Thursday, April 5, 2018

Spring Break: Fukuoka (part 3)

“Where are you from?” the kindly-faced Japanese woman was asking my kids.


“We’re from America,” Wyatt, my not-shy-at-all son, replied.  “Well, they are anyway,” he added, pointing at his sisters and me.  “I’m from here, Japan.”  


To say we were enjoying our three-day getaway to Fukuoka might be an understatement. Wyatt was ready to move in.  Unfortunately, though, it was our last full day in the country; the next day we were leaving bright and early on the ferry to return to our home in Korea.  


There was so much that I wanted to see and do in and around Fukuoka, but my kids were showing signs of fatigue, especially after staying up too late the previous night and waking at their usual time.  I might have wanted to travel out to the giant reclining wooden Buddha — actually, my wildest idea was to zip up to Nagasaki (a 2 hour train ride each way) for the day.  But I decided to play it safe.  This trip was for the kids.  


“What do you want to do today?” I asked them as we sat at breakfast (yes, McDonald’s again.  Don’t judge.).  


The votes were almost unanimous (except Skyler, who loved my Nagasaki idea) to return to Ohori Park.  Why? So they could ride the swan boats.  “Fine,” I said, hoping that while we were there we could also visit the traditional Japanese garden.  Afterwards I would see how everyone was doing, and once we saw how much time and energy we had left, we could decide from there what we’d do with the rest of the day.  


Truth be told, I love a good park like Ohori Park.  I’ve been to cities like Paris, San Francisco, and New York, and I can tell you for sure there is no better place to soak in the local culture and people-watch.  Give me Central Park any day over the museums.  


We got to the boathouse at Ohori and had to wait about 30 minutes for a swan boat big enough for all of us.  Actually, the one we rode was tied to the dock the whole time, so I’m still a bit puzzled as to why we had to wait — did the swan need rest?!?  But it gave us time to relax and look at the crowds that had flooded the park since it was another perfect spring day.  We finally got out on the water an enjoyed more views, like that of a man walking seven dogs that looked like milky white wolves — and then almost getting pulled into the water by them.

 Afterward, we walked across the little strip of land along the midsection of the water, over bridges and through trees, 

to the traditional garden.  The woman working the ticket booth was very kind and gave our kids origami cranes and fish food with our tickets.  The younger kids loved feeding the koi, though I kept having to remind them that this was supposed to be a tranquil place for quiet reflection. 

 “Tranquil” and “quiet” are not words my kids do particularly well anyway, especially when excited about the beautiful koi.

By the time we were done with the garden and had walked back to the subway, my kids were starving.  We decided to return to Lily Valley because it was only one stop away.  Unfortunately, their selections were more limited that day, maybe because we were on the tail end of the lunch rush.  But what we had was still delicious.  
We then went to Kawabatadori Shopping Street. 


We had walked through the Tenjin Underground Shopping Center several times while transferring subways, but it seemed a little pricey for what we wanted to spend, and also not really good for souvenirs.  Kawabatadori was just what I was looking for.  I found artwork and cards that I liked, and lots of traditional Japanese fabric I wanted, but since I don’t have my sewing machine here, I reluctantly decided against it.


 We walked along the canal again, this time in the other direction.  

By then, it was early evening, so we picked up delicious vegan bento boxes from Evah Dining in Riverain Mall.  The boxes were full of delicious food that everyone loved, and we were completely full by the time we had finished them — in our hotel room. 


Skyler still wanted to do shopping, and I let her head out alone to head to Hakata Station.  

My younger kids were completely done by this point.  Annalee was lying on the floor of the subway station in protest.  But the wonderful thing about Japan is that it feels very safe.  I can’t think of many countries (besides Japan and here, Korea) where I would feel comfortable sending my fifteen-year-old off on a subway by herself.  She showed up at our hotel about an hour later with a scarf she’d picked out.  


I managed to get the kids to bed early — they were too exhausted to protest — then ran to the supermarket next door while Skyler kept an eye on the sleepyheads, and picked up breakfast items for the trip home.  


Lying in bed, as tired as I was, I felt a little jittery, doing a mental inventory to make sure I had everything.  Then my mind drifted to the kids — who were honest-to-goodness snoring around me (except Skyler, she would like me to point out!).  Maybe it had been a bit crazy to take on this adventure, but all in all it had been wonderful.  Sure, there had been some protests and, okay, one full-on, kicking-her-shoe-off tantrum when Annalee was overtired.  But I’d gotten to show the kids a little bit more of this great big beautiful world.  The fact that there was more to see and we didn’t think we were ready to go home was a sign of success.  We’d made memories and had some great belly laughs.  I decided, as I dozed off, if that’s what crazy looks like, well, I’ll take it.


If you’re going:

— The swan boats at Ohori Park vary in price slightly depending on the size you get, but the one that fit all five of us was, if I remember correctly (I forgot to write it down) 1200 yen for thirty minutes.


— Kawabatadori Shopping Street is just outside the Nakasu-Kawabata subway station on the Kuko line, one stop from Tenjin station.  Riverain Mall is just across the street.  The shopping street is covered, which would make it a good choice for inclement weather.


— Evah Dining (the one we went to) is on the ground floor of the Riverain Mall.  They had several bento boxes — all vegan — to choose from, very reasonably priced (450-700 yen).  There was a small sitting area and cafe also.  We selected a few of the boxes and loved all of it.  If I’d found it earlier, I think we would have bought a bunch of these to have on hand in our fridge rather than the snacks we kept buying. 


— One really important piece of information I forgot to include on the first post about this trip: there is NO INTERNATIONAL ATM in the Hakata ferry terminal. They do have a currency exchange counter. However, I’d only brought about $50 worth of won, and I wasn’t sure how far that would go. It added a bit of stress, and when I went looking for an international ATM near our hotel, the bank across the street didn’t have one either. I finally found one in a convenience store (which is, I believe, where most are located).  


— Along these lines, I was a little surprised at how few places took credit cards. We do not use our cards to carry balances, but especially when traveling, I prefer them over carrying around wads of cash.  So bear that in mind; I wish someone had told me this before I went.

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