Fukuoka Trip Report

Discussion in 'Trip Reports and Trip Photos' started by BlacKnox, Oct 6, 2005.

  1. BlacKnox

    BlacKnox Active Member

    Jan 29, 2005
    732
    13
    Fukuoka Trip Report

    "Kyushu on the Cheap"!


    It wasn’t planned that way, it just happened that way. Let me explain why.
    Registered Users don't see this and have the option of removing all other advertisements.  Register HERE

    Day 1 – Thursday 29/09/05

    Awoke in Sapporo around 9am, after spending a late night reading about Fukuoka and its sights (and yes, I used to cram for exams too :wink: ). There was a chill in the air with an expected high of 18 degrees, and I was impatient to get to the sunshine down south. A friend I met the previous evening had said the forecast high for Fukuoka today was 29 degrees. Let’s wait and see.

    I asked my girlfriend which hotel she had booked. You see, my responsibility was for the itinerary and cash, and hers for the hotel and car-hire. She informed me that no hotel was yet as booked. I was :shock: . She had mentioned throughout the week that she could probably get an industry rate at the Okura hotel (a very famous Japanese hotel), and I had wrongly assumed she had organized a booking. Following some reminders of our agreed responsibilities, she hopped onto www.rakuten.co.jp and organized a booking for that night. Where? I was nonchalant to ask, knowing nowhere could compare to the Conrad Tokyo where I’d been 3 weeks before. Anyway, we didn’t plan to spend too much time in the hotel, so…

    I showered and packed and waited for my SO to finish her makeup ritual. We said good-bye to the cats and left home at 11.45am, walking the10 minutes to the Maruyama Bus terminal (and don’t worry, our friend Elvis stayed at the apartment to look after Momo & Taro). It looked like we were the only passengers waiting for the airport bus, until it arrived and people waiting inside the terminal came out to board. We left at 12Noon, and for the 1 hour 15 minute journey to the airport I was too excited to nap. I watched the passing greenery knowing soon it would be blanketed in snow, and awoke my g/f once we neared Chitose (Bus cost: 1,000yen neat).

    Kick-off from CTS was scheduled for 2.10pm. It was flight NH796 on a Boeing 777-200, also referred to as a 772. We approached the Gold ANA check-in desk, and as usual there was no line. After being greeted by the check-in agent, we asked whether 2 business seats (ANA SuperSeats) were free, as we were booked in economy. She replied that while there were 2 remaining seats left, they were not next to each other. We considered the option of flying up-front and apart, or next to each other in economy, and decided (of course :roll: ) to sit next to each other in Y.

    We were allocated seats 3 J & K (bulkhead seats) without prompting; our status helping, I guess. Said seats had ample legroom and three porthole windows. This was great as the view of the islands approaching Kyushu were amazing, helping add to our holiday spirit. Surprisingly there were no flight announcements in English on this service, perhaps due to me being the only foreigner on board. Nevertheless the crew spoke English well and were crisp and efficient. We touched down without incident (or food) in FUK early about 4.10pm.

    One of the great things about FUK is it’s downtown and easy for hotel transfers. With no check-in luggage we were out the door and on the sub-way by 4.30pm. 4 stops later we got off at Nakasukawabata (a mouth full – roughly meaning a small island in a river), which is central and near the entertainment district. After walking about three minutes we arrived at our hotel overlooking Tenjin Central Park (Hotel Fukuoka Floral Inn NishiNakasu). It was now just before 5pm, and we sat and drank some green tea (a Japanese thing) while we planned our next move.

    To my relief the hotel was good and represented surprising value for money. It was located 3 minutes from our subway, while a 5-minute walk through Central Park got us to Tenjin Fukuoka station. It was brand new (less than 6 months I guess), and breakfast was included in the tariff. They had free internet access in the lobby café, and a pillow selection to boot. Sure the rooms were small but the hotel was clean and quiet. We were placed on the 10th floor and the views of the canals and neon landscape were generous. Fantastic inner city location and the price of 7,800yen for two/ night inclusive was spot on. The g/f did ok after all :D .

