Eating Hakata ramen at a yatai by a canal and ordering extra noodles was a unique Fukuoka experience. These yatai, or small booths with a counter and a kitchen, are spread out all over the downtown districts of Fukuoka and, like the food trucks they are compared to, offer all sorts of delicious food. While the kaedama, or noodles, are thinner in Fukuoka (the city merged with the city of Hakata many years ago), you can ask for more later as long as you don’t drink up all of the delicious broth beforehand.
Relaxing at the beach, only a 25 minute walk from where I was staying, was the original plan for my last day in Japan. However, I was sitting at the table in the common room that morning when Jimmy, a Japanese guy from Fukuoka staying at the hostel for a ‘home vacation’, offered to drive Brandon, another person staying at the hostel, and me to Shikanoshima Island in his mini truck. I had been told to ‘never say no’ when given a great opportunity. However, that statement was tested as there were only two seats in the truck – Brandon and I had to take turns riding in the truck bed behind a washing machine and under a tarp in order to avoid being noticed by the police. Luckily, the weather was pleasant and it wasn’t too uncomfortable sitting there for the one hour trip to the island.
After we each ate a kiindogu (a bunch of beef meatballs covered in cheese in a sub roll), we arrived on the stunning island. Unlike many Japanese beaches, the soft sand beach was wide and stretched out in both directions for a long distance. One island, about a hundred meters off shore, seemed especially intriguing with its stone torii gate. Leaving our things on the beach unattended (a culture shock by itself), we swam out there where we passed under the gate, climbed a set of stone steps, and found ourselves standing at a small Shinto shrine. Jimmy showed us the proper etiquette for such a visit so we made our bows and claps, ambled down the stairs, admired the view for a few minutes, and then swam back in the cool water to our starting point.
After stopping on the way back for takoyaki, we regrouped at the hostel, picked up a another person, Matt, and took the subway downtown to get a traditional Japanese dinner with cow stomach. Afterwards, we enjoyed karaoke (finally crossed that off the list!) and headed home. I ended staying up late with a bunch of cool Koreans and found myself getting ramen with them at 4 AM. I was only able to get a few hours sleep before my hydrofoil to Busan left but it was totally worth it. I didn’t expect to have as much fun, or to make so many friends, in Fukuoka.