Last night in Hiroshima I tried to do laundry again. It’s not always easy to find a hotel that has coin-operated washers that work. Even though the 5,000-7,000 yen a night business hotels tend to have them, they aren’t always in the best shape.
I give you the hotel I stayed in last night as an example. The washing machine was fine. It did an admirable job of washing. But the dryers were all way too tiny, and either didn’t dry the clothes or just squealed like a pig being stabbed with a rusty icepick.
I asked the clerk if there was a laundromat (they call them “Coin Laundry” in Japan) nearby, and he showed me where one was.
Now, usually when I stay near the station, it’s a mixed bag. Sometimes it’s shiny and new, and other times it’s a bit on the older side. Hiroshima has a little of both. Some shiny right next to some not-so-shiny.
The laundromat was a tiny little one with some old machines, and an older couple, who were the owners, working on them.
I asked the man which dryer was the best, and he steered me to the one he just finished repairing. Then I wound up chatting with them in half-Japanese, half-English for the next 45 minutes or so. Turns out they were really nice down-to-earth people. It was a lot of fun talking to them.
Leaving Hiroshima for Fukuoka–Err, I Mean Hakata!
I went back to the hotel, got some sleep, and got up at 8 a.m. to catch my 10 a.m. train to Fukuoka/Hakata. If you want to go to Fukuoka, make sure you tell them you want Hakata Station, not Fukuoka Station. (JR Fukuoka is somewhere in Northern Tohoku, like 1,200 Km away or something.) It was about an hour and a quarter to Fukuoka/Hakata, but much of it was in tunnels, so the scenery wasn’t so hot. No photos.
On the way, I planned my trip to Fukuoka for the day. I didn’t have a whole lot of time, so I went by my usual standbys: a museum, a tall thing with a view, and shopping.
First I headed to the info counter at the station for local brochures and maps. Fukuoka doesn’t really have a “You must do this or you will regret it forever” sort of thing, so it’s pretty much up to you. It is a pretty big city, so there’s a lot of fun things to do. On the downside, there really wasn’t a whole lot worth taking pictures of, either.
I stopped by the hotel to drop off my luggage. Some hotels will let you leave your luggage if you show up before check-in. If not, you can dump it in a locker, but going to the hotel can save you some yen on locker rentals. I found another Comfort Inn, and using my AAA card, I cut the rate down to 5,400 yen. 600 yen is another lunch bento box.
Exploring Hakata and Fukuoka
Then I went to explore Hakata. (Which is what they call this portion of town.) I went to the Hakata Folk Museum and looked at some cool exhibits of daily life in the area over the last 150 or so years. I really like looking at old Meiji, Taisho and Showa period stuff. It’s interesting to see the cultural transformation of Japan from an isolated, almost medieval society into an industrial powerhouse, and how that transformation affected the people of Japan.
They also had this really cool telephone exhibit. When you picked up the receiver, you could hear a couple having a conversation in full-blown Hakata-ben, which is the regional variant of Japanese spoken around here. It was so different from the Japanese I’ve been studying, that couldn’t understand a word, but it was fun, anyway.
On the way out of the Folk Museum, I saw the entrance to Kushida Shrine. I’m all shrine-d out at this point, so I took a few photos and headed on. But it looks like a neat place:
I decided to check out Canal City, because I saw some interesting pictures of it somewhere online. It was sort of disappointing. It’s just a mall. Yes, it has some interesting architecture, but in the end it’s still a mall. They did have an amazing arcade there, though.
A few Canal City photos:
The old shopping arcade a block away was much more interesting to me.
I found a store that was selling prints of old Edo– that were printed in the USA. So I didn’t buy any.
I decided to begin my search for Robosquare, which I could not find. The map indicated one place, and it wasn’t there. Nothing but more shopping malls. So I wandered for a bit, saw some scenic canals, and ate my first Mos Burger. It was delicious. The burger is definitely good. So were the fries and onion rings. And the iced cocoa. I love iced cocoa. Japan has some interesting beverages.
