Fam Bam In Fukuoka Part Two
Roadtrip! We decided to hire a car for the remaining of our trip in Fukuoka. When travelling with elderly, taking public transport in Japan, though convenient, isn’t the best option. If you have been to Japan, even a less touristy city such as Fukuoka can be rather sprawling when it comes to train stations.
We thought we should still make use of and experience Japanese local trains. So our plan was to spend the first two days taking it slow and explore the city on foot. We did pretty well and checked out a lot of places. We left a lot of the shrines and shopping destinations for when we pick up our rental car. As these tend to be much further away from the city center.
We also had a plan B, in case we don’t end up with a hire car. I have had so many bad experiences with car rental agencies that I almost never count on it. Just because I have a booking doesn’t mean I can pick it up. Being someone without a credit card, it can be an issue of getting knocked back. Typically rental companies insist on the driver’s credit card to be used as payment. And if you don’t, in Japan, they won’t allow you to rent a car. It’s happened to me. Even if I used my partner’s credit card, even if he is also in the travel party, it was a flat denial of service. There was also the issue of not having an international driver’s permit which was my fault when I was trying to rent a car in Okinawa. It’s also one of the reasons why they would refuse service because it is pretty much the law.
Fortunately, we managed to pick up our rental car - more than one hour away by local train ride to Kurosaki in Kitakyushu, which is the next township from Fukuoka. We had an unpleasant experience with an online reseller agency that initially confirmed our booking, took our money but 2 days before flying into Japan, told us they ran out of rental cars. It was utter bullcrap, because some of my partner’s colleagues picked up a rental car on the spot without pre-booking in Fukuoka. We managed to find a local Japanese agency, ToCoo!, pre-booked and rented without any hassle. Totally recommend them. Only issue was the staff’s limited spoken English. But all instructions and documentation was in English anyway. So we knew what we were signing.
It was already late morning by the time we drove back to pick up Mum and sis, whom we left behind at the Airbnb. We didn’t want to drag them along for the long journey to Kurosaki. So it was off to our first shrine destination. But first, a pit stop at KFC, because hungry and because we heard Japanese love KFC so much they have it as a Christmas treat!
Dazaifu Tenmangu was our first stop. We spent pretty much the entire afternoon checking out the shrine and eating lots and lots of street food. In Japan, it seems anywhere that has a famous shrine, there' would most certainly be street food lining adjacent or in front of the grounds. It also started raining a little so we picked up these transparent plastic umbrellas that everyone in Japan seem to use. It’s quite a sight because everyone uses the same see through plastic umbrellas.
Dinner time was spent at Hyoutan Sushi in Tenjin. My partner had gone for lunch at Hyoutan at the recommendation of colleagues and it was very decent so we decided to bring the fam there. Turns out, they are so popular that there was already a queue by 5.30pm when we arrived. The line stretches from the entrance at ground floor up to the second level where the sushi restaurant is at. We waited about 30 minutes which wasn’t too bad.
It started raining heavily in the morning. So it was real fortunate we had a car to drive. Mum wanted to go back to Yanagibashi Market to pick up some local produce as gifts back home. Turns out, it was market closure day, so no luck there. I suggested heading to Matsuya nearby for some quick and simple Japanese breakfast. Which turned out to be a comfort treat against a wet and gloomy morning. Matsuya was recommended by a friend. It’s a japanese fast food chain that puts out really good and simple meals. Breakfast comes with soup, and rice and choice of grilled fish, beef sukiyaki and eggs. My partner loved it so much.
After breakfast and about 30 min’s drive later, we started our shopping at Tosu Premium Outlets. The rain didn’t let up much and we got a lot of mileage with the umbrellas we bought at the shrine yesterday. These outlets carry some of the usual big American & European luxury and sports brands along with local Japanese brands. Nike shoes were super cheap. Much cheaper than what we would pay for in Hong Kong, known for it’s sneaker street. They also carried some unique designs that we haven’t seen elsewhere.
The fam surprised me with a Coleman convertible laptop bag that was in my favourite olive green! For being their “ubrella” - uber chauffer and umbrella chaperone. See my reacts in video below!
Since we were still on a roll, we decided to do more shopping at Marinoa City Fukuoka, another outlet shopping town. It was much quieter and honestly less glitzy than Tosu Premium Outlet. Prices seem to be much cheaper in some shops. Mum picked up two pairs of shoes because they were so affordable. There was also a ferris wheel which we had to take a ride on, just because.
Dinner was an epic finish to our fourth day in Fukuoka. We randomly walked into a yakitori/izakaya place that was near our Airbnb. From the outside it looked super understated but there were a few customers inside, so we thought we’d take a chance. It was already past 8pm by the time we sat down so the place was naturally quieter as one might expect.
It took us a while to figure out the menu as everything was in Japanese only. Fortunately there were some photo illustrations to go with some of the menu items. The staff also spoke very limited English, so it was a lot of point and order and ok sign. Strangely though, the drinks menu was in English. We wanted sake but they only served them in individual shot glasses, or at least that’s what we understood. We ordered the ‘shochu’ as that was the only bottle option we were told was available. Glasses came with ice, which we thought was a bit unusual. Then again, our expectations might have been misguided about Japanese spirits and wine, so we just went along with what they gave us. The shochu was very mild and easy to drink but it was very high in alcohol percentage so we were quite inebriated by the time food started arriving.
And the food was just amazing. We ordered so much food, we had no idea when it was ending. It just kept coming. BBQ meats, yakitori skewers of every sort, gyoza, edamame. It was one of the best meals we had by far. The sis got emotional from all the good food. Quite hilarious. Cos honestly everyone was just happy drunk. Check out all the eating joy in the video.