Since my husband is from Kagoshima, the southernmost prefecture of the Kyushu Island, I have visited south Kyushu many times, but I had never had chance to go to Fukuoka located in the northeastern part of the island, until last month. My impression? It was lovely!! If possible I seriously want to live there at least for a couple of years.
What delighted me the most was foods. Despite being the biggest city on the island, Fukuoka is blessed with nature's bounty. In the center the city, such as Nakasu and Tenjin, there are so many restaurants, bars, food stalls called "yatai" that offer you great local foods using fresh ingredients.
I'm sure Fukuoka would be a nice place to live, but I have to say there are not too many touristic spots to see. Tourists usually take an excursion to Dazaifu City known for the famous Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine dedicated to the deity of learning. It is not a bad idea at all, however, I personally prefer Yanagawa (柳川), less than an hour by car from central Fukuoka.
Look! Isn't it nice? Called "town of water," Yanagawa has a 470-km network of waterways that were originally irrigation ditches.
To explore this small lovely castle town, taking a cruise by "donkobune" dinghy is the best way. It is very relaxing and enjoyable.
You don't need to make a reservation in advance. Find a boat at a landing place and ask a boatman if you can ride, saying 「乗れますか （Noremasuka?)」 meaning "Can I (or we) get on?
If s/he says "Yes," get on the boat and pay the fee to a lady who comes to collect money. We paid 1,000 yen per person for a 40 min. cruise, but the fee is different depending on the company and the length of the boat trip.
There are no fixed departure time for the trip. Normally the boat leaves when about 10 people get on board. We waited for other people to join the trip for nearly 15 minutes but no one else came for some reason. As a result, my husband and I became the only passengers on the boat. I thought we were just lucky, but the same thing may possibly happen if you go there on a weekday, when there are fewer tourists.
This is our boatman. While deftly maneuvering the boat, he explained the history of the town, the buildings seen from the boat, etc., but I could not understand only a half of what he said because of his mumbling voice.
He occasionally sang songs to entertain us. Actually, singing seemed like an obligation to all the boatmen, but not all of them are good singers. Our boatman was ok, not great though.
Every time the boat goes under the bridge, all the passengers have to put their heads down. Some bridges are dangerously low, but don't worry, I have never heard of fatal accidents.
The specialty of Yanagawa is unagi or freshwater eel, grilled after being dipped in the sweet soy sauce. It is served with steamed rice in the square lacquered box like the photo below. The yellow thing is thinly sliced egg. I don't remember exactly how much it was, but it was around 2,500 yen with a bowl of soup.
To go to Yanagawa by train, take the Nishitetsu Tenjin Omuta ｌine (西鉄天神大牟田線）from Nishitetsu Fukuoka Station (西鉄福岡駅）, and get off at Nishitetsu Yanagawa station (西鉄柳川駅）. About 45 minutes by super-express train (特急）.