The area in front of Hakata Station has been transformed into a glimmering winter wonderland this holiday season.
Not only are there stunning winter illuminations lighting up the scene, but this is once again the home of Christmas Market Hakata. Fukuoka Now went to look around this highly anticipated European-style Christmas market.
Due to the super convenient location, the market is always buzzing with people looking to inject a little festive cheer into their lives, from commuters to tourists.
This market is a great spot to meet friends for an al fresco dinner because of the array of warming winter foods on offer. There’s a large communal seating area with long tables, surrounded by stalls selling food, drink and goods. From your table you have a good view of the stage, on which there are a variety of performances every day – so while eating you can enjoy some entertainment. Here’s a run-down of some of the food & drink stalls and the tasty treats on offer:
Butcher of the World
Sells: This stall sells different styles of meat and fries from around the world, including Belgian-style potatoes and Spanish ham.
Recommended: Stefan Wurst – a sausage that looks slightly like a Catherine wheel, served with thick fries (¥1,200). We opted for this and it was delicious!
Sells: Well… soup. But these are soups produced in conjunction with local restaurants.
Recommended: Ippudo has created a Tonkotsu Potage Soup (¥800)– lovers of the famous ramen restaurant’s broth should try this soup!
Sells: Mutzen – often described as a kind of German donut, these crispy fried dough balls are served with your choice of chocolate, honey or icing sugar (¥500).
Recommended: The staff recommend chocolate, but we enjoyed our serving with icing sugar. These make for a filling dessert – we couldn’t finish all our mutzen!
Hot Wine & Stollen
Sells: Two stalls sell warming gluhwein (otherwise known as mulled wine), as well as a non-alcoholic version. One of the stalls is also selling stollen.
Recommended: The hot wine keeps you toasty whilst packing a real punch – you can smell the alcohol from a few stalls away. Pay ¥1,000 for your first serving, and receive it in a limited edition mug that you get to keep (second/third/fourth helpings: ¥700).
C’est Tres Bon
Sells: Products from their beloved bakery in Hirao.
Recommended: They are also selling stollen (sugar-covered bread made using dried fruits and marzipan) from Ishimura (¥280 per slice, ¥2,200 for a loaf). Ishimura is a confectionery company in Hakata, famous for its traditional Japanese sweets.
Sells: Hot dogs and sausages
Recommended: Try the Cheese Wurst! Pieces of sausage on which cheese is drizzled (¥800).
Other great places to visit are Chocomel, for their creamy hot chocolate made by dissolving chocolate into cream, and Mond Steak & Risotto, who are making their first appearance at the market to sell creamy, cheesy risotto and steak.
But this market isn’t just about food. There are also plenty of stalls where you can buy gifts. Here are some of our favorites:
Sells: Candleholders decorated with festive scenes.
Recommended: Medium-sized candleholder decorated with a winter city nightscape (¥1,300).
Art of Snow
Sells: Snow globes upon snow globes.
Recommended: We couldn’t resist a large snow globe featuring some merry little piglets welcoming in the new year (¥3,000).
Sells: A variety of wooden ornaments and decorations, including nutcrackers!
Recommended: Slightly unexpectedly, their top seller is a tiny model Santa flying a plane (¥1,580).
Sells: Ornaments and wreaths infused with the smell of spices.
Recommended: Everything here smells fabulous! A small crystals and foliage ornament will set you back ¥1,980.
There are many more stalls to choose from, including Unikalus Vaizdas, which sells adorable models of European houses, and Gifts from Afar, where you can buy a variety of Christmas-themed trinkets, including Santa nesting dolls.
But you don’t have to spend money to enjoy the Christmas Market. There are plenty of free stage performances, from balloon shows (don’t worry coulrophobics, no clowns!) to acapella by Same Old Upstairs. While we were there fumika, a dainty woman with a big voice, belted out ballads, and then a choir sang some Christmassy numbers. Performances begin around 16:00 or 17:00 on weekdays, and from around 12:30 on weekends and holidays.
You can also take in the gorgeous illuminations free of charge. Couples and groups of friends wander the area outside the Hakata Exit of the station, taking pictures under the illuminated gates or with the cathedral-tower-like structure. Children seemed to love playing hide and seek amongst the illuminations!
Visitors can also take the escalators up one or two floors to view the illuminations from above. It’s quietest on the second floor, but you can still hear the music from below. If you can’t find a place to sit down in the communal seating area, you might be able to find a spot on a bench here.
So stop by Christmas Market Hakata if you want to fill your heart, stomach and shopping bags with Christmas goodness!
• 11/18 (Wed.) ~ 12/25 (Fri.)
• Mon. ~ Fri.: 17:00~23:00, Sat. ~ Sun./Hol.: 12:00~23:00
• Free entry
• In front of JR Hakata Sta.