Fukuoka. And you.

Fukuoka. And you.
Fukuoka, Japan

Fukuoka, Japan

I was booked on a bus at 10.30, so had time to pack up before wandering to the bus station, a couple of kilometres away. I’ve been in Japan nearly four weeks, and seen different people everywhere, but yesterday I was talking to a Canadian in the hostel, looked up and saw a familiar face and only realised he was familiar from weeks ago rather than hours when he said “weren’t you atch, er Tokyo for shore?” I may have added the last for effect – Dutch, rather than Sean Connery. He even had a photo of me from the hostel we’d stayed in-us both lounging, though really I was dropping out of the conversation playing with potential flights and destinations.

Five minutes later in walked another familiar face, attached to a thankfully unfamiliar body though I’m sure he knows it well. Chilean Paulo in the hostel, too.

Japanese temple with a courtyard

The bus trip was uneventful, only one services stop on the four hour JR ride. We arrived at Fukuoka – or Hakata, as it is still known (the train station is called Hakata, for instance, which is important when checking for trains and cost via hyperdia.com, as there’s a Fukuoka station much nearer Tokyo) – just a smidge late. I realised that I had no map of the hostel location; the directions looked easy enough, but were from the train station, and I had no idea if that’s where I was. More importantly, where was the door? I went up a couple of floors, into a mall (transport and shopping, always linked here) but still couldn’t work out where the ground was. Eventually I worked it out, after playing fruitlessly with an info point which promised wifi and information and delivered neither. Perhaps it was more sentient than I realised and was just ruminating on my requests.

It turned out that the bus station was right by the train station, so I made it to the hostel. It was very quiet there – full on the next night, Saturday, but four empty beds in my room. Beds/capsules, in fact, as each person had their own little capsule, with curtain to draw across. A nice way to see out Japan, seeing as I’d not made it to a capsule hotel ‘proper’. By now it was 4.00 and I wandered south in search of the port. A couple of people had highly recommended Nagasaki as their favourite city in Japan, and it is only 2.5 hours from Fukuoka by bus, so I wasn’t sure whether to bob down there or not. Nagasaki is apparently reasonably small, ‘doable’ in a day, but I figured I wanted to maximise my time in Korea, so it would be a flying visit to Nagasaki and given that, the 5 hours bus travel would be a disproportionate amount of time.

Sunset over a port scene
Sun sets over the port.

The route to the ferry port took me past a few temples. I gave them a cursory once over, but was glad that I was walking past more than houses and shops. The port seemed like a nice spot, though of course for me the association I was with exciting travel times to come, which may have coloured my perceptions. Plus 4.00 is a lovely time in Japan right now, the heat of the day gone, sunshine covering everything, the kind of weather that lets you do whatever you want, wearing whatever you want, and no need to think ‘do I need..?’ I was at the terminal just after 5 and it seemed deserted, both ferry line check in counters quiet, a bored lady sat at the information desk and a few people wandering about. Feeling self conscious I made for the observation deck on the 3rd floor and gazed out; there’s something both mournful and exciting about transport hubs without their transport, like a party has moved on, and that feeling was aided by a bench and few beer pumps from a previous event up on the deck.

The last ferry of the day goes around 3pm, hence checkin counters being closed, but both ferry companies have offices on the 3rd floor with staff working even at 5.45, so I reserved a seat on the 8.30 Beetle ferry for ¥13000 (plus 2000 ‘oil’ cost and 500 terminal use – the latter is cash only). It’s only a three hour crossing on the small beetle ferry; a hydrofoil which warns you to put on your seatbelt in case they have to make sharp turns around dolphins or whales. Or Wales, I suppose, but that’s too far away to be a serious prospect.

A sign in shadow, sun setting to the right of a tower at the port
Port side.

The light was failing but I got out to the west of the city, past the uninspiring-from-outside prefectural art museum, for a wander round Ohori park. There are the ruins of Kokotom palace, an archaeological work in progress which looks destined to be turned into a big tourist attraction. Just next door is a track, and part of me wished I’d saved last night’s session for here, watching people race round, though there were no lights so it may have been on the point of closing. Further along were many more runners, a beautiful lake having three paths round, nominally for walkers, runners and cyclists. It is about 2k round, judging by the distance markers – the 300m facing one direction was next to the 1700m facing the other. Well, if I’d saved my session for here, I’d only have had to do 4 laps of the park, rather than the 10 I did in Hiroshima. Course, I would also have had it hanging over me, might not have made it to this park and might not have done it in any case, so I didn’t really think it would have worked out.

I went back to the hostel via the station mall. The convention is to have a food market of the lowest level, here no different, and I picked up some sushi that was noticeably superior to what I’d had from family gu…mart or 7-11, good as both of those were. Better, it was 20% off, I think because it was after 7, so dinner was a bargain. Back at the hostel I booked somewhere to stay in Korea and my first night in Phnom Penh, where I arrive late, then escaped from a stilted conversation with an older German man, leaving him in the hands of an American who was clearly going to swamp him with words.

Three people chatting, lying on mats on the floor of a Tokyo hostel
From Marco. Bumped into him at the Hiroshima hostel, photo from Tokyo.

Words words words, as the trendy vicar at a church I once went to said. Words words words, words words words. They become meaningless when you think on them too much, was the point of the repetition, but really it served to prove only that repeating the word ‘word’ becomes meaningless, rendering your service likewise. Words words words.

Reading: Jeffrey Lord, Jewel of Tharn. A fantasy series from the 60s, rip roaring page turner with unpleasant misogyny.

Quote, WSC “All the people at this club are encouraged to habitually use the word “fun” as an adjective, “asap” as a two-syllable word, punctuate even the most mundane social network updates with “LOL” and generally pretend to enjoy life while all the time in their heads they hear nothing but the echo call of man’s unending solitude.”

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