Last year, when I was working as an English tutor, I met with many clients on a weekly basis. Not only were they my "students"...but they also became my friends. Now that I live in Japan, I've been able to see a few of them who have moved back or have returned on vacation and it has been one of my favorite parts of living here!
When Mina mentioned Fukuoka...I looked it up on a map and noticed it was in Kyushu aka southern Japan...which triggered a memory in my mind and I had one of those lightbulb moments, you know... when something clicks in your brain...and I remembered my former student Keigo who briefly mentioned that he was from Fukuoka.
I messaged Keigo, to ask for recommendations around his hometown (fully expecting him to answer from where he was living in Torrance) and he messaged me back, "oh you are coming to Fukuoka? I am here right now!" Turns out he had moved back at the end of last year to take over his family business (a toy store) and get knee surgery (when I last saw him he was on crutches).
He was just as surprised that I was going to Fukuoka of all places as much as I was surprised that he moved back there! haha. Anyway, after our first morning in town, Taka drove us to the mall where Keigo's family owns a toy shop.
Tsumikiya is the name of his store and it is so stylish! His father started the business many years ago and imports most of the toys from Europe.
So cute right?! And the store is located in a big shopping mall right near Tenjin station, which is a main station right in the heart of the city... so it is in a great location.
Worlds collide! Times like this, I am just in awe of how cool God is in connecting us to friends in all places.
The best part of all of this was connecting Keigo and Taka...who are the same age, have both lived in the states, both speak English very well, both are from Fukuoka, and both moved back home to take over their family business. What are the odds of that? I told them both to stay in touch and come visit Steph and I in Tokyo area!
So, after a really fun and full morning connecting friends and seeing all the sights in Fukuoka...Taka dropped us off at our hotel and bid us farewell. We thanked him for his incredible hospitality and kindness. We quickly dumped off our stuff and headed out for DINNER!!
Dinner spot : Motsu Nabe restaurant! Motsu nabe AKA COW INTESTINES! This is a popular dish in this area so we knew we had to try. We went to this really traditional style Japanese restaurant which had a cool vibe.
Simple dish: Pork, motsu, cabbage, green onions...all in a chicken broth. 3 animals in one haha
The motsu was super chewy (as expected) but it was good! The real kicker though, was the SAUCE!!! Oh my goodness, if I could bottle any sauce to use on everything for the rest of my life it would be whatever mad concoction they created at that restaurant. Something like shoyu and vinegar... and magic! haha.
One of my favorite parts of eating Nabe is what comes after you eat all the meat and cabbage...the noodle (or rice) second meal!! We ordered thick noodles that came and soaked up the rest of the broth and tasted amazing.
After dinner, we were all craving something sweet and a few places we wanted to go were closed so we opted for the next best option (and forever favorite)...drumroll...
...Mister Donut! The old fashioned donut is my all time fav.
After dessert...we decided to go check out the YATAI...or street food stalls! I was stoked for this, as I knew it would be a good look into the awesome Japanese street food scene.
The stalls open around 7pm and lines quickly form for the most popular booths. This was one of my favorite sights I've seen thus far in Japan...it was just so rad to see all the amazing chefs tucked behind the counters serving some world class dishes all under a rickety wood food stand.
Most stalls could fit around 10 people...and they were all sitting there with no complaint...just chillen and enjoying their drinks and food. Definitely a natural thing for Japanese people and something Americans would probably have a tough time with haha.
The stalls are right by the water which makes for a cool vibe!
By this time, it was around 9:30pm and after walking around a bit, we called it a night and went back to the hotel. What a day!
The next morning we woke up and headed to get coffee. We had a few hours in town before our flight at 4pm.
On the way to get coffee we stopped by the ACROS building which won a bunch of awards when it was built because of it's cool design...trees on every level! I'm sure it looks even more beautiful in the spring or summer! Funny story, I believe this building is called ACROS beacuse it holds a variety of government offices that "go across" many countries...haha.
We walked to a coffee shop called Manu where they have a lot of latte options!
I ordered the cinnamon honey latte and it was SOOO GOOD!
next stop...ramen! Pork broth yummm
I ordered the set...which came with the old style ramen on the left and the new style on the right. Although they were both really good, the new style had a thicker broth which I really loved.
We cruised around a little (it was pretty cold out) and did some shopping...and then walked to Hakata station!
Doraemon is probably the most famous character in Japan...and apparently he has a new movie out so there were statues of him all around the station.
Growing up...the hot spot for ramen in Torrance was (and still is) Hakata ramen shinsengumi...so it was fun to actually be at Hakata station, which is just a stop over from Fukuoka station.
The top of Hakata station has a rooftop deck with a nice view of the city.
Alas...it was time to head back to the airport. We made sure to arrive early in order to have enough time to shop, because Japanese airports are LOADED with omiage (souvenirs)! The most popular item was definitely the sweet potato manju which I bought $40 worth of haha! (to give to coworkes and the students in the Saturday class I teach). My mom always told us growing up "never go anywhere empty handed!" and that saying could not be more true in Japan. Omiage is definitely a huge part of Japanese culture.
Also a hot item...MENTAIKO...aka fish eggs. Mentaiko was everywhere. It is a bit expensive, with a small box of 4 pieces going for $10 and the really nice big boxes going for $50.
At 4pm we boarded the plane and headed back to Tokyo. It was a really quick trip to Fukuoka, but we managed to do a lot with out limited time there.
Because we flew back at 4pm...I was able to watch the sunset from the plane. Seeing the sunset/sunrise from an airplane might be one of the most radical and incredible views we could be offered on this earth. It always reminds me of God in all His glory, all His splendor, all His creative beauty and the incredible design He has put in everything.
I love how life is an adventure with God and He breathes so much purpose and fun into everything...every place...and every person you meet.
I'll end with one last photo I took on my phone of what I like to call GLORY RAYS. SERIOUSLY. HOW COOL IS GOD?!!