Journey in Japan Part 9: Sentient pigs, neon electric girl

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Today is different. For some reason I don’t feel like myself, I cannot explain how I feel. I just don’t feel right. I decide to sell my second camera, a Nikon. Never used. My Samsung camera literally taking all of the action.

I take a bicycle. Thirty minutes later I am at Reisen Park. I go into the, “We buy and sell any camera” shop, and plonk my bulky Nikon on the desk. I hand the man all of the wires, still locked inside the opaque plastic. “Charger?” he asks. Oh. I forgot the charger.

One hour later I am back at Reisen Park with the charger, and the sale concludes. In the park opposite, a stage looks like it is being taken down. I swing by a bookshop and purchase a book with some of my camera money; so many books I need to read. ¥1160 for the one I choose, Kafka on the Shore.

Outside the raindrops like scattered gunfire, but you probably don’t care about the weather. I decide to grab an early lunch from the second floor of Hakata Station. I deliberately go via one of the shortest escalators in the world. Just for fun.

Most restaurants in Japan have plastic models of food outside. These models are so well made, that you could mistake them for real food; if you didn’t know any better. The detail is incredible. I take a gamble and go into a restaurant without any plastic models. I have no idea what food is on the menu.

It is one of those restaurants where Japanese is the only known language, fine by me. I order a set meal of tuna on seaweed and rice, the closest thing to coleslaw I have ever had, but it isn’t coleslaw, miso soup, horseradish spicy green thing, the name has escaped my memory; and a delicious red bean cake for dessert. A nice meal.

After I leave, a woman chases me out of the restaurant with my forgotten umbrella.

I return the bicycle to the hostel, just as the rain stops. I sit on the roof terrace and read eighty-six pages of Kafka on the Shore.

After reading, I take a stroll around at dusk. I walk toward Tenjin. I take a photograph of the city from the river and then walk back. I was going to fill up space by talking about wasting electricity with all this neon, I will instead waste words telling you that Fukuoka is the sixth biggest city in Japan.

I realise on my walk back that I haven’t been on a train or bus for three days. Maybe I haven’t done anything but reading for two. A Chinook passes over me. And ironically, I am on my way to meet a helicopter pilot.

At the bar, the manager pours me a free glass of ice cold rice wine. The helicopter pilot is with his wife. I talk to him for ten minutes, before sitting at the bar with my book; not to disturb him as his food arrives. The helicopter pilot is Japanese, I met him last night in the same bar. His English is good. He told me to come back again today, “Not a problem,” I told him. “The bar is five minutes from my hostel.”

I sit at the bar for a while, gazing at all the skewers of meat that sit atop the glass counter. Eventually, the helicopter pilot’s daughter shows up. She is at university studying English. I spend the next two hours at the bar talking to her in English. Her eyes brown, profoundly deep-set. Her hair strikingly black; it has an odd texture to the touch, it feels like straw.

I agree to meet her tomorrow over a bowl of Paella. She leaves. I pay for six Highballs and her orange juice, ¥2345. A nice clean number.

As I wander back via a Lawson Stores, I see these odd workers:

I see them everywhere, actually. They stand on roads, at entrances to car parks, and next to building sites. They wave on traffic and pedestrians with their orange Lightsabers. Sometimes there will be three or four, all standing on the quietest street next to a cement mixer or ladder. A very strange job.

Back at the hostel, I have a craving for Salt and Vinegar crisps; another thing that I cannot find here. I sit in the lounge with a few cans of Suntory Highball and talk with the Koreans. There is a Korean woman who is both the same age as me and two years younger. East Asian age reckoning.

It becomes one of the Koreans birthdays; an amazing cake duly arrives, bang on midnight.

One of the Korean girls is studying philosophy and is incredibly intelligent. We talk about philosophy, another thing I really miss doing. She quite likes my discussion on M-theory. We also talk a lot about sentient pigs. I found out a few months ago that I had been pronouncing the word ‘sentient’ wrong for my whole life. SenCH(ē)ənt.

We eat cake, we drink, and to end the night, the intelligent Korean girl tells me that my eyes look lonely.

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

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