I wake up at 10 am full of energy. I hire the hostel bicycle for two hours. Two hundred yen but I don’t mind. The bicycle is bright yellow but I don’t mind.
Fukuoka is massive, it reminds me of Tokyo; similar but of a smaller scale. There are skyscrapers all over the place. Littered between the buildings, random glass boxes on street corners display ceramic artwork; poetry is written next to streams and etched into fountains. It feels like I am wandering around inside some giant outdoor art exhibition.
As I cycle around I get a little lost. I find an area of just temples and shrines, tucked neatly away between traffic jams and chaos. After a long look around Fukuoka, I finally find a map and make my way back to the hostel, my two-hour bicycle rental almost up.
I make plans to meet Amy and her friends outside Tenjin Station at half ten. At half Tenjin. I don’t know her friends, so it is nice of her to include me. The plan for this evening is ¥2000 all-you-can-drink Karaoke, before going to see the festival at 4:59 am.
Amy also tells me a few things I should check out. With four hours to kill, I take her advice and head to Hakata Station; specifically, the tenth floor. The early afternoon drizzle has gone now, no carrying around an umbrella all evening. A welcome bonus. I take the lift, twenty-two other people also join me; I am the tallest.
On the tenth floor, there is topiary everywhere, mostly rabbits and bears. ‘Against All Odds’ by Phil Collins blares from every speaker. There is a miniature train track but the train doesn’t seem to be in operation in the evening. Planes land at the nearby Fukuoka Airport, mountains watch in the background. The view is sensational.
There are gardens, waterfalls, fish, a viewing platform, and a shrine. I am somewhat taken aback by the beauty of the place; I almost forget that I am on the roof of a train station. I decide to stay for the setting sun; 7:29 pm:
I walk to Tenjin for food and to take in a bit of the nightlife. I forgot how much of a trek it was to get here; it takes me half an hour from Hakata. Outside a restaurant, I spot a plastic model of a Bento Box that looks amazing.
Inside, I sit at the bar. The fish is all set out behind glass in front of me. I order a set meal. It contains miso soup, vegetable tempura, Sushi, a selection of pickles, potato salad, and a small Japanese omelette. I drink a beer and watch the chef carefully cut and prepare the fish.
The chef asks me if I am American. I tell him England and the atmosphere suddenly changes. Not that there was really a mood in the first place. It is difficult for me to explain. The chef just becomes a little more relaxed and begins to talk a little as he prepares my food.
The sushi is excellent, very fresh. The mushroom tempura was, without a doubt, the best food I have ever tasted. Ever. It was amazing; the batter light, delicate, simply perfect. With a beer, my meal is ¥2808. This is actually the most expensive meal I think I have had here. I tell the chef the food is delicious, but for whatever reason, everyone laughs.
I meet Amy and her friends at the North Exit of Tenji Station. Our group consists of a total of fourteen people. To Karaoke! As per usual in Japan, songs are selected using a computer screen, drinks are ordered using a phone. Someone is ordering a round, I ask for a Highball. A translation issue occurs and am I handed four drinks instead of one.
The Karaoke is excellent value. You can order a drink and it arrives in under a minute. In Tokyo, the service at Karaoke was incredibly slow. I first met Amy back in England at an open mic night, where she was performing; I somehow forgot just how well she can sing though. There is a really nice mix of Japanese, English, Canadian, and French people in the group. We sing a lovely mix of Japanese and British pop classics.
After six hours of drinking, we walk back to Hakata for the Oyamakasa main event of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival.
The first team leaves the starting line at Kushida Shrine at 4:59 am. Thousands of semi-naked men wearing loincloths race through the street carrying decorative one-tonne floats. The floats look spectacular. Spectators shout, “Oisa oisa,” applaud, and splash the semi-naked men with water to keep them cool.
At the festival, I take far too many photographs of other people taking photographs. The turn out is amazing for so early in the morning; the streets crowded with crowds. We stay for maybe an hour.
I finally get back to my hostel at half six. Far too late a night, but absolutely worth my time.
Read the next part of my Journey in Japan, where I take a day exploring the sights of Fukuoka by clicking here.