    When we left the hotel around 5.30pm darkness was approaching. We walked along the canal up to Canal City where we checked out the autumn fashion sales. It was now dark though my short sleeved shirt was ample. I guess it was about 25degrees. Fukuoka is a wonderful town to walk around and an easy place to navigate. We meandered around for an hour or so before our thirst caught up to us. It was time to find a bar.

    We approached the Visitor Information center at Fukuoka Tenjin station and got some maps and stuff . They had English and Japanese copies and staff spoke reasonable English. Also picked up a Fukuoka Now, a free monthly information magazine (in English). The same mob has a web-site www.fukuoka-now.com, which helped when planning this trip.

    We passed various street stands which were already doing a brisk trade. It seemed like a good idea to plonk down and have a beer and watch the world pass by. But we needed food too, and I wanted a larger selection than these stalls appeared to offer. We pressed on and found a charming Izakaya (beer & food bar) near the KFC behind Tenjin station. They had a wonderful set-menu which was a large beer and two food plates for 390yen. It was 6.59pm and this special finished at 7pm, so we promptly ordered. I opted for the cucumber with sea salt and pork plates, the better half choosing chicken wings and eda mame (boiled soybeans). It was delicious and the beer was poured by a robot.

    By a robot you ask? Well, not exactly. The bartender places an empty mug on the stand and presses the shizamm button. A lever lifts the glass to the nozzle and fills while tilting the glass as it goes. The result is a perfect awa (head) on every beer poured. Sort of like a mechanical expresso machine. Pretty ingenious really 8) , no doubt invented by someone who drinks way too much. Excited about the beer machine we settled in for several more froths - ate some more food and discussed our plans. It gets a little fuzzy here but I’m confident the bill was around 5,000yen or less; great value considering the amount we consumed and ate. This included a 200yen charm charge (an annoying Japanese custom) which is kinda like a seating tariff.

    We headed towards Oyafuko Street which is the foreign club area in Fukuoka. Strolled into the FuBar (formerly Happy Cock, and next to the Family Mart) which alas was empty. The bartender explained that they opened at 9pm and now it was only 8.45. Aha, I thought. That’s why all those girls in min-skirts are sitting outside on the curb :idea: . We pressed on to another legendary club called the Dark Room. This bar was abuzz, as we discovered Thursday nights were 100yen beer nights (between 9-10pm) with 300yen Coronas. "100yen beer" I gasped, "we’d better not stay here". Remember, we had a full day planned tomorrow and I’m usually an early bird anyway. We said good-bye to the Navy guy who looked in for the long haul and headed towards our hotel.

    It was still a beautiful evening and I guess about 22 degrees by now. There was no real humidity so no sweating, just a pleasant warm autumn ambiance. It was a leisurely stroll back to our digs and I remember thinking to myself – wow – this is a really cool city 8) . I can’t wait to explore it more fully...

    It's my first trip report so be gentle :oops: . I'll try and continue next week if I can find the time. Peace :!:
     
  2. JohnK

    JohnK Veteran Member

    Mar 22, 2005
    37,627
    7,526
    BNE, SYD and CNX
    Pretty good trip report.

    Looking forward to the rest. :)
     
  3. QF WP

    Moderator

    Jun 20, 2002
    14,242
    5,926
    Brisbane
    Flight Map:
    View my flight map
    Twitter:
    Facebook:
    Linkedin:
    Excellent work, BlacKnox. I suggest you post this over on Flyertalk's Trip Reports Forum. Don't see too many reports over there about Japan.

    Didn't get into any of the Lounges and sample any of the beeru there??
     
  4. AlwaysUpThere

    AlwaysUpThere Member

    Nov 25, 2004
    126
    0
    Sydney
    What can I say but Urayamashii
     
  5. BlacKnox

    BlacKnox Active Member

    Jan 29, 2005
    732
    13
    Thanks for your feedback JohnK, Lindsay Wilson, & AlwaysUpThere.

    Posted to FT earlier this evening, per a promise I made to Q Shoe Guy. It's in the Asia section titled "Kyushu recommendations".

    Didn't bother with the CTS lounge, as it's a bit like a shoebox. Popped into the FUK lounge on my return, but was interupted by a pop star, screaming schoolgirls and a penniless Yank. More on that story later.

