Japan Trip Part 2: Fukuoka

Our friendly (not) Korean roommates woke us up at 5:30, and while they left the room, they left the lights on for us. How kind. So we got up pretty early. We arrived in Hakata/Fukuoka at 6:30 and docked at about 6:45 but we were stuck on the boat until 7:30. Because that’s what the ticket said, 7pm to 7:30 am. So we had to sit and wait to get off.

It was 7:50 by the time we made it into town. So full rush hour for countless students and business people. We headed straight for Canal City. A 5 story shopping mall with an artificial canal running through it. It didn’t open until 10 am but we had a really nice breakfast at a French style bakery. Sorry, Korea, but Japan’s bakeries could run laps around yours.

Fed and happy, we deiced to see a nearby shrine. Since it was still so early in the morning, it was mostly empty besides some people who were praying, as well as a couple taking a wedding photo shoot.

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There were loud ravens cawing but it was completely quiet. It was hard not to feel peaceful or at least relaxed after walking around the grounds for a bit.

We walked under the gates, which are pretty stereotypical when you think of Japan.

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Afterward we tried to walk to a temple that claimed to have a nice market near/around it. We walked quite a distance but never ended up finding it. All we did see was a really neat parking feature.

Yes, a parking feature.

You can drive over it, but then it flips up and you can’t drive out without paying first. Why don’t we do this?

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We had a nice walk, even if we didn’t see what we wanted. The only problem was we got sunburned! We have some thoughts as to why: Japan’s air quality (at least during our visit) was much higher than Korea’s. We certainly saw a lot more sun and blue skies than we usually do in Korea. But we’re also usually inside teaching for the majority of the day. And Korea has a lot taller buildings which gives us more shade. We were both really surprised to get sunburns, though.

Canal City was finally open and we were hungry for some ramen. Fukuoka is famous for its own kind of ramen which uses bone broth and handmade noodles. This isn’t your crappy 35 cent poor-college-kid-ramen, people. This is real food that takes all day to make. We arrived, drooling, at “Ramen Stadium” a ramen store area that occupies the entire top floor of the mall. We picked one out of about ten options.

You use a vending machine to order first with electronic choices, then you sit down and they cook your food. It’s easier because you don’t have a language barrier with anyone and you get exactly what you order. The problem was we didn’t have enough cash for the vending machine.

We had to take escalators all the way down the five stories where we made a stupid mistake.

In Korea, 20,000 won is about $20. Not exactly, but it’s much easier to just cut 3 zeroes off and you have a more conceivable price.

In Japan, however, 20,000 would be about $200. You only really take 2 zeroes off the end.

So, hungering for some ramen we didn’t think before entering 30,000 into the machine. “$30 bucks should tide us over” we thought. So we took our 30,000 up to the ramen shop and proceded to put 20,000 into the machine. Right, our lunch cost about 20 dollars so we gave it 20,000. Yeah. Then we got $180 dollars in change. We had actually withdrawn $300 from the ATM and tried to pay for $18 ramen with $200. For the rest of our time in Japan we couldn’t break the habit of taking 3 zeroes off everything because that’s how we’ve been seeing money for the past 8 months. More mistakes would be made, but none as stupid as that one.

The ramen? I would almost pay $200 for it.It was so delicious. Milky pork broth, homemade noodles, softboiled eggs. There were also mushrooms and fresh green onions to stir in.

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Be jealous. It was amazing.

We waddled over to an arcade. Japan is pretty famous for its vending machines and arcades so we wanted to play a little.

We played a table flipping game. The whole purpose is to get mad at who ever is sitting across from you. You rage, stand up and flip the table. The machine actually has a plastic table that you flip up as hard as you can.

You’re awarded points for how much food you get everywhere or how much damage you cause. There were many levels to pick from – the last straw family dinner time, bad day at a restaurant and (one I sorta wish I would’ve tried) teacher mode where kids are running around acting crazy and you flip your whole desk into the classroom. But because it was all in Japanese, we accidentally chose “practice mode” which took place on a baseball field.

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We later went downstairs to an all-claw-machine part of the arcade.

videogamesjapanYou could win many different things. Any stuffed animal you can think of in any size, of course. But there was also playing cards; key chains; food like pringles or crackers; small plastic figurines (with a very wee claw) and a replica samurai sword. We played for a while. More than we would like to admit. I got a really massive sheep dangerously close to the edge. It was hanging into the win-zone and one or two more goes and it would have been mine. But then Chris, ever the voice of reason asked “what are we going to do with a giant sheep?” I envisioned taking the sheep around on adventures and having to strap it to our backpacks. There was no way we could get it home. So we let it go. A small crowd that had been watching us nearly win the sheep, of course, played next and won it within two goes. It will always be the sheep that got away.

We went home empty handed. And then realized that every play had been the equivalent of a dollar. Again, not thinking clearly on the money. For some reason I thought it was 10-25 cents but it had actually been a dollar we fed into the machine every. single. time. $15 well spent because we didn’t have to feel guilty about wasting money (at the time), I suppose.

Then we had the worlds worst ice cream. Well maybe not the whole world, but it was pretty bad. Japan is actually pretty into Halloween. Korea doesn’t care, but Japan has loads of decorations. It also had this themed ice cream that was too much to resist.

The flavor options all sounded interesting: Chocolate Chip Cookie (too normal), Grape Sherbet, Yogurt and Apple, Soda Float and then the Halloween options: “Pumpkin and Chocolate Chip”, and “Purple Yam and Green Tea Swirl.”

Obviously we chose the latter because they sounded the most intense.

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Nope. The green tea and yam tasted like something you could legitimately serve at a Thanksgiving feast. You could really taste the yam in there – like the actual texture of the yam. The green tea was fresh and grassy. Nope – into the trash. I tried the pumpkin one, and really wanted to like it. We have had nothing “pumpkin spice” flavored, while we know America is swarming with pumpkin spice cookies, cakes, coffees, ice creams, milks and the likes. So I held onto mine for a while, but it was the same problem. It really did taste like pumpkin. Which isn’t what you want, you want pumpkin spice. Like the pie. Not the actual vegetable.

We shopped around some more but got tired early. It had been a really full day. We walked back to the train station and caught a train to Saga.

There really isn’t anything in Saga. But it was the only hotel we could find in the northern part of Kyushu island. Almost everywhere was booked solid for the time we traveled – not sure if there was a holiday or what, but we really struggled to find a hotel. Hence traveling down south to a whole other town just for a hotel.

There really wasn’t anything in Saga. The only restaurant that seemed doable (because of language barriers) was a ramen restaurant and we had had that for lunch. So we went to a store and picked up some pre-made dinner meals. The store was really familiar. Like, really familiar. Blue background, with white letters, lay out, employee uniforms. We couldn’t put our finger on it until we saw the Great Value goods and finally saw the Walmart logo. It wasn’t called Walmart but it was definitely a Walmart subsidiary.

DSC00614Our dinner for the night: Chris had some kind of not-sushi (top – square container). It was some kind of rice sandwich with some stuff piled on it. It looked like cheese – it wasn’t. It was possibly meat or maybe mushrooms. Who knows.

Mine (with the oddly shiny black sauce) was an Omurice aka Omlette rice. Stir fry rice and then put a thinly fried piece of scrambled egg over it. Serve with an egg-fu-young-like sauce. Really, I don’t know why we don’t have Omurice in America. Chris and I have had all kinds of omurices in Korea that were as western as it gets.

And before anyone cries fowl for eating crazy stuff from a “walmart” know that you could buy sushi from a 7/11 and definitely not get food poisoning. The food safety there was not a concern.

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