(a hot springs resort)
It was my last full day in Japan, and the last would be the most memorable. We woke up bright and early to go to an onsen (hot spring resort). We were tired as heck from last night, but you can't sleep in when you're on vacation!
As a westerner, I can tell you that the experience of Japanese hot springs was both a good one and shocking one. lol.
Points of Interest
Tenjin Station, ACROS Building, Naka River, Nakagawa (town), Hakata Station, Shintencho, Underground City
Wednesday, Feb 18th - Fukuoka, Japan
The onsen was located outside of the city center, and this would be the first time we would venture out. The place had their own shuttle that took you directly there from Tenjin Station for free. So off we were, walking towards Tenjin Station...
The ACROS Building which I never got a good daytime visit of.
Beautiful Naka River.
The bus stop was in front of this bank. And there was no bus stop indicator or anything like that. The instructions simply said to wait in front of this bank and some van will pick you up. Kinda' weird.
But soon, some more people came to wait, mostly Koreans, and I knew I was waiting in the right place.
We were eventually all stuffed into this van. Notice the sign says that no tattoos allowed. It's related to Yakuza gang members.
The bus went around and stopped by Hakata Station where a bunch more Koreans were waiting to board. However, our bus was already filled, and they had to wait for the next one. They didn't seem happy.
And finally we were off towards the outskirt town of Nakagawa...
On the 40-50 minute drive, I didn't take much pictures as I was catching up on some sleep. Finally, we arrived...
I think it says, "Get your butt in here!"
Finally, we were in...
This is the men's area. Camera use was actually not allowed and luckily no naked guy was walking around when I snapped this.
Speaking of which, that's something Koreans and Japanese share; they are just completely comfortable walking around nude while around other nude strangers. Koreans have their jimjilbangs (public saunas) and Japanese have their onsen.
Anyways, after much stalling, I finally made my way into the bath\pool\spring area. I was literally the only person who wore a towel around his waist the whole time. Everyone was just walking around nude freely.
The onsen essentially had four areas: the bathing area, the jacuzzi room, the outdoor hot springs, and the steam room. I did walk around the hot springs but didn't sit in the water. Let's just say, unlike the jacuzzi, the water was way too clear.
Cameras were not allowed, and so I got these pictures from their website...
I did spend a good hour in the jacuzzi area. Then went back, dressed, got this drink (below), and took a nap on their tatami mats...
It tasted like sugarless ice tea.
I was meeting Mikako later so I needed some sleep. Unfortunately, we later left the resort without getting to eat at their restaurant as we wanted to catch the next shuttle.
On the way out, I couldn't help notice the parking lot. Loads of cars. There was bound to be some cool cars in the mix...
Japanese "Kei" car (super compact class of cars)
Subaru BRZ (aka Toyota 86, successor to the AE86)
We boarded the bus and headed back to civilization...
We got off at Hakata Station to eat at a restaurant that allegedly gave unlimited rice...
Commuting by bike is popular in Japan whereas in Korea, it's mainly for leisure or exercise.
Just by chance, I finally saw my first Nissan Skyline in Japan...
It was of the older, R32 kind. Still... it was a sight to see having seen the R33 (once) and R34 (twice) in Korea.
We wandered and wandered the streets...
Until we found it...
You ordered first from this machine. Then you gave the receipt to an attendant who would later bring your food. It was such a relaxing restaurant to me. It was so clean, the trimmings had a simple elegance to them, and they had maybe jazz or classical music in the background.
Also, it was so calm inside. Most of the customers came to enjoy a meal alone. The only couple there talked quietly amongst themselves.
I went for tonkatsu. This is one of my favorite meals in Korea, and so I really wanted to try the authentic stuff. Let me tell you, with the tonkatsu sauce (which tastes like steak sauce), this was damn good.
The next destination was a bit of a silly one, but we had to try it. We headed for a "maid cafe".
Riding the subway back to Tenjin Station.
The maid cafe was located in Tenjin which was conveniently where I was going to meet Mikako later. It was a great way to kill time before our appointment.
We were back on the night streets of Tenjin...
So what is a "maid cafe" anyways? Essentially, it's a cafe where all the waitresses are dressed as maids and treat you like a king. Don't misunderstand though; I don't have a particular interest in maids or anything. I just wanted to experience something very Japanese.
We found the place, called "Tenjin Style"...
Upon entering, a waitress (dressed as an anime character and not as a maid), explained to me as complicated as she could in Japanese that the maid time was over, and it was an otaku cafe now. Somehow, I understood everything she said.
We took a seat and ordered...
I ordered a carbonated melon drink which was really good but not cheap (like $7). We just sat there, rested, and enjoyed the sights as we killed time to meet Mikako. Many of the other patrons were dressed up as anime characters (I assume). It was interesting.
The original waitress that greeted me joined our table and started a friendly chat with me. It was really nice. She also showed us some pictures of the maids and performances that they had. Amazingly, we had a pretty decent chat in Japanese even though I don't speak it well.
However, we had to leave! It was almost time to meet Mikako.
At a hurried paced, we walked back to Tenjin Station, our meeting spot. We arrived. She wasn't there yet. I checked my messages just in case: nothing. But shortly, she arrived. It felt so good to see her again.
We headed to this famous ramen place. When in Japan, you can never have enough ramen...
The restaurant was quite big and had a bright and exciting atmosphere. This ramen was even better than the one I had before, which was really good already.
Later, she showed us around the shopping area of Shintencho...
The name sounds like a Chinese knock off of "Nintendo".
We saw our first Lotteria! It looked completely different from the Korean ones.
Mikako told us every hour, the characters here danced. We were too impatient to wait around though.
"Tenjin Core" shopping mall.
Under Tenjin Core was an area dubbed the Underground City...
Despite all the stores being closed at this time, it was still bustling. There seemed to always be people coming in from every direction, heading somewhere.
At this point, we decided to split ways with Bryant (he had other plans anyways), and I went off with Mikako. Together, we went for karaoke!
I mainly sang well-known pop songs from singers like Maroon 5, Jason Mraz, or Bruno Mars as she knew those songs and loved hearing them.
I told her my favorite Japanese singer was Namie Amuro, and in turn, Mikako sang this song of hers...
"Wishing On The Same Star"
She sang it so well, just like this singer. It really gave me goosebumps. She chose her favorite song for the last one...
It's called "Marunouchi Sadistic" by Shiina Ringo. It was cuter the way she sang it compared to the original.
Then we got a drink in some random bar around Tenjin. Even though I couldn't really speak Japanese well, we just tried as best a we could to have a conversation. I found out she was pretty young but not in college. She had some computer job and had never left Japan. I told her about America and Korea and to her, it seemed fascinating to one day go to another country.
Just the way she talked, her laughs, and her intonation, it was uniquely "Japanese", and I found it so attractive. It was so different from the way Koreans talk, which in and of itself, is so different from the way Americans talk.
Anyways, while it was a strictly 100% platonic meeting, that time with her I will always remember.
The flash from the camera blinded us. Seriously, we weren't drunk. lol
I eventually met up with Bryant later that night. We got some snacks from 7-11 and headed to our hotel room.
A slab of meat on rice with fruit-flavored beer. That's Japan for you.
We watched Japanese TV the rest of the night.
Our last full day in Japan was finishing. It would have been a sad feeling, but we reminded ourselves of one thing...