A peaceful retreat in one of Japan’s most vibrant, cosmopolitan cities
A few weeks back I was sponsored to travel by shinkansen down to Fukuoka, a cosmopolitan city in the south of Japan I used to live in way back in 2003 when I was just 22. Apart from a short visit in 2008, I hadn’t been back since, and so I was excited to revisit some of my old haunts and see how the city has changed in the intervening years. I’ll be writing a bit more about Fukuoka in future posts, but today I want to focus on my stay which was at the amazing Agora Fukuoka Hilltop Hotel & Spa. More a hilltop sanctuary than a hotel, the Agora was the perfect place for me to base myself for two nights. I also got to try some of the most beautifully presented food I’ve had so far in Japan.
Arrival in Fukuoka
Having lived in central Tokyo for the last five years, the first thing I was reminded of after arriving in Fukuoka was just how compact and accessible everything is. If I had chosen to fly, the city is only two stops on the subway from the airport: six minutes! In fact, I can’t think of any other city in all of my years of travel that has a more convenient airport.
The Agora Hilltop Hotel & Spa is located in Sakurazaka, a leafy suburb high up in the city which can be reached on the Nakakuma line, or by complimentary shuttle bus from outside Hakata Station to the property. Check-in was quick and painless, seated in the spacious lobby with a cup of green tea. Looking around me I could already see the vibe the designers were going for: clean lines and strategically placed windows that aim to bring nature and the city directly into the hotel.
My Hilltop Suite opened up from a winding entrance corridor into a wide space bathed in natural light. The balcony doors could be fully opened making you feel as if you were part of the city.
The suite itself was very cleverly designed, with the creators making sure to conceal any unnecessary elements. No ugly fridges, kettles or bins sitting about. The choice of wood helped absorb the sunlight. Check out the video below.
Besides the incredible views, the highlight of my stay had to be the food – both the light brunch served in-room on my second morning, as well as the incredible kaiseki multi-course dinner I had at the property’s KOYOMI restaurant. This really was very, very good and set this hotel apart from many others I have stayed at.
Dinner at the aforementioned KOYOMI was an experience in itself, with eight meticulous courses served by my own personal waiter who explained each of the seasonal dishes. The atmosphere here was relaxed, with minimalist perfection reflected in both the surroundings and the food.
[ Click below to open gallery with a description of each course ]
I couldn’t have asked for a better location for my short return to Fukuoka. The memories of my time living here will now be combined with new memories from this hotel. If you are ever travelling through Kyushu, definitely try and squeeze in a few nights here. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to experience some of the Agora’s other properties across Japan in the future.