Monday, June 1, 2009

JAPAN: Fukuoka

Fukuoka Fukuoka Fukuoka...
4 days, 5 pounds more and an almost maxed out Visa card later... I'm back in Seoul!

Right when we got out of the train @ Incheon Int'l Airport, we were zipped to the check-in + departure gates on these little buggies that got us there just in time. What a fun, windy ride!
Above the clouds on the 1.15 hour flight from ICN to FUK
Filling out some paperwork on the plane.
I don't know why, but my whole luggage bag was searched at the Japanese customs.

Since I was so busy in the days leading up to this trip, I didn't have time to research the city or even know what to expect. It was my first time visiting Japan. All I knew was that it was a small city compared to Tokyo (about 1,500,000 people live in Fukuoka) and that I was excited to attend the concert and to eat some authentic Japanese food!

Our hostel: Khaosan International Hostel Fukuoka
It was only an 8 minute ride from the airport -- very clean (had to take your shoes off at the door) and simple and came with all the amenities I needed (hairdryer, internet, kitchen). A comfortable stay for the price we paid^^ The people at the desk were very helpful and spoke English.
Never a fight for the top bunk (quite the opposite from when I was little).
I don't know why, though.. top is the best! I get to be in my own little world.... ^^
This is what it looks like. The exchange rate was horrible for me! I exchanged $100CDN for approximately 7,345JPY.
There seemed to be only 2 areas to shop in Fukuoka.
The first place: Canal City Mall
Confusing layout, but it had some Japanese brand names and some tasty looking restaurants!
Connected to a hotel -- there was a little fountain show two or three times a day.
lol Tiffany and her #11.
A line from one of the Japanese stores, Moussy.
Comme ca storeMy mission was to buy Japanese cosmetics so I went on a mini spree.
It was very overwhelming, though. Too many products to choose from! I need a couple of hours to spend testing all these out. hehe the selection makes me giddy =)
You can even buy your own gun to pierce your ear (or your friend's).
Here are a few items I picked up on the first day from Shiseido's Maquillage line and Kanebo's Coffret D'or... plus 3 of my favourite Japanese magazines.
Tenjin is Fukuoka's downtown. They have tons of upscale department stores!
I visited the depaato (department store), Iwataya, twice because of their great selection of Japanese makeup.
Tenjin's Underground Mall was neat and very long. They had a lot of stores catered towards the 30+ crowd so Tiff and I didn't find much to our liking except for the jewelry stores.
There was also this multi-story mall full of young, hip, and soley Japanese clothes.
Princess sweet lolita style. Lots of lace, pink and black, and frills. The epitome of girly. I tried to find one thing I would wear but to no avail...
More of a gothic style
Love their shoes but their size varieties are even worse than Korea's! They only have S, M, and L and their L seems to fit a size 7-7.5.
I didn't buy a single piece of clothing. All the clothes in my price range had the same quality as the low-end and disposable clothes back at home for a tenth of the price and they were just too loud for me in general. I spent all my money on accessories and cosmetics and Japanese food!
I picked up some Jill Stuart blush + eye cream.
Cosmetics case + a simple Agnes B voyage case.What I'm curious about is why so many of the stores asked me if I had another credit card to split my purchase amounts. I wonder if it's common to do so.
Also, how come Japanese girls seem to carry so many versions of LV/Gucci/Chanel in designs I've never seen before? Are they actually authentic? Some of them look very very nice. I even found a magazine that showcases all the different types of designer brand name wallets, clutches, and bags.

Subway - very easy to use! Look how tiny and simple their subway map is!
The bus came very frequently but they stopped running too early...
You get in through the back and take a piece of paper that tells you what number you got on from. There's a board on the front that informs you as to how much you would have to pay if you wanted to get off and then you pay when you get off!
Bicycles are a very popular way of transportation for all ages! During rush hour, there are a lot of women and men in business suits riding home or to meet people to drink.A rare kind of taxi:I had forgotten that their streets work backwards in Japan!
Taxis are quite a bit more expensive than Korea, though! Their starting price is approx. $6CDN!
Panda taxi anyone?Oh and the language! haha it was so confusing switching from Korean to Japanese! It wasn't until the 3rd day before I got the hang of saying "hai" instead of "ne" (meaning, "yes"), and "arigatou gozaimasu" instead of "kamsahamnida" ("thank you"). (I just bought something earlier today around campus and almost said "arigatou" to the cashier lol). I took 2 semesters of Japanese @ SFU but it has been over a year since I've studied so it was sure interesting seeing how much I remembered... which was not much, but enough to survive. At least I could still read Hirigana and Katakana.. but Kanji (Chinese characters) will be the death of me!