    I'm the one who's envious. It's about 10 degrees here now and getting colder, and you guys are heading into summer :x .
     
  6. BlacKnox

    BlacKnox Active Member

    Jan 29, 2005
    732
    13
    Day 2 - Friday 30/09/05

    Awoke around 6am and watched TV for a while. The other half was still sleeping, so I threw on some shoes (actually my only pair :wink: ), wrote a detailed note "back in 15 minutes or so" and went out for a bit. A sign in the elevator mentioned that breakfast was served from 7am – 9.30am. Also saw some trouser pressing machines near the elevators (free for guests on every floor) which was a nice touch. We still weren’t sure whether we’d stay at this hotel or look for somewhere bigger, and thought the breakfast would help us decide.

    As I walked around the inner city I was surprised at the number of homeless. In Sapporo it’s rare to see these people, as possibly it’s too cold to bear. I thought about picking up some Starbucks but decided to be frugal, with breakfast time fast approaching. Returned to the hotel and had a shower (new & clean bathroom, good water supply and temperature, bidet toilet etc) and woke my sleeping beauty.

    Today’s plan was ambitious, though simple. Several FTers had offered some great suggestions including daytrips to Aso volcano, Beppu hot-spring resort, Kumamoto Castle and Nagasaki. But we’d decided that we’d like to get more acquainted with Fukuoka itself, before sampling the other delights Kyushu offers. Thus public transportation day it became.

    We sauntered down to breakfast probably around 8. Hotel breakfast spreads at International hotels in Japan (Westin, Marriot, Intercontinental, Hilton…) are usually solid but expensive. Japanese business hotels though are notorious for terrible morning offerings (would you like some seaweed with your pickles and nato… uurrgghhhhh). It was a self-service spread, and didn’t look too shabby. Had about 8 types of bread & pastries, homemade as evidenced by the waft from the kitchen. Some jams, salads, eggs, soup & yogurt. Simple but sufficient. The juice was fresh, the croissants delicious and the cappachino machine a godsend. And what was even better, they had bread hampers (featuring 5-6 assorted breads/ pastries) for guests to take free. I was starting to feel foolish for paying triple the price for hotels elsewhere.

    Thought about using the free internet to check hotels & mail but instead gave my babe a peck on the cheek and suggested "let’s just stay here". Anyway I pondered, what mail can’t wait till tomorrow – a decision I later regretted :oops: .

    We arrived at the information center around 9, wishing we’d paid more attention yesterday. It opened at 10. Not to be deterred, we took the escalators up to the bus center (also in Tenjin Fukuoka station – 5F?) and inquired about a bus pass (subway passes are great but you don’t see much of a city when you’re underground). Sure enough they had a ripper of a deal – a one-day 1,000yen pass for two (it’s 600yen for one). This would get us everywhere we wanted to go*, and seemed remarkable value.

    *Also Fukuoka has a 100yen-bus loop within the inner city. You can travel to Nakasu, Kawabata, Gion, Hakata, Tenjin, Canal City etc and pay 100yen each time you hop on/ off.

    Took a bus from in front of the station first to Bayside Place Hakata. This is home to the Hakata Port Tower, some restaurants and shops, a small museum and an indoor snowboarding park. Harbor cruises also leave from here. Walked inside to be greeted by an aquarium housing several species. A group of schoolchildren were sitting in front of the tank. I wonder if they were thinking the fish looked beautiful or delicious? As I approached, their attention shifted from the glass to me. Some even said hello, others just looked shocked. I guess they weren’t expecting to see a foreigner on this outing :eek: .

    We checked out the cruise prices (500yen one-way to Uminonakamichi, lunchtime/ dinner cruises including food and alcohol from 3,000yen) and decided we were happy to stay on land. Walked upstairs one floor to the 1F/ 2F (depending where you live) and found a charming maritime museum (free). The museum taught me about Fukuoka’s sister ports (Auckland, Shanghai, Belgium somewhere & Oakland from memory) and had some interesting assorted knick-knacks. Also had a great little patio where you could sit in the sun, have a ciggie or drink and enjoy the view. We drifted over to the indoor snowboarding center yet again were early. I think it opens at 11. Also several people were busy opposite setting up an outdoor market. I guess it’s better to come here after 12. My g/f is scared of heights so we didn’t go up the Port Tower.

