The Nishitetsu Marutto Pass, is a new train and bus pass for foreign visitors. One pass allows unlimited train travel on the Nishitetsu Omuta, Dazaifu, and Amagi lines. The second pass can be used on all Nishitetsu buses within the limits of Fukuoka City. Even better, the passes can be used on the same or different days. Finally, the passes (¥2,000 adult/children ¥1,000) include a Fun Pass Fukuoka Coupon Book which offers discounts at many restaurants and businesses!
Fukuoka Now was one of the first to get ahold of some Marutto Tickets and Fun Pass Coupon books and gave them to two of our reporters. Oscar used the train pass, traveling to to the furthest point on the Nishitetsu Omuta Line to discover World Heritage Sites, giant statues and hot springs. Meanwhile, Lauren, used the bus pass to criss-cross the city, taking in the fresh fish market, some stunning architecture and a visit to a plastic food sample workshop. The pair rendezvoused later in the evening at one of Fukuoka’s iconic yatai (food stall) to share their experiences. Read on for their itineraries and see just where you can go with one of Nishitetsu’s Marutto Passes.
The Tickets can be bought at the Fukuoka Airport Bus Terminal, Nishitetsu Tenjin Expressway Bus Terminal, Hakata Bus Terminal and Nishitetsu Fukuoka Station. Language support is available in English, Chinese and Korean. The tickets are only for foreign visitors who are not living in Japan (passports will be checked at the time of purchase) and the full terms and conditions of the tickets can be found on the back of each pass. For more details, visit this website.
The Train Trip
Mission: Explore Fukuoka Prefecture using the Nishitetsu Tenjin-Omuta Line
Oscar, (London, U.K.)
The new Marutto Pass launched in January 2017 and, working with Fukuoka Now, I was lucky to get my hands upon one for a day’s worth of exploring. With much of Fukuoka Prefecture still undiscovered (I’d never been to Omuta) I was told to meet at Nishitetsu Tenjiin Station early one Saturday morning in February to see how much of the Prefecture I could discover in one day…
As with many good days of adventure in Fukuoka, my journey with the Marutto Pass started early at Nishitetsu Tenjin Station, where I used my Fukuoka Fun Pass to enjoy a 7:30a.m. bowl of udon from Yari Udon (¥750 → ¥500). The udon bowl was topped with a 32cm long stick of burdock root (gobo) tempura. Delicious!
Address: 2-11-2 Tenjin, Chuo-ku / Inside Fukuoka Tenjin Sta. Concourse
Fun Pass Info: Yari Udon (¥750 —> ¥500)
The First Train
My hunger sated, and with a kick of energy from the dash of chili I’d added to the udon, I got my pass stamped by the train staff at Nishitetsu Tenjin Station and then boarded the 8:00 train to Omuta. The train ride lasts a little over an hour, taking you some 80km south of Fukuoka City, past Dazaifu, Kurume and Yanagawa to the very end of the Nishitetsu Line.
At Nishitetsu Omuta Station I presented my pass to the gate staff and asked for one of the station’s rental bikes. I was ushered to a little office along the edge of the platform and after signing a form (ID required), paying ¥500 and promising I’d behave myself, I was given a bicycle – a little squeaky at times but otherwise completely functional. Twenty minutes pedaling later, I arrived at my first destination.
Address: 1-24 Shiranuhimachi, Omuta City
Cost: ¥500/1 day, ¥150/1 hour (¥50/30 mins afterwards)
The Miyahara-ko Coal Mine with the now defunct Miike Coal Railway (front right)
The Miyahara-ko Coal Mine was opened in the late 19th Century and it, along with its sister, the Manda Mine, transformed Omuta City into an industrial powerhouse. The 1950s saw the start of the mine’s decline and it was eventually closed entirely in 1997.
The mine was built in the same vein as (and in collaboration with) several British mines, and its architecture and redbrick buildings are more akin to a Victorian-era factory than anything else you might see in Japan. As a result of its history, the mine gained World Heritage status in 2015.
