9 of the Best Places to Eat and Drink in Japan’s Fukuoka


Provenance chef and Japanophile Michael Ryan shares his top spots for dining in this little-known destination.

Many of us have heard of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. If you’ve been to Japan, you will likely know just how vibrant and fun these cities can be. But for those travellers looking for something off the beaten track, the city of Fukuoka on the southern island of Kyushu is a hidden secret waiting to be discovered.

This lively city lies between a five- and six-hour bullet train ride from Tokyo and while navigating menus and signage is slightly more difficult than in the capital (make sure you have Google Translate on your phone), the locals are open, friendly and willing to help. The best part? Compared to the big cities, it can be surprisingly more affordable to dine here.

Fukuoka teems with small, idiosyncratic and very charismatic dining venues. While every area of Japan has its own distinct cuisine and dishes, this is true for the island of Kyushu, probably more so than most. Meat is a bigger part of the cuisine here than in other parts of Japan with a central focus on beef – a Fukuoka specialty is its beef tongue restaurants – and pork. Despite this, there are plenty of fresh seafood options to choose from and the izakaya (dine-in sake shops) can be second to none.

Letting chance decide your dining options in Fukuoka will very likely lead to a memorable experience, but if you’re on a tight timeline, here are the best spots to eat and drink in the city.



Torami, in the lively Tenjin area, calls itself a mamezara restaurant. Japanese crockery is divided into four categories based on the size of the plate with mamezara the smallest, measuring up to 10cm. The restaurant consists of 16 seats at a U-shaped bar that curves around the kitchen, where small dishes are placed one at a time in front of you. The most dominant feature in the kitchen is the large charcoal grill where the chef prepares the first course, sasami, or chicken tenders, grilled to medium rare and garnished with wasabi. Fresh beef heart sashimi with a touch of chilli and a soy dressing is up next, followed by dishes leaning towards a Western style. This is followed by braised pork belly with yuzu kosho (a Kyushu classic) and chicken wings, nanohana (sprouting broccoli-like vegetable) and chicken thigh skewers. The final dish of yaki onigiri (grilled rice ball) is created directly in front of you, with a glowing charcoal ember used to sear the top of each cake. The menus are not expensive, ranging from 3000 to 5000 yen (around AUD$40 to $60) and Torami has an excellent drinks list (ordered, along with the food items, via an app on your phone) of sake, beer and shochu.

5 Chome−1−26 Watanabedori, Chuo Ward, Fukuoka
Ph: +81 92-401-2575
Open: Monday to Saturday, 5pm to 12am (last order 11:15pm)



Fukuoka’s a wonderful city for exploring on foot and allowing chance and circumstance to lead you to your own discoveries. Wander down the streets of Nakasu, the nightlife area, and you’ll come across Tsuchiya. The bright, modern izakaya specialises in yakitori and is friendly, cheap and fun. There are plenty of non-skewer options, like braised meat, salads and vegetables, but it's the yakitori that shines here, particularly the torikawa – skewers of chicken skin, grilled over charcoal. You can find this dish elsewhere in Japan, but it is in Fukuoka that you’ll find the best version.

2-chome-5-12 Nakasu, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka
Ph: +81 50-5589-4941 Open: Tuesday to Saturday, 6pm until late

Rikyu Gyutan Shop

Beef tongue restaurants do appear elsewhere in Japan, but they are most popular in Fukuoka. One example (there are many in the city) is Rikyu Gyutan (gyutan translates as beef tongue). The restaurant is set on the top floor of a department store – a common set-up in Japan – and offers a number of set lunch menus of varying sizes and prices, between 2500 to 5000 yen (AUD$30 to $60 – it varies depending on the quality of the beef). The meat is delicious – smoky, tender but with slightly more texture than the more common muscles of beef – and served with rice, soup, pickles and a small traditional Japanese dessert. It is a quick lunch stop, not the sort of place you tend to linger.

JR Hakata City 9F, Shop 1-1 Hakataeki Chuo-gai, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka
Ph: +81 92-413-5335 Open: 11am to 10.30pm, 7 days



Another great lunch option, Ren is a vegetable-focused restaurant just next door to a produce market called Yanagibashi Rengo. The market is compact but home to some great vegetable and fish stalls. It’s here you can see produce that may not be familiar to many outside of Japan; a lot of these ingredients will feature in your lunch at Ren. Run for years by the same couple, the restaurant can be found in a well-preserved traditional style building with a beautiful, calm atmosphere. Your meal will consist of hassun (a selection of small dishes including sashimi, tempura and a number of vegetable dishes) followed by rice, miso soup and donabe, or rice claypot, with wild mountain vegetables or sansai. The price is surprisingly affordable at 4000 yen (AUD$42) and the restaurant is open for dinner as well, when it offers a more extensive menu.

