Sunday, October 21, 2012



It's Chuseok vacation so I decide with my 5 days off I will go to Japan for the holiday for a quick vacation. Chuseok is Korea's harvest holiday, similar to our Thanksgiving. With the help of a co-worker I booked my reservation on the speed ferry that leaves from Busan, South Korea and arrives in Fukuoka, Japan. It cost about $280 round-trip after portage fees and took just under 3 hours.
The Beetle
I packed a traveler's backpack. My plan was to bring Gretta with me to bike around Japan.

I quickly ran into a small hiccup. The boat told me a could not bring the bike on the boat if it was not in a bag or container of some kind. I found two boxes and made a ram-shamble enclosure for it. The staff taped up the boxes and deemed it acceptable.

Gretta in her "case"

Pushing Gretta

The boat was called the Beetle. The Beetle was similar to flying. Even the security was similar to flying. They even had a movie, a Korean movie called Barefoot Ki Bong, which was about a mentally retarded man who becomes a runner. It was less like Forrest Gump and more like Tropic Thunder's Simple Jack. 

Inside the Beetle

The speed ferry's speed felt something similar to a car. So it didn't feel particularly fast, but boats by nature are not typically fast.

Right before we arrived in Fukuoka, I watched this new and unknown city slowly approach us. It was a city, like many cities I had visited, but it was completely unknown to me. The billboards were in an alien writing and only in my mind did I perceive that even skyscrapers looked "different." A strange new land in a strange new land was approaching. As we neared I was filled with a nervous and excited anxiety. It was the feeling of mystery, and the "unknown," which caused a knee-jerk reaction in the fear centers in my brain. But I was also filled with the fluttering and euphoric excitement of someone inspired by the possibilities of new discovery and wild, boundless adventure.

Fukouoka, Japan

Right after I took this picture the man at customs said, "No pictures." Woops.

Right after I exited the ferry terminal, giddy with excitement I quickly bounded off on my bike. Not even bothering to take a map certainly had hurt me, because almost immediately I was lost. I was getting stressed, because although I had a 5 day vacation, I really only had 3.5 days due to the boat times I was able to reserve. So this was my half day and I became very frustrated because, being lost, I was wasting my time.

I was quickly rescued by some kind-hearted, well-meaning but unfortunately equally clueless New Zealanders. The Kiwis were a father and a tween daughter who were also biking.  He was half native-peoples and coached rugby. He was tall, athletic, had brown skin and a salt-and-pepper pony tail. He was also missing a tooth. We made chit-chat as we rode. I asked about their national rugby team, the All Blacks.  "Ah yis," he replied, "Gotta love the all bleks."I rode for them for maybe 20-30 minutes as they continued to not know where to go. Frustration set in and I eventually opted to break off and find my own way to Hakata Station. It still took a while.

Hakata station is where the intercity and bullet trains leave from. It was where my hostel was near. The Hakata Station area was unfortunately a bit far away from the more happening Tenjin area. Lesson learned, sometimes paying a little more for a hostel thats in a better area is worth it.

But it wasn't all bad. I caught some music there. There was music all over the city all weekend. 

This duo was two Japanese musicians performing Brazilian jazz style vocals and guitar in English.

Then this was band called "The Kitchen Band," where they played kitchenware to a cheer sing-songy song. The were banging on pots and using knives on cutting boards. It was quite cute,

With the sun going down I was hell-bent on seeing something interesting and Japanese. I dropped my bag off at the hostel and cycled feverishly, looking for something, anything. I had been off the boat close to an hour and half to two hours at this point

I found a small temple called Torinjin Temple. It had a small zen garden. Zen temples are derived from Buddhism and a different sect that evolved in Japan. This would be one of many Zen temples and gardens I would visit in Japan

Torinjin Temple

Small zen garden.

 Feeling calmer and more satisfied, I biked around Fukuoka until sundown. I then went back to the hostel to try to get my evening plans in order.

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