Kawabata Shotengai, one of Fukuoka’s oldest shopping arcades, offers a charming glimpse into the city’s past. This 400-meter long covered street links the ultra-modern shopping centers Eeny Meeny Miny Mo and Canal City, and is known for its many traditional stores and excellent souvenir shopping.
1. Entering the arcade from the Eeny Meeny Miny Mo side, just a few shops on the right is Nonaka no Yame-cha (Tel: 092-271-0542), specializing in tea from Yame, an area in Fukuoka Prefecture famous for its high-quality green tea. A foil pouch of Yame-cha makes an ideal souvenir! A wide variety of tea pots, accessories, and sweets are also on display, with decorative tea cans priced as low as ￥241.
2. Fifty meters along on the left, Asajima Ryubundo (Tel: 092-272-1200) is worth a visit just for its interior and small Japanese garden. This traditional seal maker has been around for a century and also carries a range of fans. The fans with unique Yamakasa artwork by Fukuoka artist Isao Nishijima (￥2,100) sell out quickly, but his drawings make a great omiyage too.
3. It’s hard to miss Kawabata Zenzai Hiroba on the right – with its huge, colorful yama float similar to those used in the Yamakasa Festival. This historic confectioner is a great place to rest and catch a glimpse of Hakata River. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays between 11:00~18:00 they offer traditional zenzai rice cakes with azuki bean paste (￥400). Green tea included!
4. Halfway down on the left you’ll come across Hasegawa Butsudan (Tel: 092-271-0275), run by Japan’s largest Buddhist altar manufacturer and based in Fukuoka. A new showroom is under construction but in the meantime customers can admire the small altars on display, peruse a selection of prayer beads and buy intricately decorated boxes of incense (from ￥630). A short walk yet a world away from spiritual pursuits, As Collection is paradise for those wanting to snap up figure-hugging, sheer dresses at bargain prices.
5. The window display of French Patissier Ardeur (Tel: 092-281-0570) draws you in with its mouth-watering collection of macaroons, the store’s specialty (￥158 each). If you’d like a meal before your sweets, almost next door is Dosanko, a popular noodle shop perfect for a quick bowl of ramen (￥550) or a plate of fried rice (￥700). Itadakimasu!
6. Lovers of all things Korean have been flocking to Petit Korea (Tel: 092-262-2877) since it opened four years ago. This shop not only stocks Korean food (the ubiquitous kimchi, noodles, crackers, ginseng tea etc.) but houses a variety of other items from the Land of the Morning Calm, including pottery, DVDs, pop culture trinkets, health products, and cosmetics.
7. Further along on the right is Mura no Fukei (Tel: 092-282-0612), a fresh vegetable and fruit shop. In the back they operate a small cafeteria featuring very reasonably priced home-style Japanese fare. The lunch set at ｴ700 includes rice, miso soup, choice of a main dish and three side dishes.
8. Really enjoying Kawabata Arcade? Consider spending the night at the low-key Hakata Riverside Hotel (Tel: 092-291-1455, Web site), a family-owned 10-room hotel with a small bistro. Single rooms cost from ￥4,750 to ￥6,300, and discounts are offered for international guests.
Access from Tenjin
Take a ￥100 bus at the Tenjin Bus Center stop, and get off at Hakata-za mae on Meiji-dori (10 minutes) in front of Eeny Meeny Miny Mo.
Take Kawabata Exit 6 at Nakasu-Kawabata subway station, turn left and take the escalator to street level. Walk across Meiji-dori to the entrance of Kawabata Shotengai.
Start at Nishitetsu Tenjin Station. Walk down Watanabe-dori away from Mitsukoshi, and turn right at Meiji-dori (first major intersection). Keep walking along Meiji-dori for about 1 kilometer (the brige across the Hakata River is the halfway point). Turn right after Drug Eleven and you’re there.
Ask the taxi driver to take you to Kawabata Shotengai.
(Kawabata Shotengai made onegaishimasu.)