The purpose of my short jaunt to Japan was the same as most English teachers in Korea – visa run. I had to leave Korea and come back in with a new visa so that I can legally work. The whole thing takes less than 2 days, which meant I stayed for 2 nights and had the better part of a day and a couple nights to kill. Which was cool, even though I had to go alone (Jon goes this week for his…so close! but not close enough to be able to make it work).
The trip started off on a rocky foot. I was meant to meet my boss in the morning to obtain the last bit of paperwork and he was going to drop me at the ferry. Well 45 minutes later, waiting outside in the cold, it became pretty clear we had mis-communicated somewhere along the way. So I did what any self respecting traveller would do. I hopped a cab to the ferry and figured I’d sort it out when I got there. I just barely made it too. They were loading the last few passengers as they rushed me to the gate. Phew! The only issue was I hadn’t had time to convert my Korean won to Japanese yen and I’d read it could be difficult on the other side. Too late to do anything about that now! I’d just have to figure that out as well.
Three easy hours later, on a sunshiney and pretty calm day, I arrived in Fukuoka. It was a huge relief to find that there was in fact a currency converter right there at the ferry terminal, and with a quick stop at Information, I was on my way to my hotel. The tricky part was coming, as I was supposed to have received a voucher from my boss for my second night’s stay. And….well…it took me more than an hour to check in. We spoke in some sort of Japlish, we mimed, we called the reservation company my boss had used, we called my boss, and finally we called my school. At that point in the day I was fighting tears at a fully booked hotel, but finally we did get it sorted and I got checked in for two nights. To a dirty room. So I trudged back downstairs and waited in the lobby for 20 minutes while they cleaned my room…and then I trudged back upstairs. But them’s the breaks sometimes…right? I made it up to myself…by locating the nearest 5 floor Forever 21 and enjoying a long dinner with a few glasses of wine 😀
The next day dawned sunny and quite warm, so I made a quick stop to the Korean Consulate to drop off my paper work and then the day was mine! I headed to Ohori Park and enjoyed a lovely stroll with a cuppa joe, naturally. I also went to my first Japanese Garden! So beautiful, I couldn’t believe it. The garden had different areas meant to replicate the types of nature you could find, such as a lush mountainside and waterfall, a settled lake and trees, a rocky riverbed, etc. and of course, a Japanese rock garden. It was pretty great.
From there, I headed to Canal City, a huge department store and outdoor shopping area. I found a little pub and had fish and chips (which I ate with chopsticks…that was a weird experience) and then shopped and meandered until I could shop and meander no more. Interestingly enough, Fukuoka IS a city of canals, which I had not realized, and which is quickly becoming the marker of cities I love. So that was an exciting bonus!
My overall impression of Japan from my limited time there is that it is a clean place, the people are kind if a bit reserved, the wine is cheap (!), and most of the Japanese dress with some flair and real style. Ya, I liked it.
The ferry trip home was hell-ish, though. I have never been so sick and possibly never so scared in my life. We hit a storm and crashed through waves like we were hitting brick walls. Midday and this was my view out the window:
To put that in to perspective, this was the view on the way there!
Markedly different. At some points we were rolling so high on waves you couldn’t see down to the water. And this is a small, two story, passenger only, speed ferry we’re talking about here. It’s no BC ferry…
But I survived and made it home safe and sound, shared a taxi in to work with some nice Japanese women who even treated me to a cab. Not a bad end 😉