Road Trip To Fukuoka
Here we go. Our final road trip. We’d been planning to take a vacation during golden week for some time, so we tried to make it a good one. I’ll just say now that some plans were thrown out the window and some were added in. We had to play each day by ear and it made the trip more fun but in some ways more stressful. Overall, it was a success. I know these updates are kinda long and I don’t actually expect anyone to read them ha! But if you’re interested, read on.
First we stopped in Kumamoto. It’s right in the middle of Kyushu and roughly halfway to Fukuoka. Our primary destination.. Kumamoto Castle.
It is as big as it looks. One of the largest castles in Japan.
Without the plastic sword and armor this could be intimidating.
We couldn’t figure out what these rows of wooden pieces were. Names perhaps?
These are what you typically see on the top of ancient buildings in Japan. Significance? No idea. Google it.
Samurai uniforms. The real deal.
You occasionally see women in a Kimono like this. Special occasions usually.
From the top of the castle.
These are reproductions of what certain rooms would have looked like. This was the food preparation room. See the pot in the row of ashes. The display below is what a typical meal would have looked like for residents of the castle.
A meeting room. Gold on the walls and ceiling. This image will give you a better view. http://bit.ly/LiPxVE
In Japan, you sometimes see things like this. I think it’s something about spirits and shinto beliefs. Japan’s mixed buddhist/shinto concepts are pretty confusing so I won’t even try.
Amber and I stayed at a hotel in Yatsushiro outside the city and they provided breakfast. This may look like a simple meal (and the fish ‘n soup a little odd) but it was really good. That milk is thick Jersey milk that clings to the glass. I drank.. alot. Until you try it, you just can’t understand. I’ve talked about my Jersey dairy and ice cream obsession before. What they make with that stuff is golden.
Amber spotted a bakery on the way out.
We were on the expressway the whole trip and arrived to Fukuoka in half the time of our Christmas trip. Worth the $80 there and back.
Stayed at the green hotel. The rooms are sooo tiny! Over-priced and they charged extra for parking. Most things in the city are a rip off.
Headed to Hakata station to get some information about what to do in Fukuoka. We were clueless. Oh and the city bus/train stations in Japan are huge, as in, the size of some airports. Come to think of it, they’re almost just like airports but with more shops.
Skimming all the brochures.
Bread shop. Yes, in the station.
This is our friend Kiyomi. Let me explain. Kiyomi is a fellow BYU Hawaii alumni and we had been planning to get together somehow. She’s from Iizuka, about an hour east of Fukuoka. Plans were a little up in the air but we finally got a hold off her and she was like, hey I’m getting of work at the hospital. So we went and picked her up and there ya go. Ended up hanging out in her hometown for a couple days. Kiyomi’s a very very high energy girl! Always happy, always excited about life.
She took us to their very nice branch in Iizuka. Puts the Miyazaki chapel to shame.. maybe I shouldn’t say that.
This is Kiyomi’s home. Her dad was having a little meeting with a business partner so we had to chill for a bit.
Ended up going ice-skating with Kiyomi’s friends. Weren’t planning on it but it was definitely a highlight of the trip.
The place was filled with little professionals.
Some of the guys were clearly new to the sport.
These girls wanted to ask Amber some questions.
Afterwards we all walked to Coco Curry House. Best japanese curry, bar none.
That night we basically had no place to stay in Iizuka. So Kiyomi called up another JET she knew in town and the girl was super nice and said she had an extra room and a some futons that someone gave her. There was only one requirement. Chocolate. Chocolate with nuts. So we stopped by the konbini, showed up with the goods and we had a place to stay! Ended up chatting until midnight about the JET program & Japan and almost forgot we needed to get Kiyomi back home. Turns out this girl had a french couch surfer in her ‘other’ extra room (Amber thought he was a creeper) and so he joined in and it was just one big crashing party. And just for the record, our first experience on a futon.. not good. I still can’t believe that’s what most Japanese people prefer to sleep on!
We headed over to Kiyomi’s house the next morning. Kiyomi has just recently gotten engaged to Yuki, another BYUH graduate from Tokyo and he arrived that same morning on an overnight bus. He was tired but was there to meet Kiyomi’s parents for the first time. So we hung out for a few hours until her dad came home and Amber helped her with some wedding ideas. She wanted to know how things were done in an American wedding and was trying to decided between some things like whether to wear a white dress or a traditional kimono. We said, go traditional!
She wanted us to join them on their 3-day young single adults conference they were leaving to later that day but we didn’t think that would really work out, being married and all. haha Anyway, we eventually said our goodbyes, thanked Kiyomi and wished them the best with their wedding and future plans. Maybe if we’re lucky we’ll be able to attend their reception in July.
Before leaving Iizuka, Kiyomi told us to stop at her favorite udon restaurant. We did and it was amazing.
This guy was stoked to have a couple foreigners there. He was super helpful and had all kinds of questions like what the heck we were doing in their town.
Well here it is. It looks like simple udon. But the chef makes the noodles by hand everyday and prepares them to perfection. You pull the noodles out and dip them in the amazing broth there on the side, probably another trade secret. I almost messed up and dumped the broth in the noodles. Both the waiter and the chef caught me and ran over shouting, “NO NO NO” and while laughing signaled for me to lift the noodes out and dip them. Ahhh okay okay. Got it. haha Anyway, we both loved it. The texture and flavor was out of this world!
