Fukuoka was hands down one of the most beautiful and joyful experiences I’ve had during my time in Japan.

My partiality is aided by the fact that I was able to experience the seaside city with a close friend, but I am certain my time there would have been lovely all the same on account of Fukuoka’s many admirable qualities.

Being from a beach town myself, I found many charming similarities and differences between Florida and Fukuoka. Both produce citrus, although Florida is known for oranges and key limes while Fukuoka is known for yuzu. Both have bus systems that are never quite on schedule, “beach time” as my friend and I joked, and both are home to a lively and exciting group of inhabitants.

It was so calm, even the loud parts of the Daimyo Quarter in Hakata had this sense of ease. Additionally, the food in Kyushu is SPECTACULAR! Seriously, two of the best meals I’ve ever had were in Fukuoka. One of the great things about Japan in general is the regionality of food. It makes traveling exciting, knowing that each place has something special to be discovered. My recommendation would be the motsunabe, which is Japanese-style hotpot with cow or pork tripe that is succulent and evaporates in your mouth. It was so good and I’m so sad I won’t be able to have it again until I return to the Kyushu area one day! The one we ate had a miso base and yuzu zest (it was the perfect meal for a cold and rainy evening).

Although my attempts to go to Itoshima for a day were thwarted by a confusing highway bus schedule, we did make it to Dazaifu Tenmangu which is a temple famous for being dedicated to Sugawara Michizane and by association Tenjin who is the god of education. Many people, including my friend, were buying omamori (a sort of talisman) for good grades in the coming school year. The temple is also famous for plum blossom, and although we missed the height of the season, we did buy umegaemochi which is a type of mochi with plum filling and is toasted.

We spent our last day at Uminonakamichi Seaside Park which was one the first places I fell in love with when learning about Fukuoka all the way back in high school and convinced me to make my way over to Kyushu. It is a national park and hosts the nemophila festival and other floral events throughout the year. We went at the height of nemophila season which meant I was lucky enough to be surrounded by one the most beautiful plants I’ve ever seen. Coincidentally, it was also the Hawaiian festival day so my friend who is from the Big Island had a fun time commenting on all the little things that reminded her of home and we bounded over what a fulfilling and fun experience it had all been. We ended our time in the park at the seafront. The water was a crisp turquoise color, and the ocean foam was sept up in the repetition of a steady tide. I felt so at home on the bench overlooking the sea; it is comforting to know that no matter how far I roam that I will always find my way back to the ocean and can feel collected and at peace in that space.

Our final moments were spent contemplating what souvenirs to bring back to family and we ended it all in blissful exhaustion on the 5:45 pm shinkansen back to Osaka/Hirakata. It was an absolutely perfect experience, and I would implore anyone making a trip to Japan to give Fukuoka a visit if not just for the various food options and breathtaking scenery, but also for the opportunity to live in Japan at a slower pace than Tokyo or Osaka (although the bigger cities have their advantages too). It was a long journey, but one I am so happy to have made.

Normally, I like to end these entries with a tidbit I learned or something I wish I knew or realized since learning is the main objective here, but I think it’s also good to just be incredibly content and happy. Joy is mysteriously simple.