Friday, 9 September 2011

Blondes have more fu[kuoka]

The first point to make is that it has been very very sunny indeed in Fukuoka over the last few days. When we first arrived, the tail end of the powerful Typhoon was still cutting through central Japan, and it was rainy and windy. Now that it’s gone, the sun shines and it’s extremely hot here. As such, my hair is now a pale blonde, a far cry from its usual ginger hue.

And lots of fun I did have. Seb took us on our walking/subway/elevator tour of the gleaming metropolis of Fukuoka.

I had arrived early at Asakuragaido because I needed to go to the post office to take some cash out. I got out ten thousand yen (一万円) from an extremely politeful (an increasingly popular word) cash machine, and met Seb in the station. Not before having wasted 300yen on the wrong ticket. Anyway, the uni paid.
We took the Nishitetsu line into Tenjin, a party area in the centre of Fukuoka. Nishitetsu is a private train operator that runs alongside the national rail service, JR. They also seem to run buses (more on that later).

Our first stop was the IMS building, which contains the gay-sounding “Rainbow plaza” on the top floor, a sort of meeting place / resource centre for the gaijin community in Fukuoka, paid for by the city’s government. We spent about ten seconds in there, before Seb made the mistake of promising us Mars bars in the basement, and we quickly sped off. He and Maddie went off to find a post office I believe, so we went down 11 floors to the Mars bar place which, in the end, did not have any of that chocolatey-caramely-nougaty nectar, and instead had bloody expensive Werther’s original. I bet Werther is sitting on a pile of money right now, giggling his overfed chops off, while that old man he forces to appear in his adverts struggles to escape from the cage Werther keeps him in. I bet.

Here's IMS:

I get increasingly impressed with the zaniness of the Engrish we’re seeing everywhere. How it’s possible that people believe their outlandish statements to be accurate English is beyond me. My favourite at the moment is the one that appears on some drink bottle: “Enjoy the sweet taste without reservation”. I love the implication that even the Japanese taste-bud needs permission to enjoy itself. 
I also love the Nipponçais: Japanese attempts at using French to make things look elegant. There’s a department store called “Comme ça”, which is pretty normal, and a loo roll called “Mon La Vie”, less so.

We walked thence to Canal City in Hakata, which is a ginormous shopping / entertainment centre with exciting architecture. If I manage to steal some images from someone else’s facebook, it’ll be pictured.

On the way we went through Nishtetsu, an island in the middle of the river. Once an extremely seedy area, it is now only a bit seedy with a few brothels ("Soap lands") (catering for all tastes I shouldn’t wonder), and lots of corporate entertainment.

Mercifully, next came lunch. Inspired by the heat, we opted for curry! It was oishii, of course, and the restaurant was owned by a very charming, very direct Indian man who delighted in telling us that we were going to “make him rich” because “Britishers love curry” and we’re here all year. What I liked most was that you got to specify on a scale of one to fifty how spicy you wanted your curry. I went for eleven, described as “super-hot”. Super-hot it was not, by a lot, so for the next pot, I want super-duper-hot.

Next stop, Ohori park. Ohori is a lovely little place to the west of Tenjin. It has a circular lake with a very thin strip of land cutting across its diameter, with those lovely little oriental bridges connecting up the bits. There’s a designated running track around the circumference too: Japan at its ordered best.

We saw the art gallery that’s in the park. To my surprise and delight, there were some huge names in there. Grand art, not so grand surroundings, but who’s looking? Dali, Mondrian, Lichtenstein…

We were force-marched thence to the beach. Seb has a vicious pace and in the glaring sun and gleaming sweat, it all got a bit taxing. We stopped off at a pharmacy to get some insect repellent (I have had the shit bitten out of me over the last week, or at least my legs have). The Japanese for insect is, or mushi, which, Ina informs me, is a naughty word in German. Tee hee.
That done, the university bought us drinks on the beach. My lust for coffee was satiated, while the rest of them began what would become a very drunken few hours.

Next on the itinerary was Fukuoka Tower. It’s a big tower, and I don’t feel I can add anything to the pictures:

Time was getting on by this point, and we had the welcome dinner to get back to in Dazaifu. Some of us got changed into more presentable guise in the toilets of the tower, and we got on the bus. Buses in Japan (Ba-su) are, like a lot of other things in Japan (I’m thinking toilets), much more technologically advanced than at home. Perhaps advanced is a bit too generous, but the Japanese but their technological know-how to good use. When it comes to buses, they excel: you get on at the middle of the bus and take a ticket. This has a number punched on it. At the front of the bus is a big electronic display showing your number (and everyone else’s) and your fare. When it’s time to get off, you simply look at the fare, whack it and the ticket in the counting machine at the front, bow to the driver of course, and get off. Simple, and fun!
Fukuoka is a cool city and I’m looking forward to getting to know it for myself. It has been rated, many times, as one of the world’s top most livable cities, along with the likes of Toronto and Stockholm.

Next time on “Japanter”: グラハイム-san has his first taste of fine Japanese dining. Will he be able to kneel for long enough ? Will he act shamefully and bring great dishonor upon his family? Find out next time…

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