    By this time it was after 10am so we headed back to the information center at Tenjin (10 minutes by bus). Here we fueled up on some local knowledge including the Nishitetsu Yanagawa canal pass. Strode off to Tenjin Starbucks and caught our 3rd bus for the day. We weren’t going far – only to the next Starbucks at Akasaka, but knew we’d need our legs later. Off at Akasaka Starbucks and had a coffee & wander around. I’m sure it’s not interesting for most tourists, but as we’re considering moving here next spring we wanted to have a look and get a feel of some areas. Back on a bus (we had a choice of numbers 1,2,3,5) and past Fukuoka Castle ruins & off again at Ohori Park. A beautiful huge parkland with a 2km path around the lake, it’s got some of those swan things you can hire and paddle. We thought we might eat some free hotel hamper bread but were sadly mistaken. First the pigeons came, then giant carp (some measuring over 70cms), then turtles & ducks and … you get the picture. We ate the sweet potato pastry but the rest was given away :) .

    Back on another bus and past the Noh Theater, and off again at Nishijin. We planned to visit the Nishijin open market yet figured that time was running out. So we crossed the road and hopped on another bus heading towards Momochi. We passed a few consulates, Fukuoka Dome (home to baseball’s Fukuoka Softbank Hawks), and the JAL SeaHawk Hotel and Resort. Got off at Momochi Seaside Park and headed to the beach.

    Heaps of giant jellyfish in the water so we headed to the protected & netted area. Took off the shoes and it was great to feel sand between my toes again. Dipped our feet in the water, had a snack and then crossed the road to the Fukuoka Tower & Observatory. An impressive structure (actually a magnificent glass building), but by this time the challenge to be tight on this trip (monetarily) was becoming addictive. We forgoed the 800yen odd admittance fee and simply walked through the foyer to the bus stop. Time was starting to become an issue yet we’d been lucky up to now with buses. We hadn’t had to wait more than 3 minutes all day and once again luck was on our side. 2 minutes later and we were on our way back to Tenjin.

    It was now 1.55pm and the train was leaving at 2.05pm. We bought our Yanagawa canal pass (Nishitetsu) not knowing whether they represented good value (turned out they were). For 2,800yen (each) we got trains to Yanagawa, transfers to/ from the station to the canal company, canal trip, Dazaifu train sidetrips and peace of mind (Yanagawa canal cruise only = 1,500yen/ person). We were set.

    On the train to Yanagawa, my SO stayed awake. I was :eek: . Turns out, there was a huge god-like (buddha?) statue standing out in the middle of nowhere, which seemed very out of place. She brought that to my attention, and then drifted off to sleep. I suppose some of us have more energy than others :p .

    We arrived at Yanagawa station at 2.50pm. I was surprised when we showed our tickets to the gate agent that they actually left their post and personally escorted us to the mini-bus stop destined for our goal. Impressive. But what was comical was the agent calling the driver who was sleeping; we could now see the bus. Failing to wake him by phone, she wandered over, tapped on the window and I guess she said something like "umm, time to work". He woke up, and we took the bus to the Nishitetsu* canal company office (about 3-4 minutes) arriving just before 3pm.

    *Nishitetsu, literally meaning "west train" is a train company that also operates taxis, canal companies and god knows what else.

    We were a little annoyed that the next tour started at 3.30pm. Nonetheless it gave us time for a breather. We were invited upstairs (above the canal company office) to tour their small museum. Nothing more than a couple of old tatami rooms really, that housed some old photographs and memorabilia.

    Back downstairs we were bathing in the sun when an elderly woman with a parasol walked past. I could tell she was eyeballing me. Relaxed and up for a bit of banter I commented that it was a bit warm, wasn’t it. Seeing that I could speak Japanese, the floodgates opened and the questions came. Where am I from? How long am I here? Is it my first time to Yanagawa? What did I think? Was I doing the canal tour and how come I spoke Japanese? Turns out it was her 73rd birthday, and to mark the occasion she asked to have her photo taken with me :oops: .

