Head to Ohori Koen, Fukuoka’s premiere city park, to spend a lazy—or aspiring—day at any time of year. This nationally designated place of scenic beauty dates from 1929. It combines urban and natural settings with practical artistry, winding a 2km running, cycling, and walking course around a picturesque lake.
The ample shorefront benches cater to picnic goers, as do the broad fields of grass and flower gardens located behind the playground. There you will also find the Castle Ruins as well as the moat lined with cherry blossoms in spring and brimming with lotus flowers in summer. If you haven’t prepared your own homemade bento, or boxed lunch, you can pick one up at the convenience store next to the subway station on your way in or grab something at the hotdog stand near the parking lot. If you’d rather stay indoors for awhile, though, stop into the restaurant there that Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio visited during their honeymoon. But if you’re just in the mood for a snack, you can treat yourself to a cappuccino and chocolate cake at the Starbucks and its nice view of the joggers and the lake behind them. For those determined to go after a free meal, some areas of the park are open to fishing—but check the signs.
Before you satisfy your relaxation desires, however, take some time to either follow the fitness buffs around the track or to absorb some culture at the Fukuoka Art Museum (check out the works from Dali, Miro, and Chagall as well as current exhibitions) and the Japanese garden at the south end of the park. There’s also a Noh theater if you’re yearning for something more animated.
Once you’ve built up your energy levels, seek out the family-friendly aspects of the park, including the mini play area on the west side—with perhaps the only set of baby swings in town—and the large playground in the northeast corner. Plenty of children make finding new pals easy. But kids won’t mind moving on from the slides when they discover the fashioned brook that curves along the willow-lined path leading from the playground. Pets are common here, and sociable dogs will playfully greet anyone who offers them attention. Following the little waterway takes you to the nearby boathouse with rentals available for exploring the lake and food for feeding the carp.
If paddling’s not your thing, venture through the playful seagulls that salute your walk onto the first of the fine stone bridges connecting three of the lake’s islands with the land. The gazebo there at the north island looks attractive in photos, and the whispering pines beckon you through the little groves to the benches along the shoreline. More colorful carp, turtles, and several species of ducks circuit the water’s edge and numerous hawks, herons, and other waterfowl large and small make their brave appearance despite the spectators.
If you look closely as you stroll around the park, you’ll appreciate the haven for the natural world in this urban creation. Besides the birds and fish, a fine variety of trees and flowers worth your eyes’ and camera’s attention give a delightful show in every season, and summer brings vibrant dragonflies and butterflies. There are even a couple of informative signs identifying key plants and animals. Search out a few of the several varieties of camellias, easy to find and enjoy. And don’t forget to pause; take a moment to feel what Ohori has to offer. Bring a friend or loved one, say hello to a new friend there, or just reach for something to write with and share the flickering emotion of peace on your thoughts in the inner city.
Ōhori Kōen (大濠公園) hosts Fukuoka’s main fireworks display on August 1 every year. Other nearby places of interest include Maizuru Park and the Castle Ruins, Gokoku Shrine, and the American Consulate. The museum, garden, and theater are closed on Mondays—or Tuesdays if it’s a national holiday.