I didn’t book breakfast with our rooms, Richmond Hotel didn’t have buffet breakfasts, just 1000Y Japanese or western meal sets. Figured any cafe would be a cheaper.
Finding breakfast was always a little annoying in Japan (for those that wakes up early like us), the Japanese were very used to a toast or bread plus coffee combo, or udons. Me and my parents preferred something a little more filling, usually coming down to McDonalds and cafes (Doutor which I have a special relationship with). The KITTE B1 had a few restaurants that also served breakfasts but they mostly open at 7:30. At close to 7 the only choices were cafes, which there were several around Hakata station. We first checkout the one in nearby Deitos, the menu looked a little thin. Then the ones in the main station itself. Seattle coffee, just off the side of the main thoroughfare, looked decent with good sandwiches.
在日本早餐總是件煩人事 (對我們這種早起的人來說)。日本人很習慣早餐簡單吃個吐司或麵包加咖啡，或烏龍麵。我和爸媽喜歡吃的稍微飽一點，通常能選的就只有麥當勞或咖啡館 (尤其是偏愛的Doutor)。KITTE B1有幾家餐廳早上也有營業賣早餐，但大多要7:30才開。近七點時的唯一選項就只有咖啡館了，博多車站附近有不少。第一家附近Deitos那間感覺菜單有點少。接著看車站內的那幾家。就在主通道旁的Seattle Coffee看起來三明治不錯。
The greeter at the door was very friendly and helpful and obviously had plenty of experience with foreigners. He pointed us to find a table first before we had decided on what to order, later when the croissant came cold he noticed us discussing over it and actively asked if we would like to have it heated. The price was a little higher than Doutor, at same time the portions were bigger and better. Dad still went for seconds eitherway.
Day 4 was an extra day that had not been set in stone.
Originally after the railway to Aso was cut, the Aso Boy tourist train had been diverted to run to Mojiko, so it made sense to go to Mojiko/Shimonoseki. Aso Boy was a train designed with a black and white puppy theme and kid friendly, with ball pools, play areas and special parent-child seatings. I figured my parents might want to expience it and maybe consider taking my nephews on it in the future.
As a side note, it’s faster to take the Shinkansen from Hakata to Kokura then transfer to a local train to Mojiko. The Hakata to Kokura section sees special fare rates (JR West runs it like a commuter segment to compete against JR Kyushu) and non-reserved seats are not much more expensive than the local line express, but can be up to 30 minutes faster.
Then for December the Aso Boy train was moved to run to the Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Nagasaki (which I had no interest in going), this removed a major incentive for going to Mojiko. Thus it was thought we might instead go to Dazaifu and return earlier in the day to have a look around Tenjin.
We got a Fukuoka Tourist Pass from the Hakata station information centre. The pass came in two versions, one which included all metro and buses in centre of Fukuoka (820Y) and a wide pass version that also included the Nishitetsu rail to Dazaifu (1340Y). It cost a little more than a regular Dazaifu round trip from Hakata but it saved buying tickets each time, plus there was a chance of us using the metro again later in the day, the pass will then be cheaper.
To get to Dazaifu from Hakata required going to Tenjin first, walk to the Nishitetsu station, then depending on whether there was a direct service to Dazaifu, potentially another transfer at Futsukaichi. Be careful that sometimes it can be faster to go to Futsukaichi and transfer there anyway as it might be an extra limited express. There is a direct bus from Hakata but it is not covered by the pass and is subject to road traffic.
Dazaifu is dominated by the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, like a confucian temple equivalent for chinese. The shrine is dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, who was a great scholar and poet back in the Heian period. Originally a member of the court, he was eventually demoted to be a minor official in far away Dazaifu where he died a lonely death. In one of his poems he lamented that he would never see the beloved plum tree in his Kyoto residence. Legend has it that the plum tree loved her master so much it eventually flew to Dazaifu.
Stories aside, because of veneration for the man’s wisdom and intellect, it became customary for students looking to get good grades or others looking to become accomplished to come and pay respect at the shrine. The place becomes especially busy before the university or highschool entrance exams kick off.
