OK… so I have returned to Malta.. been back for two weeks already and only got chance to sit and write about my pop-over of 4 days to Japan now.
Leaving Busan early morning on Monday 16th April – being picked up by taxi at 5.00am as I had to check in for the Ferry at 7.00am and we did have about an hour to reach the port. Busan, as has already been mentioned in my previous post is a large city, 2nd largest in South Korea, and is a lively and bussling city to boot. So early start and a bit of a wait at the port was in hand, but at least I had my mind at rest that I am in the right place and at the right time.
Travelling to Fujuoka by ferry was part and parcel of the whole adventure – a sea trip of about 225km across the Sea of Japan – which according to the ferry service would take 3 hours to complete. I travelled on the JR Kyushu Beetle Hydrofoil fast ferry Service, having booked my tickets through aFerry – an online wordwide ferry ticketing portal – and 3 hours it took exactly. You just have to love Japanese efficiency. The ferry ride was smooth and rather uneventful – skimming over the waves means that you feel very little of the roll and pitch caused by the waves – and we were well served throughout the trip by the extremely polite stewardesses who were ever available should you need anything be it a coffee, water, a snack or even some souveniers.
And there we are – 3 hours later Japan, most accurately Hakata Port, Fukuoka. The hotel – Daiwa Roynet – was not too far away but I still took a taxi as I didn’t want to waste time trying to find the place. Checking in at the hotel was a breeze and they also had an envelope with details and tickets for my mini trip up to Kyoto that was organised by my lovely Japanese friend (no names needed here). The room was nice and comfortable but view was poor – that didn’t really bother me much though as I did not intend to spend much time in the room as such. So I settled down, checked out the bathroom and played around with the TV a while and then went out for my usual orientation walk and a snack. I had noticed a nice cafe which seemed quite popular during the taxi ride to the hotel so after walking in my usual grid pattern (straight lines with no more than one or two right angle turns) in both directions I decided to go in search of the cafe. It turned out to be quite busy with a good mix of people inside – Caffe Veloce I believe it was called.
Anyway, my first day in Japan passed by rather quickly though I did discover a couple of shrines close by with a spattering of more all around the area. I also stumble across what looked like a Space Invaders Arcade. Space Invaders! Haven’t seen that game or even graphics of that game for decades. 🙂
It was a long day and I was finally starting to get tired so back to the hotel I went to get myself some supper.
While Fukuoka is not exactly a tourist city there is still quite a lot to see if you enjoy walking as I do. They may not be the pure touristic sites but still wonderful to see and experience. Having said that, Fukuoka is not a city without its own charm. The Open Air Market, which was not more than 10 m inutes walk away from the hotel was a fantastic walk of discovery and loads of restaurants sprinkled among all the various shops – clothes shops, tradtional kimono shops, art and design shops and a whole spectrum of shops. There were also a couple of barber shops – that came in handy since I had left my beard trimming tool in Busan and needed to have it brought back under control.
Also, and this turned out to be quite a plus, the hotel was situated right next to a subway station. Now, the subway system in Japan seemed quite different to that of Busan & Seoul, though still very efficient and once you get used to it, very easy to use. You may not think so when faced with this:
But, really, don’t let that daunt you. It is actually quite a basic system – the top right hand section of the info display in the image above shows the stations one can reach and the amount due (in Yen obviously) is shown in the circle. You then select the line one the screen below (it does have an english version thankfully) and select the amount to pay according to the station you need to reach and insert the money. A ticket is then inssued.
And to make it even simpler, and I loved this feature of the Fukuoka Subway, each station has its own logo so all you need to remember is the logo and not get confused with trying to decipher the Japanese text.
Look at the subway lines below.. the station close to muy hotel was Gion, on the Kuko Line (orange).
Need to transfer from one line to another – again very simple. The route to the other lines were clearly marked within each subway station, though you may end up having a 10 to 15 minute walk to reach the correct platform. The stations and platforms themselves were not as advanced as those in South Korea, well, that may not be the correct description, but they looked older and the gates/platforms had a vintage look. It was actually quite pleasing to view.
Anyway, back to the surface..
I had just about 5 days all told in Japan – one of which was mainly travel – and that was split up with about 2 and a half days in Fukuoka and almost 2 days in Kyoto. It was a rushed squashed and exhilirating experience.
My second day in Fukuoka – another day full of walking but also helped with the use of the subway – took me to a wonderful lake/park. I had gone in search of Fukuoka Castle and stumbled across this beatiful lake & park which sits right next to the castle site. The castle itself is really just the rampart walls and tower bases but still very impressive to see. The lake though was beautiful. To one end of the lake there was also a Japanese garden which I slowly walked through enjoying the lovely layout and flowers. The highlight of this walk was, though, the Tea Serving Ceremony. A ceremony during which we experienced the traditional art of serving and drinking Tea.
Right oh peeps.. this would not be good for a quick tea in the morning before rushing off to work. The ceremony took about 1 hour during which the tea was brewed, served and drunk – followed by a delicious traditional Japanese sweet rice ball (that thought kept popping into my mind and I had to suppress a giggle). We had to kneel down for the ceremony but unfortunately, due to all the walking maybe, my knee was playing up and I found it awkward and a bit painful so they gave me a low stool to sit on. An elderly Japanese lady kneeling next to me started to explain the process to me so I didn’t make too much of a fool of myself. 🙂
The night before travelling up to Kyoto (by Shinkansen and that is a story in itself – a fantastic sleek and smooth ride at about 300km per hour) I decided to visit Fukuoka Tower which is a beatiful construction and which, it seems is the highest seaside Tower in Japan. Close to the Tower grounds is Fukuoka City Museum holds artifacts of Japanese historical importance that are breathtaking to view. Below are a selection of photos from within the musem:
That was my last full day in Fukuoka – Shinkansen to Kyoto the following day and some more breathtaking experiences… coming up in the next post!