Japan by Motorcycle

Day 20

August 17, 1999

Fun in Fukuoka

Kyushu: Fukuoka Prefecture

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    There had been a little precipitation during the night but, fortunately, not a significant rain.  I had managed to avoid camping in my tiny tent in the rain thus far and was hoping my luck would hold out.  I had a relatively late start, leaving the Yamaguchi campground around 9:30AM.  I had stopped for a can of coffee at the owner's vending machine.  I figured I would try to put a few more yen into his coffers.  It seemed ironic that it had been more expensive to take a bath in town than it was to camp though I suppose running a bath house requires a lot more resources.
    Today I had plans to meet my friend Kyoko in Fukuoka.  I had met Kyoko in person only once before but she had been a very friendly person and we had clicked right away.  In order to get to Fukuoka faster, I took the expressway from Shimonoseki and arrived in Fukuoka around noon.  I navigated as near to her home as I could and then gave her a call.  She came out in her family's car to meet me and I followed her home like a puppy.
    The Saita's were very nice.  Engaging and friendly people.  Her father had had an unfortunate accident and was on crutches.  Her mother was somehow impressed with the fact that I had brought some cookies for them from Akiyoshi-dai, even though gift giving in these kinds of situations is well established in Japan.  Of course I'm not Japanese but the concept isn't entirely native to Japan.  In any case, if that's all it took to get into their good graces, then I was in luck.
    Kyoko's dad asked me where I was planning to stay.  I told him I hadn't been planning my accommodations in advance (which was true) and that I'd either find a campground, youth hostel or capsule hotel as I had been doing all along.  He half-joked that I could camp in his back yard and then kindly offered me a berth in his home.  A homestay beat all the other options and I gratefully accepted.
    The four of us drove to a soba/udon shop where we had a nice lunch.  They refused to let me pay my way.  I tried to explain that they were the ones letting me stay over so I should at least cover lunch for everybody but that didn't wash.  I had been in Japan long enough to know that this wasn't an argument I could win.
Kyoko and Myself    After lunch, Kyoko and I dropped off the 'rents and she drove us to nearby Marine World for which she had discount tickets.  Kyoko and the fishesThe park had all the standard features -- an aquarium and marine mammal shows.  The aquarium was nice with a large display of aquatic life taken from the current that flows past Fukuoka and Kyushu.  The dolphin show was well designed with Hakata Bay providing a nice backdrop.

Fukuoka Marine WorldFukuoka Marine World
Marine World

    We returned to find that the Saita's next door neighbor had dropped off a watermelon just because she had noticed that they had a gaijin visitor.  Considering the size of Fukuoka I thought it rather odd that I should be such a curiosity.  I felt like I was in a small town sitcom or something.  One thing about being a gaijin in Japan, you can get some small sense of what being a celebrity is like.  People sometimes take notice of you just because you're "different."  Sometimes it can be fun, other times maddening.  Usually I find it enjoyable.
    For dinner Mrs. Saita cooked up a local specialty, motsu nabenabe just means "pot" and, in the motsu nabe with the Saita'scontext of Japanese cooking, it refers to cooking a soup chock full of vegetables and other items such as seafood or pork.  In this case the meat item was motsu or cow intestines.  Fortunately they had checked with me before they made it so I had some idea of what to expect.  I'm game when it comes to trying most foods so, though it wasn't exactly my ideal ingredient, I told them I didn't mind.  Of course I didn't know exactly what to expect because I hadn't actually eaten cow intestines before.
    The intestines themselves turned out to be chewy and rubbery without much taste, exactly the kind of food that the Japanese love.  The Saita'sThe flavor of the broth and soup itself was very nice and I ate my fair share and then some.  Also joining us for dinner was Kyoko's friend Chieko.  Her younger sister Masako joined us later.  After dinner I finally got to meet the curious neighbor when she came over again to get a peek at me.
    I was given a room to myself.  It had been recently vacated by Kyoko's older sister who had married just six months before.  It had been a while since I had slept on a real bed -- the capsule hotel I had slept in two nights before didn't exactly count -- and it was a really nice feeling.


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Just The Stats

Day 20



Place Weather
Start: 49950 9:30 Hohoku-machi, Yamaguchi Pref. Mostly Sunny/Hot
Finish: 50080 10:00 Fukuoka, Fukuoka Pref. Ptly Cloudy/Warm
Totals: 120km 1.5 hrs


Gas: 850 Food: 450
Highway Fees: 1,700 Lodging:

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Created: Feb 22, 2001
Last Updated: Mar 22, 2001

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