Wondering what to do in Fukuoka? Try exploring Daimyo. Daimyo Fukuoka is a tiny quarter in the heart of the city that very much defines the soul of the city. Daimyo is the slightly older, calmer, chicer hipster cousin to Tokyo’s Harajuku and it hides many of the best things to do in Fukuoka.
The Daimyo district is defined in part by what it has to offer, and also by those who visit. A mix of university students and twenty-somethings snake in and out of the boutique clothing stores, relax in the independent cafes, and light up the dark come nightfall. Daimyo is Fukuoka’s beating heart; a bright and colourful place of good food, coffee, and shopping galore. In other words, some of the very best things to do in Fukuoka.
Manu is very possibly the best coffee shop in Daimyo. Manu opens at 8:00am and, in the mornings, it has a quiet, understated atmosphere. This makes it the perfect place to fuel up with one of their many different coffees before heading out to explore the district. The baristas in Manu take such pride in their coffee that you can buy a bag of your own to take home as a souvenir! The latte art, painted walls, and youthful vibe make for the ideal warm hipster welcome to Daimyo. In case you don’t already know this, Japan in general isn’t all that great at cafes a lot of the time. There’s something missing from the café culture of Japan. And that’s what makes Manu so special: it gets coffee and café culture. This is what makes visiting Manu one of the best things to do in Fukuoka, at least first thing in the morning.
Daimyo is beloved for its coffee, bars, and boutique shopping. You’ve had your coffee, so now to shop the shops! While Daimyo does have some of the bigger high-street shops like Zara and Nike, it’s the vintage stores that are this quarter’s real treasures. All within the same handful of streets you’ll find Nobo, Ace in the Hole, Going Bellbo, and HHG (or Happy Hunting Ground). All of which are fantastic vintage stores that sell predominantly women’s clothes – from flapper dresses to bell-bottom jeans. This is what perhaps best defines Daimyo as the hipster district of Fukuoka, and what makes visiting Daimyo one of the coolest things to do in Fukuoka and there’s nothing more exciting than finding a vintage dress or jacket from 50 years ago on a rack at an awesome vintage store like Ace in the Hole.
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Lunch: Gyukatsu Motomura
This unassuming restaurant takes a world-famous Japanese katsu cooking style and spins it on its head a little bit. Katsu is a popular way of frying chicken or pork in panko breadcrumbs, hence the popular tonkatsu (literally katsu pork) and the divine chicken katsu curry (my favourite meal in the whole world). But at Guykatsu Motomura they take the katsu cooking style and apply it to beef, hence the name gyu (beef) katsu. Gyukatsu Motomura is a quaint little restaurant, but it gets incredibly busy due to the love locals have for its unique menu. It’s a great example of how Fukuoka bucks a lot of Japanese trends by doing something original. That’s the beauty of the southern Japanese cities, far removed from the stuffy salaryman lifestyle that can sometimes drag Tokyo down. Places like Daimyo Fukuoka love to buck trends and add fresh twists to established formulas; just one more reason to enjoy the amazing gyukatsu – one of the most delicious culinary things to do in Fukuoka.
Afternoon: Korokan Ruins Museum
At the western edge of Daimyo Fukuoka is Maizuru Park (which, fun fact, shares the same name of a wonderful little seaside town outside Kyoto which we fell madly in love with). And, inside the park, is the Korokan Ruins Museum. If you’re wondering what to do in Fukuoka beyond boutique shopping and you’re eager to dive into the historical and cultural side of Daimyo Fukuoka, this museum invites you to travel back to the medieval Japan of the Heian Period. You’ll find inside an archaeological dig site which has uncovered the remains of a place where diplomats from China would come to Japan on missions. There are also models of ancient Chinese naval and trade ships as well as artefacts from medieval China and Japan. It’s a place that tells a fantastic story of the history of East Asia from a whopping 1000 years ago!
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Coffee: Little Honey
A place that’s somewhere between a café and a hole-in-the-wall, Little Honey offers a range of quality coffees through the day. And once it hits 3pm, you can switch your coffee for a beer if you’d rather. There’s some outdoor seating or you can take it to go. Little Honey reminds me of those hole-in-the-wall coffee place you find in Rome or Milan. It’s a place where you grab your coffee, take a seat if you like, and then head out into the afternoon to continue your stroll through Maizuru Park or the busy streets and vintage shops.
Dinner: Mogura ga Ore wo Yondeiru
Daimyo Fukuoka is overflowing with izakaya (traditional Japanese pubs), and the best of the bunch is definitely Mogura ga Ore wo Yondeiru (The Mole Calls to Me). This izakaya with the delightfully unusual name is run by an established and experienced local Fukuoka ramen chef, and it’s the ramen – not traditionally served at izakaya – that sets Mogura ga Ore wo Yondeiru apart. You’ll find a a rustic, wooden aesthetic within this izakaya ramen bar, and a huge selection of shochu (rice wine) to choose from. Ramen at an izakaya is strange enough, but that’s what Daimyo Fukuoka does: it often throws out tradition for the sake of something more exciting.
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After Hours: Brick
Brick is the go-to bar in Daimyo Fukuoka for live music. Local bands and DJ sets are the bread and butter of Brick. If you’re eager to see what kind of local music scene exists in Fukuoka, you’ll find it at Brick. And if you want to fuel up, they offer a selection of beef bowls and curries to line your stomach before you start on the beers and the band comes on. Then get ready to dance (or sometimes mosh) deep into the night. Visiting Brick is, without a doubt, one of the coolest things to do in Fukuoka and the best way to see the night through at the end of a perfect day in Daimyo Fukuoka.