In Fukuoka, Japan: Castle Ruins, Ohori Park & Motsunabe Yamanaka
It was our last whole day in Fukuoka and the weather was getting pretty strange outside. We awoke to some light flurries, which isn’t all that surprising for February, except that the last two days had been sunny with a welcoming of spring sort of attitude. By the time we’d gotten dressed and walked outside, the wind had picked up and the flurries were sticking to our clothes.
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Instead of walking above ground, we opted to walk through the Underground Shopping Arcade which stretches from Tenjin Minami Station to a block past Tenjin Station. It is 590 meters of fashionable clothing shops, diners and cafes that also connects to all of the department stores above ground.
You could spend a whole day in stores going from department store to department store without ever going outside to get to one if you wanted to. We weren’t really looking to shop, but it was warmer than outside and a good place to get a scope on Japanese fashion. We found a diner at the end near Tenjin Station for some simple sandwiches and coffee for breakfast and plotted our next move.
I wanted to head toward the Fukuoka Castle ruins and Jae-oo wanted to hit up some manga shops. We decided to walk down Meiji-dori Avenue from Tenjin to the castle ruins and see if we couldn’t find some good manga shops along the way.
We got really lucky with a huge store with everything from old vintage comic books and toys to the newer games and figurines as well. It was half way to the ruins and that was lucky because the weather wasn’t letting up one bit. This just goes to show how going off plan and keeping your eyes peeled can provide some great stops along the way. I really don’t know much about any of the characters, but had fun looking at some of the vintage stuff while Jae-oo had his own fun in the place.
By the time we left, the snow had let up, but the temperature had dropped significantly. We made it to the ruins, which weren’t all that spectacular to see, but along with us meandering around the paths were a group of about ten photographers getting those first blossoms of the season on film. I think a couple weeks from now would have been beautiful up there, but as it was it was a nice walk and break from the city streets. There is a substantial park known as Ohori Park and pond to walk around and enjoy as well and we did catch sight of some beautiful early spring blooms. Since it’s so close to Fukuoka Castle it’s not to be missed but it’s also one of the area’s top tourist sites as it is said to be one of the most beautiful water parks in Japan. After having a good shiver, we went back to the hotel to get in a rest before meeting our friends for dinner.
For a complete itinerary, if it’s not too cold though, we would have continued out to Momochi Seaside Park set on Hakata Bay. Originally developed for the Asia Pacific Expo in 1989 there are wide streets, futuristic buildings and public parks to walk along and peruse in the area.
For our final meal in Japan, Jae-oo wanted to try motsunabe, a soup made from beef innards.
I have had the Korean version and am not a big fan, though I’ve also eaten it grilled in Korea and that was better than I expected. One just never knows with guts and innards. That being said, I had no idea what to expect with this soup, and I was so delightfully surprised. Our friends took us to a pretty popular place called Motsunabe Yamanaka. This is one of the best restaurants in the area to try this delectable Japanese cuisine and it would be wise to make a reservation.
There were three options, the milder option with a soy sauce broth base up to the strongest with a miso broth base. Our friends got two orders of the mildest to introduce us to the dish. The beef offal, cabbage and tofu boiled away in the middle of the table and once it was ready, it went from the communal pot to our individual bowls that had soy sauce mixture. It was absolutely delicious. Next up was the miso sauce version. There was no sauce on the side, this cloudier version boiled away in front of us while we enjoyed the edamame and other side dishes, one of which had this amazing sour sauce concoction that I couldn’t get over. Our friends bought us some of the sauce to take back with us afterward. The miso version was definitely stronger and with a completely different taste but no less delicious. The dinner was a complete success and made me wonder what other dishes we had missed along the way without our Japanese friends to point them out to us.
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To end the day, our friends took us to a market and stocked us up with a bag of snacks and condiments so we could enjoy a bit of Japanese back home in Seoul.
All in all it was a great trip. We saw some old places and some new Japanese gadgets. We ate some amazing food and enjoyed the cleanliness of Japanese streets. I realized Jae-oo is much more of a go-by-the-book sort of traveler than I am, and I am generally pretty go-by-the-book, so having him be even more so was quite the revelation. It was a needed trip away and I am so thankful for such a wonderful person to spend many more trips like it away with in the future.