There’s a soothing hum to laid-back Fukuoka, the largest city on the Japanese island of Kyushu.

It’s hard to miss on a weekend afternoon as you stroll down Meiji-dori Avenue, the city’s wide downtown spine, passing places like the Kabuki theater Hakata-za and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum. Eventually, you will reach the slow-flowing Naka River, whose banks are lined with the traditional open-air food stalls known as yatai, a signature attraction in this culinary and arts haven.

With a sprawling commercial port that was Japan’s largest between the 12th and 16th centuries and which, to this day, links the country with China, Korea and other parts of the Pacific, Fukuoka has long been considered Japan’s "Gateway to Asia.” A popular destination for vacationing Japanese, the city is also drawing tourists from abroad, especially noticeable since the country reintroduced visa-free entry last October. They come for the city’s lauded cuisine, its casual atmosphere, vibrant arts and nightlife scenes and temperate climate. And then there are the historic sites like the beautifully preserved Tochoji Temple, and the natural beauty found in places like the lush Ohori Park and the splendid experimental rooftop garden atop the ACROS building.