Fukuoka may not be on the international radar, but it has been in the spotlight as a model green city even before the March earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown brought energy-conserving measures throughout Japan.
Located on the island of Kyushu 880km (550 miles) west of Tokyo, the city has instigated a number of programs to reduce its carbon footprint, including a "Morning Glory Curtain Project" to cover building walls with flowers and greenery (the epitome of which is the much-photographed ACROS Fukuoka Building with its terraced façade), a seawater desalination center with one of the world's highest freshwater recovery rates, Japan's first ordinance to promote water conservation, and its own "Fukuoka Method" of waste landfill that reduces greenhouse gases by 50% and has been exported to other Asian nations. Add to that the city's plans to become the world's first city powered by hydrogen, and it's clear to see why Fukuoka's 1.4 million residents think they live in Japan's most livable city.
Serving as a major domestic and international gateway, Fukuoka is connected to Tokyo and southern Kyushu by Shinkansen bullet train; its airport is just a five-minute subway ride from downtown. Visitors are greeted by a vibrant, user-friendly city offering expansive city parks, museums like the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum, shopping and dining complexes such as Canal City Hakata, a lively fish market, and spirited Fukuoka Softbank Hawks baseball games. Nearby are the renowned Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu National Museum, and Space World theme park. After hours, the most colorful place to unwind is a river island packed with food stalls.
Beth Reiber is the author of Frommer's Japan, Frommer's Tokyo, and Frommer's Hong Kong.