuoka City Subway station and the Nishitetsu one-day passes can be purchased either from the major bus centres at Hakata and Tenjin, or directly from the driver when you board the bus.
The respective companies sell their own stored-value cards, as well as the Wai-wai card (for use on JR trains and subways) and the Yoka-net card (for use on Nishitetsu buses, trains and subways).
If you are staying for at least a few days and plan to move around frequently by public transport, these cards are recommended as they cut the hassle of having to carry around coins to pay the fares.
The best time to visit is...
Either during spring (between end March and early April) when you will get to see cherry blossoms, or in autumn (between mid November and early December) if you are interested in maple leaves.
Fukuoka is sunny and humid in summer, and windy in winter because it faces the Japan Sea. However, in my experience, the weather seems more unstable in spring, so I prefer the drier autumn season.
The Japanese divide the autumn season into two parts - early and late. The weather during early autumn, from early September till mid-October, is cool at night but still very hot in the day.
Late autumn, from mid-October till end November, is probably the best season of the year because it is dry and cool, between 10 and 20 deg C on average. It is also the season of maple leaves and most people would head for the mountains and parks.
Which places in the city excite you?
There are mobile roadside stalls known as yatai that are scattered along the streets in the Nagahama, Tenjin, Nakasu and Hakata areas. You can taste most of the local dishes, including the famous Hakata ramen (noodles), yakitori and oden, at these stalls.
The Manyo-no-Yu (2-3-66 Yutaka, Hakata-ku, tel: +81-92-452-4126) is a hotel and spa which allows you either to stay overnight or to simply make use of the hot spring (onsen) facilities, massage services and restaurants that are available inside the premises.
There is also Canal City Hakata (1-2 Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku, tel: +81-92-282- 2525), which is a shopping and entertainment facility that houses many branded apparel stores, cinemas, restaurants and hotels.
Lastly, there is the Umi-no-naka-michi Seaside Facility (18-25 Oaza Saitozaki, Higashi-ku, tel: +81-92-603-1111). It is a multi-purpose facility that comprises an aquarium, hotels, a swimming pool and park.
FOOD AND WINE
Where can you find food that is close to Singaporean fare?
I would certainly love to know where I can find Singaporean food in Fukuoka too. So far, the closest ones I have been to are probably the ethnic restaurants that serve Thai or Vietnamese food, besides the mainland Chinese and Taiwanese restaurants that are quite common.
My favourite breakfast is at...
In general, the Japanese do not have a habit of having breakfast outside. The only places I am aware of that serve breakfast are either coffee shops, fast food restaurants, 24-hour Yoshinoya outlets or udon and soba chains.
My favourite eating places are...
Hakata Fuudo (Level 1, Dai-roku Okabe-biru, 2-4-17 Hakata-eki-higashi, Hakata- ku, tel: +81-92-472-0210) for yakitori and Show-Raku Haruyoshi branch (3-21-30 Haruyoshi, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka, tel: +81-92-731-0027) for motsu-nabe (cow offal steamboat).
For ramen, there are Hakata Ippudo, Daimyo shop (1-13-14 Daimyo, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka 810-0041, tel: +81-92-771-0880); Ichiran, Canal City branch (Level B1, Canal City, 1-2 Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka 812-0018); Hakata Kokumaro, Najima-bashi branch (2-2119-4 Najima, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka, tel: +81-92-673-1875); and Ramen Stadium (Canal City, 1-2 Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka 812-0018), which houses a number of famous ramen stalls, mainly from Kyushu, as well as other parts of Japan.
|Slurp up some delicious ramen at Ramen Stadium.
The buffet lunch and dinner at SLOW +K, Nakasu Gate's branch (Gate's Level 6, 3-7-24 Nakasu, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, tel: +81-92-283-0400) is also good.
The coolest places to chill out at are...
Club O-D (Void Fukuoka, 2-4-28 Imaizumi, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka, tel: +81-92-733-1167) and Cafe & Bar D's 11511 (Daimyo 11511 Level 5, 1-15-11 Daimyo, Chuo-ku, tel: +81-92-736-8727).
Club O-D is probably the largest club in town, with many famous Japanese and foreign DJs holding events there, while D's 11511 is a cafe and dining bar that has an open-air terrace and very good ambience at night.
|Head to Cafe & Bar D's 11511, which has an excellent ambience at night.
What is the biggest difference between Singapore and this city?
Fukuoka has a very well-balanced blend of urban infrastructures and nature spots. While modern infrastructures are increasing rapidly around the city centre, it takes less than 30 minutes by train to get out of the city to the nearest nature spots such as mountains, waterfalls and hot springs.
Located on the island of Kyushu, Fukuoka is also the place to find a wide range of fresh fish and agricultural products. This is probably one of the reasons it is able to offer so much good food.
What is one place you always take your friends to when they visit you?
If it is within Fukuoka City, I will take them to the yatai food stalls and the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine (Dazaifu City, Fukuoka Prefecture). Outside the city, it is Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture.
What do you do on weekends?
Dine out at a nice restaurant, laze at home, stroll around the nearby parks or shop in town.
Are there any notable festivals that travellers should look out for?
For those who are interested in major traditional or cultural events, there is the Hakata Dontaku festival (similar to Singapore's Chingay Parade) from May 3 to 4.
Also, Hakata Gion Yamakasa falls on July 15. You will get to see different groups of men compete in pulling a one-tonne decorated float called Kakiyama, or Yama in short, through a designated course.
Where is the best place to go on a shopping spree?
Canal City Hakata is convenient for those who want to shop but do not like to walk too much.
Tenjin's Nishi-doori and Daimyo areas are where most young people from Fukuoka and other neighbouring cities head to for shopping.
There are also two shopping outlets, Marinoa City (2-12-30 Odo, Nishi-ku, Fukuoka 819-0001, tel: +81-92-892-8700, www.marinoacity.com/english) and Tosu Premium Outlets (8-1 Yayoigaoka, Tosu City, Saga 841-0005, tel: +81-942-87-7370, www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/en/tosu/index.php).
The former is located at the west end of Fukuoka City, while Tosu is situated in Tosu City of Saga Prefecture.
|Head for Canal City Hakata, which has branded apparel stores, cinemas, restaurants and hotels.
A LITTLE FURTHER
Are there things to do or see outside of the city?
Plenty. There is Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine and park (4-7-1 Saifu, Dazaifu, Fukuoka 818-0195, tel: +81-92-922-8225) in Dazaifu City, Fukuoka Prefecture; Yoshinogari Historical Park (1843 Tade, Yoshinogari-machi, Kanzaki-gun, Saga 842-0035, tel: +81-952-55-9333) in Saga Prefecture or Huis Ten Bosch theme park (1-1 Huis Ten Bosch-cho, Sasebo City, Nagasaki 859-3292, tel: +81-956-27-0526) of Nagasaki Prefecture.
For hot springs, you can go to the Aso area - which also has a volcano and dairy farms - in the Kumamoto Prefecture, and Yufuin area (Yufuin Hot Spring Tourism Association, 2863 Kawakami, Yufuin-cho, Oita 879-5102, tel: +81-977-85-4464) or Beppu area (559-1 Oaza Kan-nawa, Beppu City, Oita 874-0045, tel: +81-977-66-1577, www.beppu-jigoku.com) in Oita Prefecture.
This article was first published in The Sunday Times on July 20, 2008.