[Japan] ~ Fukuoka in Night and Day

Oh time in this city, how do I maximize thee?   – 03.26-27.16

Prior to Macau this year, this is probably the shortest that I have been somewhere else. Squeezed in as much in the evening despite my airbnb hosts’ 11PM curfew – from trying out the only ramen that did not leave me feeling guilty full to some awkward but memorable beer-drinking at a cramped food stall called yatai. Next morning about parks, almost sakura in a temple, lunch with danger-if-not-properly-prepared fugu with day and trip ending with realization that hey, those face masks actually help with the cold.

Probably tired from all the walking I did on my last day in Naha, I spent most of flight time to Fukuoka asleep. Gladly though, I woke up to this view of one of most memorable sunsets – one from above the ground. 20160326_184849

Much smaller from up there

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As usual, first thing that I looked for is a subway guide to help me get around the city. Mainly a transit city, I had no particular sites to see so I needed as much as I can to making the most of my short stay.

Little did I know that I needed more help researching how to reach my airbnb. At that time, I was not introduced yet to convenience of data to support my Google-mapping when abroad that I trusted my instructions in print to find it. And given my poor sense of direction, of course it took me ages and eventually learned I’ve been circling around the area and passing around my destination a number of times.

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Getting-around buddy

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It was night when I arrived and was a bit disappointed when learned from my host that the place had an 11PM curfew which went against my plan to spend as much time as I can walking around that night. 20160326_204051

On a street closest to my accommodation is this food and drink stall called “yatai”

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Other interesting restaurants like this too just within walking distance

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I crossed the bridge by the river to get to the busier streets of Fukuoka. I encountered more interesting places for drinking but at first, I was intimated getting in because those looked like really small places already fully seated. Being more of a loner when traveling, I was a little scared to get into an intimate setting when all I wanted is some time for beer.

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Another interesting ‘cube’, right?

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It was a chilly night that I took it as perfect timing to try that popular ramen place with original branch in the city. I could not be sure whether it’s the one I’ve been in but it’s easily walkable from the city’s bustling nightlife.

Just the right tummy fill from ICHIRAN RAMEN

While I am always excited to fulfill a craving before every ramen experience, I would always end up feeling too full. The kind I tried in ICHIRAN however proved to be different which made it an instant favorite.
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What they are most known for

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It is obvious that ramen shops that this dish seriously as it tries to get one’s specific preferences from noodle texture to flavor strength to basic and add-on ingredients.

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Feels like Christmas

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My choices — 

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… and tadaaa, what I had that night

(Doesn’t look so appetizing in photo though)

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With my curfew, I had no choice but to start walking back to my temporary home right after ramen and just look some place for beer nearby. Having remembered the street with few yatai I saw earlier, I knew that had to be the place.

I ‘conquered’ my fear for intimate beer-drinking and thought it still would be fun to experience yatai.  It felt a bit awkward coming in because it was almost full and locals were busy chattering in groups. Space was not a problem because I was just by myself so I just squeezed myself in a corner.

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Woot. Beer, finally

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Speaking Japanese to me

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PUSH

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Pretty in pink

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Am not used to eating while eating so did not try any of these

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Where I was

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What happened after 11PM

Having had an early bed time, I woke up early the following day, fixed my stuff and right after politely accepting a cup of tea, went out of there to start hopping to wherever. 20160327_064556

View from the top bunk where I slept

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This place that took me ages to find the previous night

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Cup of tea

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When colors pop

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I was not expecting the encounter but saw cherry blossoms on my way to the parks

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On the way to OHORI PARK

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Quiet morning in Ohori Park

I was interested in getting a glimpse of early morning life in the city and I thought the best way to see such would be in parks where usually, people would go for walks or jogs. I realized though that Japan in general is not that of morning people. As such, instead of people-watching, I ended up just soaking in the quietness of the place – idly staring off into that calm body of water while sitting on one of the swings in an empty playground.

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Reflections

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Wanted real ones but for that morning, I have these

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Even those pink in calming contrast with blue

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Some reminder about dog owners

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While most probably still sleeping

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I almost stole this starfish

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Anyone with a dirty heart?

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On my way to another park spent more quiet time as I passed by more residential neighborhoods.

