Journey in Japan Part 10: Rice and Shime

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I wake up at 11 am. Today I head to a place called Dazaifu. It is about fifteen kilometres away. I cycle in a straight line in its general direction. At one speed it should take me an hour. I was told to visit here by the girl I met last night. Her kind suggestion.

A bit further along the road near the Mikasagawa River, the skyscrapers start to disappear, and rice growing under water becomes commonplace. Paddy fields full of semi-aquatic rice. I think they look nice so deserve a photograph.

It is with the distraction of rice that I suddenly realise that I am completely lost. As per Fukuoka, I see no maps; and Dazaifu has stopped appearing on road signs. I somehow end up at the base of a mountain after cycling for about one hour.

I cycle without seeing another pedestrian for about ten minutes. Eventually, I see a sign for a place called Shime. My brain pauses for a second before a pun crashes into my consciousness. I head there if only to use the pun. Rice and Shime.

It turns out Shime is up a hill. Probably that mountain I saw before. I haven’t done much uphill cycling since Beppu. My knees not quite prepared for it.  The footpath leading into Shime is in a state of disarray. The hill eventually changes into a decline, and a free fall into Shime occurs. The wind cools on what is otherwise an alarmingly hot day.

Low flying planes drift over and hang gracefully in the sky. At least I can follow the planes and track back to Fukuoka Airport; I know this isn’t far from Hakata, where I am staying.

A cycle around Shime looking for anything. I find nothing. Wikipedia says that. “Although the town still has a railway station, the line is no longer used.” No escaping Shime then. Just when I decide to leave I finally spot something noteworthy. A chicken wandering around on some mud.

“Koke-kokko,” says the chicken, in Japanese.
“Cluck-cluck,” I correct, in English.

As I leave Shime, I find myself on the urban expressway; the signs all point to unfamiliar place names. I give in and revert to my plan of following the planes, before shortly arriving at the not very well signed Fukuoka Airport.

I see the same Chinook I saw yesterday, just landed. How very odd, I haven’t seen a Chinook in over fifteen years, and then this week I have seen the same one twice.

After cycling for a total of three hours, I arrive back at the hostel and tuck into some Seven Eleven lunch. A bottle of Pocari Sweat, a fruit salad, and as usual, egg sandwiches.

After lunch, I do my laundry. In the Coin Laundry waiting area, there is a rather odd set of photographs. I have no idea what they are showing. Written alongside the images are some Japanese notices.

I translate the notices back at the hostel, “In order to prevent theft: if a suspicious person is staying, please contact the barnyard alternating Hakata police station if it was a robbery.” There are also mentions of a theft in February, and still, images taken from the 24-hour CCTV camera show the criminals face. Named and shamed in a Coin Laundry.

After laundry and some Skype time, I head to Hakata Station. Instead of taking the lift, I monotonously explore each of the ten floors. Hakata Station is a huge shopping centre with all sorts of shops, including the biggest bookshop I have ever seen.

There is a Record Shop selling rare Japanese versions of classic albums, perhaps a profit can be made in reselling, but I don’t have the patience for that. I check for ‘Com Lag’, but it is the only Radiohead album that they don’t have. The record shop also has three entire aisles dedicated to the music of everyone’s favourite J-pop idols, AKB48. Crazy.

On the roof of the train station, I sit for a few hours finishing off 159 pages of a Murakami novel. The nighttime quietly sweeps in. The view at night is okay but absent of any stars. I ponder for a moment questioning reality. The Murakami book somewhat inspires me to make some changes in my life; specifically, to start running more often.

On the tenth floor of Hakata Station, a Spanish restaurant.

As I dine on Paella and drink Rioja, I realise I never did make it to Dazaifu.

Read the next part of my Journey in Japan, where I successfully make it to Dazaifu by clicking here.

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