Wrought iron coal carts used to bring coal up from the mine
The mine is staffed by tour guides (free of charge), who will happily take you around the mine no matter your Japanese ability. If you have a smartphone you can log into the local wifi network to access guides in several languages, including English. If you don’t, the mine has six iPads for intrepid explorers to use. As you cross the bridge to the mine, you will notice the remains of the now defunct Miike Coal Railway, which used to transport coal across the city and to the rest of Japan.
Let’s enjoy mining together
Miike Prison Wall and the Hayagane Megane-bashi Bridge
The prison wall now guards a high school.
A short bike ride from the coal mine are two relics from the bygone mining era. The first is the wall of the former Miike Prison, which has since been incorporated into the boundary wall of Miike Technical College’s baseball field. While much of the original wall has been covered in concrete, sections of the red brick leak through.
Miike Prison Wall:
Address: 4-77 Jokanmachi, Omuta City
The headstone of the Hayagane Megane-bashi Bridge, built in the 17th century.
The second spot is the Hayagane Megane-bashi Bridge, built as an aqueduct in the Edo-period. The bridge is the oldest of its kind in Japan and is similar to the more famous Megane-bashi in Nagasaki.
Hayagane Megane-bashi Bridge:
Address: 128 Goseimachi, Omuta City
Miike Port Lookout Tower
The famous hummingbird shape of Miike Port. The design prevents buildup of sand in the channel, allowing for larger ships to land at the port
From the bridge, a 20 minute bike ride will take you down to Miike Port, which was created through dredging in the Meiji Period and first opened in 1908. The port was groundbreaking at the time, allowing large ships to dock at the port no matter the condition of the tides in the Ariake Sea. The port is renowned for its hummingbird shape (which can be seen from above) and is still used today for international trade, with ships landing from the Philippines and Australia. The best place for information is the Miike Port Lookout Platform, where volunteers offer history lessons on the port.
Address: Shinkomachi, Omuta City
Closed: none (only around New Year)
Because one can never have too many noodles in a day
A quick Omuta ramen lunch at Toyoken. Omuta ramen is not as famous as its Hakata, Kurume and Nagahama brethren, but still a delicious variation on the tonkotsu classic, with a clearer soup and slightly thicker noodles.
Daihonzan Naritasan Kurume Temple
Following my adventures in Omuta I took the 13:22 train to Kurume, arriving just thirty minutes later. My mission here was to visit Daihonzan Naritasan Kurume Temple, famed for its 62m tall statue of the Mother Kannon. To get to the temple I took the number 31 bus from Nishitetsu Kurume Station to the Kamitsu-machi bus stop (¥220 / 16 min. not included in the Marutto Pass).
The temple itself is magnificent, but the jewel of the temple is the climb up the spiral staircase to the top of the statute (¥500). The windows inside the statue’s head afford fantastic views across Fukuoka Prefecture, and a visit is best timed to coincide with sunset. Beneath the statue is the infamous “Hell and Paradise Museum” – a must see, but not for those with a fear of the dark or gore.
With Daihonzan Naritasan Kurume Temple checked off my bucket list, I grabbed the 31 bus back to Nishitetsu Kurume Station and used the Marutto pass to take the 16:04 train to Nishitetsu Futsukaichi Station. I arrived 20 minutes later and walked the short walk to Hakatayu, an onsen located in the heart of Futsukaichi. The onsen is cheap, at only ¥250 for an adult, but they don’t provide any soap in the washing area (you can buy mini bottles for ¥50 each). The onsen has two main baths on both the male and female side, and has a communal feel to it: it is used by everyone from wobbly toddlers to even wobblier nonagenarians and has a small area where local produce is sold.
Rethink Cafe’s pancake and coffee set is the perfect pick-me-up after a long day
Supremely relaxed I walked back to Nishitetsu Futsukaichi and boarded the train back towards Tenjin, and arrived shortly after 18:00. For coffee and a snack of pancakes I visited Rethink Cafe in Nishitetsu Fukuoka Station, using my Fun Pass discount coupon (¥800 —> ¥500).