    It was now 3.30pm and time for the 1-hour tour to start. I bought a beer (300yen, you could drink, smoke and eat on the gondola) and boarded the rickety old boat. There were 4 of us and the driver in a craft that could accommodate about 30 I guess. We passed lots of interesting places (vague I know) with the driver singing a lot of the time. I just chilled out, didn’t really listen too much and enjoyed the time on the water. Got a great photo of a man straddling and pruning a 15-meter tree, giving it that uniquely Japanese look.

    Pulled in at 4.30pm and immediately boarded our shuttle bus (the last of the day). About 10 minutes later, we arrived at the station and had 25 minutes to kill before the next train. We were feeling peckish by now and the infamous Yanagawa eel bento box beckoned. For my g/f that is, as I don’t eat eel. So she bought eel (from a restaurant opposite the station with take-away; not cheap though at about 1,600yen IIRC) and I got a sandwich from the convenience store on the next corner. We greedily filled our stomachs and nervously eyed our watches. Would we make Dazaifu in time?

    It was about a 30-minute journey and we arrived at Dazaifu after changing trains once (can’t remember where, but there were clear announcements in English/ Japanese that this was the stop to change for Dazaifu). It was now 5.55 and nobody could tell us when the Shrine closed. You see it closes at sunset, but whose definition of sunset was used? We ran the 300 meters up the shop-cocooned-street and arrived at the shrine gate. It was open :D .

    It was a wonderful time of the day to arrive. Too late for tour buses, the grounds were more or less empty bar some locals walking dogs and schoolkids on dates (my g/f explained that in the country there were few places one could go on a date without being seen/ detected by neighbors). The fading light danced on the old wooden structures, highlighting the intricacies of master craftsmen’s work. It was very special. We wandered around and saw the notice announcing the new museum was to open October 16th. Not to worry we thought; it’s another excuse to come back again :wink: .

    After spending a good hour within the shrine grounds we left after darkness had fallen. It was good to see that the gates were still open with the guards interpreting sunset (and closure time) liberally. Arrived at the station at 7.02pm and boarded a train soon after. After changing trains once again, we arrived in Fukuoka around 7.30. We got off 1 stop before Tenjin at Yakuin station, as once again we wanted to sample the area. There were some cool alleys with romantic restaurants yet we wanted to shower before dinner.

    Pulled out the trusty old bus-pass and took the 10-minute bus back to our hotel. It was great to sit down again knowing we’d accomplished everything we’d set for that day. We were :lol: . At the hotel again & following our showers, we leafed through some magazines looking for dinner. Not wanting to walk far we decided on the VanBeeru bar (5F, Matsui Ichi-ban building), located opposite our subway station and about a 300 meter walk from the hotel. The bar advertised over 100 brands of beer and a happy hour (6pm-8pm) with Guinness reduced from 800 to 550yen. Well we’d be too late for happy hour though the whole Canadian lobsters for 1,800yen seemed tempting.

    We arrived at VanBeeru around 9pm and looking at the menus we became dizzy. Not from the prices mind you, but physically dizzy. Because this bar had several mirror-ball lights that flickered lighting across the tables and walls. When trying to read something (like a menu), it felt like someone was spinning your chair. Drinks we thought, "we need drinks" and ordered a large Sapporo bottle (600yen) and shochu (350yen). We settled in and ordered some food (and more drinks) and chatted about the day’s highlights. We didn’t need a heavy meal but enjoyed lots of small-varied dishes. Stuff like assorted cheese plate, sausages and the like. It was ok but not great. Total for all drinks and food (about 5 large beers, 3 shochu, food) was 5,200yen (400yen table-charge included). Not bad but not great either. I wouldn’t come here again except perhaps for happy-hour Guinness early.

    Once more it was just the right temperature as we headed towards our abode. Saw some drum-playing foreigners with flame throwing entertainers on the canal front on the way back too. After brushing my teeth I collapsed on the bed, trying to keep awake to watch some TV. I failed miserable and fell soundly asleep.
     
