April 6, 2016
Today was our first full day in Fukuoka and we were ready to explore the city. The weather was overcast and about 18 degrees celsius, which was perfect weather for walking around. After having ramen last night, the next thing we wanted to have was obviously sushi. One of the first restaurants (highly rated on Trip Advisor) to come up when I Google searched was “Chikae Fukuoka Shop”. Our plan for today was to go there for lunch and walk around the city – a pretty low key day.
Chikae Fukuoka Shop was about an 8 minute walk from our hotel. When we arrived at around 12:30pm, there was a long line up outside. The line was a mixed bag of businessmen in black suits, older Japanese ladies and a few tourists (we seemed like the only North American tourists – most were Korean or from Hong Kong). The line up went fairly quickly and we were in the restaurant in less than 15 minutes. The restaurant is quite large with fish tanks in the middle of the restaurant with counter seating around it as well as tables around the counters. We were lucky to get a seat at the counter so we had a good view of all the fish in the tanks.
At lunch, there were only two lunch sets on the menu, each for 1,400 JPY ($16.90 CAD) – we got one of each. While we ate, we noticed that some locals would order sashimi and the sushi chef would come out of the kitchen, grab the fish out of the tank and chop it up behind the counter and serve it. There are no prices for these fish that we could see, so we just stuck to the lunch sets.
After we finished lunch around 1:30pm, there was no longer a line up outside the restaurant, good to know if we ever come back in the future. We started to walk towards Maizuru Park, where the Fukuoka Castle ruins are. During the Edo Period (1603-1867), the Fukuoka Castle used to be the largest castle in Kyushu. It was subsequently torn down during the Meiji Restoration as it symbolized Japan’s feudal past. Today, it’s a park in the middle of the city with some view points and surrounded with cherry blossom trees. Since Fukuoka is in southern Japan, the cherry blossoms have already bloomed here and are now starting to fall and tree are sprouting green leaves. The views of the city were nice, as we looked to the left, we could see the Ohori Park lake, Fukuoka Tower and Fukuoka Dome – where we were heading later in the afternoon.
As we made our way towards Ohori Park, we passed by the Gokoku Shrine and took some pictures. The area was very quiet and peaceful. I really enjoyed having so many trees surrounding us during our walk – it felt really good to breathe in some fresher air.
Ohori Park was our main destination on our walk, it is Fukuoka’s main park in the centre of the city with a large pond and many small bridges. We sat down on a park bench facing the pond for a bit just to sit and relax. We noticed as we walked around the pond that many people were by themselves and looked like they were doing some self-reflection as well.
After our relaxing stroll around Ohori Park, we made our way to the Fukuoka Dome and Umi no nakamichi Sea Side Park. This walk took about 20 minutes through the city – passing by more canals.
When we got close to the Fukuoka Dome around 4:00pm, we noticed there were a lot of locals heading towards it. The Fukuoka Dome is home to the city’s baseball team, the SoftBank Hawks. We were excited because I had tried to look up a game schedule but their English website only showed their 2015 schedule so we thought we missed out. As baseball is Japan’s most popular sport, we were hoping to catch a game at some point. Once we made it to the top of the stairs, it definitely looked like game day! I read that the Hawks are one of the best teams in the league as they have won the league championship multiple times and are currently the reigning Nippon Professional Baseball League champs (two years running).
We went to the ticket counter and asked for the section in the outfield with the second cheapest seats – 1,000 JPY = $12 CAD. The most expensive tickets we saw on the price list were 60,000 JPY = $72 CAD. The lady at the ticketcounter told us “this section is very excited”, which meant to us that it was likely the team’s supporter section which sounded perfect to us!
We found out the game didn’t start until 6:00pm, but there were already so many people lined up at 4pm to get into the dome as the doors opened at 4:30pm. We decided to walk to Momochi Seaside Park (as planned) that was beside the stadium and come back a bit before the game started to grab food and walk around the concourse.
Momochi Seaside Park was nice to walk around on the “sea wall”. It seemed like this place would be a lot busier during the summer as there were a lot of businesses and shacks that weren’t open. The beach itself had a surprising number of teenagers just hanging out with their shoes off.
We made our way back to the stadium around 5pm and headed in. It turns out you can bring your own food in – which is why so many people had big backpacks and why Family Mart (a convenience store) inside the Hilton was crazy busy. We could’ve brought in our own food but at the same time we wanted to try “Japanese stadium food”. They had MOS Burger, bentos, takoyaki, ramen, and other American stadium food. The prices were typical of a stadium – about 30-40% more than what it would be outside.
We got to our seats and they were better than I expected for 1,000 JPY. We were right beside the main supporter section so every time the Hawks were up at bat, everyone would be standing but when the other team was batting, you could sit down. We got to our seats well before the game started and there were a lot of people already seated and enjoying the pre-game entertainment. The game was a lot of fun mostly due to the songs and chants they had for each player (my favourite was for Yuichi Honda). They would say a bunch of stuff in Japanese and then say the player’s last name repeatedly until they were done. This taught us (or just me) how to pronounce some of their last names properly. It was a lot of fun and it was probably the best $12 CAD we spent this whole trip.
Unfortunately the Hawks lost to the Chiba Lotte Marines 4-3, which is too bad because the Hawks pretty much dominated the game in terms of hits but they weren’t able to convert (they had the bases loaded three times). The Marines, on the other hand, hardly had any hits but got 3 home runs.
What I enjoyed the most wasn’t the baseball game but watching everyone around us having fun while supporting their home team. There wasn’t a “type” of Hawks fun, it was basically everyone (it seemed like everyone in Fukuoka was there) – young and old, men and women, from all walks of life and age (babies to people who look like they’re in their 80s). I find that at most live sporting events in North America, it’s mostly dominated by groups of men and you rarely see large groups of girls or women without any guys, but at this game there were a lot of groups of just women (and they didn’t look like “puck bunny” types).
I’m really happy we “stumbled” upon this game and we were lucky enough to have experienced a Japanese baseball game with some really die hard fans. If only Canucks games were as fun!
After the game was over, we walked back from the stadium to our hotel in about 30 minutes. We didn’t want to bother with going 3 stops on the subway since it was so busy – must have been close to 30,000 people in the stadium all trying to get home. On our way back, we stopped by Lawson’s (Japanese convenience store) to pick up some onigiris to eat as we weren’t that full from the food at the game.
We stayed up really late (until 2am) and decided to just play tomorrow by ear since our plan to go to Nagasaki early didn’t look like it was going to happen.
Steps today: 30,000