April 7, 2016
We didn’t fall asleep until around 2am last night so this morning we woke up around 10:30am. We still planned on going to Nagasaki, despite sleeping in, but were going to catch a later train. After getting everything together, we left the hotel for Tenjin Station to catch the subway to Hakata Station (where the Japan Rail Station is).
Before our trip, we bought a 14 day Japan Rail Pass (JR pass) from the JTB office in the basement of Hotel Vancouver for $558 CAD each. The JR pass is offered to foreigners traveling into Japan, where you can pay a set price for unlimited train rides. The pass is offered at a significant discount and must be bought before coming to Japan. You have to show your passport to prove that you are visiting Japan as a temporary visitor and not on any work visa.
When got to the JR office at Hakata Station, there was a long line up for the JR pass. There were probably over 50 people ahead of us and we only had about an hour until the 12:55pm train we were planning on taking to Nagasaki departed. The line up didn’t seem to move at all for the first 15 minutes, but then they started opening more wickets and the line up moved a bit faster. We had to bring the papers we got from the JTB office in Vancouver as well as our passport to redeem our JR pass. The lady checked our passports to see that the sticker (Japan doesn’t stamp passports) said temporary visitor. At this point, we could also reserve seats for trains that we knew we were going to take in the next few days.
After the lady processed our JR pass, she told us that the train we were hoping to catch to Nagasaki was cancelled due to severe rain. The forecast for today was rain but we didn’t realize how heavy it started to rain because we had been indoors most of the morning. She said the next train would be 1:55pm, which didn’t really work out for us because the main point of going to Nagasaki was to visit the Atomic Bomb Museum and it closed at 5pm. We decided to change our plans and stay in Fukuoka since the weather was bad. Now we know that the JR pass line ups can get really busy, so we should make sure if we need to reserve any tickets from now on we should make arrangements the day before if possible.
Although it would have been nice to see Nagasaki, I was also glad we could just stay in Fukuoka and take it easy. I was behind on blog posts and we needed to do a bit more Japan planning and research on things (plus I’ve been a bit tired trying to fight off a cold). I think one of the biggest things that I have to get over is that we won’t be able to see everything, eat all the “must eats”, or buy all the things I would have bought on a normal trip. I’m used to short trips and I know if we travel the way I would on a two week trip, we’ll burn out quickly and I could already feel it a bit.
So I suppose the train getting cancelled is a blessing in disguise. We headed to the other famous Fukuoka ramen place called, Ichiran, for lunch. There is a location attached to the Hakata train station, which was perfect. When you get there, you have to use a machine to pay for your order and it prints out a ticket. Once you’re seated you give the waitress your ticket and your food comes. It was a neat yet very anti-social process and eating experience (Tim: the ticket machines are pretty common throughout Japan).
And the winner between Ichiran and Ippudo is (in our opinion) Ippudo! Ichiran is very good too but their meat was the weakest link, it wasn’t that tender and it was sliced very thin. Ichiran is also just over 100 JPY more expensive and they charge for kikurage mushrooms that are already included in Ippudo’s bowl. Although the Ichiran experience is novel, I enjoyed my bowl of Ippudo ramen more.
After we finished eating, we went outside and it was raining very hard. We decided to go back into the station mall and buy an umbrella. Japanese people all carry clear umbrellas here, so we thought we’d join in. We found a store that was relatively cheap in the basement and sold an umbrella for 410 JPY = $5 CAD (Tim: More expensive than what I remember umbrellas going for the last time I was in Japan in 2009). Despite having waterproof rain jackets, this type of rain needed an umbrella and I also had my laptop in my backpack today (I was planning on writing while on the train).
We decided to have a leisurely walk back to our hotel from the train station, but first stopping by Hakata’s Canal City Mall. Since it was pouring, the best place to be is inside a mall. The Canal City Mall is the mid-way point between Hakata and Tenjin Station (where our hotel is). Once we arrived, I was excited to browse around at Uniqlo and Muji, stores that I’ve been in many times but never in Japan!
As expected, Uniqlo is about 20% cheaper than what it is in Taiwan and Muji is also slightly cheaper. While browsing through Uniqlo, there are a lot of things I would like to buy but I don’t have any room in my luggage. They’re clothes I would want to have when I get back to Vancouver, not necessarily clothes I need on this trip. I’ve made notes to myself that I would like to go back to Seoul and Japan just to shop in the future and I’ll bring an empty suitcase (Tim: because clothing is so different around the world it necessitates travelling across an ocean to get what you need…).
Every hour the canal in the mall has a water show. We caught half of one that was happening at 4pm. The water show was choreographed to”Be Our Guest” from The Beauty at the Beast. The show was better than the one we waited for in the cold in Seoul at the Danpo Bridge (Tim: I decided it was better within the first 5 seconds).
We headed back to Tenjin Station and figured we would have an early dinner and just go back to the hotel. It was such a wet day out that we thought once we got back inside we wouldn’t want to go back out again.
Tenjin Station has a large underground mall that connects all the department stores to office buildings, City Hall and the subway station. We’ve been to a lot of underground malls in Seoul, but this one was a lot nicer. The stores were mainly Japanese clothing stores along with a lot of French bakeries. I noticed that a lot of Japanese stores are named in French, although some spelled incorrectly. (Tim: is “Flench” the equivalent to “Engrish”?)
After going through part of the mall, we left to go find something for dinner. It started to get very stuffy inside and I think the dim lights and being underground made me feel a bit uneasy. I find that in Korea and Japan, when it’s a bit colder outside (it wasn’t actually that cold today at 18 degrees) they blast the heat inside too much. So whenever we went inside a mall or department store, Tim and I would be sweating.
We went to one of the shopping plazas connected to the underground mall and found that on their basement level there were several restaurants that looked quite good. We picked one called, Kisuimaru. Tim ordered their chirashi don (Tim: they called it Kisui-don) and I had a dinner set.
At first we were hesitant because it wasn’t that busy (but I guess it was only 5:15pm after all), but the food was good. When we were finishing up, more people (what seemed like locals) started to come in. I feel like we won’t have any horrible dining experiences in Japan (*knock on wood*).
We came back to the hotel after dinner and caught up on our blogging and did some more research on the town we’ll be going to tomorrow, Beppu (the onsen capital of Japan). Our wedding videographer, Henry, just went to Japan for a bit and told us the whole town is steaming, sounds pretty cool to me!
Our train tomorrow is at 9:21am, so we’ll get a good night sleep tonight!
Steps today: 14,600