  7. QF WP

    Moderator

    Jun 20, 2002
    14,242
    5,926
    Brisbane
    Flight Map:
    View my flight map
    Twitter:
    Facebook:
    Linkedin:
    Ah, BlacKnox, thank you for this TR. You take me back to my solitary trip to Japan in 1992 (where I came home with the first Mrs LW :roll: ). Went down by train with 10 others to Kochi (Shikoku) where we were attending a marriage between groom (Aussie - friend) and his wife (Japanese - friend of first Mrs LW). Got the whole Shinto wedding experience first, then the extravaganza of multiple changes of outfit (from wedding Kimino to western wedding dress, then going away outfit). Impolite and total loss of face not to drink the barrell of sake on our table (aaagghhh, that was my problem, too many kampai's or icki's IMO).

    All kids were looking at me as well (6'2"), saying "foreigner" in Japanese (can't recall the word). Plus first Mrs LW was 5'11" and blonde (and spoke fluent Japanese, had done it at school and done two Lions exchanges and spent a year at Kochi University doing intensive Japenese subject as part of her UQ B.Arts program).

    My biggest problem is that I can't find okonomiyaki (spelling?? - Japanese pizza) anywhere here in BNE or Gold Coast. Any tips...I love the stuff.

    I'd love to hear more of your TR's...
     
  8. BlacKnox

    BlacKnox Active Member

    Jan 29, 2005
    732
    13
    Glad you enjoyed the TR Lindsay Wilson and trip down memory lane. Those wedding celebrations are something else yeah. I also think the kimono that the men wear (during the ceremony) are pretty dashing too 8) . I know what you mean about the sake and kampai :wink: .

    Probably gaijin, though the more polite term is gaikokujin.

    Sounds like people would stare at her anywhere :p . It's pretty difficult to become fluent in Japanese, though sounds like she put in the hours. Of course I speak a bit, though I'm nowhere near fluent.

    Spelling is spot on. They use to sell it at McQuirters in the valley before the food court was revamped. Sorry am not up to date with the restaurant scene over there - the last thing I want to eat is Japanese when I visit.

    But Okonomiyaki is very fun & easy to make, and the ingredients readily available. Just search online for "okonomiyaki recipe" and you'll find lots of ideas. The Asian supermarkets in the Valley and Broadbeach (Gold Coast H'Way) will stock everything you need.

    Cheers :) . Days 3 & 4 are coming to a theater near you soon :wink: .
     
  9. QF WP

    Moderator

    Jun 20, 2002
    14,242
    5,926
    Brisbane
    Flight Map:
    View my flight map
    Twitter:
    Facebook:
    Linkedin:
    I'm sure it was the sake that was my downfall...

    "gaijin" was the word....and other such phrases that I couldn't understand :oops:. Have never heard the polite term, does that say something :cry:

    Oh, she could speak it ...was a very intelligent girl, did a Japanese double major in her BA. Was a meet & greeter initially for a bus company, then as QF Inbound Manager on the Gold Coast. Then QF holidays and finally CSA at BNE Intl (mainly groups). I'll never forget the situation as we were on the bus out to the plane...we were sitting down at front opposite two salarymen. They were talking and looking at my wife. Little did they know she could understand everything they were saying. She overheard what they were saying and got angry (inwardly, I could spot it). I asked her what they were talking about and she spat "my br***ts" (well, they were nice :wink:)

    She waited until the bus had stopped and we all stood up. She was head and shoulders above these guys and gave them a spray of Japanese that stopped the front of the bus offloading. Well, needless to say, they sat back down and were last off the bus. They had to walk past us and I have never seen two men bow more deeply, ashamed and apologising (as they also did when we deplaned in TKO). It was fabulous to watch...

    Don't want to cook Okonomiyaki myself (current Mrs LW not really a Japanese fan), I want to watch them cook it in front of me...restaurant quality not LW lack-of-quality cooking required.
     
  10. Damien

    Damien Member

    Aug 29, 2005
    300
    2
    BNE
    :lol: I've wished I had that ability ever since I saw "So I Married An Axe Murderer." I have a bunch of Mandarin speakers working for me at the moment. Occasionally when they are speaking in their native tongue, I get the feeling that they're about to do something they shouldn't be.... :evil:
     
  11. QF WP

    Moderator

    Jun 20, 2002
    14,242
    5,926
    Brisbane
    Flight Map:
    View my flight map
    Twitter:
    Facebook:
    Linkedin:
    It was frustrating that she used to talk about me with her (Japanese-speaking Uni) friends; so rather than get mad, I got even...I talked about her in German :twisted: - two can play at that game, dear :lol:

    Damien, you need an infiltrator, who'll tell you what they're saying....
     
