Sunday, July 24, 2005

Visiting Fukuoka

Poorly stictched panorama of the Fukuoka Tower. The tower is actually straighter, not crooked in real life. Sorry for the botched job.

My cousin Kurie decided to join us today for a trip to Fukuoka, one of Japan’s major regional cities. It is on another island, Kyushu, but while a long trip of a half-day by car, would take us only an hour an a half to get there by bullet train. Consider that the bullet train goes at about 150 miles per hour, and you get a notion of the distance involved. Kurie (the woman who sang at my wedding) has matured into a pretty and intelligent woman capable of holding rather sophisticated conversations either in English or in Japanese. She now works grueling hours at a major Japanese company and so this was one of her rare days off.

We visited lots of temples and shrines in Gion district. There was a massive wooden Buddha over several stories high at Shofukuji temple. No pictures allowed, but this is quite new, only 15 or years old. There was even a simulation of what happens after you die - you enter a dark hallway, and then see scenes from hell. You then walk into a pitch black winding hallway, to simulate being lost, and after getting freaked out, enter a lit room with a Buddha in it, representing salvation. Call it a religious Disney exhibit. I felt sorry for the foreign tourists who were there – the sign pointing to the Buddha upstairs was in Japanese! No wonder I saw a puzzled looking foreign tourist leave the place when I entered. We then went to Japan’s oldest zen temple, and met two British woman. One was living in Fukuoka, and although she couldn’t speak Japanese, she knew the area very well and was showing her friend around. She gave us good advice on where to visit.

We then visited the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum, which explained to us the everyday life of the city residents who lived here seventy years ago. We met a craftswoman who could bend wood to make utensils. She took on the business after her father passed away.That is how much Japan has changed – the way of life of two generations ago now seems so alien that it needs a museum. IN fact, there was a recreation of a living room in the 1930s. Talk about a nation that has changed! You need to explain that people used to listen to records back in the good old days.
Fukuoka Tower
We then caught the bus and arrived at the Fukuoka Tower. It is the largest tower by the sea in Japan, and quite an impressive tower. The pretty elevator girl expertly narrated the tower on our ascent up. She is the last of a dying breed, as the ranks of elevator girls grow thinner with each passing year, so I had to take a photo with her.Fukuoka seemed like a handsome city- and I even saw beaches. They were man-made beaches, to be sure, but beaches never the less in the middle of the city! Of course there was an exhibit of TV shows, and so I had to check it out. I found the trunks worn by the late Andy Hug (with the word "Andy" emblazoned across it), a great kickboxing champ. Next to it was a poster of other K-1 fighters. So I posed for it while Yoko took my picture.

Eating outdoors in Fukuoka
We then went to a unique feature of Fukuoka dining – the street stalls. This city is famous for its street stall dining and so we went there to eat.
Now the stall staff is quite aggressive for Japanese – they will yell at you to sit here, or say stuff like, “Hello! We got some openings for seats for three." We had some street stall tempura, and I chatted with the cook, who was wondering if I was a foreigner or not. She appeared shocked that I wanted to take her picture.I saw so many other foreigners nearby as well, and then I remembered that a U.S. navy base is nearby. I started to become quite drunk from two large bottles of beer, and we were running out of time before the last train left Fukuoka, and so we left to buy presents. Afterward, we decided to visit “Ramen Stadium” which was a collection of top ramen shops, but with a Fukuoka flavor. We had to walk through a red-light district to get there. That is how safe Japan is – women can walk through a red light district at night and not get harassed (although I wouldn’t recommend they make a habit of this). I think white women cannot do this as they will be mistaken for Russian prostitutes.

But I digress. The ramen at Ramen stadium was excellent! Perfect shoyu tonkotsu ramen! Yoko and Kurie were stuffed from the stall food but managed to finish their ramen.

Tonkotsu shoyu ramen: Pork broth with shoyu, and four huge slabs of char siu!


Eric said...

In that last photo, is that four pieces of pork, or two giant pieces overlapping each other? Wow!

Now I'm hungry.

Kakure Gaijin said...

You are looking at four gigantic pieces of melt in your mouth char siu pork! If you want an approximation of what the char siu tastes like, go to Yottekoya in the McCully shopping center, and order their char siu yataiaji ramen. The soup is not top class and I give it a "B" (still good), but the char siu is heavenly!