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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Up up and away...

This latest blog entry was written on my new swanky iPad (a presento from the fabulously sexy Miss M) on the way to Sapporo! 

Time to leave!
Woke up quite early and finished off packing and tidying.  Still couldn't believe I was leaving this fair city, just as the weather was getting warmer, spring was approaching and I had got into a nice daily routine.  However I reminded myself that there was more of Japan to see and the only D brave roadshow must go on! When I arrived in Fukuoka my main luggage weighed 29 KG which was fine for being just under the Emirates limit but I was unsure if it would be ok for the flight to my next destination Hokkaido.  Just to note travel in Japan is even more expensive in the UK if you don't book in advance.  my flight to Hokkaido cost over £300 and that was only one way!! Train costs around the same and even booking in advance is still pricey. 

Said my goodbyes to the staff at my accommodation who, in Japanese, said that whenever I'm in Fukuoka to please come back and stay in their rooms, which I most definitely will

Then made my way to the airport.  Thought I would save some cash by first taking the bus and then the subway but it turned out it would have been cheaper if I just used the subway.  Got to the airport two hours early and went to check in. Had to put suitcase through an X-ray machine which highlighted I had 2 lighters ( in fact I had 3 - presents from the owner of Fasika restaurant ) I didn't not know but apparently you can only take one lighter as hand luggage and none in your checked in luggage.  so I had to say bye bye to two lighters.  With the iPad I had saved my flight itinerary details as well as directions to my hotel, train times which negated the need for me to print out paper. The iPad a gift i never asked for but boy is it handy!  While checking in, i did notice a rather amusing check in desk a couple of metres away. 

Japan is known for efficiency but i was amazed by the length of time from when check in closed and the flight took off.  In the UK maximum time is 1 hour before flight is scheduled to take off.  In Japan it was 15 mins for internal flights... yes 15!!!  I had arrived in plenty of time but its nice to know that it is possible to pul a last check- in.

So long my friend..

As I was boarding the plane i looked back and said a final au revoir!  I know it seems like I'm going on about it but I really had a fantastic time in Fukuoka and I will miss la Fukuokians la familia.  Special shout outs and thanks to all who got me presents and i'm already plotting my next trip back there.  Flight was pretty standard.  Nothing special to not other than it was quite packed.  I guess a lot of people were going to the Snow Festival as well.

Welcome to Hokkaido city!
And what an introduction to Hokkaido. From chitose airport I took a express train to Sapporo jr terminal. First thing that surprised me  was that it was snowing. Coming that it was Sapporo's 62nd snow festival it really shouldnt have shocked me since the clue is in the title  But I guess the little snow in Fukuoka, combined with spring like weather and less reports of snow causing havoc in the UK made me think that snowy days were gone.  Armed with 4 layers of clothes ( since I didn't have any items that could be truly deemed as winter garments) I stepped outside to brave the winter night!  And what a sight I saw.  My breath was taken away( and not because of the cold). Sapporo was hauntingly beautiful at night.  I honestly thought this could have been the set for batman 2 featuring the penguin or a tim burton movie. The sky had an amazing purplish stroke chocolate brown tint to it, the aftermath of the sun setting mixed with the swirling snow affect ( well thats what i thought)the ground a duvet of white snow and the layout of building tall big and akin to the American block system. 

Not as smooth sailing
 However attractive this was, it did not make best conditions to cart 40 KG  of luggage around.  Google maps said it would take 18mins walk from the station.  Given my aversion to cabs, this seemed ideal.  What google and I hadn't taken into account Was the snow factor.  It took about 30 mins to get to the place where I thought my accommodation should be.  But as with my journey of Japan things do not go according to plan! Yes I couldn't find my accomodation.  I had acquired a map at the train station which clearly had my hotel marked on it and I followed the map to a tee. Walk past Odori park - check. Tsuyata should be on the opposite side of the road that you are on - check you should see a parco on your side- check. The hotel is the block after the hotel - not check!  I asked a couple of Japanese people if they knew where the hotel was and if they could read the map, however none had a clue and their map reading skills were a lot to be desired, one suggestion would have taken me back to the station! So decided to walk around the block just to make sure. As I was parallel to the place I thought the hotel should be I spotted a taxi driver cleaning the snow of his car. I politely in Japanese said excuse me do you know where this hotel was.  He said that he didn't understand.  So I put my luggage down and started to pull out my map to show him  I asked again excuse me but the guy continued to scraps his car.  I said it a bit louder and he moved to the other side of the car. I moved towards him just to make sure he could hear me and the buffoon got in his car and drove off! Now if I hadn't mentioned it before the Japanese are super polite.  They even have different levels of politeness which is mind boggling.  However they also can be extremely rude. Not the type of swearing at you rude, but rather treat you as you are beneath them.  Fortunately I haven't experienced much of the rude behaviour so far. I went round the corner and saw a Australian guy outside a karaoke place.  I asked him if he knew where the hotel was and he didn't have a clue but he did suggest I ask inside.  I asked the lady at the counter who was a lot more helpful than the taxi driver.  She didn't know where the hotel was but she had an idea and found a colleague to confirm this.  The colleague took a look at the map and beckoned me to follow him.  30 secs later I was at the hotel!  The irony of it all was that the hotel was exactly outside the spot I had asked the taxi driver where the hotel was!!! I thanked the karaoke for his kindness and went into my hotel - the capsule hotel Sapporo!

