|"In 1997, 'Asiaweek' voted Fukuoka the best Asian city to live
in and last year it made runner-up. For the seventh largest city in Japan, this ain't
bad. Indeed, Fukuoka is punching way above its weight. The retail recession that
has Japan in its clammy grip barely registers in Fukuoka's packed designer shops
and crowded supermalls. While the rest of Japan is coping with the second bubble
bursting, Fukuoka is kicking it mainland style. It's the city that East Asia chooses
to shop in, with Koreans, Taiwanese and Hong Kongers flocking in by plane and boat,
even in the maw of a continent-wide downturn. In part, this is because the city got
smart ten years ago and decided to make retail its heart and soul ; in part, it's
because Fukuoka has always been welcoming towards the gaijin, even when the rest
of Japan was shutting them out ; but, in the main, it's because Fukuoka is designed
for shopping in the way Brazilians are designed for samba.
The 80's property boom in Tokyo didn't hit this far south, so rents are far, far cheaper than in northern Japan. As a result, retailers have flocked here to pick up shopping space for a fraction of the price they'd pay for equivalent-sized units elsewhere. At the same time, the central location of the airport and the ultra-low flight paths in and out means that no building can be more than fourteen stories high or it'll lose its roof. Add to that parks, open spaces and wide roads, and you have a Beverly Hills-style, wide-pavemented shopping centrum with malls, department stores, loud-hailing hi-fi stores screaming for your yen and a collection of alleys filled with little shops and local designers."