Day 7 Fukuoka

Fukuoka is a neat stop if you’re not coming from Tokyo. The highlight of Fukuoka was the little eatery we ran into at 9pm near canal city where we had good Saga beef.

In front of Hakata station were lighted trees and a Christmas tent with stollen

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We went in December. So notice the Christmas lighting.

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My favourite after dark activity is eating chocolates with green tea in the hotel room. Open up all the food purchases from Hankkyu food basement. My light supper.
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Yummy Japanese food from basement of the department stores like Takashimaya, Isetan, take your pick.

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Fukuoka
We were on our way to the red light district in Nakasu. As it was raining, we couldn’t find our way. Himself said he saw men running towards a dark alley.

December is not the best month to see action on the red light dustrict.

Exiting Nakasu station you’ll be disappointed because it’s next to a river and quite your usual touristy thing.

The red light district is across the river from Canal City which is a huge shopping mall. Near the South Building of CC and Grand Hyatt. Although I didn’t see any ladies standing around since its cold. Walking past, you see photos on the shops. Just in case any of you have young children and you’re concerned. It’s nearer to Tenjin side.

North building of CC is across the road from Nakasu station and near shopping and museum and a nice river. There’s Takashimaya and the basement of Riverrain mall has a shop selling nice Le Creuset.

But he chose to walk away towards the Takashimaya Riverain Mall. There’s a Fukuoka Museum of Asian Art. Cross the street, there’s a sheltered street of malls which were closed by 8pm

At the end of the street we spotted an escalator going upwards to Canal City. Near Canal City is an interesting food street as well as the red light district.

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I didn’t try these roadside eateries. Not willing to be charged exorbitant prices and have the yakuza after me. After all this is around the red light district.

The highlight of Fukuoka was the little Inn we ran into at 9pm near canal city where we had good Saga beef.

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Menu on the wall. But we can’t read Japanese. No worries, there’s Google translate.

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Grilled saga beef.
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It was an accidental discovery of a small eatery, Hibiya(火備屋) of which we had yakiniku and saga beef. For 5 plates of beef, tongue and chicken and 2 glasses of sake, cost 4600¥ and the place to ourselves. Mr Masato Mimura and his wife. We will return another night to try the yakitori or skewered meat with live squid swimming in the tank along the street. (Upon checking the Internet, there have been several Japanese reviews but no English review. I’ll give it 3 stars. More of a casual place seating about 6 pax maximum. ) It could only sit a few people around the counter at most.

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Address: 2-11 Kamikawabatamachi Hakata-ku Fukuoka Fukuoka
http://s.tabelog.com/en/fukuoka/A4001/A400101/40023183/

The ramen stadium is on 5F of Canal City. It’s a consolidation of many ramen stores.

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Canal City looks dated and huge. At 830pm the shops are nearly empty. We tried to have a drink at the Muji cafe buy they’ve stopped serving.

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The Muji store is huge with furniture and books. Very lifestyle concept. But closes early.

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Hotel
In Fukuoka, I will stay near Hakata station and JR Kyushu Blossom Hakata Central. It’s so convenient to take subway and lots of shopping near Hakata. Book early as the rooms go off fast. Mine didn’t come with breakfast. When I checked TripAdvisor, some apparently do.

Rooms are new and tasteful. There’re English and Mandarin speaking staff. Its on left side of Hakata station. There’s no shelter on front porch but it’s not an issue for me. Hotel is next to Sun Plaza which has an underground passage to Hakata station.

For the right price I will compare Forza and JR Kyushu Blossom favourably. (I’ve stayed in both). Both are equally near but different sides of the station.

Getting around
Get a day pass for 620¥. You make it back in 3 trips. Gets you from Fukuoka Airport to Hakata station to the major stops like Tenjin, Nakasu (red light district) , Ohori Park (rated #1 on TripAdvisor) and our mistake of going to the wholesale fish market at Akasaka.

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Ohori Park was unimpressive. We will return at night to see the winter illumination. Nothing to see at the fish market, not even restaurants for fresh seafood. But no problem, just hop on the subway train. http://fukuoka-now.com/en/feature/nagahama-fish-market-citizen-day-report/

At Tenjin there’s a Mitsukoshi department store where we bought huge persimmons and gingko nuts. Didn’t seem to see the gingko nuts elsewhere in Fukuoka.

Signature foodstuff
Horse meat
Saga beef
Aso milk and pudding
Puffer fish and fish roe –
mochi stuffed with red beans. It’s a hit and miss.
We found a temporary outlet by Ishimura at the side of AMU EST department store just as we were going to Yodobashi. Best mochi.

Bought persimmons for dad. Huge and not so perfect at 150¥ each. Strawberries are currently in season and apparently the best in the land.