I wish I could have stayed there for another few days! I would want to spend a whole half day just people watching. Out of all the countries, I think Japan is the most interesting in terms of fashion. Everyone dresses their own way and it seems as though they don't care what other people think. Everything they wear, they rock it.
Boyfriend jeans + heels...
Rolled pant cuffs makes the whole outfit look so much more relaxed. J'aime beaucoup!
Zippered backs of jeans. aha... I have all these stalkerazzi pictures... if only I could be like The Sartorialist!
You can't really see, but this bunch on the right definitely had their own style.
One thing that really struck me was how beautiful Japanese girls were! It could be the way they put on their makeup, but all of them had the nicest, fairest skin and they all applied their eye makeup so perfectly, no matter which style of dress they're wearing. I guess those magazine tutorials really help! I've been to Taiwan and HK.. and even Korea - all of them emphasize the beauty of fair, porcelain skin... but never did I once consider a whitening product and I was happy I wasn't as sickly looking as a lot of them... but Japanese girls are a different story. Wow!
I'm also curious of how they choose their clothes. It seems as though their body frame generally thinner than that of Koreans because no matter what they wear - even if it's super baggy or moo moo-like, it works for them! Even though I wouldn't wear half of what I see Japanese girls wear on the street, they sure make Korean fashion look boring and too proper and uptight.
Oh and Japanese hair - from far away, they look so nice and perfect but up close, it's a total mess -- extremely damaged and fried from all the dying. I guess it's their type of dying process, too. Apparently Japanese use bleach, changing the chemical makeup of your hair whereas Koreans use colour which is much better for your hair. Maybe that's why Korean hair looks so much healthier. Butchea... so many girls dye their hair such a Caucasian shade of brown that I found myself thinking they were actually foreigners - especially with their fair skin! until I looked at their face closely.
Japanese boys are short and very thin. I'm surprised at how Western a lot of their features look.

I love Japanese food!!!!!! I had a list of all the native food of Fukuoka I wanted to try.
Our first and 2nd last Japanese meal was at the Raumen Stadium in Canal City Mall. There were 6 or 7 mini restaurants in this stadium and they even had their own souvenir shop!
Before you enter the restaurant, you pick what you want and pay at one of these vending machines! Then you give your order receipt to the guy at the front and he shouts out "2 people!" to the kitchen staff and seats us and serves us water. (Come to think of it, we were never served Japanese tea of any sort during our whole stay!)
Hakata Ramen!
The 2nd ramen restaurant we chose on the 4th day. Ah I'm wearing the mask because I kept sneezing. I think it was the dust. The mask helped. Besides people at the airport or at information counters, I hardly saw anyone wear a mask... and the ones who wear them on the streets are most likely wearing them because they're sick - not because of the Swine Flu scare. Just a fact: one difference between Korea and Japan is that when you wear a mask in Japan, people won't give you a second look. It's common and normal to wear one especially if you are sick. However in Korea, I was told you would only wear one of these masks if you have had surgery so you will get a lot of people come up to you and ask you what's wrong.
I wanted to try an Izakaya (basically, a Japanese drinking restaurant where they serve food like appetizers). The hostel provided us with a map of their recommended places for food nearby. When we were seated, we were given the menu. I couldn't read most of it because it was all in Kanji so I asked the server for some sashimi. Then she asked me what type of nomimono (drink) we wanted. All I could read were the beer choices because they were the same ones I sell @ the restaurant I work at in Vancouver (Asahi, Kirin, and Sapporo)... but Tiff wanted something else. Then the server went to grab who I presume was the owner to explain the drinks to us. She (the owner) was very excited we came to her restaurant and was especially taken by Tiff when she heard Tiff was from Sweden. She said that she has a Swedish friend. Anyway, so she basically told us (in Japanese with a few English words thrown in) that we would get sashimi with different kinds of fish for 1,000Yen per person. Tiff and I shared this peach drink and an Asahi.
The lady asked us many questions such as where we were from, why we chose to go to Fukuoka (they don't get very many English speaking tourists.. mainly Korean and Chinese), etc. and then our food came: sashimi platter, a potato salad bowl, and this marinated tofu+beef bowl.

