A forty minute run down the Kuko Line from Hakata Station, Itoshima with its reputation for chill vibes and beaches is perhaps the Santa Monica to the Fukuoka/Hakata supercity's Downtown LA (or what Shonan is to Tokyo, for a closer-to-home analogy). It’s an ideal day escape from the city, close enough that you can take it easy getting there, catch a sunset, and still make it back to Fukuoka with time to spare.
If you do make it out to Itoshima early, Current Bakery has a great view from their patio of Nogita Beach and the Genkai Sea in the morning. This restaurant specializes in house-baked pastries and bread, but has a broad menu available for lunch or an early dinner. In the high season, like many places in Itoshima, arriving early to beat the crowds is urgent and key.
Keya no Oto
After breakfast, if you’re not up for hitting the beach yet, take one of the boat tours operating from the coast out to Keya no Oto. The tower of basalt rises roughly 200 feet above the crashing waves below. A tour out to Keya no Oto takes about twenty five minutes.
Most tours are shut down by the end of November, and a late season visit, when things are a bit quieter in Itoshima, is the perfect time to visit.
Sun-worshipping suburban folk in Japan have been engaged in a decades-long love affair with Jamaican culture, to the point where Japanese reggae is a vital artform and there are plenty of beachside bars that look like they were inspired by The Harder They Come. Natty Dread is an easy sell: a beachside bar with King Tubby on the hi-fi, bottles of Red Stripe, jerk chicken and burgers… This is something of an Itoshima institution, and its resurrection after a fire a few years back has solidified its status.
- Fukuoka Itoshima-shi Shima Nogita 2708-17
Itoshima Northshore and its Palm Beach Terrace and Palm Beach Surf Point have featured in the Instagram stories of countless sun-kissed North Kyushu girls (many will recognize the angels wings photo spot and the palm tree swing from those stories). The stretch of beach south of the upper peninsula village of Nishinoura has become renowned for paddleboarding and surfing, as well as new cafes and bars that have followed the redevelopment.
On a western peninsula of Itoshima, facing Himejima Island, Tottan Kobo makes mineral-rich sea salt the old fashioned way, pulling the it from the briny sea with a system of racks and heating trays. Salt in coastal Japan has a fascinating history, and operations like this have only been possible for a little over a decade, since the government monopoly on salt production was broken up. If your tastes run more toward the sweet side, the saltmakers also make a rich pudding spiked with hits of flaky sel gris.
The Sakurai Futamigaura of Meotoiwa
The Sakurai Futamigaura of Meotoiwa are just down the beach. An alabaster torii frames two wave-battered monoliths that are joined together by a shimenawa rope. After getting a good luck at the rocks in daylight, it’s not a bad idea to loop back around to the beach once the sun starts going down: the beach faces a stretch of ocean that provides the best sunset views, and watching the sun set over the Sakurai Futamigaura is a great way to end the day.
After catching sundown on the beach, Sunset Cafe is a swell spot to wander over to. Make a choice from the Japanese-Hawaiian menu, grab a cocktail and watch the final traces of red lighting up the Genkai Sea.