Finally I've found some time to write up the third post in my Japan travel series (read the first ones here and here), and today I'm going to tell you about one of my three absolute favourite Japan experiences: biking through Fukuoka. Enjoy!
Before leaving Fukuoka, we had one last free day (no relevant sessions at the conference). There was still loads we wanted to do and explore, and to get the most out of our day (which was gorgeous and sunny to boot) we decided to rent some bikes and ride around town all day to explore Ohori park with its castle ruins, do some shopping in Tenjin and Hakata, and end the day at Fukuoka's most famous tourist attraction: the Naka river Yatai foodstalls.
We had spotted bike rental stations just outside our hotel (the Sea Hawk Hilton) and checked with the lobby to find out how to use them. We got an explanation and a map, but most of the info can also be found at the official Seaside Bike rental website here. In short, you rent a bike for 100 yen/hour (or a maximum of 1000 yen/day, roughly 10$ or 9€), using visa or mastercard, and you're on your merry way. You pick a bike, put your card in the machine, enter the number of your bike and that's basically it. Be sure to check if the bike you pick is in working order (no flat tires)!
Fukuoka is a perfect city to ride a bicycle and it gave us that Pokemon experience - riding a bike in that game was always THE BEST. Fukuoka is a city built on flat land, which makes it super convenient to bike around, and there are wide, well maintained bicycle lanes everywhere. Following the Showa Dori street takes you past loads of interesting sights and is easy as 123, even for inexperienced travellers like us. We had spotted the castle ruins on our first bus ride through Fukuoka, and we were determined to check them out in detail later, so we did.
One of the things that make Fukuoka such a pleasant city to spend time in, is the parks. There's plenty of nature in this city, providing an oasis of calm to take a break and chill out. These typically Japanese ponds filled with what I think are lily pads were such a beautiful sight. There were herons everywhere, underlining how the balance with nature remains a thing of importance in Japan.
From the castle ruins, we rolled onto Ohori park, a beautiful stretch of green with playgrounds, benches, traditional bridges and bike lanes. I was amazed and excited to spot a real live turtle in the pond, and then I spotted about a dozen more! There were also loads of koi carps in there, SO cool. Again, that Pokemon feel of being able to throw out your fishing rod and pull up a water Pokemon - we're such total dorks.
After passing through most of the park, we took a lunch break. I didn't want to eat too much because I was saving room in my stomach for more food later (YATAI TIME), so I got a hotdog from a little cart along the road and some Pinkberry froyo for dessert. The other pastries are my boyfriend's. He's got a major sweet tooth.
Afterwards, we did some shopping in a four story mall in Tenjin. I didn't take any pictures there but it was great! I managed to find a bunch of seashell themed accessories and ended up buying earrings and a hair pin for me, and some quartz-esque earrings for my sister. Accessory shopping in Japan is basically heaven because they've got all the trendy things, and loads of stuff that hasn't really trickled down to Belgium as well. Shopping in Fukuoka is really amazing, they have basically all the styles and stores I spotted in Shibuya later but the place is less crowded and overwhelming.
typical example of the type of traditional, rough around the edges architecture you still spot in modern cities like Fukuoka
When we left the shops, the sun was about to set so we parked our bikes, got some drinks out of the vending machine and sat down on the steps next to the Naka river, something plenty of people leaving work and school seemed to do as well. The golden hour was lovely here, watching the nightlife gear up. Sorry for the slightly crooked pics!
AND THEN IT WAS YATAI TIME! I had been excited for the food stalls since forever, having had them on my to-visit list for months before leaving Belgium, and they did not disappoint. You basically go down to the Naka river near Tenjin or Hakata where the food stalls are located, sit down at whatever food stall looks good (every food stall has about a maximum of 8 seats), everyone sits together, and then you order drinks and bites and have a great time.
I had read plenty of negative reviews beforehand, that the stalls were too touristy, too crowded, that the food was super expensive and not that good, but I can't disagree more. Our experience was very pleasant, we ordered a bunch of different things off the menu and even the most random things tasted very good. My boyfriend wasn't into the offal meat the Fukuokans love to use, but I found the giblets and grilled chicken skin surprisingly tasty. My favourites: the little edible pouch filled with rice jelly (such a strange texture!), the broiled daikon raddish and ALL of the yakitori skewers.