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Monday, January 21, 2019

Autumn in Fukuoka

As soon as I stepped foot in this city, I could feel how modern and vibrant Fukuoka was. Departing from a small city Nagasaki by train, the atmosphere here was so different. The Hakata Station was connected with a very big mall, JR Hakata City. A lot of young adults were walking inside and outside the mall. Many of them were wearing modern and stylish outfits but there were also some people who wore traditional outfits. A mixture of tradition and modernity! That's why Japan, particularly Fukuoka, felt so special.

Hakata Station/JR Hakata City. 

From Hakata Station we took the metro train to go to our hotel in Tenjin area. After check-in, we strolled along the way to Canal City Hakata. We passed by the flagship store of Ichiran Ramen. Fukuoka was the birthplace of tonkotsu ramen, which was also called Hakata Ramen by the locals and Ichiran was one of their most famous ramen stalls. They sold only one menu, their specialty, the tonkotsu ramen. They believed that only by focusing on one thing, they would be able to master the dish and provide the best for their customer. They really did. Their tonkotsu ramen was very delicious. A must try if you visit Fukuoka.

Ichiran Ramen.

Canal City Hakata was a large shopping and entertainment complex. There were many shops, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, hotels and a canal that ran through the complex. At the centre of the canal, there was a fountain show every half an hour. It looked beautiful at night, thanks to the colourful lights and songs. We watched Godzilla and One Piece shows the following night, then we had our dinner at Ramen Stadium inside the mall. The so-called stadium was a collection of 8 ramen restaurants representing the regional tastes of all Japan. Every restaurant had a long queue, but we could order our food through the machine before we queued so by the time we got the seats, the food was ready. Very efficient.

One Piece showing at Canal City. 

The next morning, we visited one of the most beautiful parks in Japan, Ohori Park. The shades of red, orange and yellow welcomed us as we entered the garden. We were in the midst of autumn or koyo season. Leaves turned red, yellow and brown, depending on the species, before falling to the ground. It was so beautiful! I couldn't get enough pictures of it. We enjoyed the sight of colourful trees as we strolled along this big park.

Ohori Park is a city park with a large pond in its center. Ohori means moat in Japanese. The pond in the center used to be part of the moat system in Fukuoka Castle. There was the walking path around the pond. It was about 2 km long and very popular for jogging or just walking. We crossed the bridge to the artificial island in the middle of the pond while watching colourful ducks playing water and the cranes flying over the pond. The atmosphere were so peaceful and relaxing.

Ohori Park.

Just next to the park was Fukuoka Castle Ruins. Fukuoka Castle was once the largest castle in Kyushu island but it was destroyed during Meiji period. Only the base and a few parts of the castle remained. The Ruins of Fukuoka Castle located in Maizuru Park, home to an abundant cherry blossom trees. During autumn, the colour of the leaves mostly were red. But there were some trees with yellow leaves too. We saw two couples with their traditional clothes doing their pre-wedding shoot at this pretty park.

Fukuoka Castle Ruins.

We spent the rest of the day wandering in Tenjin area, window-shopping in some malls while enjoying Christmas decoration and songs. Fukuoka had a lot of local delicacies such as mentaiko (seasoned cod roe), Niwaka senbei cracker, tsukushi mochi and many others. With colourful and pretty packaging, they were really tempting! Fukuoka was also famous for strawberry. We bought the chocolate-coated strawberry at Muji as souvenirs and also some strawberry cookies named Hakata Kajuen Ichigo Ichigo.

At night, we walked beside Naka River and saw many yatai selling seafood, ramen and hotpot. A yatai is a mobile food cart or a stand stationed on the sidewalks. The place was small but full of people. We were interested to try but we finally decided not to because none of us could speak Japanese.

The following morning, we went to Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. It only took 30 minutes by train from Fukuoka to reach Dazaifu, just perfect for a day trip. Dazaifu nestled in the hills of the suburban Fukuoka area. Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine was one of the most important shrines all over Japan. It was dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, whom was known as the god of learning. A lot of people especially students visited this place to pray for their success in academic, but some people just did sightseeing like us. The temple complex consisted of the garden, bridge and colourful trees. Just next to Tenmangu Shrine, there were Kyushu National Museum and Komyozenji temple.

Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine.

The street nearby the temple was always busy. There were many shops selling souvenirs and traditional snacks. I could spend the whole day here looking at many kinds of pretty souvenirs. Typical Japanese products, they were all so kawaii. Luckily my husband reminded me that our luggage was already full. So I just bought a small yukata for my daughter and tried local specialty snack, umegae mochi, a rice cake stuffed with sweet red bean. It was a popular snack and a must try.

Shopping street at Dazaifu Tenmangu.

We left Fukuoka the next day, returning to Singapore via Shanghai. We are going miss Fukuoka, a modern and convenient city but yet retaining the authentic vibe. Fukuoka is also special in my heart because I experienced autumn for the very first time in this place...

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