Minoshima was once a bustling shopping area known as the Kitchen of Hakata. Today, over 50 mostly family-run shops with the nostalgic look of the Showa era remain (1920s to ‘80s). This is a great place if you like exploring off the beaten track and searching for truly local flavors. Fukuoka Now took a stroll down Minoshima Market Street in the late-July sunshine, and here are some of the places we discovered…
Kuwabara Tsukemono Shop
This Japanese pickle shop is an unexpected hit with foreigners and tourists who want to pick up a taste of Japan. Pickles include favourites like daikon leaf pickles (daikon-ba), as well as the more common types of pickled fruit and vegetables, like umeboshi (the red pickled plum commonly served on top of rice), takuan, tokozuke, and kimchi.
2-26-5 Minoshima, Hakata-ku
Ide Tofu Shop
Small and independant tofu shops are becoming a thing of the past, so be sure to stop by one of the few still in operation, Ide Tofu, which has been in business since 1958. Try some of their freshly made tofu or buy a refreshing bottle of soy milk, which is only ¥130 per 400 ml; the soy milk is so popular that locals often reserve bottles in advance! They sell a variety of different types of the silky-smooth cubes, including yose tofu and thick age dofu; you can even see part of the tofu-making process, since most of the equipment they use stands proudly in the center of the shop. They label all their products as having come from Minoshima, and have been active promoters of the area for the past twenty years.
1-20-16 Minoshima, Hakata-ku
Tempura Egami Shokuhin
The ¥43 korokke (potato croquettes) here are famous for being that rare combination of cheap and delicious! Other delights include the deep-fried quail eggs, the crunchy exteriors of which perfectly complement the velvety texture of the boiled eggs inside. The owners always use fresh food, never frozen, which means that they often have seasonal options. The shop is so popular that it was included in the famous manga Cooking Papa (the story focuses on a salaryman who is a brilliant chef, but is so embarrassed by this that he lets his friends believe his wife cooks his meals) – the shop keeps a copy of the issue on hand. But Egami is not just beloved by Japanese people: many foreigners frequent this store, and one Chinese regular was so enamoured with their food that he volunteered to write a Chinese translation of the menu.
1-20-14 Minoshima, Hakata-ku
Sweets Shop Gekkadou
In the heat, take a load off on the cushioned stool provided, and drink one of this shop’s sweet (Ramune) sodas served in an old-fashioned codd-neck bottle. They keep them cool by placing them in a bucket with a big block of ice. The best-sellers of this old sweet shop are the strawberry waffles and the dango, either of which would make a sweet memento of your Minoshima wanderings, whatever the weather.
2-26-31 Minoshima, Hakata-ku
Seafood Shop Harada Shoten
In addition to a wide variety of fresh fish, this shop is known for its shellfish; their extensive range includes awabi (large sea snails used in sashimi, prized for their chewiness), which are harvested locally and whizzed straight to the store. Their selection is so wide that sometimes even locals are not sure how best to cook the delicacies they sell, but the shopkeeper is always happy to offer tips to those who ask!
2-20-18 Minoshima, Hakata-ku
Located located at the junction where Minoshima Market St. meets another major road, this period style restaurant serves udon and soba noodles, as well as a regularly changing seasonal menu. They also have a selection of delicious donburi (meal sets featuring a bowl of rice topped with the dish of your choice): the tasty options available include tendon (tempura), oyakodon (chicken and egg) and katsudon (breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet). During the summer, they also make and sell a variety of delicious popsicles (¥50 each), including pineapple, azuki (red bean) and matcha flavours, all wrapped the old-fashioned way: in newspaper. An ideal snack on a warm day!
Minoshima 1-12-9, Hakata-ku
Fresh fruit and vegetable lovers will enjoy looking around this market store, probably the largest of its kind in the area. Here you can enjoy the smells of the freshly-harvested, seasonal produce and maybe pick up some healthy snacks. The owner, Yoshida-san, is part of the younger generation that is working hard to put some energy into the neighborhood, while at the same time maintaining its friendly, old-world charm.
1-11-10 Minoshima, Hakata-ku
This liquor shop could easily be used as a set for a Showa-period film. A great photo opportunity! The elderly proprietor no longers operates the counter bar. Feel free to stick your head in, but please do not linger too long.
2-20-3 Minoshima, Hakata-ku
If you want a base of operations which is hip yet relatively inexpensive, then Costel Minoshima is the place for you. This hostel is owned by an outgoing art-lover, Mr. Sadakuni, and is filled with fabulous, elegant bric-a-brac. It was once a fish shop, but the owner converted it into a machiya-esque hostel (in the style of a traditional Japanese wooden townhouse) two years ago, inspired by his own experience of backpacking all over the world. The bar is open at nights, and welcomes explorers whether they’re sleeping there or not. What’s more, you can sometimes catch a workshop being held in the bar space – while we were there, the owner’s friend was running a kawaii cookie workshop. Sada-san is always keen to offer directions and help, not only concerning Minoshima, but the whole of Kyushu.
2-27-14 Minoshima, Hakata-ku
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This map is available at the Minoshima Shotengai Promotion Association (1-17-15 Minoshima, Hakata-ku)
Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn201, Sep. 2015)