Saturday 28 January
Our time in Japan is nearly over, today we head back towards Fukuoka ready for our departing flight. Just time for my final morning rooftop dip watching the sun rise over the petrochemical plants of Beppu.
Drive to Dazaifu
Today are driving to Dazaifu, a shrine town on the outskirts of Fukuoka. We had planned to stop in the mountain village of Yufuin en route, but with sub zero temperatures after a day of snow, we decide not to risk getting stuck in ice/because the expressways are closed and head straight for Dazaifu.
It was definitely the right decision. Before we’ve even reached the outskirts of town it’s snowing again and even on the expressway the snow is starting to settle on the outside lane.
It’s a scenic if somewhat nerve wracking drive through the mountains of Kyushu.
We reach Dazaifu without incident, despite the snow. This former Capital of Kyushu is known for its shrine. When we arrive it’s heaving. Luckily our apartment has its own parking spot so we head there first.
Sonic Apartment Hotel
The Sonic Apartment Hotel is quite close to the centre of Daifuzu, just round the corner from the pedestrian area which leads to the shrine.
Our apartment has two double beds, a kitchenette and a bathroom crammed into it and is surrounded by an abundance of plastic foliage. It’s above a restaurant so smells of fried chicken and it’s very cold.
We turn on the heaters in the hope that the apartment will be habitable on our return and set off for a wander.
Pancakes at Kasanoya
We walk along the busy pedestrian shopping street towards the shrine. Dazaifu is famed for its pickled plum pancakes (umegae-mochi) sold at various shops along the street. In many you can observe the pancakes being made either by hand or by machine.
We opt for the shop with the biggest queue, Kasanoya and buy a bag of the highly coveted pancakes (5 for Y650). They’re like dough balls into which a mixture of beans and plum have been stuffed. It’s very claggy and the beans keep repeating on me. Not great when you’re wearing a surgical mask…
Kyushu National Museum
As the shrine is so crowded, we decide to visit Kyushu National Museum first. This enormous building looks like someone dumped a spaceship on the hillside.
It is reached by a series of escalators and moving walkways, which bring you up the hill to the very impressive glass and steel building.
Entry to the permanent exhibition costs Y700. This is situated on the 4th floor, accessed by yet more escalators.
After such an impressive arrival, the exhibition has a lot to live up to, which it can’t quite manage. The ‘Cultural Exchange Exhibition Hall’ contains a range of exhibits from ancient artefacts to satellites from both Kyushu and across Asia.
Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine
We descend back down the hill to Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. This large shrine with a pond and legendary plum tree is thought to bring good luck, particularly to students taking exams. Students come/are brought here from far and wide to wish for examination luck.
After you’ve rubbed the lucky bull’s nose to bring you good fortune, you pass over Tai Ko Bridge towards the main shrine.
Behind the shrine is a museum, but we decide to walk back down the hill in search of somewhere to eat. Everywhere is either very busy or about to close. Dazaifu is a popular day trip from Fukuoka. Not many people stay overnight, hence not much stays open late.
So it’s another gourmet microwave meal from the convenience store for us. Then an early night ready for our flight to Seoul in the morning.
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