Matcha powder for his sister, from a shop along Tenjin underground.

Best time to visit Fukuoka is probably late April to May when the wisteria is in bloom in Kita-Fukuoka. Or Cherry Blossom season

Signature plants in early winter
Gold Gingko
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Red Tsubaki
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Orange Maple leaves

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Mizutaki – Hakata collagen based soup
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/vod/dwc/20160304.html
(I didn’t like it.)
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Souvenirs
Hakata Santoku hocho
(I’ve not managed to find the place)
http://easternsmooth.com/blog/jim-rion/2011/09/23/683-no-razors-just-good-craftsmanship

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Ichiran or Ippudo ramen huge persimmon, and the roe. Japanese gingko.

Day 6: http://wp.me/p1FT3u-1eQ

Day 6 Drive back to Fukuoka

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On way back to Fukuoka, we passed by a few scenic stops. Probably during the Sakurai viewing season. There’s a Hita bus stop and a Matsubara dam with a
restaurant for a pit stop.
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Info on 2016 Fukuoka Cherry Blossom:

Fukuoka Cherry Blossom Forecast 2016 Update

Pine filled forest, running water , stone mountain and red maple leaves.
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Refill petrol – there are a few stations around. Keep watch out before you drive in.

Our Nippon Rent a car drop off is just one street away from our hotel JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Hakata Central. So convenient. There’s an incentive/ refund for returning earlier than our appointment. Came up to 48,500 for 3 days for a Toyota Proud 1.8 for 3 pax. We also paid for English translation.

We dropped off our car at Fukuoka at extra charge. Expensive but no other way.

I’m glad we don’t have to wait for public transport in the cold and it’s possible to go to Mt Aso possibly by either travel coach or your own car. Did we really need snow tires? Certainly not. Were we ripped off by the polite Japanese or were they just conscientious? I don’t want to think too much. Not being fluent in the language, I just want to write off as a safe and happy trip!

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Underground at Tenjin station

An underground links Sunplaza to Hakata station if you want to avoid the cold. (I think Hotel Forza is nearer to Hakata station than JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Hakata Central . You don’t need to cross the road. It’s on the right side of station while Hotel Blossom Hakata Central is on left. Apparently there’s another JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom on the right side. Yes. I’ll recommend this hotel again. Clean, new and smoke free. But small so go for the biggest size you can afford. Kyushu is anytime cheaper than Tokyo. If you’ve bought a JR pass you can ask for a discount. I only realised later when I read a brochure in Singapore. Ask for it.)

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Tiny cubicle to focus on food

Ichiran the famous – “please don’t disturb me while I’m eating my ramen” has an outlet next to our hotel, JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Hakata Central. It’s in B2 of Sunplaza. We saw it at 2pm and went over at 630pm. No queue in sight.

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You pay by pressing from a machine then tick your choice of noodle firmness. Ichiran originated from Hakata with its pork bone broth.

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Shutters up and you concentrate. In theory. In practice the kitchen staff are so noisy shouting out orders from behind the shutters.

When we arrived in Fukuoka after Tokyo, the shopping was underwhelming. But back to Fukuoka at Day 6 from the countryside and better able to appreciate the shopping.

Around Hakata Station there are lots of shopping including Tokyu Hands, Hankkyu department stall and an entire food basement. In the surrounding convenient store, we bought a Lotte Rum and Raisin chocolate bar for 138¥. Delicious and not too sweet with right alcohol taste. Japanese are famous for more than 100 over flavours of Kit Kat although I’ve only seen 5 flavours so far which are only available in certain seasons or locations eg. Kyushu.
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Within walking distance from the Delifrance exit is Yodobashi electronics store. We lost our camera cover and got a non-branded one here. There are at least 5 levels and constant translation over the announcement in Mandarin and French. Tax free at purchases above $108, claimed at time of purchase (show your passport). This is unlike other shops where tax free is claimed after purchase where you can accumulate receipts. Shop closes at 10pm. Others around the station close around 8pm, as a signal the “auld lang sye” song is played over the sound system.

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Christmas lights and a live performance, beer, Christmas delights at the Hakata station till Christmas day. Something to do at 10pm. As you can tell, this is ultra slow-blogging.

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Day 7: Fukuoka
URL: http://wp.me/p1FT3u-1gb

Japan – Happiness in a hidden corner

For someone who doesn’t speak Japanese, we have been visiting Japan every year. For some strange reason, I find Tokyo quite easy to navigate. Possibly because of my previous stay in Taiwan, a former colony of Japan, where traces of Japanese influence are everywhere. From agriculture to bento boxes at train stations and a love for onsen and beautifully baked bread.

Knowledge of Chinese characters or Kanji though is useful but not essential. The Japanese transport system for travel destinations is very well coordinated to serve local tourists.

