Soul, Afros, and B-Style — A Peripatetic Chronicler Discovers Fukuoka Again

Taken while on my first journey to Japan via ferry in 2009.

In September I purchased a ticket on the Kobee ferry to Fukuoka, Japan. It cost me about $70 round trip. These tickets aren’t readily available however. If you visit the site you will find that many of the cheap ticket options are unavailable. I was in luck because my trip matched the date on which cheap tickets were being sold.

The ferry was scheduled to depart at 3pm on October 3rd. I don’t think there is anything special about this date. Perhaps Supply and Demand are the only reasons these tickets are unavailable. Since I noticed that many seats on the ferry were empty, allowing me to spread my legs across the row, I doubt this is the reason. The trip is only 2 hours and 55 minutes in duration. This would make my 4th trip on the ferry.

Outside the Iksan bus terminal, (2014)

On Saturday, I awoke, got dressed, quickly packed my bag and walked to the bus stop. The bus had already departed, but it was waiting at the red light. The driver opened the door so I could board the city bus and rode it to the intercity bus depot. Once again I was in luck. The 9am bus to Busan was departing in less than five minutes. I needed to arrive in Busan by 1:30pm to have enough time to take a taxi to the Ferry port and check in.

The 9am bus from Iksan arrived at Busan’s Nopo-dong bus depot after a 2hour and 40minute ride. At noon I was on the subway to Busan’s ferry port. It’s a long journey.

There were probably 15 to 20 stops between Nopo-dong and JungAng where the ferry terminal is located (or so I thought). Recently, the ferry terminal was relocated. Nowadays it’s literally located across the street from the train station. Perfect. Take Korea’s high speed rail from the capital, Seoul, to its southernmost city, Busan, then cross a street and board a ferry to Japan. Sweet!

Fukuoka holds a sweet spot in my heart. It a close city where I can escape Korea from time to time. Each trip to Fukuoka is a process of discovery. Although I do some of the same things when there, I also find new adventures there each time I visit.

Taken at Baby Shoop at Shibuya’s 109 shopping center with Hina and her coworkers. (2015)

This past weekend’s journey to Japan is about three months since my last journey which had me layed over in Tokyo for ten hours (as best I recall) in June. At that time I visited Hina at the Baby Shoop shop in Shibuya’s 109 gallery. It is very odd for a thirty-something year old man to be at a teenage girl’s shopping haven, but I was on a mission — to visit the shop that celebrates Black style and culture (whatever that is). They call it  B-style and I like it.

Taken outside Goodie’s with Yasuko and Kaoru. (2013)

This past weekend’s trip to Fukuoka which is about my fourth ever is tinged with a bitter sweetness. I have discovered things I missed on my previous trips. I didn’t know that I could rack up points toward discounts be revisting the same hostel — Hana Hostel Fukuoka. Sweet! I had no idea stumbling upon Goodie’s Soul & R&B bar would afford me the chance to meet nice, attractive, and available women who all admire and enjoy the sounds of likes of Gladys Knight, the Temptations, Diana Ross, and Sam Cooke.

I arrived in Fukuoka around 6pm. I wasted no time at the ferry terminal since by this time I was well acclimated to my new surroundings. I made a bee line for the bus stop and jumped on a bus heading in the one direction I was headed — away from the ferry terminal. That’s right. I didn’t know if that bus would take me close to the hostel, but I wasn’t afraid to get lost. With several Yen in my pocket, which I exchanged for Won in Korea, I was prepared to pay a taxi driver to set me back on my path if I were to really lose my way. That didn’t happen and I arrived at a bus stop very close to the hostel.  It was getting late. Nanako told me that I would be in luck and able to see her perform. The problem was her show was beginning at 6pm. I didn’t walk into Gate’s 7 until about 7:30pm. I was still in luck because Nanako was performing right when I walked in.

Nanako hangs out at Goodie’s too. (May 2014)
Nanako wears an Afro wig (bottom left) (October 2015)

Her soulful singing and the antics of three of her lovely fellow performers made for a delightful evening.

I wasn’t a bit put off by the wigs. These performers admire the soulful stylings of Black Soul singers. They have appropriated the afros and made attempts to reproduce the music of their idols. I would rather keep the analysis shallow and not try to read much into their choice of hairdos. Impersonation is the highest form of flattery. The afros were shaking, bodies moving, and most importantly, their souls were touched. Music truly brought people together.

It’s one of the things I would have missed if I had stayed to the beaten path trodded by expats including pubs, historic sites, and maybe a host of other things tourists and expats do when in Fukuoka. Not me. I take to this place like a fish to water.

Sometimes I am a salmon, but other times I feel like a brown trout. Is there much difference between salmon and brown trout? Actually, I am not sure. As of the time that I published this blog post I was submitted a question related to salmon and trout. Once I receive a response I will include more information. The point is salmon travel upstream, i.e., against the grain. That’s pretty much what I do as a traveler throughout my life. I’m American and I should be in America. If you agree then I my life in Korea is like the path of the salmon — against the grain.

I’m trying to make sense of the reference to fish in this post about Japan. I failed. Let’s talk about food in Fukuoka!

Then there’s the food. Hakata ramens are well known for their popularity due to their wonderful taste. Each visit is marked by a visit to Niku Niku Udon near the Hana Hostel. It’s beef udon with ginger is fantastic. It’s my little ritual.

Sure there’s plenty of great food at other restaurants, but I keep coming back to this place. The wait staff is young and hip. My waitress spoke English too. In addition to her being cute I was delighted to have her serve me because she used English.

I ate well in Fukuoka. Stuffing my face with sushi and noodles is part of the reason I like visiting this city. I was also thirsty for adventure though. I wanted to see parts of Fukuoka I missed on other trips. That being the case I inquired about local amusement parks. I was pointed in the direction of Space World which boasts some pretty exciting rides as well as being family friendly.

I fancy myself as being adventurous and roller coasters are right up my alley. I’m still not too old for them so I partake when I have the chance.

Getting to Spaceworld

From Hakata station I rode the super fast and ultra swanky Shinkansen also known as Japan’s bullet train to Kitakyushu-shi. It isn’t easy navigating the railways without some help what with all the Japanese. Luckily, I also had a lovely companion on this trip. She translated and made sure we were on the correct trains.

After my Sunday at Spaceworld, I spent my Monday making my way to the biggest Buddha bronze statue in the world located at Nanzoin Temple. I got off the train, headed in the wrong direction, doubled back, waited 40 minutes for the next train, and finally arrived at Nanzoin.

The Koi pond and waterfall were both sites to behold. The serene atmosphere is perfect for meditation. Unfortunately the temple is a place of worship for most visitors. It can seem intrusive visiting just to take photos — at least it felt that way sometimes for me. I made my best effort not to disturb worshipers. I also bowed and clapped my hands in the manner I’ve seen some people do. I equate it with doing the Catholic blessing (head, heart, shoulder, shoulder).

Finally, I made my journey complete by visiting the biggest bronze Buddha statute.

Just before leaving Nanzoin Temple I made sure to follow the tradition of rubbing Buddha’s belly for good luck.

Touching Buddha’s belly for good luck (2015)

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