Here’s the general vicinity of Mos Burger and the non-existent Robosquare (at least not in this location):
By then, it was a little after 3, so I decided to go to the hotel and check in. It’s a VERY nice room for 5,400 yen a night. Seriously, not to sound like a shill or anything, but you should check out the Comfort Inns in Japan. They’re dirt cheap, they have nice amenities, and you can book online pretty easily. They only have one hotel in Tokyo, though, so that’s kind of a bust, but otherwise they’re great. They have hotels all over Japan. (And if you have AAA, you get the 10% discount.)
I have CNN-J on the TV, so I get some English language programming to get a rest. I sacked out until 5, then I went out to see some more sights.
Fukuoka at Night
First I went to Tenjin, the big shopping district, in order to catch a bus to the Fukuoka Tower, the 2nd tallest building/tower thing in Japan. The bus stopped nearby, I got out, and presto! I found Robosquare– 5 miles west of where the map said it was.
A nice lady there showed me a number of very cute robots they had on display.
The first one was Paro, a robot baby seal with fur and those sad seal eyes, and it made cute noises when you petted it. Apparently they use it for therapy for kids, the elderly, and people with mental or emotional problems of one sort or another. It helps people relax. It’s very cute and fluffy. I’m sure if they sold it in the U.S., it would clobber Elmo. (And parents’ wallets, too. Those sensors aren’t free, you know.)
Then I got to play with some of the original Sony Aibos. Cute little robodoggies! It was a lot of fun.
Then she showed me a robot whose name escapes me, but it’s designed to assist the elderly with daily tasks. It doesn’t move much. It’s more like someone to talk to who also handles your e-mail and phone duties… sort of like a robo-secretary, I guess. It was cute.
Then came the robot that had the most personality, but which also scared me a little bit. It was Hello Kitty ROBO. It actually said some funny stuff (all in Japanese, of course), but it was just a little bit creepy, and I never could figure out what you would buy it for. It was more of a toy than a tool. Toys are fine, too, but this one looked pricey.
I thanked the people at Robosquare and left to go to the Fukuoka Tower. It was tall. The views were great, the pictures were difficult to get.
A circular polarizer is a necessity for these kinds of places, and you can’t easily attach them to a compact camera.
Some photos of the Fukuoka skyline at night. Don’t expect too much:
I like photographing Ferris wheels at night. I wish I brought a better camera:
I made a mad dash back to Tenjin before the department stores closed to find dinner. I love Japanese department stores. They all have such wonderful food in their basements, and you can take it home with you.
After picking up dinner, I took a walk around Tenjin. It’s a lot of fun. It reminds me a bit of Tokyo, only less cold. People are nice and lively, and it feels like a lot of stuff is going on all the time. Tenjin is definitely worth the time, especially in the evening. (But a lot of stores close at 8.) I found my favorite chain in Japan so far– Bic Camera. They have 6 floors of nerd toys. I picked up a camera neck strap, and saw the Epson RD1-s, which is a digital camera that takes Leica M Mount lenses, and is only 240,000 yen (~$2200 US).
I must purge all of my lustful thoughts for a camera I cannot afford.
The best thing I found was on the 6th floor. FFTA-2 for the DS! And a thick as all heck game guide! GET!
I went back to Hakata Station, and my hotel. The station gets depressing at night, because the homeless come in droves to sleep in front of it in the square. It’s a whole different place from the day.
The guidebooks all say that it’s easy to find a yatai (food stall) in Fukuoka, and it’s a thing you should do, but I couldn’t find one tonight. I’ll have to do it some other time. I also didn’t find the good Hakata-style Ramen places, either. I saw a few, but they weren’t the ones I was looking for. That’s something else to save for next time.
Fukuoka looks like a good place to live; the people are nice, the food is good, and there’s normal stuff to do. It may not be a tourist haven, but I was only here for a day, so what do I know? I do like the vibe here.
Anyway, I’m going to get some rest tonight, then I’m off to Osaka tomorrow morning. I’m not sure what I’m doing there yet, but I’ll have 3 hours on the train to figure it out.
After Osaka is _____. I need to fill that in tonight. After _____ is probably Sendai, though, then Tokyo.
_____ is probably Nagano, if I can find a room there.