About an 8-minute walk northwest of Hakata Station and located on the right side of Taihaku-Dori is Tochoji Temple, 2-4 Gokushomachi (tel. 092/291-4459; daily 9am-5pm; subway: one stop from Hakata Station to Gion, exit 1, 1 min.; ¥100 Bus: Gion-machi, stop no. 16; look for a picture of a Buddha at the front gate). This modern reconstruction of a long-established temple, established by Kobo Daishi, may not look like much, but up on the second floor is Japan's largest seated wooden Buddha, measuring 10m (33 ft.) tall and carved in 1988. Admission is free, but you are asked to refrain from taking photographs. Particularly interesting is the trip through the Hells of Buddhism, upon which you can embark by entering the small room to the left of the Buddha. After viewing colored reliefs of unfortunate souls burning in hell, being boiled alive, and suffering other tortures, enter the darkened, twisting passageway and walk through it guided by a rail, whereupon you'll reach the end -- enlightenment! It's fun for older kids.
On the other side of Taihaku-Dori, down the side street with a 7-Eleven and marked by a large cement torii, is the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum (Hakata Machiya Furusato-Kan), 6-10 Reisen-machi (tel. 092/281-7761; www.hakatamachiya.com; daily 10am-6pm; subway: Gion, exit 2, 4 min.; ¥100 Bus: Gion-machi, stop no. 16). This museum celebrates the history and cultural heritage of Hakata, the old merchants' town, concentrating primarily on the Meiji and Taisho eras. It occupies three buildings, two of which are Meiji-Era replicas; the third is an authentic, 150-year-old house of a weaver. On display are items used in everyday life, as well as dioramas depicting festivals, everyday street scenes, and a home typical of a Hakata merchant family. On a telephone, you can listen to Hakata-ben, the local dialect, which is quite difficult even for native Japanese speakers to understand. You can also watch artisans at work on Hakata's most famous wares, including the highly refined Hakata dolls, tops, wooden containers, and Hakata-ori cloth, used for obi sashes and famous for loincloths worn by sumo wrestlers. Be sure to see the 22-minute film of the Yamakasa Festival, Fukuoka's most famous festival, featuring races of men carrying enormous floats. Add another 30 minutes to see the museum itself and its crafts shop. Admission is ¥200 for adults and free for children.
Beyond the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum is Kushida Shrine, 1 Kamikawabata-machi (tel. 092/291-2951; shrine grounds daily 24 hr.), Fukuoka's oldest shrine. Site of the Yamakasa Festival, it has long been the shrine for merchants praying for good health and prosperity. Most interesting is a tall, towering float on view (except in June when it is being rebuilt) that is used in the Yamakasa Festival held in mid-July and decorated with dolls made by Hakata doll makers. Incredibly, the elaborate floats are made anew every year.
Walk through Kushida Shrine and turn right into the Kawabata-dori covered shopping arcade. Linking Canal City Hakata and Hakata Riverain, it was once the city's main shopping street but has been overtaken by the two complexes it connects. Halfway down is another float on view year-round that's used in the Yamakasa Festival. At the end of the arcade, across the street, is Riverain, where up on the seventh and eighth floors is the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, 3-1 Shimo-Kawabatamachi (tel. 092/263-1100; http://faam.city.fukuoka.lg.jp; Thurs-Tues 10am-8pm), the only museum I've seen in Japan devoted to contemporary and modern art from around Asia. From folk pop art to political art, the permanent exhibition presents the cutting edge of art from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, China, Mongolia, Korea, India, and other Asian countries, with changing displays culled from the museum's own collection. It's very much worth the hour you'll spend here and the ¥200 admission for adults, ¥150 for college and high-school students, and ¥100 for junior-high students and younger (special exhibits cost more). The closest subway station is Nakasu-Kawabata Station (exit 6) in front of Riverain; or take the ¥100 Bus to Kawabata-machi (stop no. 12).
If you're ready for dining or shopping, retrace your steps through Kawabata-dori arcade and take the escalator leading to Canal City Hakata, a virtual city-within-a-city complete with hotels, shops, restaurants, the Club Sega amusement arcade, and a 177m-long (590-ft.) canal that runs through its center.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.