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Devi's Japan Travels Part 1: Fukuoka


Hello everyone, welcome to my blog!

I am Devi, I have studied Japanese because I love anime, and my first blogs will be about my one month travel in Japan. Four years ago we have done a road trip only around Kyushu, this time we will go further. The first three weeks of this trip are together with my husband, and the last 10 days are by myself. After traveling in Japan for one month I will finally settle in Singapore. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu (nice to meet you)! This blog will be cut up in different parts because my travels were quite long, and every day was an adventure.

Day 1: Arrival in Fukuoka

The day after I arrived in Singapore, it was already time to fly to Japan. We flew with Korean Air and arrived in Fukuoka in the morning of sunday march 19th.

Arriving for the 4th time in Fukuoka, it was like coming home. The place I studied at for one year, it didn't change much in its appearance, but I know it did. My old dormitory is no more as well as some campuses. So the first thing to do is, take a subway to the hotel. Fukuoka airport is really close to the city center, so that's a big advantage of flying to Fukuoka. You can just take the subway, and within 20 minutes/half an hour you are in the city center.
I put my T-money card, the subway card for South-Korea, into the ticket machine, silly me! Of course I still had my Suica card from 10 years ago that I bought in Tokyo, and it still works. Suica is the prepaid card with which you can get on the subway, trains, buses, practically everything. In some places you can also pay by suica such as konbini's (short for convenience store). After arriving at the hotel we had a rest and then we decided to get some food. So what's the first thing that pops in mind when you think of Japanese food? Well, for us it's sushi! We were staying in Nakasu, which is, not the best district in Fukuoka. But it is conveniently near Canal City, which is a big complex full of shops and restaurants. So we decided to head there.
After eating some nice sushi for a reasonable price we explored around a bit in Canal City. There are a lot of fountains, and just when we were there a fountain show started, with fountain-water spraying up and down to music. Also, the architecture of Canal City is very nice, definitely worth visiting when visiting Fukuoka.


Afterwards we headed for the city center: Tenjin. We walked around a bit, there are a lot of shopping malls here. I used to come here often when I was a student. What was very nostalgic to me were the street light songs. You don't hear them often anymore nowadays in Japan I have noticed. Here are two of the songs you can still hear in Tenjin:

 
 The sadder one is called Toryanse and is an old children's song. Some people find this song creepy but for me it has the memories connected to Fukuoka in it so I just feel nostalgic when hearing it. After going to Tenjin core, the main shopping mall for youngsters, we went to Daimyo, the district with nice bars, restaurants, karaoke, and etc. We wandered around a bit until I realized I wanted to see if my favorite restaurant was still open, and it was! It has a very low door so it's easy to recognise but not easy to find. I used to come here and eat their 'Tako Raisu', or taco rice, an Okinawan dish I really like with rice and on top of that basically most things that go in a taco with a Japanese twist.

I would definitely recommend this place, they have other yummy treats too like crepes. After eating we walked around in Daimyo and I talked about the past and felt like an old lady, summing up stores that used to be there but are long gone and have changed. After getting some snacks we went to our hotel room and finally had a rest. I had been traveling a lot and still had some jetlag. In our hotelroom we had some snacks, like my husbands favorite pocky or Koala's March:
We stayed in Hakata Nakasu Washington Hotel Plaza. About Japanese hotels: don't expect the staff to speak English. We had some questions but I guess I had to use my Japanese for them to understand. That's ok and all, but I can imagine for someone that doesn't speak the language that Japan can be a challenging country sometimes to travel in. Also, most (average) hotels seem as if they were built in the 80's and have never really been updated. The bathroom was just a standard one, one I used to have in my dorm room 10 years ago. The toilet seats are often heated so that's nice, but space-wise don't count on a lot of space in Japanese hotel rooms, unless you pay the big bucks of course. The one thing I disliked was that we had a smoking-room. In Japan there are smoking and non-smoking rooms. As a non-smoker, I found it disappointing that there weren't any non-smoking rooms left, and the smell of the room is pretty appalling to me and my sensitive nose. Also, if you want to go to Fukuoka, book in advance as there aren't many hotels there (this was even confirmed by an old-colleague that worked at the consulate and also some local friends). I did not know about this 4 years ago when we were last here, and it was really hard to get a hotel room on the day itself. So book plenty of time in advance and you will be all set!

Day 2: Friend's Wedding

The next day was the big day of my friends wedding. I met my Polish friend 10 years ago when we were classmates, a group of about 19 people that were doing an intense Japanese language and culture course. He was marrying his long-time Chinese girlfriend and the wedding was lovely. Located near the airport, the wedding venue was really nice. Especially the chapel in which they got married:
  Due to the privacy of the newlyweds I won't upload pictures of their wedding, but nobody said anything about the dessert bar!

