Japan

I’m leaving Japan with a bag of mixed feeling.CYMERA_20130815_092421-1

The most overpowering one is fear. I don’t like to fly, and right now, sitting on the plane I want to blend in with my seat and just pretend that it is all ok. So making a few travel notes mainly serves as a distraction for the next hour and a bit. Fingers crossed for no more bumpy parts as if I get any more scared I will not get on a plane again. The more I fly the worse my fear is getting and I have no idea how to stop it or turn the other way!

So Japan, we have met again. After a few trips to Tokyo, I thought I got a good feel of the culture and its people. But saying that you know a country well after visiting only one city is the same as judging a city by only one area. I had to change that,  so my friend and I decided to check out Fukuoka (a city with population of roughly 1.5 million people on the most Southern part of the country) and its surroundings.

Fukuoka is only one hour away from Seoul by plane, and even less from the second biggest city in Korea, Busan, making it a very popular destination for Koreans and also English teachers based in Korea. Koreans love the scenery and teachers go there because of  the Australian and English embassies when their visas run out.

Fukuoka is a clean and modern city, but not overly easy to navigate around if you don’t speak Japanese or Korean, as hardly anyone speaks English there. And what do you think Japanese people do if you don’t understand what they are saying? They repeat it again, still in Japanese, but much louder. I guess it works for some people? Not in my case obviously, and I was very grateful that I was travelling with my Korean friend, miss H, who can read a little Japanese and found a few Korean-speaking guides . Apart from a wee language barrier and lack of signs in English, Japan is a lovely and diverse place to travel. There is a great deal for foreigners that want to buy a rail pass, definitely worth it you would like to get out of town, and also a day pass for local, intercity travel (bus+subway+JR).

We stayed in Fukuoka for four days, but ventured out of the city every morning for short day trips. There isn’t a great deal of local attractions  to see in Fukuoka, so a couple of days is definitely enough.  My favorite place to visit outside Fukuoka was a small town about two hours away, called Beppu. Famous for its hot springs, onsens (Japanese bath), hells (hot springs for looking at) and old school architecture.  It actually feels that the stayed behind in the 70s or 80s when the rest of Japan got a little more modern. However, it felt rather nice to be there and even refreshing in some way. We spent a whole day there, and here is what we saw.

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You gotta love the lacy seat covers. Every single taxi has them!

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As I said earlier, this place is known for the hot springs and onsens (Japanese bath houses). There are some rules you need to follow and a few snaps from the hot springs park.

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Outside the oldest public bath house, Takegawara Onsen, above. And below is looking at one of the hells (hot springs, not suitable for bathing).

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Getting around the city is not difficult if you either have a map (available from an info center where staff speaks English), or if you follow bear paws prints. Very bear friendly place if you ask me! Prints (like the one below) start from outside the main train station, and will take you on a scenic tour of the town and also point out the main attractions.

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Very friendly ladies from a local craft station. We had a chat (kind of) and at least one of them was happy to pose for a picture.

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P.S. There were no more bumpy parts on that flight and I got back to Seoul safely.

Full set of photos can be viewed here.

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