Initially we detoured to the nearby Komyozenji temple known for its zen rock gardens, sadly the temple grounds were closed, probably because it was the off seasons and they wanted to do maintenance. No big loss as the temple wasn’t far from the main street anyway.
The main street before the shrine is only about 200 metres long, yet there are over 20 shops selling umegae-mochi, meaning plum stick cake. They are grilled rice cakes filled with red beans with little to do with plums outside the plum flower imprint on them. The origin of the cake is not known, all relates to Michizane in some way.
Initially I mistook Kanoya for the popular mochi shop Kasa no Ya, later after we have visited the main shrine we would line up at Kasa no Ya. The one from Kasa no Ya was grilled a little better but the filling much too sweet, felt the one from Kanoya was better to be honest.
Amongst the many shops on the main street, a unsuspecting major attraction was the Starbucks. Designed by award winning architect using wood and other natural materials to create a space combining both nature and tradition. The wall and ceiling consisted of criss cross of wooden beams that narrowed in the middle and broaded on either ends, it made the place seemed much longer than it really was. A queue for coffee was quickly building up, we managed to get our coffee and find a table before the crowd showed up and extended the line well outside the shop.
There was also a Totoro shop here (the other in Yufuin). The shelves lined with plushies and toys from the Totoro anime by Studio Ghibli. I contemplated getting a white teardrop creature plushie, they weren’t too expensive (by tourist goods standards), but I already had a shelf full of Cinnamorolls and only in recent years have I just managed to stop them multiplying. I ended up buying a CD of Studio Ghibli musics performed in Japanese instruments.
While I was mulling over Totoros my parents had become interested in a fish roe shop across the street that promoted products that did not require refrigeration. They wanted to buy some but after asking the staff, found out the ones they liked still required refrigerated.
Beyond the first torii is a statue of an ox. It’s said if you touched its head fortune will rub off on you. There was a queue so I didn’t join in.
Then in the gardens before the main shrine area, there was a performer with a trained monkey. We got there in time to catch the monkey climb a pole and slide around on skates.
The main ground of the shrine is enclosed behind a large gate, the courtyard within was packed with people waiting for their chance to go up and pray at the shrine. Was it near exam time? I’m not sure.
One interesting thing was that the guardians of the gate looked to be none other than Michizane himself.
Me and my parents split up once more, I wanted to check out the Kyushu Museum which was for the most part overshadowed by the shrine and ignored by most. My parents headed back to Tenjin for lunch on their own. The transfers were straightforward and they had been to Tenjin a few times now.
The Kyushu Museum laid off the other side of Tenmangu (turn right at the Tenmangu info centre), do not walk from Komyozenji Temple as that side involved a very steep climb up the stairs. From the Tenmangu you go up a flight of escalators then through a tunnel with people movers.
The Kyushu Museum focused on exhibitions about the cultural transmission between Japan and the rest of Asia, showing excavated artifacts from the Jomon periods onwards, potteries, figurines, arts, these could be compared to other artifacts of similar periods from the rest of asia, showing clear influences.
No photos allowed inside.
The museum had a rectangular main hall which presented a brief walk through history, then there were side rooms that featured more detailed explanations if one was interested in learning more. Some covered artifact restoration methods, others artifact replica making, expanded period features focusing on the routes which cultures were exchanged with the mainland.
Several historic periods were focused on in particularly. Jomon and pre-written history periods where Japan had few influences from the outside world. Big eyed figurines that had come to represent the period, flame shaped pottery and other ornaments.
The influx of Buddhism which transformed Japanese religious and societal order. There were many buddhist statues and pagodas. There was a very interested column with hundreds of buddhas carved on it, each with his hands held up in a slightly different pose, when one’s gaze moved between them it seemed the buddhas’s hands waved and beckoned.
The Heian periods trade with China(Tang Dynasty), where envoys were sent on trade missions. On display were examples of the goods that the ships would carry, silk and silver to china, and incense, books, medicines back to Japan. Replicas were available for one to get a first hand feel for what the texture of the clothes and scent of incenses were like.
