Monday 23 January 2023
Not the best night’s sleep. I thought the Dormy Inn toilet was noisy until I tried to sleep through my neighbour’s showers, which happened at 10.35 pm and 6.25 am. Who showers twice in less than 8 hours FFS? Never mind, this morning we check out and head for Fukuoka.
Bullet Train to Fukuoka
It’s the final day of our JR Rail Passes, so we are taking our final bullet train 170 miles south west to Hakata Station in Fukuoka. We catch the shuttle bus to the station. The Dormy Inn has a free station shuttle – who knew? Obviously not us when we paid for a taxi from the station. They’re taking covid very seriously. You have to wear a mask, disinfect your hands, keep the windows open and the driver dons gloves before touching the luggage. The seatbelt is broken, but at least if we crash, I will fly headfirst through the windscreen knowing that I’m virus free.
We reach the station and board our last Japanese train. The bullet train can travel at 200 MPH. That means that we’ve covered approximately 20 miles before I’ve got the internet working. The entire 170 mile journey to Fukuoka takes just over an hour.
Fukuoka is the largest city on Kyushu, Japan’s third biggest island and the closest to mainland Asia. It is joined to the main island of Honshu by tunnel and bridge.
Fukuoka is made up of two former towns: the castle town of Fukuoka and the merchant town of Hakata. The two towns merged in 1889 as Fukuoka, although the name Hakata is still widely used (for example, if you come by train you arrive at Hakata Station).
Hotel Wing International Select Hakata Ekimae
Tonight’s hotel is the Hotel Wing International Select Hakata Ekimae. A bit of aa mouthful – wouldn’t want to work on the switchboard. Do they have switchboards these days?
This is one of the cheapest hotels we’ve booked. It’s definitely budget but I actually quite like it. Like most budget Japanese hotels, if you want any toiletries etc, you can collect them from an amenities bar in the foyer. Here, the amenities bar let you choose between a whole range of different shampoo options which keeps me amused while we’re waiting to check in.
The room is small but clean and bright and makes good use of the available space. I particularly like the shiny chair.
Hotel toilet report; an illuminated bowl. Interesting but ultimately pointless.
We have one night in Fukuoka before picking up a hire car and driving round the top half of Kyushu. Having been told that my schedule of gardens and castles was ‘twee’, today we’re going to a shopping mall and an art gallery.
We make a brief stop at Kushida Shrine. To enter you walk through the mouth of an Otafuku Mask. This mask of a smiling lady is supposed to bring good fortune. Unless you forget to duck when you walk through her, of course, then you just get a headache.
Kawabata Shopping Arcade
We continue through the Kawataba Shopping Arcade. The 400 metre long arcade boasts 130 stores selling everything from souvenirs to kimonos.
There are also plenty of food stalls selling local delicacies such as noodles, seafood and white strawberries.
Fukuoka Asian Art Museum
We reach our destination, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, a museum with renowned Asia Gallery which shows work from artists across Asia.
The gallery is on top of a shopping mall/hotel. In the foyer is a large mural by Chinese digital artist Bu Hua, the remainder of the exhibits are on the 7th and 8th Floors.
The focal point of the museum is the Asia Gallery, which costs Y200 to enter. The gallery focuses on Asian modern contemporary art, but the pieces on display are diverse. For example, this sculpture entitled ‘Woman Holding her Breasts’ by Indians artist Ravinder Reddy. According to the accompanying description, the viewer’s gaze is held by the lady’s big, shiny eyes!
One of my favourites is Series 2 No 3 by Chinese artist Fang Lijun. This group of men with identical faces and expressions demonstrate that they have been deprived of individuality and freedom of expression.
And finally this picture by Mongolian artist Tugsoyun Sodnom who manages to convey so much with such a narrow colour palette.
There are extra fees for special exhibitions. These fees vary; when we visited the special exhibition was ‘Who is Banksy’ and cost Y1800.
We return to the hotel via Canal City, a labrynthin shopping and entertainment complex. Its 250 shops, cafes, restaurants (including Ramen Stadium), a theatre, cinemas and hotels are situated either side of a a canal.
On the canal there is a fountain based water shows every 30 minutes.
On the Fifth Floor is Ramen Stadium. Obviously, this isn’t an actual stadium, but eight ramen shops with noodle dishes from across Japan, all watched over by a stuffed bear.
Lunch at Sanmi 333
We choose Sanmi 333, which is apparently famous for its tomato ramen. I’m afraid I don’t really get ramen. It’s like you take a nice meal and drown it in salty water – a bit like eating noodles at sea. So I’m hoping Sanmi will win me over.
To order, you must put money in a machine and choose an option, then a ticket pops out. If you want more than one thing, you repeat and obtain another ticket. Once you’ve finished, you hand your pile of tickets to the waitress and your order is delivered. I choose ramen with cheese, while the old man opts for ramen with pork. It’s OK – but a bit like eating spaghetti bolognaise at sea.
Canal City at Night
In the evening, the old man goes for a walk while I stay in and wash my hair. To be honest, my hair doesn’t need washing but I got carried away at the Shampoo Bar – me get carried away at a bar? Perish the thought!
He walks back through Canal City. After dark, the fountain display is illuminated. In addition, action pictures are projected onto the glass building behind and you can watch transformers fight.
Nakasu Island Yatai Stalls
The River Naka splits to form the River Hakata and converges again, forming Nakasu Island. Alongside the river are rows of food stalls called Yatai where you can buy food such as yakitori (chicken skewers) and ramen to eat by the waterside. Or if you had ramen for lunch, just enjoy the view.