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Fukuoka is just the right size. It is big enough to offer everything that most people need, from abundant shopping, restaurants, businesses, transportation and accommodation to an exciting array of entertainment activities, but small enough to be manageable. This manageable size provides for easy navigation and easy explanation of the city's layout. The city is essentially divided into seven wards called ku: Nishi, Sawara, Jonan, Chuo, Hakata, Minami and Higashi.
North of Jonan-ku and east of Sawara-ku is Chuo-ku, meaning "central ward." This, for most people, is Fukuoka proper. The majority of visitors will spend the bulk of their time in this ward, and most Fukuoka residents will pour into the area at some time during the week. Close to Sawara-ku, just after you pass over Hiigawa River from Momochi, is the Fukuoka Dome and Hawks Town. From there, moving closer to the skyscrapers of Akasaka and Tenjin , are Ohori Park and Maizuru Park , which are the last scenic, natural refuges before entering the downtown area, known as Tenjin.
In Tenjin, there are so many things to see and do that it would be impossible to list them all. For bars and entertainment, stroll down Nishi-dori or Oyafuko-dori. For shopping, try Keiyaki-dori or the chic Daimyo area. Other shopping centers in the bustling area include IMS , Solaria , Mitsukoshi , Daimaru and Iwataya Z-side .
Move north from Tenjin and you enter the Nagahama region. Besides a number of businesses, this area is famous for its port activity and its nationally famous ramen of the same name, served at shops throughout the area.
At the eastern reaches of Tenjin, where Chuo Park is located, cross the Naka River via the Deai Bridge to arrive in Hakata-ku and the famed Nakasu entertainment district . Just south of this quasi-island is the equally famous Canal City , and to the immediate west, Riverain, Hakata-za and the Okura Hotel . To the north is Bayside Place and one of Japan's busiest ports. This entire area was actually a merchant city called Hakata before the modernization of Japan, which began in 1868, saw it combined with the aristocratic Fukuoka domain around Ohori Park. For this reason and despite the confusion it sometimes creates, the major station in this district, and also the biggest in Fukuoka and Kyushu, is called Hakata. Located southeast of Nakasu and the port area, Hakata Station is surrounded by dozens of hotels and businesses. Farther east, across the Mikasa River and beyond the city expressway, a large area comprising a significant proportion of the district accommodates Fukuoka Airport .
Sawara-ku may seem like a bustling suburban area but that is only because the two districts most people are familiar with, Nishijin and Momochi , share these qualities. Visitors really should try to see the beautiful Momochi region at least once, and are likely to pass through the more jumbled Nishijin Arcade area to do so. Also, for a sky-high view of the city and surrounding coastline, visit Japan's tallest seaside building, Fukuoka Tower . The rest of the ward meanders southwest into suburbs that are patched with rice-fields and, eventually, into a mountainous region so deserted that residents hiking or biking in the area sometimes encounter monkeys! The Hotel Twins Momochi offers an inexpensive, conveniently-located option for accommodations in this area.
Nishi-ku (literally "west ward") stretches down the rocky southwest coast. The further you drive, the more rural it becomes, with town-like districts scattered among the stretches of preserved nature. If you are traveling to any one of the fine beaches in this area-like Futamigaura - you may have a hard time believing this is actually the city. Where this ward abuts Sawara-ku, closer to the city, you have Meinohama , a somewhat suburban residential area with much marina activity, including ferries to paradisaical Nokonoshima , a small island on Hakata Bay that offers a wealth of undisturbed countryside.
While the final ward, Higashi-ku, means "east ward" it is located more to the north of Hakata-ku. This area has many blue-collar residential districts and numerous schools, including Kyushu University. Travel north and you are eventually able to travel east along the peninsula around Hakata Bay. Much is located along this peninsula, including the countless attractions of Uminonaka-michi Seaside Park and the sights of Shikanoshima . Other locations of note are Hakozaki Shrine , easily the most famous in Fukuoka, and the Genkai National Park located in the eastern elevations that also mark the eastern limits of the city. For travelers with kids, Space World , the largest and most popular amusement park in Fukuoka, and Marine World , a fantastic seaside aquarium, are both located in Higashi-ku.
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