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Monday, July 19, 2010

3 Jul 2010 - Fukuoka Day 1: Exploring the city

The flight to Fukuoka is 1am at T3. We arrived at the airport at about 11pm and I managed to catch the "LIVE" telecast of World Cup match between Brazil and Netherlands in the transit area. When we were at the boarding gate area, both Jerlene and Javier were still very active and kept running around. It's already way past their sleeping time. I guessed both of them were equally excited about the coming trip.

We took a row of 4 seats on this flight. As there were a few infants on the flight, if we were to take the bassinet seat row, one of us will have to sit separately.
We touched down at Fukuoka at about 8am. From the airport, we took a taxi to our hotel (Grand Hyatt) which costs about JPY1800. The journey is only about 10-15mins. We were able to check in to our room immediately as there was vacancy. This room is pretty big (one of the biggest that we have every stayed in) and we had a nice view out from our room window. There is even a LCD TV in the toilet! Btw, our room number is 911.

Jerlene has got a nice bedroom slipper as well. I heard that the hotel will provide a new pair every day. So Jerlene has got something to look forward to.

We rested a while in the room before moving out to explore the city. Grand Hyatt Fukuoka is connected to a big shopping complex called the Canal City. There is a musical fountain between the two buildings and the display is every half an hour (but with music only on the hour). At the centre of Canal City, there is a huge float, which I think need some explaining of the background.

This period that we were in Fukuoka coincides with one of their major events of the year, Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival, which starts on 1 July and ends on 15 July. During this festival, there will be men carrying a 1-ton float (Yamakasa) on their shoulders and race through the streets at full speed. The yamakasa floats come in two categories. One is purely for decorative purposes called Kazarimaya, which are being setup throughout the city from 1 July. These floats are elaborately decorated with samurai or anime characters and are as high as 10 meters tall. The one shown above in Canal City is one of the many such floats around the city.

The other category is called Kakiyama and these are the floats to be carried by men from 10-15 July. The highlight of the festival is a contest on the final day of the festival (15 July) where men will carry their floats and race through a 5km course starting from 4:59am. We will miss this race as we are flying back home on 11 July. However, we should be able to catch some of the actions on the 9th and 10th when they do their practice runs.

Although it was drizzling, we decided to proceed with the exploration of the city. First we walked towards Kushida Shrine, which is pretty near to Canal City. Next to it is Kawabata shopping arcade, the oldest of its kind in Fukuoka. Here we can see more decorative floats. One of them has Doraemon characters on it.




For those floats that were outdoor, there were special tents built to house them.

Then we continued to walk towards Tenjin area, which is very much like a business district. Along the way, we saw a few more decorative floats. There is a famous underground shopping arcade with hundreds of shops in the LONG stretch. The bread and pastry are very unique and I especially like the melon bread. Both Jerlene and Javier were sleeping in their strollers at this time. Yes.....we again brought two strollers there. So we have to find escalator or elevator wherever we go to. When there is none, it's time for me to workout.

Half way through the arcade, there were some dancers performing.

We walked to the end of the underground shopping arcade and then went to the largest 100 yen shop in Fukuoka on the 7th floor of a building called Shoppers Fukuoka. We did not buy much as this is just the first day. At about 4pm, my little angels woke up. We gave them milk and bread before returning to our "base". On the way back, it drizzled again.


Before we reached Canal City, we passed through Tenjin Central Park. And along the side of the river (or rather canal), there are a stretch of small, mobile food stalls called "Yatai" selling ramen and other hot food. These stalls were not there in the morning when we passed by. So it's quite amazing to see all these stalls suddenly appearing in the evening.

We had our dinner at Ramen Stadium in Canal City. This was highly recommended by my colleagues who had been there before. The ramen is a bit different from those that are selling in SG. Theirs are more "milkish" in a way and it tastes so much better. Fell in love with Ramen there........ Even Jerlene finds it good and everytime I asked her what does she want to eat, she will say noodle (referring to ramen)!


After dinner, we walked in Canal City for a while before going back to our room. Jerlene and Javier had much fun playing in the huge bathtub before I showered them. The time spent in the bathtub is probably one of their most enjoyable moments of the trip. :P

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