May 10, 2010

Cougar's Dream

First off: I love Fukuoka.

While the port wasn't much of a flattering view, my expectations could wait. We waited for immigration which involved a simple 3 step process made longer by, yes, local Chinese people who can't seem to stay put in any kind of queue, repeatedly squeezing in between others. So don't be surprised by the sweet gratification of seeing one of them being elbowed out of a queue in an attempt to squeeze and advance. And then see them in tears afterward.

Masochism aside, we went for the bus and met our tour guide: a fine veteran of the tour guide circuit, it seems. Her name was Hidemi, meaning English Beauty, and fortunately, she was an English speaking guide. Testimony to Japan's hospitality and unending patience, Hidemi was a kind being who brought a piece of culture right on the bus.

For you see, that day was the last day of a series of holidays in Japan, and it was actually "Boys' Day" so every house's roof/window must have a sort of flag made up of two carps and streamers. One blue carp symbolized the dad, the other red carp is behind the dad to symbolize the son who needs to learn so he can be as speedy as his dad. The streamers, I forgot.

Whatever it meant, all I know is that it's meant to wish good luck for all the sons and that they won't commit harakiri. (That last part I made up.)

Anyway, we went to some kind of shrine. I mean, I would definitely put the entire name here but it's so unwieldy to spell it phonetically. So all I'll say is that the temple involves a genius who was promoted in some kind of office (Dazaifu) and was then demoted when he reached the age of 87 to a secondary rank. He moved to Fukuoka and died due to trauma because of his son's death. Some sort of thing or animal or plant stopped moving when the people moved his body at some point, and it was there where he was rumored to be buried. Thus they built a shrine for him, even if remains have yet to be found. Of note was one tree that bloomed earlier than the others.

After that was a quick visit to the rather majestic Kyushu National Museum where pottery and historical items were to be found.

On the way back to the bus, a lot of vendors were beckoning us to go through their wares in hopes of getting a purchase from tourists. But what's spare change to normal Japanese is a pretty penny to Filipinos. I mean, seriously, ¥1050 for an umbrella? That's about more than 500 pesos! An umbrella!

That said, we bought some cheaper food anyway. Mochi, and some Japan-only snacks.

After that was a trip to a place where Japanese sushi and Korean barbeque got fused. You could grill some meat while eating some Japanese favorites like sashimi, takoyaki and more.

And boy does grilled octopus feel weird.

Still, it's hard to say that the food is authentic enough, I mean, the takoyaki in Cartimar is better than the takoyaki here, which was full of flour and an eensie piece of octopus. So yeah, I can't wait till we get a chance to fly to Japan again, so we could try some street food.

Then again, my stinginess is really not into that idea. Cost of living is just through the roof. That said, you do get a really complicated toilet in almost every public establishment, so that's something.

Sometimes though I feel as if Japan was a country that takes three steps forward but one step back. I mean, despite much gadgetry with the toilet and all, you still can't get it to automatically flush? Fine, I'm nitpicking and sounding spoiled but it's kind of jarring, especially when you consider that foamy hand soap and automated faucets are pretty much the norm as well.

Another example of this comes with the last place we visited: Fukuoka tower. I didn't get to see the 360 degree view for myself (and really, it could've been better at night) especially because of the sheer number of Chinese locals cutting in the line and crowding together. Like in, say, Shanghai Expo or Taipei 101, there could've been a more efficient way to manage such a horrendous queue. Maybe the Japanese are directly opposite to Chinese because they know how to follow the common sense that comes with getting in line. Or maybe added an elevator or two as well.

Only my dad persisted, and the boat's call time was already exceeded so yes, the huge group that went to the Fukuoka tour were all late, thus delaying the boat embarkation by an hour.

Such is the bane of touring a city for only barely a day. But tomorrow we go to Cheju, South Korea, where we only get 4 freaking hours. The trip to Fukuoka left me wanting more. What more with Korea? Both of these countries, well, I'm a first timer so it's natural that I interested in seeing even more.

But then I'm getting ahead of myself. Even before Fukuoka tower we were given 90 minutes of shopping time- which I'd say is pretty short- so we first went to the electronic store. It was kind of mind-blowing.

Weird phones, bountiful Japanese branded cameras, broadband, 3D TV's; they had it all. There was even an exhibition of Final Fantasy 13 on a huge TV and it looked rather gorgeous. Hell, a PS3 was being sold for ¥20,000 yen there, which if you converted would be the cheapest PS3 ever.

We lingered around a bit excessively so we were left with little time to see what clothes they had to sell. My brother wanted a jacket but little did we know that we had entered a luxury clothing store where formal outfits would set you back ¥100,000. A crapton of money.

We didn't notice this until we went up FOUR STRAIGHT FLOORS OF WOMEN'S CLOTHING. That is insane. From Dolce to Chanel, it's a rich bitch's dream, and even the men's section (two floors) was a no entry zone for me. You'll need to find a cougar before you'd be able to buy one of those ensembles.

Knowing Japan only from impressions of Tokyo make you want to see the 'fashion-forward' people for yourself. However, in Fukuoka, which lies upon a mountain ala Tagaytay, has a shortage of this, and instead offers a mix of tranquility and liveliness even in its flea markets.

I like how nature and urbanization are balanced here. Air seems fresh, shrines are tranquil, flowers and trees are plentiful but it has no shortage of apartments, resorts, shipping bays, ports, and high-rises.

So it's quite sad that we had to say goodbye prematurely to Hidemi and Fukuoka. Surprisingly, it has captured my heart and left me thinking: how do these people even have a history of dolphin killing, kamikazes and megalomania? They're too damn pleasant.

Footnote: the Fukuoka Tower has a mascot, and it's not an anime character. It's only a phallic representation of the same tower and its name is Fhuta.

- mobile blogging mode

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