  12. BlacKnox

    BlacKnox Active Member

    Jan 29, 2005
    732
    13
    If they're like my Mandarin friends, probably about gambling, women or family (in that order) :p .
     
  13. BlacKnox

    BlacKnox Active Member

    Jan 29, 2005
    732
    13
    Day 3 – Saturday 01/10/05

    Awoke early and palmed through some car-hire brochures, wrote another note and had a wee walk. It was only about 6.30am yet was already warm. I hope the weather holds I thought to myself. Back at the breakfast table around 8am, I decided to check the internet this morning. Low and behold I had a private message on Flyertalk – Q Shoe Guy can meet us in Yanagawa – yesterday! Jeez I mused, the one day a year you don’t check your mail and ... Sent a mail to Kyushu Guy (get it) and posted a couple of messages to AFF. Time to call the car-hire people.

    I checked a few companies such as Orix & Nippon and decided on Japan rent-a-car (Japaren). They all had similar day-rates, though Japaren had an easy to find office (on Kokutai dori (street) ph: 092-752-3900) open 24 hours. This meant that the 6/12/24 hour rentals were meaningful, and we could return the car at our leisure.

    In line with our new challenge of a cheap few days away, we booked the smallest car on offer. When we arrived about an hour later, we were offered to upgrade for about 400yen more. We declined, and were given the upgraded model anyway (a kinda cute cubish car called a Mocha, Latte or something). It was new and cheap, costing less than 6,000yen including all insurance, tax etc for 12 hours rental. The fuel for the day’s driving (guestimate 150-200kms) totaled 1,300yen, so all-in-all around 7,000yen. Great Value.

    I showed them my Japanese drivers license and passport. Breaking the FF’s cardinal sin, I offered to pay by cash, not electing to use a mileage-affiliated credit card. Were you still dizzy, you ask :?: Well, I wanted to check something. You see I don’t hire cars in Japan often, and had heard one can do so card-less. Wishing to test this theory, I handed over the cash to the clerk and was offered the keys to the car. Wow I thought, how many places in the world can you hire a car without a credit card? Sure they had my license and passport numbers, but for me it represented trust in their customer (me). I vowed to look after their coffee car, and drove off towards the beach. PS: Don’t bother asking for a non-smoking car – this is Japan – and all cars were smoking, though no tobacco odor was evident in our vehicle.

    We drove along the fish markets and headed out past Momochi to Marinoa, a yacht harbor come beach come outlet mall come amusement park. We stretched our legs on the sand, and witnessed a dramatic rescue of some people from the pier. The beach was closed to vehicles so the wet-suit clad firemen had to run about 400 meters to those distressed. A helicopter was buzzing overhead and sirens screaming in the fore & backgrounds.

    We pushed off in our coffee cart and stopped next at the Fukuoka Yacht club. Some German brands in the carpark and nice boats in the harbor but nothing much else was happening round here (perfect weather for sailing though). Off again past Imajuku beach and through countryside reminding me of Bali. Some coastal views along our route yet the coastal road was mainly inland. We passed some small towns that screamed "we’re having a festival" with bright flags and stuff hanging from everywhere. Turned out they were having their school athletic carnivals, which apparently is a big deal in Nippon.

    Continued for about an hour until we arrived at Keya beach*. Here they had magnificent rocks and a cave, though we didn’t explore either much :( . It was getting really warm now with the temperature hovering around 30 (degrees). So we dipped our toes in the water, jumped in the car and went looking for lunch and shade.

    *This beautiful and tranquil place is also home to a reggae festival I believe.

    We passed the Keya Golf Course and stopped at a convenience store for directions. The lovely young lass commented that Futamigaura Beach and the Sunset Café was just down the street. 15 minutes continuous driving later, we arrived at our destination noting that country people certainly perceive distance differently than city folk :p .

