Closer to Seoul and Shanghai than the capital of its own country, Fukuoka has always been a hub of international commerce. And that entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in this seaside city’s sparkling selection of malls, arcades, boutiques and other retail hotspots, from the luxury labels of Tenjin to the old-school arcades of Hakata. For a spot of retail therapy, these are the ten best places to shop in Fukuoka, Japan.
Loads of shopping centres talk themselves up as being an entertainment precinct rather than just a mall, but it’s no exaggeration when it comes to Canal City. Just over the water from the yatai of Nakasu Island, this mega-mall truly is a city within a city, with 250 shops, two hotels, offices, movie theatres, arcades, a performance stage and restaurants surrounding a 180-metre canal, which throws a glitzy light and fountain show every half hour. Familiar Western names including Zara, GAP and H&M neighbour Japanese stores such as Sanrio — the inventor of Hello Kitty and her friends — and many offer tax-free shopping; bring a foreign passport to receive a tax refund on purchases greater than ¥5,000. Don’t miss the eight restaurants inside the Ramen Stadium for a steaming bowl of Fukuoka’s famous Hakata ramen.
Tenjin Chikagai is made up of 150 stores lining two 600-metre-long underground passages — the perfect shopping spot on a rainy day. But even when the sun is shining, the dozens of entrances dotted around Tenjin are seriously alluring for the European-style stained-glass windows and hand-laid stone walkways that snake below Tenjin’s upscale malls. Directly connected to Tenjin and Tenjin-Minami subway stations, Nishitetsu Fukuoka Train Station and Nishitetsu Tenjin Bus Station, this subterranean mall covers everything from cosmetics at Cosme Kitchen, to kimonos at Suzunoya and accessories at Karankoron Kyoto.
Another ultra-convenient retail hub, JR Hakata City sits directly on top of Fukuoka’s central Hakata Station — a one-stop shop for anything a traveller needs before hopping on the train to explore more of Kyushu. More than 230 shops hover above the railway tracks, including the two centrepiece department stores Hankyu and Tokyu Hands. Kitte is a second shopping mall joined directly to the station, famous for its floor devoted entirely to shoes.
The Kawabata Shopping Street houses 100 shops along 400 metres of covered arcades — mom-and-pop retailers flogging everything from Japanese tea to ornate Hakata-ori silk threads. This shotengai (shopping street) brings all of Fukuoka’s most famous products together in one place: tonkotsu ramen, Kawabata zenzai (sweet red bean soup with rice cakes), menbei (pickled cod roe), Hakata kajuen ichigo ichigo (strawberry cookies), and Niwaka senbei crackers — crunchy biscuits that look like the masks Hakata Niwaka performers have worn for centuries. Fukuoka’s oldest arcade is just a block from Kushida Shrine — the HQ of Fukuoka’s celebrated Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival, which displays its elaborately decorated floats in the arcade in the build-up.
Hakata dolls — also a fixture of the festival — are another souvenir to collect on Kawabata Shopping Street. More unique figurines, however, are found at Yamabikoya. This converted apartment just west of Tenjin’s Nishitetsu Fukuoka Train Station curates a collection of 1,000 daruma — hollow, round dolls of Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism in Japan — cherry-picked from around the country. Look out for the one riding a skateboard, and the trio waving the Japanese flag. Toys, trinkets and good-luck charms plaster every available inch of owner Shintaro Segawa’s store — a galaxy of choices for a handcrafted memento to take home.
Marinoa City Fukuoka is a half-hour drive west of downtown Fukuoka, but this waterfront outlet mall is worth the journey for its discounted price tags. Styled like an American pier, this al-fresco shopping centre features 170 outlet shops, including big brands such as Ugg and Uniqlo, on its budget-friendly boardwalk. Oh, and the ferris wheel is absolutely enormous — 60 metres tall, to be precise, and lit up by 6,000 lights after dark — providing peerless views over the Fukuoka coastline and Nokonoshima Island across the water.
Much like the legendary Shibuya 109 store in Tokyo, Tenjin Core is Fukuoka’s epicentre of gyaru fashion — a brash fad that peaked in the 2000s, now an umbrella term referring to a whole stack of style subcultures. Point is, this is where young people — especially women — come for clothes, across 10 floors of fashion labels that even includes a branch of Shibuya 109. Travellers born last century will feel a little old compared to other shoppers here, but there is a leafy beer garden on the rooftop terrace for the adults to enjoy.
Tenjin isn’t just for teenagers — far from it. Fukuoka’s main commercial area is dotted with upmarket malls such as Solaria Plaza next door to Nishitetsu Fukuoka Station. The luxury is obvious, from the marble floors, to the Dean & DeLuca gourmet grocery store, to the exclusive Japanese designers at the top end of the price scale. Beneath six floors dedicated to clothing hides a basement brimming with bakeries and other sweet treats, while the Solaria Stage shopping centre across the road houses quality conveyor-belt sushi joint Hyotan.
The opulence continues on top of Nishitetsu Fukuoka Station at Mitsukoshi Fukuoka, home to 11 levels of big-name apparel, cosmetics and watches in particular — think Rolex, Cartier and Omega. Across Kego Park, Iwataya dishes up even more international luxury: Gucci, Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Hermès are only a handful of the A-list labels on offer. Both these malls offer tax-free shopping and translation services in English and Chinese.
The Fukuoka chapter of Mandarake won’t appear on every visitor’s itinerary, but anyone with a passing interest in Japanese animation cannot miss this turbo-charged comic-book store. A bright red-and-yellow facade just north of Tenjin’s more salubrious shopping spots, this Mandarake franchise is one of 11 around the country, showing off a huge collection of anime, manga, games, toys, CDs, DVDs, cards, cosplay, figurines, books and dōjinshi (self-published) fanzines — two floors of a collector’s wildest fantasy.
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