The biggest city in Kyushu, Fukuoka is a bustling place to be at any time of year. If you want to escape the heat of summer in the city and find a nearby place to relax, Itoshima could be right up your street.
In Itoshima, you should head to the Shima-sakurai area. Here you will get sea, sand, sunshine and surfing, as well as a beautiful shrine and plenty of restaurants and cafes – however you like to relax, Itoshima got it covered.
Where is Itoshima
West of Fukuoka, Itoshima is an area covering over 80 square miles. There are several mountains if you like hiking or biking, and plenty of golf clubs too. The Keya area is popular for swimming, and in mid spring you can visit oyster shacks for fresh snacks. The Shima-sakurai area is to the north of Itoshima, with wonderful views out to sea.
What to do at Itoshima
Futamigura Bay is the main destination for many pleasure-seekers in Shima-sakurai. A beautiful beach with a seaside view doesn’t seem like a likely thing to find so close to the big city.
There are two main areas for enjoying the beach – the first is in front of the bulk of restaurants (such as Palm Beach) and near to the ‘Couples Rock’ (桜井二見ヶ浦の夫婦岩). These two rocks are supposed to look like a torii (an archway which you find in Japanese temples) and they have built a white torii in front of the rocks. They runs straight into the sand like the famous one at Miyajima Island, Hiroshima.
That is the more popular place to visit, but if you want a more secluded beach, go a little further around the coast to the stretch which is near the TIME cafe and Lino Cafe. There are far fewer people there and more room to stretch out on the sand.
Fancy trying your hand (and feet) at surfing? Right next to the Lino Cafe is the TF Surf company where you can book lessons (probably in Japanese only) for either surfing or SUP surfing (stand up paddling surfing). If you already know what you’re doing, you can rent surfboards and SUP boards of various sizes, wet suits and body boards. I’m not an expert but the prices (by the hour or per day) seem very reasonable. They also do repair work if your equipment is broken.
A short walk away from the beach is the Sakurai Shrine. This is a beautiful little shrine hidden up in the hills with a peaceful atmosphere. Well worth checking out.
Where to Eat in Itoshima, Shima-sakurai
There are loads of great cafes and restaurants in Shima-sakurai, from fancy joints down to little seaside shacks. On the weekend and public holidays, expect to queue for a table during peak times. However, if you visit off-season or at non-peak times you can find it a quiet haven. Do take note that many of these places probably close in the winter, so check ahead.
Bistro & Cafe TIME is one of the more popular cafes, set a little further around the coast and next to a beautiful beach which is quieter than the main tourist spot. If you’re going for tea and cakes, this is a cool little cafe with reasonable prices and plenty of drink options. A travel tip is to steer clear of this place at lunchtime – the lunch options are limited (only two dishes on the menu when we visited) and the food served was both tiny and expensive.
For a brilliant cafe, I recommend Lino Cafe which is located close by. With a prime view out to sea from the comfortable seats, it is a wonder that it is even quiet on the weekends? Both drinks and snacks were fairly prices, with an awesome tea set where you could get two small cakes of your choice (such as a plain scone, chocolate chip scone, chocolate banana muffin, earl grey muffin, etc) and a drink, for about 500 Yen with coffee or 450 Yen with tea (the red fruits tea was delicious).
There are loads of choices for restaurants – the first one we went to was called Futamigaura Restaurant. Going by how many people were queuing up to dine there, we were expecting to be blown away. The food was pretty good, but not worth the price tag – smaller dishes for about 700 Yen but for a decent sized meal, you’re looking at more like 1,350 Yen or more. Even then the dishes were not large.
If you want somewhere really good to grab a bite to eat, I recommend the Palm Beach Restaurant. Their main dishes are pizza and pasta. If you go there at lunchtime take a look at the lunch set – you can upgrade your meal to include a small salad and a drink for a little extra. The pasta dishes are a small but totally delicious. I recommend to try the mentaiko (spicy fish eggs) spaghetti for a local flavour. The pizza is more generously sized. Not super cheap but certainly worth the price.
How to Get from Fukuoka to Itoshima
By public transport, you can take the subway from central Fukuoka to Chikuzen-maebaru, about 40 minutes from Hakata. There are other stations which are a bit closer but this is a bigger station with more bus links.
From there, a public bus can take you to the Shima-sakurai area – information in Japanese only, and buses are fairly infrequent.
Driving is the best option – from Hakata Station it takes about 45 minutes to drive to the Shima-sakurai area. Several restaurants have their own parking spaces, and there are public parking areas next to the Futamigaura Restaurant, and also around the coast next to the TIME cafe and bistro.