There was this one bowl with 1 huuuge tiger prawn in it. When I saw it, I think the lady saw my expression because she quickly covered it up with a towel.

It was ALIVE!

THEN she proceeded to rip its head off and de-shell it right in front of us!
There's my piece on the plate.....
The top half of the shrimp was still squirming in the bowl as I picked the was-alive-1-minute-ago piece of prawn. *shudder*
I mean, I love sashimi a lot, but to see it die like that?! I now know I will never be able to eat live octopus! It did taste good though...

I still haven't eaten McD's in Korea, but I knew I had to try Japan's! I remember when I was in Taiwan, I had a yummy burger with sticky rice patties instead of buns on either side of the meat!
Japan's McD's did not have McNuggets, but they have a Teriyaki burger that Tiff tried. I got an Ebi Burger (shrimp!). Yum. I'm also trying all the different types of Coca Cola from all the countries I visit. Well, they're not really different types, but their recipes are a bit different to suit the tastes of each country. So far, the West wins in terms of sweetness by far. Korea is a close second, and, well, that leaves Japanese Coke last.
Japanese fast food: Hotto Motto! This one was only a block away from the hostel and across the street from our bus stop. These things were everywhere - I counted over 5 from the 20 minute bus ride from the hostel to downtown!They sell a variety of Japanese on-the-run food. We got these onigiri (seaweed + rice covered) sandwiches with a slice of pork and egg inside for breakfast.Cute cafe on our way to find Comme de Garcons.
An okonomiyaki restaurant in the Solaria Plaza! They cook your omelette type thing in front of you.
Oh yea - I dyed my hair in Tenjin. It looks really light and kind of orangeish in this picture, from the flash, but it's brown with no red shades.
Crepes! haha can you tell how I gained 5 pounds? oh my...
Ichigo (strawberry) + tiramisu... We came across this restaurant that specialized in Motsunabe (one of the Fukuoka specialities). Motsunabe is actually beef intestines cooked in a broth in a hot pot style. We didn't feel too adventurous so we settled for a pork nabemono which is pretty similar.I was so happy to see some greeeeeeen!!!
Inside this bundle were noodles, lots of vegetables, and tofu.
It was super delicious!
Then I ordered some onigiri: salmon and mentaiko. Mentaiko (right) is another specialty in Fukuoka. It's a marinated roe of polluck. It's much finer than the typical salmon roe we have in the West. It has a bit of a salty taste to it.When the Japanese sukiyaki restaurant I work at in Vancouver started serving creme brulee as dessert all of a sudden, I didn't understand why because to me, it's such a French/English dessert. Now I understand. Japanese people love creme brulee! It's sold everywhere - at fast food restaurants, in convenience stores (they have over 10 varieties), and even in little stands such as these on the side of the street!
One characteristic of Fukuoka is their yatai. A yatai is a mobile street food stand where you can hop in, drink alcohol, and eat something hot like ramen or yakitori (BBQ skewered chicken).
We actually just had dinner but we wanted to try eating in a yatai so we just picked something simmering in some light broth: fish cake, white radish, and tofu.
