Japan

With two bullet trains, we made it 1,000 km from Tokyo straight down to the southern/western tip of Japan in 6 hours flat. And as much as I want to sing the praises of the shinkansen, I have a lot more to say about the city of Fukuoka, because Fukuoka is tragically underrated.

In March, Fukuoka is warm and had the odd blossoming cherry tree even though we thought we would miss the season by a week. Fukuoka is not crowded. It has magnificent ramen which costs very little. It is sister cities with Oakland, California.

The best decision of Fukuoka was taking an Asahi brewery tour at 10 AM. I kind of already know how beer is made but the factory was huge and the tour guide was A+. The tasting was quite generous, mostly because I don’t think they expect most people to finish three beers in 20 minutes (challenge accepted). Pleasantly tipsy, we shuffled back in the direction of our hotel and it was suddenly 10 degrees warmer and sunnier than it had been so far on our trip. We’ve gotten into the habit of eating huge breakfasts at pastry shops– very Western concept, very Japanese execution– so we were full and happy from the sweets, and drunk and happy from the beer, and warm and happy from the sun at 11 o’clock in the morning.

For lunch we found a clean but hole-in-the-wall ramen spot in the Tenjin district and BS’ed our way through the ticket order machine (these are the best thing ever if you don’t speak Japanese). Five minutes later I was served a steaming bowl of grey-white broth with some kind of red meat and a lot of fresh vegetables floating around at the top, the traditional pile of slippery noodles at the bottom. It was easily my favorite culinary experience of the trip, even though I am still not 100% sure what all was in my bowl. There just wasn’t time to sit there and decipher the entire menu.

Our last memorable stop was a park. I can’t tell you which park. If I could I’d be writing for Lonely Planet. There was a very peaceful and under-crowded temple there, and on the way out we followed a trail of paper lanterns decorated by children with themes relating to Japan, world peace and the LA Lakers, obviously.

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