Thankfully, Japan is now more user friendly for foreign tourism. Most train stations have free WiFi connections. But in the event of seamless WiFi connections, you could:

1. Get a SIM card (data only) from JTB. They’ve moved to Takashimaya. You can get JR and Limousine bus tickets there too. Or from “Follow Me”. Expect a long queue at JTB so bring water or some food to entertain yourself.

2. Or get a WiFi router from Y5 Buddy or Changi Airport. https://www.changirecommends.com/owifi.aspx
I got a Y5 buddy which was more expensive than the one from Changi airport. The 3 days I was at Kurokawa and Takachiho, I’d no reception. When I contacted the staff in Singapore through WhatsApp – no response. Although I doubt there’s anything they could do. Apparently this happens a lot in Australia where there are areas of no coverage. Getting a router makes sense if you’re sharing with 2 other persons or if you’re in a city. I prefer using a local SIM card as there were times when I worry if I was connecting with mobile data.

Transfer from airport – should you travel by a Limousine Bus or JR train?
https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/information/visitor_tickets/

3. Always choose Haneda airport which is located closer to the city. A 1 way limousine bus ticket from Narita to our hotel cost $3100 but if from Haneda it’s $1800. From hotel to Haneda it’s only $1200. The bus stops exactly at our hotel (Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku) at certain times. But from Narita to hotel it starts from 2pm.

If you’re travelling to another city and transiting through Tokyo, choose to connect via the same airport in Tokyo as otherwise you can’t check through your luggage to final destination.

4. Depart from the same airport, this allows you to enjoy more of the savings bundle of the limousine bus ticket for 2 way or 1 way transfer with Metro + Toei. You can get this ticket when you arrive in Tokyo after baggage claim. Ticket counter is just after exit. The limousine bus stop is just outside the ticket counter. The JR counter is beside if you choose to travel by JR to the city. For the JR pass it’s cheaper to book in your home country and pick up your tickets or validate them inside Japan airport before baggage claim.

5. The Metro + Toei card is very convenient inside Tokyo to various destinations especially for me since there’s a station right next to the hotel. We only got a Kyushu JR pass which wasn’t valid for Tokyo so the best option was the Airport Limousine Bus and Metro +Toei pass combination.

Pros and Cons of Limousine bus
1. Limousine bus is more expensive than a JR express.
2. The Bus + Metro +Toei card is a good price
3. If the bus stops nearer your hotel than the JR station.
4. You don’t need to climb up and down stairs unlike the JR station. In some JR station such as in Hokkaido the JR station has no lift nor escalator so consider carrying your luggage up and down a long flight of stairs.
5. You’ve a guaranteed seat. The bus stop is just outsidethe arrival hall.

Cons
Bus takes 20 mins longer travel time than JR train.
It’s less frequent, has limited seats and cost more. (With the metro card combination it’s reasonably priced.)
You have a JR pass for travel across Japan which in this case, to take JR doesn’t cost more.
For us, the bus stop is nearer to our hotel than the JR station. On our departure date, there was a bus to Haneda stopping just in front of our hotel. No lugging around the luggage.

Hotels
I’ve stayed 3 times in Hotel Sunroute. Convenient for Limousine bus from airport. Get the 2 way return + 1 day or 2 day subway pass. You can get the bus tickets from the hotel counter too. It’s so comfortable. Why take the bus instead of the JR? With the JR station, you need to climb up and down stairs, look for lifts etc. Bus tickets are more expensive, but hassle free. I’ll choose hotels along the route of the limousine bus. (If you’re going to Furano in Hokkaido, be warned that the JR station has no lift and my poor husband had to carry two heavy luggage up and down 2 long flights of steps. )

Across the street from hotel is a Family Mart convenience store, McDonald’s. Nearby is Yodobashi, lots of malls.

I’m embarrassed to say I don’t leave Shinjuku except to make use of my 1 day subway pass and visit Daikanyama and OK look at the Shibuya crossing.

Rooms are new but tiny. I’ve just stayed in London for 7 days and a comparable service apartment at Citadines near the Gloucester station is much cheaper than this hotel per night. Is Japan really in recession, doesn’t seem to be the case for Hotel Sunroute. My room has no wardrobe though.

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Walkway connecting Takashimaya to the hotel. About 5 mins walk.

Convenience wins hands down. I return to the hotel a few times a day in between shopping to put down bags and recharge a bit. It is conveniently located near to subway lines and JR lines and lots of shopping and eating in Takashimaya and Isetan. I like the basement of Takashimaya mall. There’s also a Tokyu Hands next to it.

Very likely I will stay in this hotel for my next trip especially so because of the bus to the airport. If you’re up at 8am in cold December, the thought of waiting at the bus stop…

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