1-10-1 Haruyoshi, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
Ph: +81 92-737-2155
Open: Monday to Saturday, 12pm to 2pm, 5.30pm to 11pm (last order 10pm)


One of the most striking places in Fukuoka is Yorozu, in Akasaka, a venue that focuses intensively and creatively on green tea. Down a fairly nondescript street lies a building that looks more sophisticated than its neighbours. The place has the set up of an intimate cocktail bar with seats curving around a beautiful bronze hearth where the water is heated, the teapots and cups are warmed and the tea is steeped at exactly the right temperature. There is no English menu here, so the best option is to have the full tasting menu. The experience starts with a sencha tea, accented with a little fukinoto (fukinoto is a wild green that looks a little like hops) and served in a 200-year-old tea cup. Ceramics are a very important part of the experience here and the owner, Suguru Tokubuchi, has a passion for both traditional and modern styles. The sencha is enjoyed with sweet, fresh strawberries. Next is gyokuro, a savoury green tea (the tea is grown in the shade which enhances the rich umami flavours in the leaf – think of the most intense Japanese broth you have ever had). Third is a houjicha, or roasted green tea. The leaves are roasted to order here and the tea is blended with cocoa husk, cinnamon and dried mandarin peel. And the final tea is a matcha, served in your choice of ceramic cup. Yorozu is a truly special place and a quintessentially Japanese experience.

2 Chome-3-32 Akasaka, Chuo Ward, Fukuoka
+81 92-724-7880
Open: 12pm to 12am, 7 days

Warayaki Mikan


Izakaya can come in varying levels of quality in Fukuoka and Warayaki Mikan in Tenjin is at the top of the list. A buzzy spot for locals, it offers food at a level that would normally be found in more formal restaurants. Again, they do not have an English menu, but the best option in any Japanese restaurant when faced with this conundrum is to go for the omakase, or chef’s selection menu. The five-course omakase is a bargain, particularly given the quality of the food, and you’ll share the experience with just 23 other guests. The place hums with conversation as the chefs cook directly in front of you. The place is not only renowned for its food but also its excellent sake and wine list. The meal begins with a small, sweet piece of kuzu tofu, grilled on a hot stone with a rich dengaku (miso sauce). Next is a plate of sashimi where an amazing selection of fugu (pufferfish), tuna, saba (mackerel) and shima (horse mackerel) is served with seaweed jam, mikan koso (a mandarin chilli dressing) and fresh wasabi. What follows is just about the best piece of fish I have had in a very long time. Warayaki is a technique of cooking fish over burning straw (wara means straw and yaki means grilled). Some very lightly cured bonito, or katsuo in Japanese, is skewered and lightly seared over burning straw, then sliced and presented – it’s sweet and smoky with an amazing texture. Next was a soft shell turtle spring roll – an exotic meat to many Westerners but not uncommon in Japan. Finally, some duck breast, grilled on a hoba leaf (a dried magnolia leaf) on your own small charcoal grill and garnished with a rich miso sauce.

2 Chome-12-20 Haruyoshi, Chuo Ward, Fukuoka
Ph: +81 92-712-0388
Open: 5pm to 1am, 7 days

Bar Cherokee

Bar Cherokee

A visit to Fukuoka can’t be just about eating in its plethora of restaurants; the city is also home to some very fine bars. Bar Cherokee is an intimate eight-seater bar with a focus on aged amaro, vermouth and liqueurs – many of the bottles date back to the 1950s. Cocktails here are elegant and restrained and often feature some water distillations from Seikichi Sakamoto, the bar’s owner.

2 Chome-6 Nakasu, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka
Ph: +81 92-282-0632
Open: Monday to Saturday, 7pm to 1am

Bar South Beach

Bar South Beach is not somewhere you go for just the drinks. It is a dive bar where you’ll rub shoulders with the locals and spend the night requesting music via the bartender. It’s fun, but does come with a warning: you’ll spend way too long here.

4-1-19 Nakasu, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
Ph: +81 92-283-5345
Open Monday to Saturday 8pm to 1am

Bar Note

Bar Note is quite astonishing. The owner, Shingo Nogami, lived in England for many years and it was there that his love affair with English audio equipment began. As a result, his bar in Kego is completely fitted out with vintage hi-fi. The BTH amps are from the 1930s, the Westrex and Wharfedale speakers from the 1950s and the turntables from the 1950s and 1960s. The sound created by all this equipment is warm, rich and deep and the music spans old jazz through to 1970s and 1980s tunes. The bar is decorated with Shingo san’s collection of vintage cocktail glassware, all housed in antique cabinets. It feels more old-world English than Japanese.

2 Chome-17-10 Kego, Chuo Ward, Fukuoka
Ph: +81 92-725-3376
Open: Monday to Saturday, 7.45pm to 2am 

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SEE ALSO: 16 of the Most Beautiful Places in Japan

Image Credits: Tsuchiya, Fukuoka Prefecture Tourism Association

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