You know what they say (at least in the Philippines), let destiny (a.k.a. Cebu Pacific’s seat sale) take you there! And so, here we decided to go, despite being constantly told that there’s nothing much to do in this part of the country. But oh, come on! The enjoyment of a trip has nothing to do with the destination–one’s experience of a place is always what she makes of it. True enough, we had such a terrific time within and outside the city that there’s a slight regret we didn’t plan for a longer stay.
Allow me to bring you along through pictures and narratives!
Day 1: Beppu Town
After a two-hour train ride from Hakata, we arrived at the pleasant town of Beppu. Its close proximity to volcanic mountains set it apart as an onsen (hot spring) hotspot. Too bad we weren’t prepared to bathe as we only planned to go a day before.
Upon securing the necessary tickets and entrance fees, we set out for the main event–The Seven Hells.
Beppu’s Seven Hells
We only went to five of the seven attractions, as our stomachs grumbled louder than our desire to see hot springs. Each ‘hell’ has an accompanying attraction, in the form of a crocodile aquarium, a free foot spa, a lotus garden, and more.
The town appears to be built on piping hot water, as the sewers we passed by along the alley fumed with steam. It must be most pleasant to visit during winter.
Mount Tsurumi & Ropeway
The highlight of our visit–a most pleasant surprise, was the ethereal backdrop on Mount Tsurumi. We took the ropeway a few minutes before sunset, allowing us a short window to savor the golden light that perfectly lit our photographs. The air cooperated almost perfectly with the dramatic backdrop, offering a light alpine breeze, complemented by the remaining warmth of the sun. Nature was generous as we bid the day goodbye!
Evening at Beppu
After alighting the ropeway, we walked straight to the park to find a brightly-lit bamboo-adorned walkway. A few photographs later, we felt the need to sit down for a delightful, warm meal to make for our not-so-impressive lunch meal.
We walked towards a sushi place Google Maps recommended, only to find out it was closed temporarily (of all days!). The closest option was a plain-looking yakitori restaurant. Just as we were about to walk out the door after surveying the place, one of the diners told us that we were in for a treat–the place served the best skewered delights in town. Thus, we decided to stay. And best. It. Was! Wagyu, scallop, chicken, and pork. Their tofu and edamame, mere complements in other places, stood out in this joint. That meal was unforgettable!
Day 2: Dazaifu & Hakata
One of Fukuoka’s highlights is the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. Upon getting dropped off a busy bus terminal, we walked along a busy shopping street, full of souvenir goodies and treats, food to-go, and a well-designed Starbucks outlet.
Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine & Kyushu National Museum
Here, we witnessed the typical elements of Japanese Shinto shrines: the torii, the cleansing ritual, the hall of worship, the shrine office, and more.
Hakata malls, Canal City
After a hearty filling of unlimited sukiyaki, we spent the late afternoon shopping in Canal City, Hakata’s largest, most confusing maze of a mall.
Day 3: Hiroshima & Miyajima
Morning in Miyajima
It took us an overnight bus (from Hakata to Hiroshima), a forty-minute train ride (to the city’s port) and a ten-minute ferry to arrive in Miyajima, just before the golden hour concluded. That left us with plenty of time to explore before the streets got busy—in other words, there were countless photo ops without worrying about photobombers.
There was something about having the streets to ourselves, or just sharing them occasionally with a passerby or two. We ended our mini-adventure with a pleasant trip to a cafe, where I enjoyed the lightest and most soothing cup of coffee.
We passed by this grand structure on the way to the entrance of the main shrine.
The grand Otorii, which the Shintoists regard as the gateway between the human and spirit world, stands a few meters away from the island’s shore. After a quick photo op under the golden sunlight, we climbed up for the five-storied pagoda—an iconic symbol of traditional Japanese architecture, then walked through the island’s largest shrine, witnessing the ongoing prayer rituals and admiring its structural components. Miyajima Island is a hallmark of ancient Japanese history, one more underrated gem I had the pleasure of visiting before it over-saturates.
Omoto Park (& fine friends)
Part of our morning walk was a visit to Omoto Park. We were surprised to find that the only other people were a trio of park rangers in the middle of an antler-chopping operation: “is danger!!!” in thick Jap-English. They then performed a routine health check-up on one of the fawns. We had the park, and the herd of deer friends to ourselves.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial
A group of Japanese grade school kids approached me as I walked along the Hiroshima Memorial Park. After a brief exchange, they gave me this envelope as a token. Paper cranes are a symbol of peace, inspired by the story of Sadako Sasaki, who was only two when the town fell victim to the first atomic bombing in history. The harsh effect of radiation on her body manifested only nine years later, and in a bout with leukemia, she folded paper cranes, believing that they would help her recover. She died a few months after her diagnosis, but her story lived on to create a ripple of awareness, endless campaigning for world peace and saying no to nuclear weapons.
Evening Yatai at Hakata
A visit to a yatai, literally “shop stand” in Japanese, is a major evening affair in Fukuoka. We arrived just after midnight to sample ramen, oden (shabu-shabu), and yakitori. One often dines isolated from strangers, but the intimate setting brought people together for a change. That night, we made a couple of cheerful friends.
Day 4: Hakata & Tenjin
Tenjin Chikagai & Tenjin Shopping District
Our first order of business was to window-shop in an upscale underground mall, lined with boutique shops and specialty food stores. It was, by far, my fanciest below-the-ground retail experience. (Yet I’m sorry, I don’t really have the pictures to justify that.)
After our morning stroll, we headed straight to Hyotan, one of the best sushi houses the place has to offer. The long queue said it all, and it would’ve surely taken us over an hour to get seated if it weren’t for the waitress who pointed us to a more group-friendly set-up of the same restaurant across the street.
Indeed, our first and last raw-filled meal was memorable. Apart from the cooked conger tempura and grilled eel, we tried a unique assortment of uncooked seafood: from pufferfish to abalone, lunch was nothing short of exotic. For that reason, I’d say it was my favorite from the whole trip!
Fukuoka in Food Pictures
Japan is a culinary haven. There is always something in their wide array of choices for everyone to love. Here are some of the most notable meals in our trip:
- Tasty gyutan, grilled beef tongue, on our first night
- Pork cutlet curry at the airport
- Hyotan sushi in Tenjin (as narrated above)
- Kakiya, a Michelin-star oyster restaurant in Miyajima (their premium set included different versions: fresh, deep-fried, baked with cheese on top, barbecued, placed in a soup)
- Okonomiyaki in an underground shopping mall below Hiroshima Memorial Park
- Unlimited sukiyaki in a mall beside Hakata main station
- Yakitori in Beppu (as narrated above)
- Famous ramen houses: Ichiran, Ippudo, and Shin Shin Ramen (a local favorite!). I’d say Ippudo tasted best!
- Motsunabe, a stew with gut portions, is a famous local delight
That wraps up my story-telling. Tune in to hear about my next adventure. And while you’re at it, go on your own one!