Up the mountain I went, dodging spiders left and right. At first it was so tranquil with the sound of a nearby river, but soon the scary Japanese crows that sound like laughing demons came. I started to get a little freaked out, but I made it out alive and came into this beautiful place:
I wish I could adjust the contrast on this bad boy cause I love the picture...oh well.
The sun began to set and I had to make my way back to the train station before it got too dark and all the REALLY nasty bugs came out.
Lately I've been feeling a longing for some nature. I live in the downtown area of Fukuoka, and very rarely ventured from the streets filled with restaurants, clothing stores, and pachinko parlors. Yesterday I decided instead of going out to eat, I would venture alone into the country side. Turns out it was a lot closer than I thought. Only took about 20 minutes by the local train. Probably about 5 by the express.
When I first got to my stop I was a little concerned when I saw the mas amounts of power cables above the city gate. But all that was needed was a 5 minute walk to reach a giant park full of people playing sports with their kids, running with their dogs, and this kid, practicing his trombone skills.
Behind the park were a few narrow streets with old fashioned houses and scattered shrines like this one.
Walk a little farther up the hill and city streets become old tattered roads dotted with quaint little farms.
Past the farm land lies a beautiful forest trail leading up a mountain. Thats not mist, just some farmer burning trash on his farm.
Ok here's where it gets a bit scary. In Japan any area that has trees is guaranteed to be filled...FILLED with the biggest, nastiest spiders I have ever seen. These things are absolute giants, and if you look up into the sky you can usually find about 6 or 7 of them hanging out over your head. I am not exaggerating. They are everywhere.
I managed to be able to get right up on one with my macro lens. That's right, no zooming here baby. My hand was about an inch away from satan himself. There are 2 different types. This one with the fat body, and one with a not quite so fat, but extra long body. Both are equally frightening.
This blog is dedicated to Rolando, and Sean (they have the same return policy here as well bro)
Living in the city, there's plenty of American influence to be found. Mc Donalds, Starbucks (there are 2 right a cross the street from each other, I keep meaning to take a picture), Kinko's, etc. But drive out into the countryside, and you find something truly surreal:
Everything from the brands to layout is EXACTLY the same. The only difference is the signs are all written in Japanese.
I went with my friend Hanaka who lived in America for 4 years. She speaks perfect English, but speaks in Japanese 99% of the time to me to help me learn. I wish I was that nice.
Even the pizza is the same size. You could never find pizza this big at a normal Japanese restaurant.
In Japanese, what we call a scarf, is a muffler. (think spanish vowel sounds)MA-FU-RA.
Brutal best descibes the summers in Japan. Various sicknesses are named after summer to give you an idea. The last 4 months have been "sweat until you look like you just jumped in a lake...5 minutes after you walk out your door" hot. So when the weather turned cold without warning, giving me a chance to don a warm scarf, I was STOKED! Hisashiburi mafura san!Long time no see, Mr. Scarf! I didn't own one, so I went to Hanjiro, the used clothing shop, and bought one for the (in Japan) fabulously cheap price of 5 bucks. Best bang for my buck since I came here. Maji desu. Seriously.
To celebrate the cold my friend Nori and I went to starbucks to paint and draw some peektchars outside on the deck. It had been a long time since I last sat at a cafe and drew with a friend. Nori is really into chaotic abstract expression as you can tell. I don't really understand it, but it looks fun.
An interesting character, Nori is. He spent a year in New York...homeless, paying for food by selling paitings and getting the odd job at a moving company. Lived in parks around the city, where he learned some pretty vile slang (which he likes to use a LOT). Its always a bit odd to hear Japanese use bad words, cause I know they don't really understand why they're bad. It just sounds...unnatural.
The painting session was followed by ramen at the famous (in Fukuoka) Ippudo Ramen. BARI BARI UME!!!!DELICIOUS!!! When you finish your first bowl of Ramen, you can order Kaedama, which is another helping of noodles that you put in the broth thats left over. Usually 100 Yen, or about 85 cents. An incredible deal.
I've never been the cleanest person (a nicer way of saying Im a complete slob), but in Japan its a little harder to keep the mess to a minimum.
I have still not figured out how to dispose of plastic bottles, and those who know me know I drink an abnormal amount of liquid. Water doesn't come in convenient 5 gallon jugs here. You buy it by the 2 liter bottle at most stores. This pictures doesnt do it justice, but I have about 50 of these 2 liter bottles sitting by my front door. It really is quite the pathetic site.
Japanese have a tough time with L and R. So I can understand (although why they didn't just take 10 seconds to look it up, I don't know...EVERYONE has those electronic dictionaries). Who doesn't love flesh fish. Reminds me of home.
