Japan has been on my travel bucket list for a long time, and in October I finally went.
The reason why I’ve been wanting to go to Japan for so long was because of all the crazy stories I’ve heard. Like the vending machines that stock everything from drinks to underpants, or the crazy products like fans on hats for the summer heat, and even something I’d heard about rats on sticks for street food… Let’s just say I didn’t see this, thankfully.
Our first stop Fukuoka (pronounced Foo-coke-a) is one of Japan’s 10 most populated cities, and is located 1,100km from Tokyo.
Due to a Typhoon we lost our first full day in Fukuoka being stuck in the the airport, so ended up having only one full day to explore this fantastic city. Here’s what we did:
Shopping and food
This station has an amazing array of shops, and a great choice of food including a lot of Westernised options. I definitely recommend a visit here.
We stayed at Candeo Hotels – The Hakata Terrace which was located on the opposite side of the river from this massive shopping centre, so lucky me yay!
Canal City combines a mall, cinema, amusement areas, two hotels, and businesses, oh and it has a canal running through it.
The shops are divided into north, east and south and are spread out amongst five floors, including a basement. I recommend getting a map and ensuring you have at least a few hours to check it all out.
In terms of food, there’s a floor dedicated to ramen called Ramen Stadium. You order your meal at a machine then give the server the ticket that the machine provides with your choice of food on it.
As we later found out, Fukuoka wasn’t the only place that English menus were sparse. I developed a system called point and pray, where you point to the picture on the menu, hold up your fingers showing how many of the meal you want, then pray that it tastes good and isn’t a part of the animal that you didn’t know existed.
The main reason I wanted to come here was to see the giant wooden Buddha, as we all know I love a good giant Buddha.
This Temple is walking distance from Canal City. It’s located on a busy road but upon entering you can’t hear any road noise at all. The grounds were peaceful and had some lovely pagodas, gardens, and sculptures throughout. There weren’t many tourists, nor were there many English translations of site descriptions, so a lot of it was up to our own interpretation.
We were about to leave and give up our giant Buddha search when walking past the staircase at the end of the entrance I saw an A4 sign stating the giant Buddha was located upstairs.
The giant Buddha was impressive. If I didn’t do my research I wouldn’t have known that you could walk under the Buddha as the instructions to do so were in Japanese and the red character written on it looked like a don’t enter sign.
The walk underneath the Buddha contains pictures of historic meaning with audio in Japanese. The final walk to the exit is so dark you need your phone torch to get out.
Overall, this Temple was a little underwhelming. The giant Buddha was the highlight for me, but if I didn’t know about it I don’t think I would have wasted my time coming here.
To find out what this lady is doing with the ladle, click here
Located just 500m from Tochoji Temple was the gorgeous Kushida Shrine, which was packed with tourists as there was so much to see.
First up I have to say that I love that Japan lives up to its reputation of being overloaded with vending machines. On the Shrine’s grounds were multiple vending machines, so no matter where you are in Japan, no place is too sacred for a vending machine.
It’s a 30 minute ride on the Shinkansen (bullet train) to reach this attraction, but it’s worth it as the Castle is absolutely gorgeous.
Kumamoto Castle has an impressive 400 year history, and is counted amongst the three most exquisite castles in Japan.
The underground passageway (Kuragari Tsuro) is the official entrance to the Castle, which very few Japanese castles have. Once you reach the Castle you can go into each of its six stories to learn historical facts, and view bricks, spears, spikes, helmets, clothing and other interesting artefacts.
You need a couple of hours to explore the Castle and its grounds, and if you’re feeling adventurous there are many other attractions you can explore nearby.
Overall Fukuoka was a fantastic place to visit. It was spacious, quiet, easy to get around, wasn’t overrun by tourists, and had some great shopping centres.
If you’d like to see my other Japan posts, here’s the links:
Please also feel free to visit my Japan Pinterest board.