After my ferry experience I arrived in the land of Fukuoka at a cheery 7:30am. My first destination was the bus terminal where I planned to store my bag until my departure later that night. I also took the opportunity to change, brush my teeth and wash my face in the bathroom classy, I know. I grabbed a city map and decided since I had a large amount of time to kill that day i'd cover the city on foot. I decided to start with the nearby Gion district which held many temples and shrines, plus it was only a short distance from the terminal, perfect! My first stop was Tochoji Temple, which is the head temple of the Shingon Buddhism Kyushu sect, and promised the largest seated Buddha statue in Japan. I wandered around the outside and was greeted by a friendly old man inquiring as to where I was from, it was pretty but I wanted to find the Buddha.
One plus side to wandering the Gion area is that there were plenty of maps and signs along the street leading you in the direction of various temples and shrines. My next stop was at Shofukuji which is Japans oldest Zen temple, pretty cool for a first zen temple experience, very peaceful and serene. Probably helped that I had such an early start as I had this temple completely to myself.
I continued wandering without much intention or and soon found myself at the gates of yet another temple, Myorakuji. Which wound up being the home to many grave sites and tombstones. Again deserted but not as serene as the last one, still took the time to walk through. Noting that I could wander this area for hours I decided to take out my map and make more of a definitive plan of which direction to head next, and so I set my sights on Kushida Shrine.
As I left the shrine I decided to head towards Tenjin which is commonly referred to as the center of town, with loads of shopping and culture. On my way I spotted a (newlywed?) couple floating down the river. There was a group of people dressed in blue vests on the bridge awaiting the couple, as I stood by the edge of the bridge to snap a quick picture one of the men in blue waved me over. As I approached he grabbed my hand and filled it with confetti, urging me to sprinkle it on the couple as they passed below us. Based on my first four hours in this country, this was going to be a good trip.
I wasn't much in the mood for shopping or eating and there were luminous clouds hanging in the distance, so I decided to continue on my way towards Maizuru and Ohori park, both of which were on the complete opposite side of town. I figured I could always make my way back to Tenjin later that evening, I wanted to beat the rain and relax in the park. As I reached Maizuru park it began to sprinkle, I opted sitting down in a cafe to wait it out but I chose instead to carry on. Thankfully the rain was only a tease and didn't much affect my enjoyment of the day. I wandered from castle ruins to old sports fields, equally enjoying it all.
Since I had made my way this far west in the city I figured why not continue on my way and next head towards Ohori park, this one promised a large lake. As I arrived I could tell this was the recreational center of Fukuoka, walkers and runners, young and old out enjoying the day. I spent some time walking around the lake and sitting to enjoy a coffee and people watching. I think the best part was watching the numerous fisherman cast their poles alongside the "no fishing" signs.
It was getting later but I still had hours remaining until my overnight bus to Kyoto so I decided to make one more stop at nearby Nishi park, which was noted to have great views of the city. I also wanted to stay on this end of town before heading back to Tenjin so I could hit up the Yatai street vendors for some Nagahama Ramen. I must admit I was a bit doubtful as to how delicious a bowl of ramen could be, I mean my memories of ramen will always be the 10 for $10 deal at pick n' save, thus properly deemed the poor college students staple meal (despite the fact I ate 0 ramen in college). Still, I was in Fukuoka so when in Rome I decided to give it a try, despite the steep price of 500 yen (it is Japan after all) I was not disappointed.
After exploring the park and filling my belly with some delicious Nagahama ramen I decided to make my way back towards the train station to catch my bus. I wanted to get a better feel for the Tenjin district as well as canal city so I again decided to walk as opposed to taking the subway. I could hear both my mother and fathers voices in my head all day as I made the decision to walk, "What are you crazy? or Why not, mine as well walk", you can be the judge as to who's who. The walk back was pleasant and filled with a few surprises, although by the time I reached the station I can say that I was ready to sit down and relax. For being an underrated and/or appreciated city I would say Fukuoka treated me pretty well for my first day in Japan.
Recognized for great Sushi and Ramen, there's so much more to this country than it's food. Rich with history and culture this small group of Islands is a place not to be missed.