I woke up the next morning, and the ship was already docked. Outside of the windows I could see it: Japan!
Points of Interest
Hakata Port, Hakata Station, Kushido Shrine, Hakata Machiya Folk Museum, Hakata Kawabata Shopping Arcade, Hakata River, Canal City, Tenjin Station, Suikyo Tenmangu Shrine, Akarenga Cultural Center, City Hall, Central Park, Oyafuko-Dori
Sunday, Feb 15th - Fukuoka, Japan
We had arrived at Hakata Port. Leaving this port was much easier than entering Busan port. Immigration went pretty smoothly, and the bag inspector was really friendly and funny.
Finally, we were free to roam Japan.
The problem now was that I had no money! Yes, that sounds a little crazy to travel to Japan without yen, but that's what I did. I was able to exchange about $50 in Korean won to yen at the port counter. But the only ATM machine there didn't accept my foreign card.
We headed out. It was good to finally smell the Japanese air. Like Korean air, it smelled fresh.
We spotted our friends Kim and Simeon on the way out. Kim soon left us to join his family. Simeon was trying to catch a taxi, but our plan was to get the bus.
Kindly, Simeon offered us to hitch a ride with him since we were all going to Hakata Subway Station.
Japanese taxis are TINY! And old too but in a sort of classy way. You also have to pay $5 initially (Korea it's $3), and the final fee ended up being like $12 to our destination.
Finally, we reached Hakata Station! This building was HUGE. I will share a picture in a later post.
Bryant outside of the station.
A bunch of taxis parked outside. All were the small, classic style.
The three of us wandered the huge shopping area of the station looking for an ATM machine. We tried so many and finally found one that would accept our American cards.
I offered Simeon to tag along with us if he wanted, but he wanted to find internet and accommodation first. So we split ways agreeing to possibly meet back up later (although he was actually considering going up to Tokyo).
It was time for Bryant and I to look for something to eat.
Looking at my money while waiting for the food. It's about $130.
And although it was just a simple, small restaurant, it felt really classy inside. The glasses, spoons, lighting, and furnishing were all nice. The waitresses dressed nicely. There were even hangers and a rack for your coat.
We dropped our stuff in a locker and ventured out. We had time to kill before our hotel check-in.
This was actually a bank!
Japanese buildings are so large and clean. And unlike Korean buildings, they favor simple, clean designs with light colors. Korean buildings tend to be busier in design and covered with tons of signs.
The subway ticket machine looked like it was from the 1980's. You can get an all-day ticket for like $5.
Inside the subway. It was far smaller and older looking than Korean subways and had far more advertisements. However, it was very clean and had sofa-like cushioned seats.
Our first destination was Kushida Temple at Gion Station.
Along the way, right outside of the station, we found this shrine or cemetery of some sort.
Do I dare ring the bell?
Even their cemeteries are so clean.
We continued onward to Kushido Shrine...
This small building caught my eye.
A ryokan (Japanese traditional inn) I think.
Just before Kushido Shrine was the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum. Entrance was less than $2.
Trying to make a long-distance call.
Next door was some hybrid museum and traditional Japanese house, and I assume was a continuation of the museum.
I've always wanted to sit in one of these traditional Japanese rooms.
Really beautiful backyard.
Finally, Kushido Shrine...
Just inside the gates.
On the left is some hand washing fountain.
This giant thing is carried around during the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival.
After, we moved onto the Hakata Kawabata Shopping Arcade...
This busy complex was filled with many stores and a few restaurants.
A Korean store! Korean music and dramas are really popular in Japan.
A canal that connects to the Hakata River.
We ate at this really bustling restaurant that had a queue of people waiting to be seated.
We got fried rice. It was really good. Had a good mix of spice and crispiness from the vegetables. Cost was under $5.
Next we headed to nearby Canal City...
It was a huge shopping mall that sat on a man-made canal.
Actually, there were so many young people around, waiting around the edges of the balconies. It was as if some event was going on. I noticed some girl handing out papers, and so I asked her why there were so many people.
This was why...
Apparently, some famous idol group was going to perform. And we lucked out coming here randomly. Actually, I was more impressed I was able to have a (simple) conversation with her in Japanese.
Bryant is peeking on the right. It also highlights how much taller Koreans generally are compared to Japanese.
The show finally started. The crowd went nuts. The group's music was actually really good. We didn't stay for the whole thing though. Also, these two Japanese women kept on looking at us I think because we were speaking English.
We went to the top floor to Taito Station which is a chain of arcades.
Those guys on the right are probably Korean.
They had these HUMONGOUS, brightly-lit game machines. They were like a mix of pinball, gambling, and circus machines.
We just played a basketball game where they give you a hundred balls to toss into a hoop for a minute.
