Fukuoka’s open air food stands (屋台, Yatai) are possibly the city’s best known symbol. Yatai can generally seat about seven or eight people and provide an atmospheric outdoor environment to enjoy various food that are generally simple and filling. There are over 150 yatai scattered across Fukuoka but the best place to find them is on the southern end of Nakasu Island. Located in the middle of the city, Nakasu Island has a long row of around 20 yatai that are attractively situated along the water.
Various alcoholic drinks help make the yatai a great place to get in touch with the locals, although many of the “locals” happen to be Japanese tourists visiting Fukuoka from other parts of Japan.
Typical dishes enjoyed at yatai are grilled chicken skewers (yakitori), hot pot (oden) and most famously Hakata Ramen, a local noodle dish featuring relatively thin ramen noodles in a pork bone based soup (tonkotsu).
Yatai are typically open from around 6PM to around 2AM, except when the weather is very bad. Many stands close one day of the week, the day varies from stand to stand, but is often Sunday. There can be waiting times for popular stands, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. Yatai is the name given to street-side food stalls in Fukuoka. These stalls are no bigger than a few meters long but churn out delicious food evening after evening, before packing up and disappearing during the day time.
Most have just one or two chefs cooking on one side, with a bar that usually has no more than ten seats for customers on the other. There are approximately 150 Yatai spread out across the city, but most can be found in and around Tenjin and Nakasu. It is because of these Yatai that Fukuoka was recently rated as one of the ten greatest street food cities in Asia by CNN Travel.
The last time I went, I had a typical experience from what you would expect from a good Yatai. I went with three friends and as soon as we sat down the owner/chef instantly asked each of us our names, where we were from and what we were doing in Japan. Having now become best friends with the owner, we were then introduced to all of the other customers at the table whilst we ordered food. This particular Yatai was known for a selection of different dishes, and when we asked the other customers for recommendations, each person had a different suggestion. We ended up with eight different dishes, all of which were delicious, and we spent more than an hour having a group conversation with all of the other customers, and the owner.
Yatai is one of the treats in Fukuoka. You get the chance to watch the city’s people walk by, eat some of the most delicious street food in Japan, and experience the unique atmosphere is something you should not miss. So the next time you’re in Fukuoka drop by a Yatai and sit down; you never know what you might end up eating, or who you might end up talking to.
Yatai are located throughout the city center, and visitors will likely come across some while walking through busy tourist areas in the evening. To reach the row of stalls on Nakasu Island travelers can take the convenient 100 yen loop bus from Hakata Station or Tenjin Station (100 yen, departures every 5-10 minutes). The closest subway stations are Nakasu Kawabata Station and Minami Tenjin Station, which are both about a 10 minute walk away.
[map lat=”33.5948404″ lng=”130.4064208″][/map]
Naka Sukawabata Station
Address: 3 Shimokawabatamachi, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka Station, Fukuoka Prefecture
Website: Fukuoka Yatai