But Mand Handicaft? What the?
And make sure you boil those vegetables for a long time so they lose all their flavor and nutrional benefits right?
I swear I was in America last night. There is not a single thing here to bring about thoughts of Japan. Except the Japanese people.
This place has 2 ferris wheels that run from morning till evening everyday, but no one rides them. Japan is huge on energy conservation. No really, they are.
After a grueling 3 hours of rafting in the pouring rain, we were all in dire need of relaxation. Where do the Japanese go when they want to relax? To the public bath of course! This is called an onsen. (oh-nsen)
Naturally I wasn't able to take pictures IN the onsen. Bummer I know. Especially since we were all naked. Thats right. The only thing you can bring in is a small towel to cover your...personal area. Men and women are in seperate rooms by the way. Don't get too excited.
This was my first onsen experience. Hatsu Onsen.
First, I strip off everything, and walk into a room with about 10 shower heads lining the right wall. On the left is a huge steaming hot bath, full of naked old men, but before I can jump in, I have to get myself completely clean. I sit on a small stool in between two guys I've never met, and begin to bathe. It's a strange feeling, but no one is watching (unless you're a foreigner, in which case EVERYONE is). Of course my shower head is broken, so it takes much longer than I want it to. When I finish I wait for awhile to see what I'm supposed to do next. I copy the man next to me and dump a bucket of water over my head to rinse off, pick up my coverage towel, and sink in the giant bath alongside everyone else.
Once you get over the discomfort of being naked in front of everyone, it really is relaxing.
Tetsuya and I after our...manly bath together. The blue curtain behind us is the men's entrance, the red one for women. The girls took significantly longer than us, so we sat and read children's comics while waiting.
I forgot the name of the girl on the left. She's from Korea and is also studying Japanese. Then there's Natsumi, and Machiko.
When I got out of the onsen it looked so beautiful I had to make everyone wait while I took a picture.
This is the onsen entrance, and the fancy Japanese style car we rode in.
We still had not paid for the rafting trip, so we headed back to the office to hand over the cash. Why they trusted us to do that I don't really know. That's just the Japanese way I suppose.
We were all starving after our excercise, so we headed to this little ramen shop. The sign says Suzuran...Lily of the Valley.
This area is famous for Hakata ramen. The broth's flavor is made from pig bones. YUM!
To get back we had to pass a fairly wide mountain range. When I saw it on the map I was a little concerned about driving for an hour through windy roads followed by a 3 hour ride in a boat, then back through the windy roads. I took my meds (yoidome) just in case, but in Japan, you don't drive around mountains. There's just no time for that. The ENTIRE way looked like this. Tunnels were built all the way through the mountain range. Hardly a curve in sight.
I don't have a stomach for boats, or long car rides, but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to leave the city behind, and reunite with the color green. My friend Tetsuya invited me to come along with his friends for a rafting trip in Kumamoto, about 2 hours south of Fukuoka by car.
It's not officially a road trip until I take my token road trip mirror photo.
We got there just as the bus was about to leave for the river, so we had to get ready while everyone, in typical Japanese fashion, waited very patiently for us.
My "I'm ready to take on the RAPIDS" face
From here I obviously couldn't bring my camera, so I only have the few pictures one of the rafting company employees took.
First we got a brief lesson in how to survive, in Japanese. Its so wierd to understand what people are saying. Im still not used to it.
About to embark on our adventure.
I wasn't feeling sick just yet...
Around this time I got sick. I didn't puke, but as we approached this 5 meter rock and were told we would jump off, the nervousness must have gotten to me. I'm not a fan of being up high without a rail to hold me back. I don't have a picture, but I DID jump. I was quite proud!
The guide told us the rock is called Tiger Rock because it looks like a tiger lying in the river. I really didn't see it...just said "E----H?!" along with all the Japanese people.
3 hours. 3...stinkin....hours. But it really was a lot of fun.
I wouldn't touch the crane games in America with a ten foot pole. A waste of money AND crappy prizes? No thanks.
In Japan however, the arcades (or geemu sentaa) are packed from wall to wall with the things. And they almost always have prizes that make you actually stop and consider playing. The staff walks through the aisles, occasionally opening the glass doors to align the prizes in a way that makes them ridiculously easy to get. There's no easier way to impress a date than to win her a cuddly stuffed animal. Its better to fail on purpose the first time so it looks like it was really a challenge.
Take a look at the cute little pink bear on the bottom left. What girl wouldn't want one?
But when you come closer, you find its not quite what you expected. Whats great is they are next to those adorable hamster like brown things.
The ad here says something to the effect of:
"Gloomy is Pity's pet bear. Pity properly disciplines him, but it appears he can't remember that he's not suposed to attack people."