Japanese word of the Day - Demo -But

Friday, 4 February 2011


Happy Chinese new year!

Another New Year another update, this time the new year of the Chinese kind!! Plus a new look!  Not as long a gap between the last to blog entries but still not quick enough for my liking!  As I mentioned in my last blog there are lots of events experiences and adventures that I am yet to transfer onto the digital highway.  Therefore subsequent entries should loosely follow this format
Details of my current situation 
Future plans
Experiences that occurred earlier in this Japan escapade but have yet to be recorded. 
So if you see something that doesn't make sense chronologically, its ok you are not going mad and I haven't found the key to time travel.

At present I am living my last few days in Fukuoka (for some time at least).  I have to admit I will be sad to see the back of the place.  I have such fond memories of this city.  From excellent excursions,  amazing adventures ,  virtual insanity stunning views and tales of the unexpected this big small city has given me all.
In and about Fukuoka
In and about Fukuoka

In and about Fukuoka
In and about Fukuoka

However I have already overstayed my tenure in this fair city.  Originally I was suppose to leave mid December for a ski job in Nagano but that fell through so I decided to stay a bit longer .  That has worked out fine for me so far  and  my life in Fukuoka has become quite comfortable. Spring is approaching, days are getting warmer, I have a good base of friends and am a lot more familiar with the Japanese  routine and way of life.

  However I been blessed with a wonderful opportunity to explore Japan and now I must depart to pastures new, northbound to the Japanese island of Hokkaido!  Should be quite interesting there especially since I have no formal winter clothes and I should be hitting there slap bang of the snow festival!  While I’m looking forward to the winter festival next week,  I am also going to look back at the first festival that I attended this year in Japan.  Karatsu Kunchi.  This took place in November, within my second week in Japan.

Karatsu Kunchi 2010

I was fortunate to be accompanied to this festival by two Japanese ladies, one a Karatsu local.  This festival has been held since the end of the 16th  century and typically attracts half a million people over the 3 day period.
From where I stayed in Fukuoka (Tenjin)  It was about a hour train ride to Karatsu.  The journey was quite pleasant, a very scenic route and a perfect opportunity to see the natural beauty of the Kyushu region.  Arrived in Karatsu just after midday and we made our way to the beach.

 It was a bit chilly, due to the sea breeze but while the sun was out it was still quite warm.  Found out later that it gets quite cold at night and I should have brought more layers!!  After the beach we strolled around the town of Karatsu.  It is a lot smaller and peaceful town to Fukuoka.  People were very laid back and were more amazed to see a black face in their town( not in a negative way).  The town was also gearing up for the festivities about to take place later that day.    I would say it is akin to a carnival atmosphere.   Streets were already aligned with a multitude of  tasty food, sweet smelling candy stall.

 Last minute preparations for the floats were taking place on side streets.  Altogether there would be 14 festival floats each headed by a famous character or deity from Japanese past.  We found a prime location spot to watch the procession and when it started what a show!  With each float there would be a team of adults or children in front and in back, wearing a float team outfit and banging out  a beat on the drum unique to each float.  A  very entertaining and enjoyable site even tho it was extremely cold!

I have so much to do and so little to do before I leave for Hokkaido so even thought I want to, I doubt I will be able to put out another update before next Thursday so next blog entry should be in Snowy Hokkaido! Till the next time.

Japanese word of the Day - Kunchi -Festival