Headed back to Fukuoka for the rest of the trip.
Breakfast the next day at 7/11. This is called a Chou roll and is just another one of those things. Looks simple, tastes incredible.
Heading to the Fukuoka zoo. Parked in this neighborhood.
Japan always has unique homes.
The temple happens to be right across the street from the zoo. Fortunately for us, we were able to stop in and schedule a session for the next morning. The man at the front door that helped us knew English and happened to be the temple president! Really nice guy.
The.. not so new.. zoo.
This guy growled at us. Probably didn’t like my face.
This was a funny giraffe. He would reach over the fence as faaaar as he could to barely reach these little leaves. He’d curl his tongue and strip the branches.
The funniest little creature we saw all day. He just turned around let us have it.
This was way out of the city but we made it! Our card was expired but got us through the door. All we wanted was some dang CostCo Pizza! haha
90% of the products were American, just shipped straight over. And if you think your CostCo gets busy, trust me, it doesn’t. This place was PACKED!!!
And finally, the glorious glistening slab of artery clotting cheese. The taste? Identical. And what’s this? A pineapple smoothie? Made from 100% pressed pineapple juice. Holy DELICIOUS! And then, the best part, Hokkaido Jersey ice cream. As good as Takachiho farm’s ice cream? Yes. Yes indeed.
And what the? The line outside went from 0 to 300 in like 45 minutes. Americans, count your blessings.
Next stop, Fukuoka tower. Tallest building in Fukuoka.
Great view of the city. It’s not an office building, it’s just.. a tower.
A nice ferry port.
It’s right on the coast. And that tall building is the Hilton. Remember that.
Went down to the port and artificial beach.
Some nice restaurants by the shore.
It’s real sand, but it’s a man-made beach.
Death awaits you husband.
The tongue. Always the tongue. I don’t get it.
So, here we were. At this point we’d been searching for a hotel all day and everything was booked so we thought hey, just out of curiosity, let’s check the Hilton out. hahaha. well, it’s funny now.
We pull up and they want to open our doors for us, the first sign we’re out of our league. Then we walk in and the place is just off the charts. Nicest hotel I’ve seen in my life. The interior was absolutely gigantic! People were dressed nice, like, really nice. Women in obviously expensive kimonos and dresses. There was a wedding reception going on. The vibe was, if you’re not wealthy, you probably shouldn’t be here. I just had to ask, so I walked to the fancy sandbar front desk, asked for their cheapest room, the nice girl gave me a price, I turned around, walked right back out. But hey, it was fun to look at. You can dream right?
Swung by Canal City, a cool mall with a stream running through it.
This is the best example of a Japanese plastic food display for a restaurant. Forget the menu, just observe the plastic.
We still didn’t a have a place to stay and we finally figured out why everything was full in the entire city! The next day was a huge festival in Fukuoka called “Hakata Dontaku”. Every hotel and hostel was completely booked. We gave up and finally said forget it, let’s get some sushi.
We had heard all about Sushiro and were excited to try it. It was really fun. That little conveyer belt goes around all the tables with every variety of sushi you can imagine. You just grab what you want or custom order something from the touch screen. They make it, put it on a reserved plate, and your table chimes when it comes around. How awesome is that!
You can order drinks and desserts and the waitresses will zip it over to your table.
This was my favorite. Smoked creamy pesto, cheese and shrimp. SO good.
Someone else’s ice cream they ordered zooming over to their table. I should’ve taken it. hehe
When you’re done they count your stack and ring you up. About a dollar a plate. A group of guys next to us had several towering stacks. Super fun. Now just bring it to America.
So what did we end up doing for the night? We walked out of sushiro at 11:30 and decided we’d have to sleep in the car. But then, after a little prayer, something happened, we found a place! I can’t say where it was cuz it’s a bit culturally taboo here. But it was actually pretty awesome and easily the nicest place we stayed at the whole trip. It’s kind of a funny story. If you wanna know just ask us.
So we had a good night’s rest, surprisingly, and we made it to the temple on schedule. Had a good experience. Our first time in a foreign temple and of course all in a foreign language so we used headsets. It was nice. Glad we went.
So, we headed back to the city for the day and walked around downtown Fukuoka a while. The first day the sun decided to come out.
Amber loves checking out the bakeries.
Fancy chou rolls?
Oh I didn’t mention, I shattered the back of my iPhone a while back so I wanted to stop by the Apple store. Also my first foreign Apple store experience. Everything was identical of course, just in Japanese.
Picked up some local produce. She always has these sexy faces. One more time babe.
We ended up running right into the big Dontaku festival that the city was so packed for. Miyazaki festivals pale in comparison.
Tons of people, tons of food stands.
The big Dontaku parade. Every city high school performed with their dancers and marching band. Got a little repetitive.
Grabbed some katsu on the way out. They give you sesame seeds and special bowls w/surikogi sticks so you can grind the seeds and mix it with sauces. Pretty good.
We were finally ready to head home. We passed through a small town to fill up and these local boys were the best. Total crack ups.
We made it home alive. And if anyone’s lost track of time, we have about 2 months left in Japan. Maybe another post or two and I’ll wrap this blog up. And then, best of all, we’ll be back in America! Can’t wait to see everyone!!