|'Thats not bad soup', Shaun said to me tonight after a bowl of ramen! This is slightly surprising given that he has always said that 'soup' is not a real food and never fills him up.'Its only a starter', is his usual comment about it. However ramen appears to be a different story.
We are currently in Fukuoka which is on the island of Kyushu - the southern most main island in Japan. We arrived at midday after a 3 hour fast ferry ride from Korea - pretty good service really. Anyway after walking 15 minutes from the station in the pouring rain to our hostel, it obviously then decided to stop raining as soon as we entered the building!
Anyway it was off to find ourselves some food - we actually wanted to try one of the many yatai stalls which are famous in the city - these are food stalls on wheels. However none of them had ramen so we found ourselves in a ramen shop close by. Fukuoka is well known for its ramen - this is basically a big bowl of noodles in a broth with various toppings - in Fukuoka it is in a white broth with bits of pork on top - mmm! Actually the second night we were there we also had ramen at a great little place where all the chefs and waiters yelled out to each other and said hello or goodbye as customers came and went! Great atmosphere and actually the ramen was better as well - and we had some yummy gyoza as well. Shaun is now okay with having only 'soup' for dinner!
There are not actually many 'sites' in Fukuoka and in fact all we did was wander round the river and canal area soaking up the atmosphere, as well as the huge Canal City shopping mall (much to Shaun's disgust). We ended up going into an internet place as well - these are really funny places. You can book yourslf a booth and stay there all night and they have a huge collection of DVDs to watch and Japanese comics (known as manga). In fact the guy next door to us was watching porn! Funny! You can even order in hot food and drinks! However this does not come cheap - our 1 hour online cost us $6US!
In Japan you are allowed to cycle on the footpaths, and in fact thats where most cyclists go. So you not only have to dodge the people, but also cyclists! However I have to give them credit as they have managed the art of cycling along with open umbrellas really well!
The food here is also much cheaper than we had bargained for - of course we are not fine dining but when you can get great food in food courts and in small restaurants, who needs fine dining! Most places have very realistic plastic food models outside advertising what you can eat which makes everything so easy. You could get by here without saying one word of Japanese! The 'bento' boxes are a great find - for $6 to $10 US dollars you can get yourself a little food tray with several compartments holding different types of food. Usually you get some rice, a salad thing and two or three types of seafood or meat. Pretty tasty and in fact one night we got a couple of these and had a picnic in our hostel room!
Actually that leads on nicely to the first main difference we have noticed with Korea - the accommodation. There are no cheap love motels here(unless you just want to stay for an hour and that is far too long for Shaun!), so we are back to bunk beds in hostels again, and paying $50 for the privalege! Actually to be fair, the one we stayed in here isn't to bad as we have our own room and it has wireless, so I should not complain.
I am also pretty pleased to find that they have an alcoholic lemonade over here which you can buy in the small local 7/11's. Yah - finally I can have myself a drink while Shaun samples the local beers! Which by the way...so far he has tried Asahi, Sapporo and Kirin (approximately $2 US for a large can).
Another funny thing is the musical pedestrian crossings - some of them cheep like a bird, and other play a full-on tune!
We decided one day to visit Dazaifu - once the government centre for the island of Kyushu - this was just a 1 hour train ride away. I knew that this was a great idea as soon as we arrived as the main street was really pretty, with old style wooden shops. There were many shops selling some kind of white 'biscuit', that was obviously a specialty of the area, so of course we decided to have one as well. This was slightly disappointing as all it was, was a soft outer (made from rice), with sweet red beans inside! Actually a lot of Japanese sweets and biscuits are made with beans.
Anyway, our first stop was Komyozen-ji, a small temple. The best part of this was the zen garden surrounding it - absolutely beautiful, with moss covered stones and lots of trees. I want one! The temple was also lovely with natural wood and tatumi mat covered floors - quite different from Korean temples which are painted in all sorts of colours.
From there we visited Tenman-gu's shrine (a poet and scholar in an old Kyoto court). Lots of locals visit here, especially students in hope of passing their exams. The temple was mainly red and the locals all throw money into a grid, clap twice and then pray. There were also two walls where people could write something on a piece of paper and tie it up - I think they were requests? Anyway, it was quite intriguing watching the locals and their customs and the buildings were beautiful. Well worth a day-trip.
Tomorrow we head down south on the trains...