Address: 2-11-3 Tenjin, Chuo-ku
Hours: Mon. ~ Sat.: 07:00~23:00, Sun. & Hol.: 08:00~22:00
Fun Pass Info: Mixed Berry Pancakes and Coffee (Hot/Iced) (¥800 —> ¥500)
Finally, for dinner, I met Lauren (see her bus adventure below) for one of Fukuoka’s unique dining experiences: yatai. We met at Pyonkichi, a yatai located just outside Daimaru (you can’t miss it) to try out the course recommended in the Fun Pass, which was delicious. The gyoza were lightly fried and crisp, while the roasted fish went perfectly with the shochu cocktail. We topped that off with an extra bowl of yaki-ramen (fried ramen) between us and finished the day happy and full.
Address: 1 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, in front of Daimaru
Fun Pass Info: Cod Gyoza, Roasted Thread-sail File Fish and a Shochu Cocktail, ¥1,550 —> ¥1,000
In just over 12 hours of travelling, I managed to knock off some of Fukuoka Prefectures most impressive sights, taking a route that incorporated history, culture, incredible food and a relaxing bath. The Marutto Pass made the trip possible and, in combination with the Fukuoka Fun Pass, provided me with huge discounts over the course of the day. And that was just the train pass part of the Marutto Pass. I’ve still got the bus pass to use, and another full day of adventure ahead! But for now, over to Lauren for her adventures across Fukuoka City using her bus pass.
The Bus Trip
Mission: Explore Fukuoka City using Nishitetsu Bus
How much of Fukuoka City could I see in one day by bus? This was my challenge, so I set out to explore some of the most unique and interesting spots in the city.
I started the day off with breakfast at the fish market in Nagahama. I travelled from Hakata Station to Nagahama 2-chome, which took about 20 minutes. From there it was just five minute walk. The main market is not open to the public, but you can enter the fish market center anytime. Inside the building are several restaurants where you can enjoy eating fish fresh from the market. I visited Okiyo Shokudo and with the Fun Pass Fukuoka Coupon Book I enjoyed a filling and delicious meal for just ¥500. The meal included fried tilefish, the traditional miso soup and rice, and some small side dishes like a small plate of tofu. The fish was some of the best I’ve ever tasted! It was more than enough to get me filled up and ready to go out and explore the city.
Address: Fish Market Kaikan 106, 1F 3-11-3 Nagahama, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
Hours: 06:00-14:00, 18:00-22:00
Closed: 1st and 3rd Sun.
Fun Pass Info: Fried Tilefish Set (¥700 -> ¥500)
Tenjin Architecture: ACROS Fukuoka and Ship’s Garden
After breakfast I took the bus into Tenjin to explore some of Fukuoka City’s fascinating architecture. From Nagahama 2-chome it was only around five minutes.
The first stop was the famous ACROS Building. Built in 1995, this building features an eco-friendly garden that climbs the building’s roof. Right in the middle of the bustling city, this spot of green really stands out. It’s great to see some nature being incorporated into the architecture! I took a walk up through some of the garden, which is free to enter. There are steps leading all the way to the top with many kinds of trees and plants surrounding the path.
Address: 1-1-1 Tenjin, Chuo-ku
Hours: Step Garden: Mar. ~ Apr.: 9:00~18:00, May ~ Aug.: 9:00~18:30, Sep. ~ Oct.: 9:00~18:00, Nov. ~ Feb.: 9:00~17:00 (rooftop observatory opens only Sat. ~ Sun. & Hol. 10:00~16:00)
Closed: never except 12/29〜1/3
Just a few minutes’ walk from ACROS is Ship’s Garden, home to two recently opened restaurants and a rooftop designed like a ship’s deck. There’s even a spot here for a Titanic pose! The rooftop garden overlooks the river below and you can also see the ACROS Building. It felt like standing on a ship deck in the middle of a city!