We also visited Ramen Stadium which is just a food court of only ramen restaurants. We didn't eat there, but it smelled good.
Finally, we had killed enough time, and it was time to check into our hotel. It was located at Nakasukawabata Station...
It's the building with the blue color. The name was "Fukuoka Imperial Palace Hotel". The lobby was really nice. I will show you a picture in a future post.
Our room. Pretty small but clean, modern, and comfortable. It came with a regular-sized TV and mini-fridge. Cost was about $50 a night which we split between the two of us.
The bathroom was maybe slightly larger than an airplane bathroom. lol. It did have one of those fancy Japanese toilets with heated seating and bidet sprayer.
After showering and resting a bit, it was time to experience the Japanese nightlife!
I notified Simeon of our plans. I guess he had other plans or decided to leave Fukuoka altogether as we never heard from him again.
Our hotel at night.
Just outside of our hotel. The area is called "Nakasu".
We had famous Fukuoka Hamburg Steak. They gave you a ball of raw meat which you cooked on a hot metal cylinder. It was really good, and at $10, was the most expensive meal we had in Japan.
The restaurant was very lively. The waitresses were very friendly and used fake high-pitched voices to sound cute. Additionally, whenever someone ordered or received food, the entire staff joyously yelled in unison some catch phrase in Japanese. It was fun.
By chance, we came across the Suikyo Tenmangu Shrine...
It was kinda' creepy because it was so empty and quiet, and I felt like I was being watched.
Next was the Akarenga Cultural Center. This historic building was one of the few Western-styled buildings we came across. Inside was a mini-museum which was average because everything was written in Japanese, and we couldn't understand anything.
We were mainly exploring the Tenjin area which is where Fukuokans enjoy the night.
Another shrine. These seem to be everywhere!
City Hall. This building was insanely huge.
Tenjin Central Park. One of the few parks we saw that had trees and vegetations. Most parks in Fukuoka are just empty grass or dirt fields.
ARCOS building in Central Park. It's a shame we didn't visit it in the daytime as it's a Fukuoka landmark.
This is a picture I got from the internet. Such a shame we didn't see it in it's glory.
More Tenjin exploration...
High-end shopping area.
High-end department store.
We decided to go to the "party" area of Tenjin...
So many young people around. I felt alive.
Yes, I'm walking around with a Smirnoff bottle. It's hard to find in Korea.
Next to a Subaru. Surprisingly, this is the first Japanese racing car I spotted.
I think this was near Oyafuko-Dori. This is a famous area in Tenjin where young people and foreigners go to enjoy drinking and clubbing.
I researched some clubs on the internet and found one called "Happy Cock" which was inexpensive and very popular with Japanese and foreigners alike.
Entrance was like $10, even on a Sunday but included one free drink.
They gave us this piece of paper. Note that it says "No Dancing". Before I had read on the internet that there was this law in Fukuoka that you couldn't dance in bars or clubs because it was considered "immoral". The fact that this club followed this rule disappointed me.
The music was great. The venue looked amazing. And the drinks were cheap. But there were only a few people and no one dancing. The feeling was bittersweet.
The bartender was friendly and asked us where we were from and chatted with us for a bit. After sitting around and no dancing, I wanted to leave. We started putting our coats on, and the bartender asked us why we were leaving so early. I told her we wanted to dance. She then told us to go ahead and dance. I then showed her their paper and told her no dancing was allowed.
With somewhat of an embarrassed smile, she pulled me in a little closer and said that was just some crazy Japanese law that no one really follows. So we started dancing!
I ended up ordering some more Black Russians. It's not really my favorite drink, but it's a good, strong cocktail to get if you want to get tipsy fast and on the cheap.
Soon the club started filling up with people, and I felt like I was back in Korea. In fact, they even played some Korean songs.
The other employee kept on dancing with us which was fun. There was this one Japanese girl that kept on smiling at me and half dancing with me. But later in the night, I found out her boyfriend was there. Oddly enough, he was friendly to me. He looked southern European, but he was actually from Nepal.
Also, this random Japanese girl went up to us and chatted with us. One of her friends was actually Korean (but raised in Japan). My friend had a talk with her. After a little while, I think they got bored with us and went away. lol.
I started dancing with this one really cute girl, and we had a good chat although we had to speak in broken Japanese and English. She ended up giving me her contact and said we should hangout later during my trip. It got me really excited, but I didn't want to get my hopes up.
Anyways, her name was Mikako.
In the club, they played "Time Of Our Lives" and now that song will always remind me of that night...
We eventually left and took a taxi home. Walking the rest of the way, we passed by the Hakata River...
Before heading to our hotel room, we got some ramen at the convenience store for one last late night snack.
You can't find this in Korea although it's everywhere in America. I missed this flavor.
Overall, it was a good first night in Japan with many more days left to come.