I arrived in Hakata Bus Station, Fukuoka at 22:35 knowing full well all reasonably priced accommodation was fully booked. I thought I’d take my chances and try a couple of hostels I saw unavailable online as often places keep a handful of their beds for walk-ins. The second hostel I visited was closed for the evening, as was the first, but I could hear voices so I hung around outside for a bit hoping they would see my shadows. Luckily two people appeared, a worker from the hostel and a guy called Tom from Germany.
Turns out Tom was in the same situation as me so we joined forces and went on the hunt for a place to stay. I suggested a manga/media cafe like the one I stayed at in Kyoto and funnily enough the hostel worker suggested the same. We made our way to Alpha Life Station Cafe which is a different cafe than I had stayed at before – but far cheaper – and our home for the next two nights. I had a surprisingly comfortable nights sleep, curled up under the computer desk and as always made full use of the free drinks.
Tom and I had great fun spending a couple of nights in the manga cafe, especially when we found the unlimited soft-serve ice cream machine! Staying in a manga cafe has been one of my best experiences and although I was continuously disturbed by the sound of coughing, doors banging, the hum of PC’s and vending machines, sometimes you have to sacrifice a little sleep for an adventure.
Tom joined me at the annual sumo tournament the next day. I had booked tickets in advance – the only thing I’d pre-booked in Japan – and paid over double what Tom did – doh!
Matches started at 8am but the big names didn’t appear till 3ish so we sat in a cafe for a couple of hours researching the next leg of our trip. We both agreed that we now needed to plan the rest of our time in Japan to ensure we were’t stuck without accommodation or transport again.
The sumo was a fantastic experience and very funny to watch. However, there was SO much build up and so many rituals before each game, it just took forever to see the action that lasted just a couple of seconds.
Strangely most of the professionals are Mongolian including the long reigning champion Hakuhō Shō who lost his regaining title that day just after I had bought his merchandise!
All sumo’d out, Tom and I headed to Nakasu Island, which has a row of Yatai (outside food stalls). We wanted to try the signature dish of Fukuoka, Ramen, but struggled to find any of the outside stalls selling it. In true backpacker style, we consulted Tom’s Lonely Planet and ended up at Ichiran which I have to say, was probably the best ramen I’ve had to date.
We took a slow walk back to our manga cafe and stumbled across some lovely little food markets in local temples, live music and a handful of cute shops. Walking is the best way to uncover a city and explore the many hidden alleys and laneways.
Unknown to us, the Hakata Christmas Market was taking place that evening so after dumping our bags off at our computer desk, we joined in the festive cheer and some delicious mulled wine served by a couple of Germans who we had great fun speaking to about our time in Japan.
The day had been filled with so many adventures, neither of us wanted to go to bed so we went to a local bar and had a few glasses of plum wine, my favourite! After a brief visit to the ice cream machine, it was finally time to say goodnight.
After checking out one minute late and being charged for it (Japanese don’t like lateness!) we headed to the station to pick up some croissants after repeatedly seeing a massive queue for them. They were certainly tasty, especially the sweet potato one, but France still wins for having the best croissants.
Our day was pretty much wasted sat outside the toilets in a posh department store. God knows what we must have looked like with all our bags and our tablets but we needed to sit somewhere with wifi and that’s pretty hard to find in Japan (Starbucks was packed!). With little luck we spent the day trying to work out how to get from A to B with Tom having to stay another night in the manga cafe and me, forced to book an extortionately priced flight to Nagoya.
I was already a day late in meeting my friend Sham so I had no other option. After a stressful day, I treated myself to my first bento, just as beautifully presented as I expected and containing a good selection of fresh food. My planned 12 hours in Fukuoka turned out to be a great two days with Tom filled with random happenings and so much ice cream!
Living life, loving the adventures of travelling,