Then, for our last meal before we took a taxi to the airport, we (well, I) wanted to try Mizutaki. We asked the info desk at the Solaria where we could eat Mizutaki and they gave us a map in Japanese. We went halfway there and then got lost (seriously, we're not that bad with maps.. I'm a geo major! haha, it's just that Japanese streets are confusing because they curve and are not grid-like). So, I approached a random lady on the street. She happened to speak English pretty well and walked us to the restaurant which was around 2.5 blocks away! We met such nice people here! On the 2nd day when we were looking for Iwataya, a man came up to us, wanting to help us find what we were looking for. I guess we looked really lost with the huge map of Fukuoka opened to all of its extent and us turning around in circles, pointing at random directions of where we thought we needed to go haha...
Anyway, she even went in with us and explained to our server what we wanted and to remind him that we get 10% off because we have the map.
A neat restaurant with Japanese chic interiors.
The lady mentioned a tofu salad we should try. Unfortunately, the server said that they didn't have it and so he pointed at a Torotoro dish. Oishii desu ka? (is it tasty?, I tried to ask). Hai, he said.
OK... so it's this:
We had no idea how to eat it haha so he demonstrated. It turns out to be plain soft tofu you add finely chopped green onions and ginger on top, mix it up, and pour a little bit of soy sauce on top to taste. It actually tasted pretty OK for being a semi-weird combination I would never have thought of!
Then our Mizutaki came! It's known as a very healthy hot pot dish. You boil chicken + veggies in a chicken broth (with other seasonings).
But first, you're supposed to taste the broth before the ingredients go in. Since it's water-simmered, you need to add a bit of salt and green onions to flavour the broth a bit more. MMmm! I didn't realize how much I missed broth like this!
Then, after you cook all the ingredients, you take them out and dip it in a special vinegar before you eat it. Because of all the flavours from the ingredients, the taste of the broth changes and becomes more flavourful when you drink it! You can taste a difference. What an interesting experience.
Do you like sour drinks?
Food candy...Haagen-Daz in Green Tea Latte, Banana Chocolate Chip, White Peach, and English Milk Tea flavours. I tried white peach! Japanese people seem to love everything peach flavoured.
The many types of alcohol... but STOP (the yellow hand says)! You gotta be 18+ to buy!Some snacks I bought.. featuring Cola flavoured Mentos and Espresso flavoured Kit Kat ^^
Some more snacks I picked up at the airport to use up the rest of my Yen:
Green tea Kit Kat, Milk and Azuki (red bean) caramels the SA liked, and some matcha mochi.
Free Hugs in Japan ^^
One thing about Fukuoka (or Japan in general) is that everything closes early and there's nothing to do afterwards. The malls and shops close at 8 and most restaurants close at 9! Soon after, the buses stop running, too. What is there to do but hang out at some 24 hour grocery stores?
18 yrs old and under not allowed. So this is where all the adults go after work... this place (called the Plaza) was massive!
Night time @ Tenjin.
My hair -- I guess it is quite a lot lighter than I think it is!
A lady in a Yukata (a lighter Spring/Summer version of a Kimono) on the subway!
She looked so elegant with heir hair like that.
One thing Tiff and I noticed was how quiet everything was compared to Seoul. It seems as though, any chance they get, Seoul will blast Korean music in all the stores! But in Fukuoka, the streets and malls were very quiet. I don't mind either way, but what a nice change of atmosphere!

