Last month, over Memorial Day weekend, I travelled back to Japan to visit Fukuoka and Karatsu! I chose to visit there mostly because I wanted to see Karatsu Castle, which was featured in Yuri!!! On Ice as Hasetsu Castle. With Karatsu being an hour away from Fukuoka by train, I decided that it made sense to fly into Fukuoka and find accommodation, and then just do a quick day trip to Karatsu and still have a bit of time to check out Fukuoka. Plus, the plane ticket was so cheap ($157 roundtrip with Jeju Air!), and so off I went on a short weekend trip to Kyushu, the southernmost island of mainland Japan. Enjoy this post about my trip, and keep an eye out for my next travel post in July, for I am making my way to Busan!
Flying to Fukuoka
This was my first time flying with Jeju Air, a Korean low-cost carrier. This time, I flew out of Incheon International Airport. The nice thing was that I was able to check into the “City Airport” at Seoul Station (including my luggage), and ride the express train to the airport (there was a small discount), and go straight to security (yahoo!). The neatest part about this was that there were no queues in the City Airport. I think this service is under-utilised, but I’m sure it will be a popular option soon with the 2018 Winter Olympics coming up. Anyway, my plane ride to Fukuoka was okay, despite leaving late. Thank goodness it was short.
I found this apartment hotel that recently opened up in March. I took a cab from Fukuoka Airport because it was nearby. I’m glad I did because the place was actually about a kilometre away from Hakata Station, and lugging my suitcase and backpack for that long would not have made me happy. This was a cool little place! It was clean, the bed was super comfortable, and the bathroom was decent. However, the toilet was in a tiny closet — sitting down, my leg went out the doorway! Also, this place came with a kitchen, but no refrigerator, which made no sense to me. Oh, and there wasn’t a desk. Those cons aside, I did like the place, and I liked how there was a Family Mart across the street.
After I dropped my luggage off at the flat, I made my way to Hakata Station to go to Tenjin Station for Animate! I admit to going a bit crazy in there, especially when I saw all the Yuri!!! On Ice merchandises, and this was where I spent one-third of my budget. Oops? I don’t regret it, though. I only wished they had some figurines, but I didn’t see any or missed them. This Animate is smaller than its main store in Tokyo, but I feel like it had much better selections than Osaka Animate did! Needless to say, my heart (well, more like my wallet) succumbed to this place.
I woke up early to catch a direct train at 6:50am to Karatsu Station from Hakata Station. The ride took about an hour, and I saw the Japanese countryside and its coast. It was a beautiful train ride. In Karatsu, I discovered a small town that kind of made me feel like I was in Hakodate. I took a cab to Karatsu Castle, and upon my arrival, I walked around in circles trying to figure out how to get up to the castle. Once I did, I admired the castle, ran away from a humongous bee, and met some fellow Yuri!!! On Ice fans who were also doing the YOI pilgrimage. When I finished, I walked back to Karatsu Station, and there I saw the YOI display in front of the tourist office. It cracked me up!
I rode the train back to Fukuoka, and I checked out Ohori Park. Actually, I came to this park for the Japanese garden, but that is on the southern end of the park, and the subway station is at the northern end. The park was quite decent! I feel like this is Fukuoka’s Central Park, and it’s a lovely place to come to unwind, exercise, or socialise.
However, my goal was this garden, and this was a super lovely garden! It does have a small admission fee, but it is 190 yen ($1.80 USD). For that amount, this garden was worth it. It’s a pretty small garden, but it was so relaxing. The landscapes were eye candy, and a lot of people must think so, too, for there were two couples doing a wedding photo shoot or something. I have to say that this garden and Animate made my trip.
Ramen and Roaming
I returned to Hakata Station, and I spent far too much time wandering around looking for two items on my shopping list — both requested by friends. Let me say right now that I really, really hated Hakata Station. It was crowded, confusing, and complicated. I thought Seoul Station and Gangnam Station were awful, but Hakata Station really ticked me off. After my horrible shopping excursion, I returned to my flat area afterwards, and I had a really late breakfast and lunch in Family Mart. By then, I’d walked 22,000 steps, and my feet rebelled against me. I was so exhausted and aggravated by a certain station, that I ended up taking a three-hour nap in the flat. When I woke up, I had dinner at Ippudo Sannoten; I had their shirodama ramen, gyoza, and this amazing cold tea. I asked the waitstaff for the name, but I wasn’t able to catch it. Full and content, I wandered around my flat area before returning to pack.
I had the flat owner call me up a cab to the airport. Once there, I discovered that Fukuoka Airport is pretty bad. I waited in three wrong queues before finding the correct one. The airport is so small that the airline queue blends into the other check-in counters’ queues, so that was how I ended up in three wrong lines. Thankfully, the staff were nice, but the airport layout and size really wasn’t up to par for an international airport. That aside, I bought all these Japanese snacks in duty-free shop. I also tried vending machine french fries because I was curious and mystified. End results: it was microwaved fries, and it sucked. Eventually I boarded, and my flight was uneventful. Back in Korea, I took the limousine bus to Hyatt Hotel, and Daddy picked me up.
To conclude this post, I didn’t like Fukuoka. I love Japan, have always considered it my happy place, but Fukuoka, unfortunately, didn’t make me happy. Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hakodate, and Karatsu left me content, but Fukuoka left a sour taste in my mouth. I also realised that Fukuoka just didn’t feel like Japan, and if anything, it felt like I was in Korea. According to what I saw online, Fukuoka is recommended as one of the first places to visit in Japan to get a good feel for the country, and that because it’s a smaller city, so it would be less overwhelming. I beg to differ and say that Hakodate would be my first city to recommend to people. There were a couple great things about Fukuoka, but for the most part, I am not keen on returning. Sorry, Fukuoka, but Hakodate stole my heart!