It had only been 5 months since our trip around South Asia, but it felt like years. The urge to travel was still biting us hard, however our new job only gave us a 1 week holiday in the summer. This was compensated for by 3 weeks in winter, but that feels like an age away. So with only 1 week to travel, and still recovering from our past job and associated financial losses, we decided to head back to Japan. Even though it is far from the cheapest destination, the cost of flights anywhere else would have pushed the cost of any other country far above what we were willing to pay…plus we didn’t feel like spending 2 days out of our 9 in airports! So we decided to take the boat from Busan to Fukuoka. (This ended up being a bad decision as, because of our extremely remote location in Korea, getting to Busan ended up taking nearly 6 hours over 2 days and over 15 hours on the return journey. But no matter.)
The boat itself was a great way to travel between the 2 countries, if not extremely expensive for what it is (500,000 won for both of us return…about the same cost as some plane tickets during quieter times). We were concerned that the crossing would be cancelled due to an incoming typhoon, but fortunately it fizzled into nothing and the 3 hour trip was smooth and uneventful. The cloud formations and threatening weather did lead to some great vistas though.
We arrived just after midday, caught a bus to the main train station, and hunted out our first lunch. Udon noodles. Oh my god…absolutely amazing! We had forgotten how tasty (and not spicy!) Japanese food was.
Following lunch we bought train tickets to Nagasaki (our next stop off) and then explored the area between the station and our hotel. It was only about 4km away, but we immediately encountered a huge problem: the heat. It was appalling. We have never liked heat – 10-15 degrees is our temperature of choice – so to be walking around in high 30s, with high humidity to boot, was horrible. But we battled on and made it to Canal City, a large shopping mall with a canal running through it, and eventually our hotel via several fascinating backstreets.
After showering, changing and cooling off, we went out to explore (it would transpire that 2-3 showers and changes of clothes were needed daily. Have I mentioned that summer in Asia is awful?!) We were situated in the Tenjin area, full of shopping areas and one of the main centres of the city (the other having been Hakata where we had just explored). We spent the afternoon walking mainly around malls and shopping arcades to stay in air-conditioning. The evening bought about slightly bearable weather, and we were able to stay outside longer, as well as finding a delicious Japanese curry restaurant for dinner. Yum!
The following day had a fair bit of walking and sight-seeing planned. We left early and walked to the Fukuoka Castle ruins in Maizuru Park. There wasn’t really much to the ruins except for a couple of guard tower buildings and some impressive walls, but signs around the castle footprint gave a good account of the history of the place.
After a while we stumbled across the neighbouring Ohori park. It was beautiful with a large lake with several islands in the middle all connected by typical Japanese style bridges. We stopped for some drinks (and air-conditioning!) before exploring and marveled at the groups of runners using the park…how were they not dying?! The temperature by this stage was around the 35 degree mark, yet we lost count of runners and cyclists using the impressive facility. Sufficiently jealous, we left our air conditioned comfort. Shortly after that quite a surprise happened when we bumped into a friend of ours from Korea. It’s always crazy when you see someone you know in a different country!
We continued on down the road to Nishi park (it seemed like today was park day!) and found a temple complex to look through. Whilst not the best example of a temple, it was still beautiful and well worth some time walking around.
We grabbed some lunch from a 7/11 and sat down by the port for a relax. It’s amazing what dairies (convenience stores) sell in Japan…there is so much food that you can have for a meal! And I don’t mean pots of noodles…sushi, udon, bento boxes, amazingly good sandwiches…almost anything.
The rest of the afternoon was spent first looking for the yatai street, which was meant to house a lot of mobile food stalls selling the regions best ramen noodles. But it didn’t seem to exist, so we headed back to Tenjin for some more (cool) malls and air conditioning. Stumbling across huge anime department stores and Pachinko arcades was certainly a highlight. The noise and amount of games/gambling/cuteness in these places is almost overwhelming, not to mention the huge amount of anime merchandise at the anime stores!
One stop on the way back to the hotel was via the ACROS building, which has terraced gardens on the outside of the building leading up to the roof. We climbed the 15 or so stories that were covered in trees and vegetation to enjoy the great views from the top. But after that exertion in 37 degree heat, a few hours dying at the hotel was needed.
Oddly enough, thinking back on Fukuoka, our time was mostly spent either in parks or shopping areas. And while this may sound somewhat 2 dimensional and boring, we absolutely loved it. As I have mentioned, we have moved to a very small town in Korea which is completely devoid of any shopping areas or, oddly enough, parks. So to spend time in these places and experience some city living is just what we needed to blow away the city-cobwebs created by small town living.
…unfortunately, my writing of this blog ceased after doing the draft of Fukuoka. In fact it wasn’t until I went in to update everything before our next big trip that I actually noticed that it was here! So I thought I might as well post it.
As for Nagasaki…it was a nice place. Smaller than we imagined, but with a lovely harbour area and some really nice western colonial type architecture. I do remember being frustrated in Nagasaki as, due to our holiday restrictions, it wasn’t until the last day that we felt like we were finally getting into the swing of travelling again! But here are some pictures that show stuff that our cameras pointed towards at that point in time.