    WOW. What a place! Futamigaura beach and the Sunset Café were breathtaking. It felt like we weren’t in Japan at all, rather in Thailand or somewhere. To start I ordered a banana juice (500yen - recommended) and the SO a Kir cocktail (700yen - not – too bitter, apparently). For food we settled for garlic toast (500yen?) as an appetizer, and jyaku chicken tortilla (800yen - recommended) and roast pork (800yen - not – too small). The jyaku chicken and banana juice were great while the other things were ok. But the views and ambience of the café were outstanding; certainly have plans to come back again.

    If we were to come back with friends then we’d definitely go for the bbq plan (minimum 5 people booked at least 1 day before). We could arrive around 2pm and either have juice or coffee to start. Then we could take some snacks (or dessert or free hotel hamper) across the street and enjoy the water and beach. Then back to the café for the bbq dinner, drinks and sunset (the sunsets from here are reportedly phenomenal).

    Sidenote: Parking is free for 2 hours if you buy something from the café. It certainly wasn’t monitored while we were there but perhaps could be in the busier summer months.

    After lunch we crossed the road to the beach and enjoyed the beautiful clear water. It was now 33 degrees (and one of the hottest days in Kyushu’s history for October) and I was glad we were where we were. The water had great visibility and we could see schools of fish swimming around us. Wishing we had brought snorkeling gear, we started to notice divers up and down the sand. Mental note – bring gear next time :idea: .

    It was about 2pm when we climbed once again in our wheels and headed back towards Fukuoka. We passed through Nishijin (and the city) and onto Route 3 with bearings towards Shikanoshima. We dropped into Uminonkamichi and had a brief look around the Marine Park (you can also catch a ferry from/to here from Bayside Place). The Marine Park looked impressive, though we didn’t venture inside. Onto Shikanoshima and out of the car to get some photos (from this spot you can see the whole Fukuoka skyline as you look back across the bay. If that’s not enough, there’s also a guy selling jumbo bbq oysters at a reasonable price :wink: ). Ate some oysters and drove past Kin-in Park and some Mongolian memorial (the Mongolians invented the term Kimikaze BTW), and on to the National Vacation Village beach. This again was a fantastic beach, man-made with soft clean sand. It was straddled by a cool coffee shop with swimming pool set right on the headland. It was 4.30pm and probably around 30 degrees and though tempted to swim we pushed on (we had the car until 10pm, yet were keen to get back to see some of the Asian Month festival near our hotel).

    Back towards the city and time to drop off the hire-car. We wanted to see some dancing that finished at 6pm and it seemed we would probably just make it. After convincing my g/f that no we shouldn’t turn right (she was holding the map upside down), we dropped off our car without fuss. With City Hall a 10minute walk away we scampered off to catch the last of the dancing. Arriving at 5.40pm, it was still warm though finally starting to cool. We ordered some beer (Kirin - 300yen) and sat down to enjoy the dancing. Don’t know what the festival was for (Dontaku?), though consisted of several groups of 40+ dancers brightly decorated in matching garb, dancing in unison to bad music (well, not my taste anyway). Kinda of like a smaller version of the Sapporo Yosakoi festival. One beer was enough as the music was starting to grate – fun costumes though, and lots of parents and kids dancing together – 8) .

    We picked up some cold ones & free magazines (displayed in front of the convenience store) & moseyed back to our room. It was time to shower away the sand and sore limbs. Changed into our Japanese yukatas, drank our 2 beers and discussed whether we had the energy to go out. We noticed in the local free magazine Hot Pepper that the Hyatt residential suites (ph: 092-846-8585) at Momochi was offering apartments for 10,080yen/ night, reduced from 15,750yen/ night. All rooms had a kitchen, and from the floor-map looked spacious. This special is valid until 31/10/05, and appears good value (If we’d seen this before, we’d have probably spent our last night there and extended our car-hire, though we had no regrets).

    Checked the TV guide and Arnie & True Lies was on the box that night. Although not an Arnie fan, ordering take-away (no room service) and watching TV became more attractive as the night wore on. We were tired, and decided happily to spend our last night in the room.
     
Loading...

Share This Page