Nakasu is the “amusement” district in Fukuoka. This red light district is packed with bars, restaurants and other forms of “entertainment” industry.
OK, I have to say it; Nakasu is a gritty area. It does however have a lot of character, tons of good restaurants and some great back alleys. It is also where you find the most centrally located Don Quijote in Fukuoka and most importantly, many of the famous street food stalls.
Why would you even bother to go there you ask? Well this is really the nightlife area of Fukuoka. This is the place to go for street food, party, drinks, karaoke and neon lights. No less than 3500 establishments are cramped together on this tiny bank in the river. You will find the most activity on Nakasu Central Street, but many of the more authentic establishments are really located down the side streets.
Nakasu, the island in the middle, has very few traditional tourist attractions. There are a few tiny shrines and some atmospheric back alleys. The island was constructed in the 1600’s as a help in connecting the two sides of the river by bridges. Today Nakasu island has no less than 18 bridges! Quite an impressive number for such a small island. The number of bridges really underlines the importance of the island as a bridge between the Tenjin area and Hakata.
Nakasu street food stalls (yatai)
Yatai, the street food stalls of Fukuoka, might be the largest tourist draw in the city. Famous across Japan, not only foreign tourists come here to experience the delicious street food in the cozy small sidewalk restaurants. What I find special about the yatai in Fukuoka is that they aren’t just small carts along the road like you see in in many Asian countries. In Fukuoka the street food stalls are tiny restaurants with typically 8-10 seats around a counter. The stalls are all temporary, so every evening they are put up and taken down again the same night. It’s almost impressive, as some of them really feel like small buildings.
Traditional dishes at the Fukuoka yatai stalls are Hakata Ramen, Yakitori (grilled meat skewers) and Oden (vegetables, tofu, eggs etc. cooked in Dashi broth). You can get other interesting dishes too though, like yakiramen – fried ramen. There are no water sources available for the food stalls, so they have to bring all the water they need. The lack of water makes yakiramen a suitable dish for the pop up stalls compared to traditional ramen in broth which requires a lot of water per serving.
Traditionally the food stalls were a local thing in Fukuoka. Nowadays its a tourist attraction, where you may have to wait in line for a seat if you come on the weekend. With the raise in popularity the prices have also raised to a level where they don’t really correspond with the quality or quantity of the food in my opinion. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it out though. You are really paying a little more to have a really fun and intimate experience.
Where to find the Nakasu Yatai Food Stands
You find the biggest area of street food stalls along the river on the southern part of Nakasu island. Here about 20 small food stands are lined up next to each other. Prices are around ¥900 for a meal in 2018. If you want a less crowded experience then I recommend you hunt down a street food stall somewhere else in the city. Fukuoka has 150 Yatai street food stalls around the city, so there should be plenty to choose from. The area on Nakasu island is simply the most famous place – not necessarily the best.
Seiryu park is a small, mostly open park at the tip of Nakasu island. It has a similar feeling to Battery park in New York, though on a much smaller scale. Located by the river it is a beautiful place for watching cherry blossoms in the spring. If you pass Nakasu island during the day, I recommend that you make a stop here and enjoy the fresh air and pretty flowers.
Are you traveling on a budget? Take a look on my post about visiting Japan on the cheap. You might also find my article about the Japan Rail Pass really interesting. It’s a super awesome way to get around Japan.