First time in Fukuoka14 February, 2014 by Chad
It’s been quite a while since an update hasn’t. Between work and attending university part time, there hasn’t been anything of interest recently to update this site with. Eventually things start to get to you though. With such a busy schedule, 2013 was the single longest span of having to be away from Japan in years. At the end of the year, I gave in and found an opportunity between semesters and projects at work to squeeze in a trip back to that wondrous place.
When thinking of Japan, there are still plenty of places I’d love to and have yet to visit. I tend to balance this out with some of the expectations of whoever I’m travelling with at any particular point of time, which meant that we’d be revisiting Tokyo again. But at the same time, we’ll be visiting a few new places this trip. I’d be travelling with Randy and my brother Gage for this trip. Gage had been missing Japan since his last visit there in 2012. Due to certain last minute emergencies, Randy would only be able to make it later, forfeiting the plane tickets that were booked, and throwing off early plans for the trip quite a bit.
Pictures from this trip come courtesy of a brand new compact Sony RX-100-II which I had purchased a couple of weeks before leaving. After all the times lugging around the 5DM2, I’ve learnt that it’s a lot better to have something more portable for holidays, even if it comes at the expense of quality. Overall the Rx-100-II seemed like a great choice.
We took a flight over to Narita in the wee hours of the morning. Coincidentally, we’d end up on the same flight as Mus, who had planned a spree of concerts for his virgin voyage to Tokyo. In the meantime, Gage and myself would be taking a separate flight to Fukuoka Airport.
On hindsight, given the ridiculously low value of the yen, we should had just gone ahead and purchased a 3 week JR Rail Pass instead. Not wanting to endure the 8 hour ride to Fukuoka even by bullet train, we opted to go with a flight, but there was a 3 hour wait anyway between flights making the difference marginal. The JR Pass would had allowed for much greater flexibility too.
Interestingly, someone had brought a cat on board the plane. Due to the last minute booking, our seats had to be split up. I ended up taking a window seat next to a middle aged Caucasian couple. The lady had a stern look on her face but turned out to be quite nice, passing along everything automatically. When it was time for meals, the couple opted to wait to see what I had taken. I went with the very safe omelette, which the gentleman opted for too. The lady decided to have noodles instead, and was disappointed by it. Didn’t manage to catch much sleep or much of any movies on the way, as was too busy attempting to catch some sleep, but the excitement didn’t allow for that. Did see the first half of World’s End though, but never got to finish it. It wasn’t nearly as amusing as past movies in the Cornetto trilogy.
Landing in Narita, I got spot checked at customs for the first time, after being seen talking with Mus. Got to love the post 9-11 airports. Past that, we headed to the post office where Mus could pick up his B-Mobile Prepaid Sim Card. In the short time at the central building, it became apparent that Longchamp bags were a thing here in Japan too.
With 3 hours between flights, we decided to grab lunch together at the airport food court, which turned out to be a mistake. As with any airport the food was a little overpriced, and rather disappointing. Before long, Mus went on his way to Tokyo, while Gage and I went on to catch our flight to Fukuoka.
There was still some time between the flights, so we waited at the ANA departure hall, a large room on the ground floor with various gates for flights leading to different parts of Japan. Each of the gates lead to a bus that brought passengers over to a tiny local bound plane. Each plane was staffed by just a couple cabin attendants. They would bow to the entire room of waiting passengers for the various flights whenever one started their duty.
It was a 2 hour flight from Narita to Fukuoka. Since Randy’s ticket couldn’t be refunded, the two of us got an extra seat to share along the way. Small planes are pretty interesting to ride since you can feel being rocketed into the air and every bump on the flight more intensely.
Fukuoka Airport was interesting. It’s located smack in the middle of the city, such that the plane had to fly just slightly over all the city’s buildings just before it landed. It’s also incredibly convenient, located just 2 stops and 5 minutes away from Hakata Station, the city center and where we would be staying for our duration in Fukuoka.
It had started raining strangely at Hakata, with the rain being a light drizzle on some streets and a heavy downpour at other corners. We were hardly prepared for the weather. With a lot of the locals staring at us in a single layer of shirt and pants. Still, perhaps it was the initial novelty of being back in Japan but we paid no notice to the single digit temperature.
Turning a wrong corner, it took us longer than usual to reach the hotel. I had a rough idea where the hotel was located so didn’t bring a map, but the low visibility didn’t help so we visited a convenience store for some temporary shelter and directions. We were drenched by the time we arrived at our hotel, Hotel Hokke Club Fukuoka. The staff there was nice enough to provide us towels to dry off, while they completed the check-in procedure.
It was pretty late by now, so after settling down a bit in our rooms, we set off in search of dinner nearby. Was still wet from earlier, so even though the rain had subsided into a drizzle it was starting to get quite cold. We eventually settled for some ramen just around the corner from our hotel. It was one of the few eateries open along this street. Despite being empty, the noodles were actually pretty decent, coming from someone who’s not too good with ramen. Gage opted for a set with a side of char siew rice, while mine came with some mini gyoza.
After dinner, we finally retired to our rooms to catch up on the day’s worth of rest, whilst preparing for the adventures that would begin tomorrow. It’s worth noting that the hotel that we got in Hakata was arguably one of the best we had this trip. Good location, though about 800 meters away from the station. But it was also really spacious for a business hotel and had good amenities.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.