Day 1: Stuck in Fukuoka

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Got up at 5am and took the train to Shin-Osaka station where the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) hub is.

IMG_9635Being early in the morning on a Saturday, there weren’t many people at any station or on the trains, something I don’t see much in Japan.IMG_9638My train was a Hikari 700 series, which isn’t as fast as the Nozomi 500 series but at 285km/h its plenty fast. It’s about 2 and a half hours from Osaka to Fukuoka by Shinkansen, as is one of the most expensive legs on the train network at Y14000 one-way. If you want to save Y4000, you can take regular trains, changing lines 5 times, and make it to Fukuoka for Y9500. It will only take you 12 hours. There’s also an overnight bus that takes 10 hours and runs Y10000. The cheapest way (besides hitchhiking) to get from Osaka to Fukuoka is by the little known Meimon Ferry which takes 12 hours at Y6000.

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IMG_9695When you take the Osaka Tokyo leg of the Shinkansen network, you get a lot of nice views of the Japanese countryside, including Mount Fuji. The Osaka Hakata leg passes through mountainous terrain and so consequently 80% of the ride is spent in tunnels, emerging every few minutes for 2 seconds of farmland, then back into a tunnel. It’s really a boring ride. There are no TVs like on some other companys’ rails. The only thing you get is an LED scroll bar at the front of each car that displays the same 3 news headlines over and over, along with the current speed of the train. Fortunately, there is a meal service. You could always kill time with an overpriced bentou and a beer at 8am, which is exactly what I did.

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At 8:30 I called to confirm that yes, the ferry services had been canceled that day. So I was stuck in Fukuoka for the day. The only thing I knew about Fukuoka was that it was famous for its pork bone ramen, it’s spicy mentaiko fish eggs, and it was currently raining.

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The first thing I did was pick up a guide book/magazine at the station book store. I should have checked it first, because I forgot that Japanese guidebooks only list places to eat, and places to shop. So I had 15 places I could eat Hakata ramen, but nothing to do for the next 24 hours. I noticed half the places to shop were in the same place, an underground mall in Tenjin. As it was raining, “underground” anything sounded good so I headed for the metro station.

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I may not know anything about Fukuoka, but give me a subway network and at least I can get around. Fukuoka’s system is really basic, only a coulpe lines that intersect at a station. A far cry from the 30 lines that intersect at 200 stations in Osaka.

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Everyone got off at the same stop as me, so I figured I picked the right place. The underground shopping area was quite underground and big enough that I managed to get lost for a half hour.
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I grabbed some coffee and figured out where I was going to stay that night. The guide book with 60 pages of restaurants had half a page of hotels so I made some calls and booked a room nearby.

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I went to check-in and ride out the rain, according to my cell phone, the rain was going to clear up at 6pm. Though my hotel room was small, and the TV only had 9 channels, 2 of them were porn, and the mini fridge was stocked with whiskey and water and quasi-drug drinks. They were expensive so I walked across the street to AM/PM and got the same thing for 1/4 of the price.

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IMG_9828After dark, the rain cleared up so I went to walk around the city and grab some dinner. The guide book was useless so I left it behind, ensuring that I would again, get lost. I went to back to Tenjin station, went above ground, and as expected, was lost in 30 seconds. My cell phone could probably lead me back to the metro, now I just had to find something to kill a few hours. I wandered through a red-light district and into a night market with yakitori and tempura stands. There were a couple of booths where you could fish for eels. It looked fun but I don’t know what I’d do with an eel other than pay someone to cook it for me. It seemed like a lot of work so I snapped a few pictures and wandered on. Fukuoka, like Osaka, is a city with rivers, and so there are probably some nice boat tours and restaraunts on the water. It’d be nice to come back to Fukuoka with a proper guide book and when it’s not raining.

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I walked by a couple of the Hakata Ramen restaurants mentioned in the guide book, but Hakata Ramen has a really pungent smell from the pork bone soup. If one isn’t used to it, it probably smells bad. I am a big fan of it, though I have it 3 times a week in Osaka, so I wasn’t really in the mood. Instead I ate a chain restaurant that I probably could find in Osaka, really making the day in Fukuoka that much more worthwhile. Especially when you throw in the 4 beers.

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~ by foomfoom on August 19, 2006.

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