Forget Tokyo: Fukuoka Has Some Of Japan’s Best Nightlife

Fukuoka, Japan
Brought to you by Japan National Tourism Organization

Go on a journey of endless discovery in Japan.

There’s no disputing that Japan’s bar scene is diverse. From sophisticated cocktails perfected by master bartenders to bizarre, novelty clubs – in Japan, you’ll run out of steam before you run out of options.

But don’t think you have to mingle with the tourist hordes in Tokyo and Osaka to experience the best bars in the country. If you travel a little further afield, you’ll get a more authentic experience without compromising quality. If this sounds like your scene, look no further than Fukuoka. It’s the largest city on Japan’s southern Island of Kyushu and an emerging player as one of the country’s most exciting night-time locations.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by 福岡CLUB bijou (@bijou_fukuoka) on

Fukuoka is easily reached from Tokyo, so don’t be put off by the distance on a map. The portside town is a five-hour journey from Tokyo station via shinkansen (bullet train) to Fukuoka’s transport hub of Hakata, or half that if you’re travelling from Osaka. If you think that’s too long to be on a train, Country Rail this is not. Your seat reclines, there’s plenty of legroom, the bathrooms are immaculate, and food and alcoholic drinks can be purchased from staff on board or at the station before departure.

Alternatively, flights between Tokyo and Fukuoka take just under two hours and, from Osaka, the flight is only an hour and fifteen minutes.

Sip on a beer or sake while Japan’s countryside flies past your window and enjoy your enforced break from the crowds. While you’re in this relaxed state, take a bit of time to plan your upcoming nocturnal adventures. Be picky. No matter how specific or niche your dream bar is, odds are Fukuoka will provide.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by COYOTE UGLY SALOON FUKUOKA (@coyoteuglysaloon_fukuoka) on

How niche are we talking here? Well, if you’re looking to party like LeAnn Rimes circa 2000, Fukuoka has you covered. Head to Coyote Ugly Saloon to drink in a through-the-looking-glass take on the movie of the same name. Socialise with Fukuoka’s friendly Coyotes, enjoy cheap drinks during happy hour and, if you’re the kind of person who likes a bit of table-top dancing, it’s possible to join in the action. Much like the movie, it’s all hammy, PG13 fun.

But, if you’re looking for less ham, more dram, there’s plenty of world-class bars to appease even the most discerning whiskey drinker. Bar Leichhardt is as sophisticated as any New York speakeasy. The white-tuxedoed owner, Yu Sumiyoshi, is fluent in English and happy to help you select a drink – with 2000-plus bottles on offer, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Bar Kitchen is another popular haunt for whiskey lovers. Also boasting a collection in the thousands and plenty of local expertise, you could easily while away the hours talking with the staff and enjoying whiskey-matched bar snacks.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Yu Sumiyoshi バー ライカード (@bar_leichhardt) on

Fukuoka isn’t all small and themed bars, however. The coastal city is also home to some of Japan’s largest and most famous clubs. If you want to dance until the early hours, Bijou is a must-visit. The enormous venue guarantees a spectacle: light shows, enormous LED screens, and a large stage which hosts world-class DJs and dancers. The bar staff have excellent English, so the venue is popular with locals and tourists alike. Be warned, though: this is not the place for a quiet drink after a long day spent sightseeing and temple-gazing: it’s loud, bright and crowded.

Want something a bit more authentically Japan? Consider heading to Ningyo Shoji Bar Alley where dozens of small bars are packed into narrow and winding backstreets for a more traditional drinking scene. It’s the preferred area for many salary men to unwind from a long day’s work – here, you’ll sit shoulder-to-shoulder with them in bars smaller than your average Australian kitchen. If you’re the kind of traveller who thrives on spontaneity and stumbling on hidden gems, you’ll be right at home.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by 福岡CLUB bijou (@bijou_fukuoka) on

There’s no point researching venues, however, because few bars in Ningyo Shoji have an online presence and fewer still will be written in English. It’s best to wander around and try your luck with whatever appeals to you on the night. You’re more likely to encounter language barriers here, so be prepared for some charades or be willing to hop around a little until you find a venue which is accommodating to English speakers.

Or, throw caution to the wind and see what the bartenders surprise you with.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of Fukuoka’s best bars. You could easily spend a week moving between venues and exploring the drinking scene. Wherever you go on your Fukuoka journey, be brave enough to abandon your plans and leave things to chance. Some of the city’s best bars and venues will reveal themselves to travellers ambling through the safe, charming city streets. Not only will you then have the pleasure of finding something new, you’ll be able to smugly recommend your off-the-beaten-track selection to travellers who have not yet strayed from the touristy major cities. “Tokyo is fine,” you’ll say. “But the real aficionados go to Fukuoka.”

Japan is a must-visit land of endless discovery.

(Lead image: Alexandre Chambon / Unsplash)