Kyushu is a southern island bubbling with hot springs, volcanic ranges, stunning nature and delicious food. Our first stop in our little trek across the northern part of this warm and friendly island is Fukuoka, the largest city in Kyushu and a gateway to other parts of Asia.
Since 2013, JTB has established convenient little Tourist Information Centers in all the major cities across Japan, including 5 in Tokyo alone. This time, we dropped by the one in Fukuoka, known also as QTIC, which opened in April 2016.
Location: 1F, Tenjin Bldg., 2-12-1, Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka city (2 minutes walk from Tenjin Station)
Business hours: Everyday, 11:00~19:00 *9:00~19:00 after Oct. 1st 2016
Closed: Dec. 31 to Jan. 3
What the QTIC Can Do For You
In addition to having friendly staff who are eager to provide you with plenty of useful information on Kyushu, QTIC also acts as a convenient pit stop for all your travel needs.
1. Free Wi-Fi and PCs for use for your travel research or to touch base with those back home. You can also charge your phone and other devices here for free.
2. Easy cash exchange for 12 different currencies.
3. Temporary baggage storage service and baggage delivery service to hotels and airports. They even sell suitcases in case yours has decided to suddenly retire.
4. Nifty souvenirs for purchase. Browse a nice selection of specialty goods from each prefecture in Kyushu, including the hot-selling Mt. Fuji-themed Edo Cut Glass on-the-rocks glass. What's cool about this glass is not only the delicate sakura petal engravings (also available with snowflakes and fireworks patterns) and Mt. Fuji-shaped bottom, but also that the Mt. Fuji will appear to change colour based on the liquid in the glass. If you need this glass now but can't make it to QTIC, you can also purchase it online on WOAH! Japan.
Adore Kumamon? You'll also be pleased to find that there is a huge range of goods featuring everyone's favourite mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture.
5. And last, but most definitely not least, you can buy tickets and make bookings for all sorts of things. Hotels, bus passes, day trips, car rentals, shows, meal tickets, you name it.
We had purchased the 3-Day Northern Kyushu SUNQ Pass for JPY 6,000 on JAPANiCAN, a great saving of 25% off the RRP. Printing out the purchase confirmation, exchanging it for the pass was a breeze. We'll be using this pass in the later legs of our journey.
Another cool pass available for purchase is the MARUTTO FUKUOKA pass. Priced at JPY 2,000 (JPY 1,000 for children) this is a set that contains the Fukuoka 1 Day Pass and Nishitetsu Tenjin Omuta Lines 1 Day Pass, allowing visitors to unlimited travel on all bus lines within Fukuoka City and as well as the Dazaifu and Amagishi Lines, which can be used to visit two of the most popular sights in Fukuoka: Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine and the castle town of Yanagawa.
But what are meal tickets? You may be wondering.
Good question. There are a couple of types and we tried out both.
> Yatai Kippu
These are great little value-for-money tickets costing a modest JPY 1,050 that will make dining at those famous road-side stalls in Fukuoka as easy as pie. Purchase the coupon, choose where you want to eat from a list of participating stalls, and just go and eat! No need to order in Japanese or fumble through the menu, the stall will give you a generous mini-course of their best dishes.
We went to Kiryu, a popular yellow-signed stall set up outside Daimaru in Tenjin, and upon presenting them with the ticket, they knew exactly what to do. We were pleasantly surprised at how much food the ticket got us: a cup of Oolong tea each, a stewed dish, chewy gyoza, mentaiko omelette and house ramen. It was actually quite filling even shared between two people.
> Meal Coupon
You can purchase these outright on the day at the QTIC or ahead of time on JAPANiCAN and then exchange it on the day. There are 3 classes of meal coupons: Bronze, Silver and Gold, valued at JPY 5,000, JPY 8,000 and JPY 10,000 respectively. Basically, the more expensive ones entitle you to a more extravagant meal. The general flow of use goes like this:
- Choose which value coupon you want. There is a list of restaurants in which the coupon can be used, and the course contents vary depending on the coupon value.
- When booking online on JAPANiCAN, enter the restaurant and start time. If booking on the day at the QTIC, you must do so at least an hour before the start time (seat are also not guaranteed). Staff at the QTIC will make the call for you, so you don't have to worry about making a Japanese phone call.
- Front up at the restaurant, show them your coupon and eat!
We purchased the Gold ticket and went to Kappo Yoshida to try their famed "live" squid and sea bream ochazuke. The meal consisted of 12 courses and there was far more food than we could ever hope to consume. The sashimi was so fresh, the gills of the fish and tentacles of the squid were still moving! High quality and exquisite tastes all round in a very Japanese-style setting.
The QTIC is a great place to familiarise yourself with what Fukuoka and Kyushu have to offer, so drop by if you're in Tenjin. Here, you can also drink as many cups of water as you like. Because everyone should stay hydrated during their travels.
Model: Takuya Komatsu is an actor/singer active in Asia. Originally from Kanagawa Prefecture, he has starred in dramas such as Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo 2013 and Fire Boys (2004), as well as released an album in Taiwan.