Saturday, 24 May 2014

Fukuoka Visa Run: Day 6

Day 6 started by moving hotel again, due to the fact most hotels (including the one we were in) were all booked up. After having a bit of a panic that we'd be homeless for the next couple of days, we found the Court Hotel Fukuoka Hakata. It's been slightly advantageous, having all these accommodation hops, as we've now experienced three quite different hotels.

The Fukuoka Hana was advertised as both a hotel and hostel, mainly for young people, backpackers, and those on a tight budget. The service was very personal and attentive, and overall great value for such a low price per night.

The Heiwadai Hotel 5 seemed to be more of a short-stay hotel, nicely sized rooms with friendly, attentive service, and the added bonus of it being a larger, newer building so there was a lift ;)

Finally, this new hotel which seemed to be more geared towards businessmen. It looked a lot more expensive and professional than the others, and there were a lot more reception staff.

The move itself was very simple, other than being tiring nothing bad happened. The Fukuoka subway is very easy to navigate and runs efficiently. We've also found out, after lugging all our enormous suitcases up a huge flight of stairs on the first night, that most (if not all) of the subway stations have elevator access to the surface. Sigh.

Once again, we'd overestimated how much time we would need (always a good thing to do) and could only check our bags in, leaving us with 3 hours exploration time in the Hakata area. In our ever-helpful map of Fukuoka there was another walking route marked down, starting at Hakata Station, which was where we'd just come from.

It's absolutely HUGE and I've now realised that I didn't take any pictures of it. The first floor and some below are all dedicated to the transport aspect of the station, and are very spacious but busy. The other 9 or 10 floors above, however, were filled with a shopping mall.

Our first stop was Starbucks, for a quick drink that we knew how to order without holding anyone up. There were some clothes shops around it, but more interestingly, as we explored, was a cooking school that looked like something straight out of an episode of Cardcaptor Sakura. There was a big "NO PHOTOS" sign, so I'll just say it looked something like this:

There was also a huge bookstore with more Attack On Titan stuff proudly displayed at the front of the shop, which distracted me long enough, until I saw this:


It was packed. And not just with children. The corridor outside the shop was filled with teenagers and adults alike, all on DSi and 3DS systems. Inside, it was like the joy of walking into a Disney store, except it's POKEMON.

The music pumped through the shop is all from the anime and games, there's clips from the games and movies on TV screens dotted around, and there's legitimately every kind of merchandise you could think of, all heavily emblazoned with the squeaky technicolor monsters of my childhood.

(Except not, because while we seem to be still in love with the first few generations of Pokemon back at home, here they seem to have welcomed the new X and Y 'mon with wide open arms. Finding a Gen1 toy is near impossible unless you want a legendary or a starter. Sob.)

That's a Pikachu powerbank for your electronic devices. Sheer genius. Oh, and Pokemon-themed cookies and snacks. Japan seem to be very big on franchise-based snacks. (Attack on Titan chocolate bars, anyone? No really.)

Buy all the gym badges and cheat your way to Pokemon Master status!
Everyone still loves a bit of Pikacheeks.

Pokemon Housewares. I want it all.

MonColle, which I can only assume is short for "Monster Collection" and is yet another "collect them all!" line.

Plushies galore!
Saddened by the fact that there was no way I'd be able to fit any of this into my already-full suitcase, we tore ourselves away and went to the observation deck (the real reason this walk begins at Hakata)

It's on the roof of the mall, which also seems to be dedicated to a small children's village where there are lots of little food and toy stalls as well as a mini train ride and a cooking school. Adorable.

We found yet another shrine, which was to a god supposedly governing over trains and travel. Hence the little train. I can't find the shrine on any websites (my not knowing its name probably doesn't help) but it was very sweet. There was also a little metal bust of a...German man? Not sure why. There weren't many tourist signs in English here, so it was all guesswork. No photos because we were worried it might cause offence.

We felt like it was appropriate to us though, so we half-stalked a man and his young son around the shrine, copying what they did, such as washing their hands and the way they clapped as they prayed. It's all very peaceful and simple, and if anything it helped us relax and chill out a bit. (Figuratively. The sun was bordering on unbearable, not helped by the white stone and metal everywhere.)

One more set of stairs, and there's the little observation deck. Presumably on less sweltering days it's a popular place to come and chat and have drinks as there are standing tables dotted around, but totally empty. Everyone was just darting up, looking around, then heading back to the shade as quickly as possible.

Our hotel was somewhere along this beautiful tree-lined avenue.

On the way down for food, we stopped in at a music shop to see if we could find anything amusing, or ogle over physical copies of CDs I'd only ever had in digital form. Furthering my theory that Asia is utterly obsessed with Frozen, this shop seemed to be playing the Japanese and Multi-Language version of 'Let It Go' and 'Do You Want to Build a Snowman?' on repeat. Seriously.

Happily enough, we found a K-pop section which had pretty much a miniature TVXQ shrine, presumably set up by some fans to celebrate the tour and their 10th Anniversary.


There was a fan-note book, full of cute messages from TVXQ fans, so we thought we'd add one of our own.

 Amusing side-note, I'd wandered off and came back to find Nick like this:

Which looked a lot like this:

After realising that the "food court" area just below the observation deck was in fact the "gourmet foods" area, we headed back down to the basement levels where everything looked a lot more reasonable, quick, and cheap. Presumably for people wanting a quick dinner on their way home. I think Nick had udon and I had soba, all of which was a nice change from ramen, as well as very filling.

Then what? Bed.
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