Thursday, 10 November 2016

Yatai, Robots and Disaster Prevention

Our next destination was Fukuoka (old name Hakata), and it was an early 2hhr bus back to Tokyo to get to the Shinkansen station. When we arrived at the bus stop though at 7am for a 7.10am bus the driver of another bus told us it had already left! Ensue 5mins of panic thinking we would have to wait ages for another bus, however the driver, over a little sign language and broken English and japanese between us, radioed to someone his end and then allowed us onto his bus as he was going the same way! Stroke of luck!

Once back in Shinjuku, we took the subway back to Tokyo Station and then went to the Shinkansen ticket office to activate our Japan Rail pass - unlimited travel on any Shinkansen (apart from the Nozomi fast one), plus all JR local rail, some ferries and some buses, for 14 days. Though when we activated it we realised it would terminate a day before we thought it would so we'd have to spend two nights back in Tokyo before we left.

Once we had activated it the lady told us the first train we needed, the Hikari to Shin-Osaka, was at exactly 5mins! So we rushed our way to the platform and to our reserved seats, and it took 3hrs to Shin-Osaka. Once there we had half an hour to buy lunch and make our way to the next train the Sakura, bound for Hakata. This train took another 2.5hrs and once there, it was a simple 2 stops on the subway to our central Hakata Canal city hostel. It was in an old historic covered shopping street and was very plush - again, Japanese hostels are really worth the money. You even get free toiletries and such - only downside is they make you make your own bed lol.

Once there we freshend up and decided to go do the thing we had heard about the most - Yatai! Yatai are tiny Street food stalls, mini restaurants with enough space for around 6-8 people. The guy at the hostel had told us a good one to go to which would have menu we would understand - unless you know Japanese these places are unlikely to have any English, so it's good to know one that does. As otherwise it's just hoping you like what you point at on the menu, as there aren't even pictures, we're talking super local. Fukuoka is famed for its Yatai and for its superb food so we were looking forward to it, and it didn't disappoint.

The lady and it looked like her son, who ran the Yatai, were super friendly and gave us the English menu straight away. We went straight for starters and an alcoholic beverage - Sake and Yakitori. Fukuoka has a good selection of Sake and it was delicious, you can have it hold and cold, but we prefer it cold. It's basically a rice wine, made of fermented rice, a very subtle sweet taste and they gave you loads - it was a glass sat in a little coaster boat, and they deliberately pour the Sake over the rim so a little spills into the boat. The Yakitori we chose was pork and mince balls - delicious!

Then it was onto the next order, Kimche and Pork stirfry and fried pigs feet. We decided to go for something really local, but not too local like cow offal or whale meat! (Yes, they really did have that on the menu!)

Then finally we had baked Ramen, and a HUGE Asahi beer to share, which was delicious!

Part way through the meal a group of Japanese-Americans descended upon the stall, I think it helped that among locals they saw us - must be an English menu! Lol They were between the ages of 60-91 on an organised trip, there was actually a woman of 91 travelling by herself - hats off to her!

They were a lovely group and we enjoyed getting to know them over dinner. We then all decided we wanted ice cream for dessert so after finishing we all went to the local family mart - again me and Pierrick had no idea what anything was so we did a lucky dip and shared whatever we got. We then just walked around the area taking the sights in.

The next day the weather was pretty wet and grey, so we decided there wasn't much point walking around the city in the rain and so did some recommended inside activities - so we checked out RoboSquare - a free area where you can try out lots of different Japanese robots - some of them were old but still way more advanced than anything we had ever seen before - like the dog that can do things on command and speak to you and dance and pet it.

Afterwards we wanted to try out the Disaster Prevention Centre. We had seen it on a programme called 50 Ways to Kill Ya Mammy - a show where an irish irish takes his mum travelling and gets her to do daring things. Well when they are in Japan they go to a Disaster Prevention Centre and they had one in Fukuoka. It's actually super interesting and it's a mandatory thing for school children over here due to all the Typhoons, Earthquakes, Tsunami's, and Volcanic activity they experience here. It's a tour of one hour where they teach you how to escape a fire, how to use a fire extinguisher, an earthquake simulator and a typhoon wind simulator. It's actually something I never knew - like how to use a fire extinguisher - for example, we were supposed to be fire wardens for Manor House Backpackers as night Managers, but neither of us knew the first thing about fire safety! And it was interesting to experience what a natural disaster could feel like, as it's a very real thing when you travel - you never know when you may get caught in one.

After this it was too wet to do anything else and we were starving so we knew a good place back near our hostel to have something to eat, and for 730¥ we got a Udon noodle soup, Tempura and rice set which was huge! We then thought we would make use of the bad weather and book some more accommodation ahead of our further travels as it was likely to book up fast. And it was a good job we did as some places we are going to fall on a weekend - and it was fully booked or super expensive! So we had to figure out ways around it, change our plans slightly and book it all to avoid stressing later. It took us 6hrs to get everything sorted up until our return to Tokyo! Who said backpacking was easy? Sometimes it's like a full-time job - and super stressful!

So our next plan is Hiroshima, for one night and then down to MiyaJima for one night as we couldn't get two nights in Hiroshima, then a stop in Himeji, then Osaka and then Kyoto and Nara. In round-a-bout ways! As I'm writing this we are on our way to Hiroshima on the Shinkansen..a city that built itself up after the Atomic Bomb. More on that on the next post!

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