In the mongol invasions Fukuoka played centre stage, the mongol forces landed on the shores near Hakata while the defences were mounted from Dazaifu, then the area’s political centre. The main exhibited piece was an urn full of coins recovered from the seabed, it was probably carried upon the ship of a high Mongol official when it sunk off the coast. Outside the exhibition hall, a small scale model of the excavated earthen works that formed part of the forward defences of the area could be found on display.
Then the influence of Ming ceramics on Japanese crafts. There were also forged seals of the Kyoto and Korean courts, created by pirates and smugglers in the Kyushu areas to conduct illicit businesses in the area.
The whole place took about an hour and a half to browse through at a semi-detailed pace. It is a shame the place is not more popular as the items displayed and the way they were exhibited told a very interesting story about the back and forth between the island and the continent.
On the way back to Tenjin I end up on the Tabito tourist train. Lucky.
I thus return to Tenjin around 1:30. On the train back I notice that the popular Cannon Ramen is just south the Nishitetsu station. Since it was past lunchtime I might be able to avoid the queues.
To my surprise there was still a queue when I got there. About 5 people ahead of me and another 10 quickly showed up behind. Sigh, ah well, just this once.
The ramen came with the eggs and chashu meat presented in a smiley face. It’s a little thicker than the usual Hakata ramen, rich in flavour and the noodle had just the right firmness. It’s good, but if there were a longer queue I wouldn’t be amiss if I skipped the place. The only ramen I genuinely crave remains the milk curry ramen in Aomori.
The afternoon was filled with a quick look around Tenjin. I figured I would search out Animate and see if they might have some Your Name (Kimi no Na Wa) goods on sale.
To my dismay, and to relief of my wallet, there’s not much goods yet and there was only a small section for it. I left empty handed. The movie was a surprise hit, there probably weren’t many arranged beforehand and it took time for the goods companies to get on aboard and put out something.
Tenjin was Fukuoka’s prime shopping district, though its shine had taken a dent since Hakata station developed into a sprawling mega department store, it still reigned as the king of glittery brands and trendy restaurants. Outside of Tokyo I had not seen such a high concentration of department stores all in such close proximity.
After getting back to the hotel to meet up with my parents, who had taken an afternoon nap. We head out for dinner.
This time we went to KITTE B1 as I had intended the night before. I had my eyes set on the curry restaurant right by the entrance, dad took a look and suggested we check out all options first.
And so we discover this Nagasaki champon noodle place, whose noodles were topped with a huge amount of vegetables. One of its dish was titled all the vegetables you need for the day. (The curry place had a similar dish too). Convinced by the amount of vegetables piled on in the plastic food sample in the display, we enter and find a seat in the still largely empty restaurant. Japanese dinner prime time seemed to be not till 7 so it was still early.
The noodle suited our family’s tastes best out of all the restaurants I’d had in Japan so far. It wasn’t too salty, plenty of vegetables mixed with wood ear mushrooms, it was satisfying to have a meal that was light on the tastebuds and stomach. Due to its position and history of trade, Nagasaki cuisine had more chinese influence than any other places in Japanese main islands, might have contributed to its appeal to us.
Then it’s off the Tenjin to check out the department store’s christmas decorations.
The restaurants in Tenjin were packed, with lines outside each one we passed. Teppanyaki, tempura, grills, ramens, sushi, it was a Sunday night, maybe everyone just felt like eating out near Christmas. We were glad we had our dinner back at Hakata station early.
The main attraction was the park by the Nishitetsu station, where there was a skating rink and a christmas train for the kids. Each department store each had a different style and theme going for them, some were a little more invested, others just threw on some lights and called it a day. None compared to the grandeur that was Tokyo’s Shiodome or Roppongi, it’s Fukuoka after all, one of the smallest metropolis in Japan, not even Nagoya or Sapporo.
Tenjin’s shopping streets were a maze, with alleys inside alleys, where one could quickly become lost, stairs leading up and down into various buildings where within were shopping arcades and squares. If only I had spent more time exploring them in the afternoons while more shops were open.
I originally also wanted to go to Fukuoka Tower however by this time I was getting tired, so I returned to the hotel with my parents and called it a night early.