Sunday, November 19, 2023

Kyushu 6 day trip, NOV 2023 - Fukuoka: Nanzoin, Ohori Park, Dazaifu, Tenjin, Ltd Exp Sonic

I finally made it over to Kyushu! This prefecture has been on my Japan to-do list for a while, but got put on hold 5 or so years ago with other priorities and decreased flight routes on Hawaiian Airlines. I knew that going to Kyushu was something I absolutely needed to do while we were living in Japan, and this 6 day trip was in the works for almost a year after we figured out when would be the best time to visit. 

I'm breaking up the blog posts by location rather than by day, but this is the basic overview of what we did over the 6 days of travel:
Day 1 - fly into FUK, Nanozoin, Ohori Park, Nakasu food stalls
Day 2 - Dazaifu Tenmangu, Tenjin shopping area, JR ltd exp Sonic to Beppu
Day 3 - Jigoku Meguri Hell's Tour, Aso & One Piece statues
Day 4 - Kumamoto Castle, Okoshiki Coast, Suntory Factory Tour & more One Piece statues
Day 5 - Sangan-en, Ibusuki no Tamatebako siteseeing train, Ibusuki Eevee pokelids
Day 6 - Sakurajima, fly out of KOJ

First, we fly into Fukuoka via Fukuoka Airport FUK! While we're living in Kanagawa, there are a number of different options for us to travel domestically, from using our personal car + ETC card to the trains/shinkansen and luckily Haneda isn't super far away either. I had very much wanted to use a ferry that runs between Yokosuka in Kanagawa and Shinmoji in Kitakyushu to start off our travel, but with the cost and the time required (23 hours overnight!), I decided I'd rather use our precious leave from work on actually doing stuff in the area rather than on the mode of transportation, so flying was our best option.

We had a 11:25 flight out of Haneda on a Thursday. Airport was not too busy, and we also got a quick early lunch at Marugame before going through security.

Airlines was ANA with a 3-3-3 seat configuration. It was a pretty full but short flight, and we were seated together in the middle section.

Landed in Fukuoka at around 13:30, and our adventure begins. First, grabbing 1-day subway passes from the ticket machine. We used the Airport line to get to Hakata station, dropped our bags in a locker, and then headed back catch a JR line train to Kidonanzoin-mae station lol. 

Nanzoin is a short walk away, but does include some hills/stairs. This temple likely shouldn't be visited on a whim during the summer or with large groups (for foreigners). Check the precautions/warnings here on their website. They also have these same warnings posted at the station and near the entrance.

I didn't think my dress wasn't too short, but I'm not extremely sure what metric they're using. I did end up with a coverup for my lower half (provided by the temple), and the staff were nice about it. (It doesn't help that I was initially planning on wearing my longer coat for this but ended up last minute trading it for a cropped sweater after the weather changed to be in the 70s which didn't offer any additional coverage.)

The largest reclining Buddha is the main attraction here, but there's a lot to the temple, including some areas where photos are prohibited, so if this interests you, it's worth checking out the grounds. 

There is a small refreshment stand and a vending machine near the reclining Buddha, and my husband got a soft serve cone lol. 

There are lots and LOTS of signs around reminding you that this is a temple and to be respectful in English (especially not to play music or do dances...I'm assuming maybe foreigners were trying to do TikToks or something), so keep this in mind when visiting. 

This was just a quick stop for us and we headed back the way we came on the JR line to go back to Hakata station. Trains seem to run about every 20 minutes which isn't too bad.

We retrieved our bags from the locker, checked into our hotel nearby the station and then headed out for an early dinner. Wanting to try Hakata ramen, we opted for Hakata Issho 博多一双. Sometimes there is a long wait for this smaller location, but we were lucky and visiting during an off hour and there was only one other patron. Pay and order by vending machine ticket near the entrance. 
The staff were super efficient and the food came out very quickly. Truthfully, the smell from the pork bone broth is quite strong, but you don't notice it as much when you're eating. This broth was very heavy and frothy and felt unique to me after eating Yokohama iekei style ramen consistently for so long. We were glad we were able to try it without the line or a crowded restaurant.

We used the subway (& subway pass lol) to get from dinner to Ohori Park. The sun was starting to set and finally the weather was cooling down, so it was nice to walk around. 

There's a 2km loop around the park for bikes and runners which was definitely being utilized! Fukuoka Marathon was scheduled for the following Sunday in this area, so I'm not surprised the local running community was out. 
The sun set as we continued through the park. There is an art museum in the park, but unfortunately we were there too late for entry. 

We still had plenty of energy and time to kill before we wanted to eat our second dinner (lol), so we headed across the street to Maizuru Park where the Fukuoka Castle Ruins are. Both Ohori Park and Maizuru Park are listed as being open 24 hours which is nice. At the top of the ruins, we were able to get a really great panoramic city night view (much better in person than in photos).

We opted to walk all the way back to the subway Ohori Park station and then made a transfer at Tenjin. 

There was this insanely nicely themed bathroom in the shopping area at Tenjin station :O

We transferred subway lines and got to the Nakasu yatai/food stall yokocho area. The trees were already lit up for illuminations so it had a really festive feel. We ended up just walking through and taking a look without stopping to eat. There were less stalls than I expected and everything was quite neatly spaced apart and orderly. Each stall just had a handful of seats surrounding it and those with a wait had customers lined up along the river railing. Still lots of space to walk through and around. 

