The ocean, fishes and sweets22 February, 2014 by Chad
We woke up to an another slight drizzle on our second morning in Hakata. The first course of action was to thus head over to the nearby Canal City to grab a new, preferably waterproof pair of shoes. At the same time, we’d take the opportunity to visit the HKT48 Shop that we missed yesterday.
Had initially considered getting a pair of boots to fully prepare for our upcoming retreat to Nagano, but since I already have a sizeable number of boots in my possession at home, decided to settle for something else. Ended up getting a pair of Hawkin shoes which were advertised as being waterproof and anti-slip. The pair was well made but a little pricey at 8,990 yen.
I would regret the decision later slightly since while sturdy, it wasn’t the most comfortable shoes to walk around in. Nonetheless, I needed to get something to replace the damaged earthkeeper shoes, so changed into them on the spot. Perhaps in sensing our foreign-ness, the shop assistant tried to hard sell a care set for another 3,000 yen, which I politely declined.
Checked out the adjacent Muji after. It was pretty large, with its own cafe inside. Really like Mujis, Mujis in Japan are kind of like Ikeas, only a lot more earthy. You could literally have everything in your house replaced with stuff from Muji. Spotted a nice green coat at Muji but though it was discounted, still cost about 25,000 yen. Was a bit tempted, but decided to brave it out for the time being.
As part of the holiday season, Canal City was offering a free lucky draw with purchase of every 5,000 yen. There wasn’t an information counter at Canal City, which meant that a lady was employed to sit alone at a this small table with the gifts on the second floor for the whole day. Didn’t win, so received the consolation prize, vouchers for free coffee at McDonalds. Been cutting down on the stuff, so I guess they would go unused.
Afterwards, we headed to the basement of Canal City to check out the HKT48 Shop. Despite being quite large, the store was mostly empty. The only things within were this costume exhibit, a projector TV showing off some DVDs and a few goods from their past singles. There were also some AKB48 CDs and DVDs for sale at the counter but nothing of real interest. As hard as we tried to find something worth buying, there wasn’t any. Like the other 48 shops we’ve been to, members had decorated the store with autographs though.
The rain had stopped by now and once we were done at Canal City, we headed over to Hakata Station, but not before stopping by the hotel on the way there to drop off my old pair of shoes. At Hakata Station, we took a look around the basement and considered having lunch at an udon store there. It was still a little early though and we weren’t that hungry yet so decided to continue to our next destination and grab lunch from around there instead.
We caught a train up the coast to Uminonakamichi, a peninsula in northern Fukuoka which name translates literally into “road in the middle of the sea”. Perhaps due to it being a weekday, the seaside train there was pretty empty. Since it was a private local line, the journey was quite expensive too.
Apart from connecting Fukuoka mainland to Shikanoshima, a famous island, Umininonakamichi is also home to large garden-zoo-theme park hybrid and also a separate aquarium which we would be visiting today. Would had loved to visit the park, but it didn’t seem like the most inviting place in this weather. None of the flowers were in bloom this season either. Guess we’d have to come again in spring or summer. On the way here we passed by some white sandy beaches along the coast. It was too bad they were blocked off as part of the park though, since Gage wanted to take back some sand as a souvenir.
On the other side of the peninsular, past a small park and a car park we found Marine World Uminonakamichi. It was certainly quite spacious here. Tickets to the Marine World were 2,100 yen a pop. Which is cheap by Singapore standards, but a little pricey for Japan when including the trip here. Nonetheless, it was apparently one of the better aquariums around.
The aquarium didn’t look too big from outside and even the entrance lobby was deceptively sparse, just a single tank with a single large and rather ugly fish. Marine World turned out to be quite sizeable though, it was bigger in size than Osaka Aquarium, though not nearly as impressive as Nagoya’s.
After spending a bit of time looking around the tanks on the second floor of the aquarium, we ran into the open air area where a dolphin show was taking place. Unfortunately it ended just as we just arrived. So we took note of the next show timing, which was a couple of hours later. In the meantime, we’d continue to take a look at the rest of the aquarium.
In keeping with the Christmas season, the aquarium had prepared some themed attractions too. Christmas ornaments were placed in some of the smaller tanks, and in the educational area of the aquarium some poor hermit crabs got decorations stuck to their shells.
Most of the tanks in this part of the aquarium featured smaller species. The specimens on display though were huge for their size though, so I’m guessing that the fishes here were all pretty old. On the plus side, Marine World’s inhabitants were all quite active, and responded to the presence of visitors. There were also some strange fishes we had never seen before.
Eventually, we found a whole separate section of the aquarium that we hadn’t discovered. This dark section was home to the bigger fishes, with an impressive, especially large tank making up the centrepiece of the aquarium. A bunch of large sharks and rays called the tank home. It was quite the sight. Spent some sitting in front of the tank watching the fishes swim by, including a 3 meter long tiger shark.
The aquarium continued outside, with a separate wing for some of the sea mammals. Just some sea lions, otters and a couple of dolphins. What was special here was that there were lockers with tubs of food inside, which you could purchase to feed the animals with.
