Tag Archives: fukuoka


English is widely used in Japan. It is in Korea too, but not to anywhere near the same extent. It’s in business names, book titles, and other places that don’t seem to be aimed at foreigners. French also shows up more than I expected, and French bakeries are de rigueur. There’s even some occasional Italian. But mostly it’s English.

In both Korea and Japan I’ve seen a lot of shirts purporting to be from places in the US, usually done in a collegiate style. And you don’t have to travel abroad to get them.



Almost all of them are from places in the US, but they can be from other places too, as long as you have that look.


A shirt might look authentic until you read it.


But Japan also has bizarre sayings, something I did not see in Korea. As I was going through passport control in Fukuoka, I saw a Japanese girl with a shirt that said, “Sweet Holic the Most.” I’ve seen plenty of others since then.

Some are semi-understandable.


Some are not.


Some have a simple message.


Some have mustaches.


And some take things to another level entirely.



After breakfast, I checked out and walked to the station to activate my JR Rail Pass. It was pretty simple once I found the right place in that giant train station. Then, after wandering around for a while, I went back to that same place and asked them where I might find the train to Nagasaki. Thus informed, I went to the platform, which was about 50 yards away.

Incidentally, Hakata Station is not the only enormous mall and train station combo in Fukuoka. It’s just the station for the state-run train system (which issued my pass). The station for the private line is Tenjin station, which has what appears to be an even bigger mall attached to it. I know because I wandered around in it for a few minutes the previous evening before I realized that I was in the wrong station.

Anyway, this was a new day and a new train station and I was on my way to Nagasaki.

It was about a two-hour trip, which got me there at about 11:00. I then checked three hotels before finding a vacancy, but this one is substantially cheaper than the one in Fukuoka. They were a little apologetic because it doesn’t have a view. What it does have are little sliding doors in front of curtains in front of a window that looks directly into the side of the building next door, approximately 18 inches away. You can stick your head out a little and look along the gap in either direction. That’s the view.

Nagasaki is not as picturesque as I expected. It’s a beautiful setting, but the town itself is not that much to look at. It has an interesting history, being the only point of contact with the West while Japan was closed off before the Meiji Restoration. Dejima was an island in the harbor where representatives of the Dutch East India Company traded with the Japanese in a highly controlled manner. They were essentially quarantined there. With all the land reclamation of the 19th and 20th centuries, Dejima is no longer an island, and is now something you can walk to in the middle of town. So I did. They’ve reconstructed most of the buildings based on drawings from the time and used original materials where possible. There’s not a lot to it, but it wasn’t very big to begin with.

Mostly I’ve been wandering around, because I’m good at that. Right now I’m eating at Mos Burger, named after Mos Eisley, I assume.

And no, I didn’t go to the Atomic Weapons Museum. I’m sure it’s a blast and everything, but there’s a samurai castle in Kumamoto, which is right on the shinkansen line.


I had read that riding in a hydrofoil feels like being inside a washing machine, but it wasn’t like that at all. Not that I’ve ever been inside a washing machine, but it does evoke an image. The hydrofoil felt more like riding on a train.

The trip to Japan took three hours. Passport control was more stringent than in Korea, but not bad. Similar to New Zealand, really. The customs guy questioned me a bit about the purpose of my visit, but let me through when he found out that I had a rail pass. I guess “American riding around on the train” is an identifiable type.

I entered Japan at 5:30 PM with 83,000 won, 150 dollars, and zero yen. The only bank in the terminal had been closed for two hours and the only ATM wouldn’t accept my card. I had no hotel reservation, but I had identified several hotels around the train station, which was where I would want to be the next morning. There was a bus that went straight there from the ferry terminal. For 220 yen. Which I didn’t have. So I walked.

I didn’t take a very efficient route. What’s with these guide-book maps? Eventually I found the train station and got a room at Hotel Active! The exclamation point is part of the name, and appears as a monogram on the pajamas they put in the rooms. It’s a business hotel, which was supposed to make it cheaper, but it wasn’t. It included an all-you-can-eat breakfast, though.

The train station includes vastly more than mere train-oriented services. It’s an 11-story shopping mall with a department store and two stories of restaurants and who knows what else. The department store has a currency exchange desk, so I exchanged my dollars for yen. The rate wasn’t that great, so I decided to keep my won for now, in the foolish hope that I’ll get a good rate somewhere else.

I had dinner at an Okinawan restaurant. The waitress spoke pretty good English and was very excited to meet an American to talk to. She’d studied English at Queen’s University near Toronto. The food was really good too: chicken with roasted garlic and some kind of salsa.

Then I walked back to the hotel and went to bed. Next up: Nagasaki.