Address: 13-1 Nishinakasu, Chuo-ku
Hours: Bills: 8:30~24:00, Seikeitsai Noodle &Chinois: 11:30~24:00
Phone: 092-733-2555 (Bills), 092-721-0888 (Seikeitsai Noodle &Chinois)
From Tenjin I took a bus to the shopping mall by the sea, Marinoa City. It takes around 30 minutes from North Tenjin. This shopping mall has a variety of clothing stores with well-known brands, and with the coupon book you can get a ¥500 discount. Not being much of a clothes shopper I had a look around some of the gift stores, Taito Station (game center) and Village Vanguard. Then I had a quick stop for ice cream at the Godiva Chocolate store – a nice treat before I took a ride on the ferris wheel. The coupon book also gives you a free ride on the wheel which gives you a chance to see some stunning views of the city. I had a chance to admire some lovely sights for the first time.
After the ride, I took a walk along the boardwalk enjoying the sea views. A popular lunch in Marinoa is the pasta set offered at the hotel restaurant. For ¥1,500 you get a salad and pasta made with locally grown vegetables. I had a seat overlooking the boardwalk and enjoyed the wonderful service. You could easily spend a full day here, but I had more to see so it was on to my next destination!
Address: 2-12-30 Odo, Nishi-ku
Hours: Shops: 10:00~21:00, Food: 11:00~23:00
Fun Pass Info: Show your copy of the Fun Pass Fukuoka Coupon Book for a ¥500 shopping coupon and a free ride on the Skywheel Ferris Wheel.
Then it was on to try something truly special! You will have probably noticed how outside many restaurants there are plastic models of the food which look very much like the real thing. Ever wondered how these models are made?
In the southern area of Fukuoka City is Sample Riki, where you can try your hand at making fake food dishes. From North Tenjin I boarded bus # 51 to Furuno – which is in the south of Fukuoka City. This was the longest bus trip of the day, taking around 45 minutes, but of course it was included in the bus pass.
It was easy to find from the Furuno bus stop, I just followed the signs. Before I tried making my own model food, I had a look around at the many food samples on display. There were some big creations including a helmet made of spaghetti and another with squid and other seafood which I got to try on. They also have plenty of smaller creations made into keyrings, business card holders and even earrings!
One of their most popular hands-on activities is a parfait making course, which is the first thing I tried. There are many options for parfait decorations, so if you go and try this you’ll be spoilt for choice. First I chose my colour of syrup, which is put into the glass before the ice cream is added. I had help adding in the ice cream, which worked much like real soft serve ice cream – and looked like the real thing too! Once the cup is filled beyond the top you can put your decorations on top and make a very tasty looking dessert.
Then I was lucky enough to see how tempura and lettuce models are made, a delicate process of pouring colored wax into warm water.
Address: 4-20-30 Kashihara, Minami-ku
Classes: Sat., Sun & Hol. 10:00~, 13:00~ (reservations required, call the day before). Reservations also accepted for weekdays. Groups less than three persons accepted only from 13:00. Groups of three or more are welcome from morning. (reservations required, call the day before)
Take bus #151 from in front of Tenjin Daimaru-mae towards to Kashiwawa Eigyosho and get off at Furuno bus stop and and walk 5 minutes. From Hakata: From Hakata Yubinkyoku Mae Bus Stop C or D take bus number 67 and get off at Furuno and walk 5 min.
Courses: Parfait Course (make your own parfait as pictured above), ¥1,500 for parfait base (tax not included), ¥200 (case), add on extras are mostly ¥105 each.
After a long and fun day exploring the city, it was back to Tenjin where I met Oscar for dinner at a very popular yatai, Pyonkichi. Using the Fun Pass Fukuoka Coupon Book we enjoyed a nice dinner of Cod Gyoza, Roasted Thread-sail File Fish and a shochu cocktail to wash it down with. We also shared a bowl of Yaki Ramen, plenty for a filling dinner! The yatai was absolutely bustling with conversation and smiling faces.
Address: 1 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, in front of Daimaru
Fun Pass Info: Cod Gyoza, Roasted Thread-sail File Fish and a Shochu Cocktail, ¥1,550 but only ¥1,000 with this pass
It was a long day! I had a chance to visit some new places I hadn’t seen, despite living here in Fukuoka City. The pass was great value given how far I travelled . It was a great chance to see some unique areas and try something new and I think I managed to make the most of the unlimited bus travel!
Report by Oscar Boyd and Lauren Lewis.
All information correct at the time of publish. First published Mar. 3, 2017.