Gage grabbed a hot drink immediately after getting indoors. Inside, there was a commotion coming from the direction of the main tank. Turns out it was feeding time. A couple of divers were inside feeding the fishes individually to make sure they all got something to eat. All the while, a lady in the corner provided live commentary of the action. Seems the sharks weren’t hungry, since they refused to accept the food. Amusingly, one of the rays kept rubbing against the divers, pestering them for more food.
The show ended with the mantas “waving” goodbye to the audience. After which, the aquarium mascot came out so that visitors could take photographs with it. All the families began to queue up accordingly. No clue as to what it was meant to represent though.
Before we knew it, it was time for the next scheduled dolphin show so we headed back upstairs. There weren’t too many people today but since it was winter, the aquarium was nice enough to provide heating pads for all of the benches.
The show took a Christmas twist too, with the sea lions honking a horn to Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. The main part of the show would be performed to the tune of Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You though, something that would be stuck in our heads for a long time to come, since just about every mall in Japan would play the song during this season.
Marine World Uminonakamichi’s live show turned out to be probably the best of any aquarium I’ve visited so far. It was thoroughly entertaining and the sea animals were really well trained. It certainly helped that the outdoor theatre, which overlooks Hakata Bay was probably the prettiest yet too. So even while the rest of the aquarium exhibits save the main tank were a little underwhelming, it was well worth our trip.
Exiting the area, we found ourselves back at the entrance of the aquarium. There was a cute little duo of otters at a small extension just beside. The larger one, seen here with a white upper body was waddling awkwardly in the tank, in an attempt to keep her hands dry. All the while, a younger otter, which was apparently her son kept on stirring up the water around her, which eventually escalated to splashing. Annoyed (and cold) the older one eventually gave up and got out of the water.
There wasn’t anything of interest at the adjacent souvenir shop. But in keeping with tradition, I ended up giving in and getting one of those souvenir coins from the vending machine there. I have a bunch lying around at home serving no purpose, though they do make for a nice momento. They had a coin featuring the two otters we had just seen, but as adorable as they were, the dolphin coin had a nicer design.
Having not had any lunch yet, we were famished by now. Finding a sign that pointed to food downstairs we eventually came across an easy to miss section where the aquarium’s dolphins and some penguins were kept. There was a canteen here that was completely deserted, and for good reason. Given the inflated prices and less than appetising menu, we decided to call it a day and head back to the city for dinner.
For dinner, we returned to the udon shop at Hakata Station which we saw early this morning. Maybe it was because of the hunger, but we downed the noodles really quickly. Despite being one of those fast food type places, the food was actually not bad, again, this might had been the hunger talking. It was really cheap too.
After the meal, we headed upstairs to take a look around. Didn’t spend too much time at the mall, but I did return to the Pokemon Center to try to redeem the limited distribution to no avail. Turns out that the distribution event, which was meant to celebrate the opening of the new Tokyo Bay outlet wouldn’t start at the other outlets until a later date.
There was a pop-up fair upstairs selling specialities foods from the difference prefectures. Didn’t get anything though, since Gage said we ought to be eating Fukuoka food instead.
Planning to retire early for the night, we instead headed back downstairs to grab some treats to take back to the hotel. Those who’ve been to Japan would know the treasure troves of confectioneries that are department store basements. You can find all manners of cakes, desserts and omiyage snacks in department store basements.
Granted the desserts don’t come cheap (at least by Japanese standards) with individual slices of cake going for an average of 500 yen, since the stores are usually “brand” names. But pretty much everything looks good at these stores. This is in part due to the bright white lighting in the display cases that make everything look particularly delicious, though many of them certainly are!
Grabbed a crate of Hakata Amao Strawberries, which were apparently famous in Fukuoka. They came in two varieties, the normal one for 980 yen, and a more expensive premium version that cost about 500 yen more. The prices were slightly inflated, seeing as how we got them from a supermarket in Takashimaya but even the normal ones we got were probably the sweetest ones I’ve ever had.
Gage was in the mood for some cream puffs so he bought this large custard puff. It was good. The store had a sort of discount pack going on which bundled some of their cream puffs and parfaits for a discounted price. We passed on account of not being able to finish them all and having to check out tomorrow morning, though on hindsight we probably should had just gone ahead anyways.
I did pick up this roll cake from one of the shops here, which turned out to be pretty awesome. The cake parts are really buttery and substantial, unlike the ones we are used to in Singapore. The strawberries within were deceptively just slices though. No worries about that though since we had a whole crate on hand.
I also picked up a single small cream bun, from one of the many stores selling them below. Perhaps they were another Fukuoka speciality? Tonight was our last night in Hakata and we had yet to get any souvenirs from Fukuoka so was thinking of picking up a box should they be any good. It wasn’t that impressive, so opted to pass.
We returned to the hotel early, at just half past 8. Which would seem like a waste, except that we needed the time to pack and settle some stuff ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Nagasaki. Though I hadn’t bought much yet, the extra pair of shoes would be quite the challenge. Spent the rest of the night packing and devouring the snacks that we had bought earlier.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.