Today I started my journey heading for Hakata and packing up my backpack with my newly acquired Muji Travel supplies. The one thing Japan is great at is individually organizing things, whether it be individually wrapped snacks, or a box of cookies with each one individually wrapped, I found every little container, packing item, and organizer that I could possibly want to help organize my backpack.
After packing up and leaving the apartment, I headed for Shinagawa to exchange my JR Pass and validate it so I can start using it. I bought a 14 day pass which will be great to not have to think about buying individual train tickets. Though, it will be helpful that I can actually reserve seats on longer trips, such as today’s trip down to Kyushu, the south island.
I made it to the train station about an hour earlier than I thought I would as I woke up earlier too. Great thing about this is, of course like clockwork, the Japanese Shinkansen and train system is quite efficient, and I was able to catch the same thing an hour earlier. Once I boarded, I was a little disappointed to see that my seat was next to someone, so I sat on the empty row to eat my Bento lunch box. After eating, I knew that I’d be able to see Mount Fuji from the opposite side of the train (where my reserved seat was), so while the man got up to use the bathroom, I headed over to organize my seat and get my cameras out and such so I could be ready to see Mt Fuji.
Little did I know, that this old man traveling solo reading a book, would soon be a great conversationalist and spend the next hour and half talking with me about his life, his own journey around the world in the army on a ship, his career as an architect for the army, and his current trip going to a funeral.
He was a man probably in his fifties, but highly energetic and smelled of smoke. Not so much that I had to move, but definitely enough to make me aware. Amazingly, coming from Osaka originally, his enunciation was pleasingly clear, and it made for our long conversation on be interrupted twice for me to ask for him to repeat something. I think the biggest thing I’ll miss after leaving Japan, is the ability to interact, communicate, and seemingly be a part of the culture of any other place, which is a shame, but especially unique in my situation with Japan. My time here so far only reignites my love of being here, and I know I will continue venturing to Japan for many many more years to come.
After a long day of traveling down the entire island of Honshu, I arrived at Hakata, Fukuoka. I made my first reservation by phone in Japan, for a hotel last night that I found rated #1 on Trip Advisor. I called after the online reservation system failed to let me reserve a room, so I was left only with the option of calling the hotel directly. I was surprised, never having called to make a reservation or anything before, that I was able to get through the entire conversation with no trouble at all. I love it. :)
The hotel was extremely modern and chic, and the rooms are just big enough for a double bed and a little area about 4 feet wide next to the bed. It’s all you need for simply staying in a hotel. I wish more places offered this type of nice accommodation, cheaply. There’s even an onsen on the first floor! After settling in a bit, I headed out for a long walk around the city, and wandered down the streets that wound strategically around a canal. The little alley ways were filled with small stalls offering all sorts of dining options, even little stalls that were so temporary, that if a gust of wind came, I don’t know how it would survive. After about an hour, I decided I’d deserved a meal, and went to find a place that had been recommended by the hotel for Yakitori. It was lively, but walking in was like walking into a smoke room in an airport (so I imagine), and I couldn’t even start to think if I could possibly manage this during dinner. So I opted to go to another restaurant just the same block, but had a group of girls instead.
I sat at the bar facing the two cooks, Hiro and ?. They are both 29, and have just started the restaurant in January as their first venture together. We talked the entire evening about what I was doing in Japan, what they were doing with their restaurant, and by the end, they wanted to connect with me on Facebook :) I tell you, this new way of traveling where you have technology and connections at your fingertips is definitely a new way to travel. I haven’t quite decided which way was better–being completely isolated and struggling nonstop to maneuver through unknown cities, the frustrations of walking in circles with no maps, or walking directly to a store you’d found was rated well on trip advisor, and being able to maintain connections with anyone you happen to meet. Honestly, for this long term of travel, I can only think that the former (with tech) is going to be a godsend when I’m wanting to share something with a voice, if I find myself ever lonely during the trip. Japan has been an interesting ‘ease’ into this round the world trip, as I’m definitely not isolated due to no language barrier, but it’s foreign enough to be quite the adventure anyway. After Japan, I’ll go from reading and speaking and hearing, to only reading about 40% and guessing what the Chinese are trying to say with their way of using the characters. Should be interesting. By the time I get to Thailand, I’ll be basically blind and deaf to the language–which leads to the real feeling of travel!
After arriving in Hakata, I decided to head out for a walk around the town. It was getting a little cold so I didn’t want to really go too far, but the walk was nice, and I saw a lot of flowers along the way. After passing through various winding streets of little restaurants, I found a place that looked fairly open, and went inside to sit at the bar. To everyone’s surprise, it was great fun to chat with the owners who were both 29 years old and had just opened the restaurant just a few months earlier. I had a delicious salad, and then meat on a skewer, and some French fries. All were great.
It was a fun experience to be there and talk with everyone and by the end, we exchanged business cards and bid each other farewell. I found my way to the hotel and headed down to the Onsen to have a bath and relax before a well deserved rest.