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
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
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.
After lunch, Kyoko and I dropped off the 'rents and she drove us to nearby
Marine World for which she had discount tickets. The
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.
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
nabe. nabe just means "pot" and, in the context
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
The intestines themselves turned out to be chewy and
rubbery without much taste, exactly the kind of food that the Japanese
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.