After the chapel wedding ceremony, we went to the dining hall and had some extremely delicious buffet. And after that the above dessert bar, which was a-ma-zing. The Japanese service was sublime. They were all standing in a row and came to ask you frequently if you wanted something to drink. All you had to do is turn your head towards them. After eating we did some funny games: in the beginning before the ceremony we got a little book with all the attending people by number, everyone had an introduction of themselves (including us) like where we were from, our hobbies, and etc. After dinner we found out why we had this little book, we were going to play bingo! So we got a sheet, and we had to put the number of people in the squares answering some questions like: who do you think is very smart, who do you think could drink a lot, and etc. It was a fun game, and eventually they called out numbers they drew from a box and a Chinese girl from our table won, the prize was a big bag of Chinese candy. We also got to see some embarrassing baby pictures and also pictures growing up of both the bride and groom. And of course speeches from both family members and friends. The groom even sang for the bride, which was quite an emotional moment.
After the game they cut the cake and we could enjoy the dessert bar and the cake. It was really nice and I got to know some new people. This was the first time I was present at a wedding ceremony as well in Japan. I have been to a 'Nijikai' before, an 'after' wedding party (so not including the ceremony) so I felt really honoured to be part of that as well. We even received some presents at the end of the party: high class hand towels, boxes of Chinese candy and a box of muffins. We gave our gifts and wished them a blessed marriage. After that we left, luckily they had a shuttle bus service to some stations, we were dropped off at Hakata station which isn't that far from Nakasu. So we took the subway and after a very nice day went to our hotel room. Late at night we met up with a good friend of mine, had some Matcha latte (my favorite) and talked about the good old times, and about everyone we knew. After that we called it a day.

Day 3: Hugging babies and off to Kagoshima

This is the day we will pick up our rental car! We got a Nissan Latio, and it was a spacious car compared the last one we had 4 years ago (Nissan Moco, cute and compact but no power). I love the Japanese parking system, they put cars so efficiently in buildings! When we got our car we got it from this 'vending machine' style parking lot.
 
After receiving the car we were on our way to Kagoshima, with a quick stop at my best friend's home in Fukuoka. She had her first baby just a few weeks before we arrived so I was eager to meet her little baby girl. After talking to her, holding her baby girl and seeing her parents again, it was time to leave for Kagoshima. I really love road trips. It's really nice to just take a car and go wherever you want to. Of course, I made a tight schedule and hotel reservations (which again, I recommend for you to do before going to Japan), so we did have goals. I really liked the highways in Japan, except for the prices. Really, those toll fares are VERY high. Before you can enter a highway there is a toll-booth.
Drivers can get an ETC card, which allows you to automatically go through the booth. We had to take the 'Ippan' meaning ordinary. So the non-ETC card holders could take a ticket there, opening the barrier. Then, arriving at tollbooth where you want to get off the highway you give that ticket and then pay for your toll. For more information and calculation of the toll you can visit: http://global.w-nexco.co.jp/en/
After going through the tollbooth, there are pitstops on the side of the highways. Some of them are really nice in the mountains, and have konbini's, food courts, and rows and rows of vending machines.
Of course you can also buy gifts and souvenirs, or 'omiyage' in Japanese. Omiyage are often used as a gift/souvenir you bring when you visit friends/family, usually something edible and from that certain district you have visited. This time I brought gifts from my home country to my friends. These pitstops next to the highways have omiyage stores as well with various edible and non-edible goods. I particularly liked the Gudetama and Kumamon goods.
The Kumamoto Castle Gudetama was a limited edition, as we were in Kumamoto. They often do mascot/character themes in different districts: 10 years ago I had a reasonable Hello Kitty keychain collection from all over Japan, each Hello Kitty had an outfit stressing a place's special features. For example, the Kyoto Hello Kitty was dressed traditionally in a kimono and the Kagoshima Hello Kitty is dressed as a Kurobuta, the famous 'black pig' from Kagoshima. I really enjoy these characters in 'local' contexts. It's also nice souvenir to bring people back home. Of course we can't forget about the Kumamon boxers. Obviously, everyone needs Kumamon boxers.
And various other things.
After eating some gyoza and stacking up on the CC Lemon, my favourite lemon soda in Japan with vitamin C (as if it would make me healthy, one can only dream), onwards to Kagoshima! We both have a sweet tooth, so on the way I was suddenly reminded of the muffins we got at my friends wedding! Boy was I grateful for them, because they were ab-so-lutely delicious!!! I usually really love the chocolate ones, but this time the black-sesame won by a small margin. I really love black sesame icecream and this was my first time eating a black sesame muffin. It was truly great and were still moist even after one night. As you can see below, I took a picture with the card.
So the place is called Franny's Basket, sometimes it's hard getting katakana words correct hehe. They are located in Kitakyushu, I will definitely visit if I am ever in the neighbourhood. In the meantime, onwards, Kagoshima awaits!
After driving for 4 hours, we finally made it. I have been in Kagoshima before, but not by car. I really enjoy how the city looks different from Fukuoka, and can't wait to explore it more.
Thus we come to the end of my first blog. Fukuoka is always a personal trip for me, a time to catch up with old friends and enjoy my Japanese 'hometown'. Therefore this blog was full of more personal stories. I hope you enjoyed it and the next blogs will be more about our trips in Kagoshima and the more touristy stuff we did, so tune in for some more Devi's Japan travels!


Written by Devi

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2 comments to ''Devi's Japan Travels Part 1: Fukuoka"

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  1. Wow! Looks like the start of a great trip.
    About the wedding: was it traditional with all the bells and whistles or something else?

    And just how much are those toll roads?

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    1. Hi there, T.Rick, well it was a traditional Christian ceremony so not that Japanese (the groom being Polish and the bride being Chinese and all), but the party at night was a bit more Japanese (also because of the service, it was excellent!). The toll roads cost a lot, I put a link in there so you can calculate yourself: http://global.w-nexco.co.jp/en/ Thanks for reading!

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