Fukuoka – Pardon My French

Overview

Population: 1,483,052

Currency: Japanese Yen (¥)

¥1 = 0.75p. £1 = ¥133.1

Time Zone: GMT +9 (8 hours ahead of UK summer time)

2nd – 4th Oct

We had come to Fukuoka for the sole purpose of catching the ferry to Korea. But we had decided to pamper ourselves for a couple of days in a hotel with a pool. We found a good deal for a room in the Hilton and our plan was to stay in it and swim for 2 days.

When we arrived with our 2 big backpacks (one bigger than the other) we felt very out of place. Our bags were whisked off us and onto one of those fancy suitcase trolleys and we headed to check-in. We were handed a key with our room number on and wished well. We had to ask what floor it was on and it was the 22nd. We then had to ask where the lifts were because this guy was giving us nothing.

Our room was lovely. Huge windows looking out towards the city and the sea, two big double beds (because it was cheaper than just getting one) and a lovely big bathroom. On looking through the hotel information we discovered the pools that we had booked this hotel for were not open for the one full day we had there. The outdoor pool was closed until next summer and the indoor pool was closed 2 days a month, one of which being the one we wanted. Even if it wasn’t closed we would have had to have paid almost £20 each to use it! We were not impressed. We went down to the lobby to complain and in their defense they gave us a free day in the pool that day and unlimited use of their stone bath for free (which should have been £11 each a day).

So we went to the pool. It was African themed for some reason with big fake baobab trees. There were 3 different saunas at different heats, a steam room, 2 whirlpools, a plunge pool, a 25m pool and an onsen in each changing room. It was incredible. They managed to charge us ¥100 each for a compulsory swimming cap each but we certainly did well out of this deal.

After using huge amounts of every single toiletry on offer (I still don’t know what hair tonic and skin liquid are) we went and got ready for tea. Kate got very hungry very fast and was set on eating in the hotel, despite the heavy prices. But they had an all-you-can-eat and an all-you-can-drink deal. I went for both. Big mistake! So I wolfed down 2 plates and a salad and 2 big beers. After plate number 3 I realised my error. Food needs room, beer needs room and I had run out of it. I switched to Shochu but the damage was done. My second salad bowl and plate of curry remained unfinished and I felt like a balloon about to pop for the rest of the night. Kate had a delicious sea bass and was comfortably nourished.

The next day my digestive system had fully recovered and we slept in mighty late. After paying a full day’s budget on food the previous night we wanted to eat cheap. We discovered there was a Family Mart somewhere near the hotel so we set off round the hotel to find it. Three quarters of the way round there was still no sign. We were about to give up and head back in when we saw it right next to where we set off in the wrong direction. You might think walking round a hotel isn’t so bad but this hotel is enormous. Once at the Family Mart we raided their hot food cabinet. I had eaten a steamed pizza bun in Hiroshima that I was sure was veggie so I asked at the counter if this was the case. The checkout lady went to read the ingredients and informed us “no meat. Chicken skin”. I queried this and she thought a bit and then said “eggs”. I wanted to clarify there was no chicken and she got flustered and asked her colleague. She kept saying chicken and he kept laughing but eventually she said “no meat. Eggs”. I then asked for a pork bun and she got super confused all over again! I explained I eat meat and she went off silently. She then came back with our bags and showed us which one the pork one was and I thought she’d put a stamp on the wrapper. It was only later we realised she had hand drawn a pig!

Customer service at its best

We went to the beach after lunch and chilled out for a bit. It was very quiet despite it being nearly 30 degrees and dry.

The beach with Fukuoka Tower behind

Kate stayed on the beach and I decided I should go for a run to burn off some of the 80,000 calories I’d consumed the previous day. I aimed for Ohori park, a large park with a lake with a designated jogging track around it. Running in Japan was good because I am out of practice and could stop a bunch of times to take photos and cross roads.

After my ever-so-slightly-faster-than-a-walking tour, we went to try out the stone bath. It was a brand new indoor onsen (which in Japanese is 温泉 and explains our bus stop name in Onomichi) and to Kare’s horror this meant full nudity (but gender seperated). But afterwards, after she got over the nudity bit, she had a great time. This one was much slicker than the previous one but less traditional. There was a big fake waterfall at the back and a bubble machine in one half of the hot bath. I even tried the plunge pool this time and, after the initial torture where you feel like your lungs have frozen stiff, it was actually quite nice.

After our refreshing dip we headed somewhere in search of food outside the hotel. We headed towards the station because as we know, Japanese stations are the gastronomic hubs.

Hakata station

Out of the hundreds of choices, we went to Hard Rock cafe. Kate is a big fan anyway but this week they were having a Veggie Awareness week and she was in heaven!

After food (and a souvenir t-shirt) we headed back to the hotel to ask about getting to the port. According to Google it was 2 buses but I wanted to check and also see if we needed one or two tickets. We asked a guy who asked a guy who told us our flight was cancelled. I said we were getting a ferry and he told us that there was a typhoon and all flights are cancellee. I reiterated the boat thing and he ran away and went on his computer. I did some Googling of my own and discovered he was right about the typhoon coming but our boat was ok because the typhoon was coming the day after. I tried to explain this and I was told we wouldn’t be able to come back. I said that was fine and he was happy. I tried once more to ask about buses and he said sorry and shrugged so we went to bed.

The next morning we grabbed some breakfast from Family Mart with the remainder of our coins, leaving enough for the bus and some food at the port. On the way back I thought I’d try and ask about the bus situation again. I did my best 2 bus 1 ticket impression and we were told 2 buses 2 tickets, which satisfied me. So off we set to our private bus stop to get the boat to Korea!

The Hotel

Fukuoka Hilton Sea Hawk is situated right next to the Yahuoku! Dome, the home of Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (the local baseball team). The Hilton is a gigantic structure and is one of the iconic buildings on the coastline. Although not as tall as the Fukuoka Tower, the top is not far off the level of the observation deck in the tower and gives great views across the city and the coast.

We got a great deal and were helped by the free facility passes but you have to pay extra for a bunch of things that we thought were included: wifi in the room, the pool and the onsen. After staying in a fair few hostels with fantastic service you start to appreciate just how much you get for your money with them.

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