Snapshots in the capital of Kyushu
01.04.2016 - 27.04.2016 16 °C
In this entry, the blog will cover a quick glimpse of the city of Fukuoka, located in the Kyushu region. I feel that the Kyushu region as a whole is not given too much attention/exposure among the international travel crowd. When asked, most would talk about their time in the Kanto region (Tokyo), the Kansai region (Osaka and Kyoto) and then Hokkaido. As a result of this, I observe that native Japanese in Kyushu seems to be affected the least by foreign influence and behavior. Fukuoka, being the capital of the region, still look every bit metropolitan as other major cities in Japan and you can also get your shopping fix in Hakata Canal City.
Fukuoka is well connected by railways and a regional airport. If you have time for slow travels, take the ferry from Busan instead. Better views along the way. Quick tip: if you ever wanted to try the shinkansen but was turned off by the high price, you can try the Hakata Minami Line from Hakata Station, the end to end ride only takes 10 minutes and is a mere 290 yen which is a steal just for the experience. For public transport, get the Yokanet card because it allow one to ride on both Nishitetsu buses and the subway. Again, if you are not pressed for time, just take the bus for better sightseeing experience.
People watching can be very interesting in a city that doesn't have too many tourists. This old man in the picture is an inspiration because he still reads at an advance age. A lifelong learner indeed.
I like to see how family units just hang out together in the park, taking casual strolls together. As the mall culture slowly dominates the lives of city dwellers in Asia, this is a really refreshing scene to see friends and family just bonding directly and playing together.
Fukuoka can be a very beautiful city during cherry blossom season. A pity that I have never gotten the chance to bear witness to the natural beauty. Here's a picture on an information board on what the city looks like in full bloom. The best view for cherry blossom viewing is in Nishi Park, which is a ten minutes walk to a small hilltop.
Pedestrians are well taken care of with wide and clean walking paths (even beside busy roads). Downtown is small and compact, it is perfectly walkable.
Depending on your interest, there's plenty to see for everyone from shrines/temples to castles, from canals to museums and the food in the region is generally much cheaper than the bigger towns as well. Pop by a random shop and chances are you'd be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food too. I am not going to cover all of the tourist attractions as they are readily available online and people have vastly different tastes. As usual, this blog will just highlight my own personal experience.
One of things I admire about the Japanese is their ability to find solitude and separate themselves from the general buzz of the moment to just contemplate and reflect. It is the ability of allowing the world rushes past you and yet one retain awareness through it all. To discover a quiet place right in the middle of a hectic city is rather nice and I think this set up is unique to Japan.
The blend between old wodden structure and modern tall building is supposed to be such a contrasting view and yet here they are, starkly different but in harmony with each other. Walking and observing around in Japan has taught me to slow down and catch transient beautiful moments that this world has to offer, to be more aware of my surroundings and not just be swept away by the whirlwind of events around me.
Speaking of buildings, the ACROS Fukuoka Building leaves a particularly strong impression because of its uniqueness. Have a look at this interesting building. It looks like a building abandoned by civilization and then reclaimed by the trees.
Despite the "wild" look, ACROS is actually a center of international, cultural and information exchange and underneath the building is over one million square feet of multipurpose space. ACROS is an acronym for "Asian Crossroads Over the Sea,There is a permanent art exhibition and is the home for Fukuoka Symphony Orchestra. This building is a really good modern innovative example of an agro-urban model, besides being aesthetically pleasing, the rooftop gardens has proven effective to combat the urban heat island effect in the city. You can learn more about the building (and see better pictures) here: https://www.acros.or.jp/english/about/03.html
For the history buffs, the old castles are worth a visit. They might lack the granduer of European castles but there are plenty of stories hidden within these stones.
I personally enjoyed the walks along the stream as well. These paths are just slightly outside the city and is easily reachable with public transport. These paths will lead to the gardens or castles. If you go in blind, the destination at the end can be quite a pleasant surprise.
The spotlight will be on another city in the next entry. As Japan is one of my favored retreats, you may expect to read more of it in the future. Until next time