Finally we made it over to Hakata Yabu 博多藪 a little bit after they opened at 19:30. The oyakodon was recommended here, so that's what my husband ordered.
I got the katsu curry don after looking at some pictures which the reviews and the staff both warned was spicy. I figured I could handle it (even though I don't usually order spicy), especially with the self-serve water station because I was intrigued by how thick it looked. My husband did enjoy his oyako bowl, but the curry itself wasn't too much to either of our liking flavor profile-wise. It was spicy, but also had it's own more unique flavor which I think included star anise and white pepper. 

Using our subway pass for the last time that day (and somehow still getting our money's worth due to its low cost to begin with), we got back to Hakata station and exited where there was a large light up even with tents! 

My husband got this Santa monaka before we called it a day and got to the hotel. 

Tiny economy double room at Toyoko Inn lol

On the second day, our major plan for Fukuoka was to get to Dazaifu Tenmangu. Our hotel was very close to the Hakata bus terminal and I had scoped it out a little the day before, so I was confident heading there in the morning. 

We had a good place in line, but unfortunately a few minutes before the bus was scheduled, a staff member came out to tell us that there was traffic on the route to the shrine and using alternate transportation like the train or other bus routes was recommended. I had specifically picked this bus because it would take us directly to the shrine at a reasonable time without any transfers, but we were up to the challenge, so we set off towards the train station. 

The train route really wasn't too bad if you're familiar with catching trains, but it did require 2 transfers and some waiting around.

Actually, we arrived at the Dazaifu station around the same time the direct bus had been scheduled to arrive, so it wasn't too much of a hardship. And we were able to check out the shopping street due to the location of the station. 

We beat the crowds (and it was raining), so the street was mostly empty. My husband got a (baked) umegaemochi as a snack. 

Approached the shrine grounds where there were groups of people already gathered by the divine bull statue which you touch for good luck. 

Rain did put a little bit of a damper on this visit, but I still had my husband stand for pictures all over the place. 

The covering for the shrine had this large slanted green landscaping on it which was really interesting and must be more stunning against a clear sky and without some construction materials in the background. This part of the shrine felt very modern. 

We made an offering and stayed to watch a little bit of the ceremony that was going on before continuing out. 

There was a chrysanthemum event going on as well with lots and lots of impressive looking plants!

We decided to leave the way we entered as the grounds and the shopping street grew crowded at about 10:00. 

Started on the train the same way back, but decided to get off in the Tenjin area instead of going all the way back to Hakata station for some shopping and lunch. We wanted to try an alternate Hakata ramen from the Shin Shin chain. There was a restaurant conveniently located in the PARCO connected to the station, so we didn't have to exit to the rain. There was a wait with about 10 or so people in front of us when we lined up at about 11:20, but it moved fairly quickly, and there were stools. 
This ramen was much less aggressive than the Issho ramen. Easier to eat. I understand why this is a recommended chain because it seems more palatable to a wider audience, especially foreigners. Feels bad to say, but I did enjoy this one a bit more taste-wise. (Not that anyone should really be taking food advice from me. I have the worst palate.)

Saw this cronut-type pastry while were walking out of the food area of PARCO at the Kobe Bakery and had to check it out. They were making them fresh, so we opted to sit inside and eat it with a coffee. 

Fukuoka PARCO is a decent size mall with more than 8 floors. After eating, we went to the top and starting making our way down, stopping anywhere that looked interesting. We had a bit of time to kill and it was still raining outside :/

When I was done shopping, I really wanted a place to just chill out for a little bit and bide the final moments until we had our schedule train at 16:00. Somehow we just couldn't find a cafe or a small shop that seemed like we could sit and order something small for an extended amount of time nearby (that had something I wanted to eat), so we headed back over to the bus terminal and ended up waiting about 20+ minutes to be seated as the Komeda's Coffee. By the time the food came, I was actually rushing to finish eating 🙅.

We returned quickly to our hotel where we had already checked out earlier than morning to just pick up our luggage and then return to the JR part of Hakata station. I had made reservations online with JR Kyushu for seats in the Limited Express Sonic train towards Oita and picked up the tickets on our first day from the Midori no Madoguchi machine. 
Sadly, the train wasn't the blue version, but we were still happy to have our reserved seats. The overhead space can't fit a standard carry-on rolling bag, so that had to be put into the end of the car bag storage. 

Goodbye to Fukuoka! 
I wasn't paying very good attention during this train ride, but I think it was at Kitakyushu where the train changed direction and we switched the seat orientation ourselves and a lot more passengers got on.
We disembarked at Beppu (one stop before the terminal stop), kind of glad to be off the train. Actually it was quite bumpy and maybe because it was dark outside, but there was a little bit of motion sickness which we don't usually get on a train like this. 

Fukuoka didn't quite go as smoothly as I would have liked, but I enjoyed the casual-type of travel we did here where there were a couple of landmarks I wanted to hit, but otherwise didn't care how we spent the time and we rarely had to rush around. 
One of my initial plans was to go to the Asahi Brewery but unfortunately they stopped doing factory tours about 4 months ago and closed the beer garden as well. I think the rain definitely didn't help on the second day which made us a little more reluctant to go out and just randomly walk around, but we did enjoy seeing the Tenjin station area a little more instead. Since we're living in Japan currently and are somewhat close to Tokyo, I didn't plan any shopping like I typically would if I was visiting from abroad, so that's something that might have changed. In any case, we were happy not to be too exhausted and excited to keep moving forward with our trip!
❥ Kyushu 6 day trip blog posts

No comments:

Post a Comment