Golden Week 2012 - Part 1: Fukuoka

May 8, 2012 - Fukuoka, Japan

Golden Week this year was a nine day holiday, so to make the most of it we decided to head to South Korea.  As Japan’s closest neighbour, we’d been meaning to visit for some time but never got round to it, and weekend trips seemed short and not really that convenient.  To make it a little bit different we decided to take a slightly unusual route to Korea.

Day 1

On Sunday morning we got up bright and early and flew to Fukuoka in Kyushu (still in Japan).  Unfortunately we had a bit of an accident on the way to the airport which started the trip on a bad note.  We’d made a huge meal the night before and had so much left over that we’d packed it into two little disposable lunchboxes which we planned to eat once we got to Fukuoka.  However on the monorail to the airport I felt something wet on my lap and realised that the boxes had leaked vinegary juice in my bag, all over my jeans.  It was early in the morning and it didn’t put me in a great mood.  I’d only brought one pair of jeans and some Thai style pants on the trip so I decided that first stop in Fukuoka would be UniQlo.

We arrived and headed the two stops from the airport to the city centre.  Our hostel was a bit of a walk from there but easy enough to find, so we dropped our bags off and headed back to the centre.  It was a nice day so we went to a building that said it had an interesting roof garden.  The garden kind of merged up the side of the building from the park next to it.  The actual roof top part wasn’t that interesting and the view was just OK but the climb up (although tiring) was nice.  There was some kind of festival in the park with lots of food stalls, so we stopped for some snacks and a drink and then decided to head to a big city park.

On the way we found a UniQlo so I was able to buy some short, lightweight trousers to replace my jeans until they could be washed (in the warm weather we had that day my jeans felt too hot anyway).  We had a convenience store picnic in the park and enjoyed wandering about and relaxing on our first day of holiday.  The park had a big lake with bridges and islands on it, some interesting wildlife and interesting people (including a woman with a pet raccoon…)

We went back to the hostel before heading out for dinner.  Fukuoka is famous for its yatai or small food stalls with minimal seating and one area by the river is particularly well known.  I was hoping there would be something I could eat there but it soon became clear that there wasn’t and they wouldn’t let me sit without ordering, so I left Ed at a food stall while I got some snacks and wandered round a huge shopping mall.  By the time Ed found me and we’d wandered round a bit more, he was hungry again (!!!) so we went to the ramen stadium in the shopping mall I’d been to, so he could eat yet more of Fukuoka’s most popular ramen dish.

Fukuoka felt very different to Tokyo.  People were louder and a bit pushier and the whole place felt a little bit less Japanese and a bit more Asian.  I’d read that it is geographically closer to Seoul than Tokyo, so perhaps that explains it.

Day 2

It was raining when we got up on Monday so we decided to go to a folk museum, which had interesting displays about Fukuoka’s summer festival and a woman demonstrating traditional weaving for kimono materials.  It was a nice way to spend the morning but we were really hoping the rain would stop.  We had planned to go to a buffet restaurant for dinner but moved it to lunchtime as it seemed like a good way to spend our time while waiting for the weather to improve.  It was a great restaurant with a varied buffet with an emphasis on healthy Japanese food – even the desserts felt healthy!  Feeling very full we left and found the skies were still grey but the rain had stopped.

We browsed a few shops and then headed to the beach area.  We thought about going up the tower but decided it was a bit of a rip-off, especially as we’d read that there was a hotel bar at the same height as the observation deck of the tower just along the beach a bit.

So we walked along the beach and headed to the Hilton Sea Hawk hotel for a cocktail and to watch the sun go down and the lights come up.  It was a beautiful bar and much more enjoyable that going up a tower, although we did have to pay a seating fee.

The food there looked pricey so we headed back towards the hostel and decided to do a bit of karaoke and have dinner at the karaoke place.

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