Thursday, April 5, 2018

Spring Break: Fukuoka (part 2)

Enchanting.  That is how I would describe Nokonoshima Island if I had to pick just one word for it.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  

It might have been a little crazy to take four kids by ferry to Fukuoka from Busan alone, but our first day of travel and seeing Ohori Park had gone overall very well.  They were up early the next day, though getting out the door always seems to take longer than it should.  I’d seen a sign for a McDonald’s nearby and while some might judge this choice, I knew the kids could get lots of pancakes and food they loved for not much money, and I really wanted full bellies before we started the day’s excursion.  They were happy.  It got the job done!  (Lesson #1 for traveling with kids: if you keep them well-fed, they’ll be 1000 times easier to deal with.)
Nokonoshima Island was at the top of most lists of things to do in Fukuoka, so after breakfast, I went to the concierge desk of our hotel and was given extensive directions for how to get there.  The good news: there was a bus stop right across the street where we soon caught a bus for the thirty-minute drive to the ferry terminal (different from the Hakata International Ferry Terminal we’d arrived at the day before).  The bad news: we arrived about ten minutes after the ferry left, so we had to wait almost a full hour before the next one departed.  I stopped at the little convenience store in the terminal to buy snacks (see Lesson #1 above) since by this time it was getting close to lunch, and I wasn’t sure what options were available on the island.  

It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, and as we crossed the water, the views alone were worth the price of the ferry ticket. 

We arrived in the charming little port area, and immediately, all the passengers went over to line up for the buses.  I’d read something about walking, and tend to be deterred by crowds, so we began hiking up the hill. We passed a Buddhist temple with picturesque cherry trees blooming around it,
 and a little further up we found an old kiln from where ceramic pottery used to be made.  We kept walking for about twenty minutes, but my kids were quickly becoming less enthusiastic about my hiking goals.  When we came upon a bus stop, we decided to go that route.  

Within ten minutes a bus arrived, and though we had to stand shoulder-to-shoulder (or more accurately, the awkward rear-end-to-face), I was glad we hadn’t tried to walk because it would have been tough with the younger members of our group.  We passed quaint farms with rustic stone buildings, orange groves nestled against the hills, and of course, blossoming cherry trees everywhere.  My only regret is that I wasn’t able to take any pictures because of how many people were around me.  Every now and then we’d get a glimpse of the hill descending to the ocean.

The bus stopped at Nokonishima Island Flower Park.  I think that there is a small area you can enter without a fee, but we went ahead and bought tickets.  At first I felt like the price was a little steep (2800 yen for all of us, or roughly $26 US), but it was so beautiful once we went in, I quickly changed my mind.  Flowers were EVERYWHERE!!!  
It was like spring had suddenly exploded as I walked through the gate, almost a shock after another bitterly cold Korean winter.  I wanted to skip around barefoot, maybe turn some cartwheels, but decided not to quite so thoroughly humiliate my kids.  We ate the snacks we’d brought (and, sigh, bought more), then started walking through the park.  

There were sweeping vistas of the water and several cherry trees in bloom.  

We found a ground sleds for lack of a better word — wooden sleds that ran down the hill on ropes —but decided to come back to it later because there were so many people already there.  Strolling through the gardens, we feasted our eyes on tulips, pansies of every color, gold and orange poppies, and daffodils.  

Further up the path, there were tall swings that the kids all enjoyed for quite a while.  

We found a petting zoo with bunnies and goats 
and then a little village area with a cafe, udon noodle shop where we ate our lunch (I’m telling you, kids are bottomless pits!), a model of a traditional Japanese home, and a couple small souvenir shops. The younger kids played on the little playground while the older two and I tried walking on stilts. 
By the time we got back to the ground sleds, no one was there (this was around 3:30), so my kids — okay, and me too — enjoyed sliding on them over and over.  
At the bottom, there is a rubber mat to stop the sled, and a net fence to catch you in case the mat fails.  You can smell hot rubber once you stop, but it’s part of the thrill.  I kept thinking, This would not be allowed in the States.  Too many lawsuits have made playgrounds frankly a lot less fun.  Even in Korea, based on my experience sledding this past winter, I couldn’t imagine a free-for-all quite like this — they’d probably at least make you wear a helmet and have someone with a megaphone telling you when you could go.  Here, though, it was a little crazy and a WHOLE LOT of fun.

It seemed that there was so much more of the island that we didn’t see.  Unfortunately, it was time to go because we knew it was quite a trek back to the city.  
The ferry runs twice an hour by that point in the day, so we didn’t have to wait long, but it still took an hour to get back to our hotel.  After a bit of clean-up, we headed to dinner at Milan Indian Restaurant.   (Indian food is almost always vegetarian-friendly, and I LOVE it.) The food was delicious and reasonably priced, and the wait staff was very attentive.  We should probably have gone straight back to the hotel at that point, because it was already almost the younger kids’ bedtime, but instead we headed to Canal City shopping area to see the fountains lit up at night.  The hotel had given us a free phone to use that had a maps feature; unfortunately, it didn’t always give the best directions and I ended up walking in circles for a while before figuring things out.  It was super fun to walk past the same group of expat businessmen three times while my younger kids cried, “MOMMMY!  WE ALREADY WENT THIS WAY!” I’m pretty sure I heard laughter, and it was probably deserved.  But we got a couple cute pictures, at least.  Who wore it better?  ;-)

By the time we made it back to the room, my two youngest were beside themselves from exhaustion.  I managed to get them into bed, hoping and praying they’d sleep late… but unfortunately, their internal alarm clocks went off at the usual ridiculously early hour, and we were up, ready for our last full day in Japan.  (To be continued…)

If you’re going:

— Buses 300, 301, and 302 travel from the Tenjin area to the ferry terminal for Nokonoshima. It was about 430 yen per adult (half that per child) to ride from our hotel at Watanabe-dori to the ferry and took roughly thirty minutes.  

— The ferry takes ten minutes leaves once an hour (a quarter past) most of the day, except that from 6-8 am, and 5-7 pm, it leaves twice an hour (:15 and :45).  I recommend not getting there too close to the departure time, especially if the weather is good or it’s a weekend or a holiday.  On the day we went, most people were lined up twenty-five minutes before the departure, and the line was quite long by the time we boarded.  I’m not sure that the people at the end of it made it on.  From Nokonoshima, it leaves at the top of the hour, and at :25 during the afore-mentioned periods.

— If you're traveling with children, I recommend taking the bus once you reach the island.  Not only is it quite a hike to the flower park, you will be on a narrow, twisty road that you have to share with vehicles.  If you do not have children with you, there was a bike rental shop, though by the time we reached it, there weren't many options, and none were for kids.  If you do choose to rent bikes, bear in mind that most of the island is quite hilly.  

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a fantastic day! Japan has great slides for the kodomo. Your children are blessed with an adventurous mom!


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