Coca Cola..... Wild Health............? What is Coke + the word "health" doing in the same ad?
We visited a Cube House open house!
Tiny tiny house! Very streamlined inside.
Mini sink next to their bathtub. I'm surprised they even had a tub. A shower stall would have been much more appropriate for such a small space, but I guess they were targeting young families.
Bathroom sink. Their toilet was right next to the main door entrance! haha
And then we got some Takoyaki (octopus ball) samples.

Fact: Japanese people walk much faster than Korean.

So thanks to Tiff, we got tickets for a DBSK (my favourite!) concert! They're known as DBSK (Dong Bang Shin Ki) in Korea and THSK (Tohoshinki) in Japan. Even though they're Korean, they sing in both Korean and Japanese and they're extremely popular in both countries (which is a big feat for a Korean artist in Japan)! Everyone we mentioned THSK to in Japan (both young and old) knew who they were and said "ahhhh! Kakkoii desu" (meaning "Oh cool!"). Tiff said THSK had held another concert the day before in Fukuoka. The concert venue = Marine Messe.

Concert goods! I usually don't buy these, but I picked up a couple of small things. They were very pricey.
L-R: Junsu, Yoochun, Jaejoong, Changmin, and Yunho... and me ^^Want a THSK MasterCard?
There was a whole group of women wearing pink t-shirts with the word "Xiah" on it. Xiah is the nickname of one of the members, Junsu. Yea he's good.One thing I really enjoyed about the whole Japanese concert experience (compared to Korean) was how calm and respectful Japanese fans were. Much unlike in Korea, they don't trample over one another, trying to get the best spot, they don't scream at the top of their lungs trying to get the singer's attention. In fact, after we found our seats, they started playing this cartoon that depicted what not to do (such as going to the airport to stalk them, following their cars via taxi... etc.). We were not allowed to take any pictures or our cameras would be taken away so not once did you see a flash go off! The fans were quiet and listened intently when Tohoshinki sang. They sang along in high voices when the boys turned the mics to them. They cheered after every upbeat song and clapped after every ballad. They giggled at THSK's jokes. It was so lovely!

Although I bought a couple of concert goods, I didn't buy a lightstick because it was 1,000yen which is around $14CDN. 5 seconds after the boys came out, both Tiff and I regretted not buying one because every single person in the audience had one. It was amazing to see all those red lightsticks glowing and moving in sync to the beat of the song or swaying back and forth like seaweed lol Luckily enough, the ajumma beside us had a whole bag full of red lightsticks from their previous T tour. She held 3 in her hand at a time. After the first song, she noticed we didn't have any so she let us borrow some lightsticks =)
The Korean Yoochun (one of the members of THSK) fan club members distributed these blue pieces of material with "THE Park YuChun DAY 1986.06.04" printed on it. The intent was to sing Happy Birthday to Yoochun after the boys sang Kiss The Baby Sky because it was his birthday soon. Unfortunately, their plan didn't go through and security collected all the blue pieces before the concert started. How unfortunate for the fan club!

I snuck a picture before I left. The stage extended out - I would say that there was no such thing as a nosebleed section in this concert hall! Our seats were at the front and to the side so we got quite a close view when the boys came to our side.
Concerts like these really showcase their talent. The whole time, I couldn't believe how good their voices were live. Especially Junsu - he really sounded like an angel haha
All five of them never fail to amaze me. Yoochun played the piano, Yunho had quite a few dance solos (as did Junsu), and Junsu had some short solos to showcase his voice.
3 hours of Tohoshinki! Couldn't have asked for more. So fun!

We noticed that the ajumma who lent us the lightsticks was wiping tears of happiness from her eyes when the concert ended. Awwwwwww~

After the concert, these 7 guys bowed down to us in a wave - once every 10 seconds.
Marine Messe + the long line up to get on the bus to Tenjin.
After the super short flight, we took the Airport Limousine. Since it was late, most of the buses weren't in order so I took the one Tiff went on, got off at Dongdaemun, and cabbed it home. The gates were up and the taxi driver refused to move them so I had to lug my luggage up the rest of the hill which consisted of 3 large carry-ons and a small suitcase. Luckily, some guys walking up noticed I was struggling and walked back down the hill to help me carry my stuff back up! Guys back in North America, take note!

All in all, it was a real lovely vacation! All we did was shop and eat. I will definitely return to Fukuoka when I do a full tour of all of Japan within the next few years and do more cultural/historic things such as going to Ohori Park to see the Japanese garden, go to Fukuoka's Art Gallery, dip in a hot spring, and go up the Fukuoka Tower and Sky Tower. I'm not sad to be back as Seoul feels like a 2nd home for me, but I'm not too excited about my last 2 weeks of school because it means no fun because of all the homework, projects, presentations, and studying + it means we're getting closer to when the majority of my friends will be leaving! Oh but there's a rainbow at the end - my friend Melanie from Vancouver will be visiting for the last 3 weeks!!

How's that for the longest post everrrrrr.... phew.
Stormy weather today! For some reason, it gets really windy and the weather changes so drastically when I'm in Korean class. It was just very humid and somewhat cloudy when I left for class and an hour later, it turned into a full thunderstorm and eventually there was a downpour. Of course, none of us were equipped with an usan (umbrella)... so we just waited around for some dry periods.

1 comment:

  1. I ain't gonna lie, did not completely finish reading this post yet, but I would still want that dbsk mastercard LOL