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Lovely crawler

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On frame

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More sakura surprise at Nishi Park

It was a bit of a hike going to the park but the sakura trees made it tolerable. Park was also relatively uncrowded but I saw some group setting up for some daytime activities. Though unmanned, stalls lining up the road to the park also gives away the area’s busyness on latter part of day.

[Post-trip Google revealed that this park is indeed know for cherry blossom viewing  (hanami)]

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Seeing more pink from afar

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Not yet open for business

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Fellow early birds

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Except for one, most stalls still closed by 9 in the morning –20160327_084814

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Taking inspiration from lovely sakura photos online, I had attempts at mine too. I guess my photos do not give justice to how these were in person though but sharing nonetheless.

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I wonder what this group is up to on that day

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On the left is this spot overlooking parts of the city. Next to it is an interesting vine-covered place for resting one’s tired feet. Had I had more time, I would probably spend there some minutes finishing a can of beer.

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Hakata Bay from the park

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And I couldn’t seem to get enough of sakura photos —

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Surrounded

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Usual temple scene

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They’re awake! 

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So long, NISHI PARK! 

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CAUTION : Giant beer

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Playground with less play

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River in the morning

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Getting head-on with potential poison

With little calories to burn with all the walking to the parks and at just the right time a little before noon, my next to-go on that day was a restaurant where I  could try a dish I’ve always been curious about – fugu (pufferfish / blowfish)! It’s this fish that had to be specially prepared otherwise could be poisonous.

Luckily, from previous night’s Google, I found a place that’s not so far from one of the places I targeted to visit that day. This restaurant called KAJI which restaurant is located in a corner near the river bridge serves set meals with fugu. Based on my standard, it was a bit more of the splurge category but I thought it would be a once in a lifetime thing so there was little self-convincing needed.

Considering it was lunch time, I shared the place with only one guest. For some reason, the waitress also seemed not use to taking photos of its customers because when I asked for one, I ended up having a series of blurred photos. Maybe its clientele is more local than tourists?
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Other photos are blurred that this selfie is the most decent I have on file

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Meal came with several side dishes but the highlight is the one at the middle

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Mini-dessert

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Like a dollhouse from the outside

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Lazy afternoon at Tenjin Central Park

Having a totally different vibe than one in New York, this park’s charm rests less on people activity than on overall calm and simplicity of surrounding sparkled with pops of color from the sakura trees and vibrant flowers. There were pockets of people on picnic but it felt more intimate than festive which I thought matched the seasonal mood that afternoon.

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Around in circles

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Where I had ramen the previous night

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Finally satisfied my curiosity those masks help with the cold. And to me, it does! 

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Visit giant Buddha in Tochoji Temple

My official last stop would be to see the largest seated Buddha in Japan which was housed in a temple near Gion station. I could have explored the compound more but since I was already quite tired at this point, I went straight to see the famous statue. Taking photos is not allowed so the view I had to keep in memory.

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Literally just spent time near the entrance

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Dash to more temples in Jotenji-Dori Avenue

After meeting with Buddha went to quickly see other temples nearby, just across Tochiji. With no particular statue or site to see, I just walked around and let myself be surrounded by again this neighborhood’s quiet.

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What marked the entrance

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Path to where

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Subtle signs of life

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Vein-like vines

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45 degrees

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 By around 3PM, I was back to get my backpack. As I felt I had more time, I decided for a can of beer by the park.

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How “kikay” this parking space

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’til we meet again

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How to get to places

FUKUOKA is reachable from different parts in Japan via ANA / All Nippon Airways. (In my case, flight time from Okinawa took 1-1.5 hours). There are also direct flights from Manila via Cebu Pacific.

OHORI PARK is within walking distance from Ohori Koen Station (koen actually means park in Japanese). From here, NISHI PARK is within walking distance. Admission to these parks free.

KAJI (博多割烹 かじ 本店)  is open everyday from 11AM to midnight. Exact address is 〒810-0801 福岡県福岡市博多区中洲2-3-11 .

TOCHOJI TEMPLE is a short minute walk from Gion Station. Also within walking distance is JOTENJI DORI AVENUE. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Kristina Correa (or more known to almost all people in her life as Teng) is based on the city of Manila in the Philippines and whenever she can, cools off with routine and gets her doses of happy someplace else. She doesn’t mean to inform and help plan (as obvious with her laziness with details) but hopes her stories and photos can inspire you to create your own.

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