Fukuoka At First Glance

by Kensatsukan Gaijin
Still struggling with the memory stick issue. Right now I'm at an Internet cafe, sitting in a high-end massage chair, eating noodles, and finding it hard to be that concerned. I have a Japanese movie playing in the other window on this computer, and will end up paying less than $10 to sit here, in a massage chair, for 3 hours watching whatever movies I want, all the soft drinks you can drink, heck, even if I need a shower they have them. And tanning beds, for some reason. There is a machine that dispensed my noodles, and will give me about 10 other hot foods. Or I can order a Pizza - that might be a bad idea in a land without cows.

This place is amazing. I've already met my first goal of eating at a sidewalk noodle shack (yatai) in the rain while people walked by with clear plastic umbrellas. Fortunately Edward James Olmos was a no-show. Maybe I'm not a replicant...

My best comparison for Fukuoka right now is Cambridge, MA for those of you who've been there. Maybe Brooklyn after that. Lots of tiny streets, high-end boutiques and trendy second-hand stores, right next to ancient temples and antique-looking restaurants. A working city, with a large, young, bohemian contingent.

Tonight is my second night going to bed after midnight (a.k.a 11 am to the rest of you). I don't feel any jet lag, but I just don't see the value of sleep. After all - I can sleep when I get back to work. Last night I fell asleep to a TV show that taught Chinese - in Japanese. It was great review of both languages, actually. I should find this on DVD. If I'm not careful I'm going to fall asleep here in the internet cafe; which, by the way, is the recommended way to stay cheaply in Japan if you have to extend your stay one night or get here a day early, according to my school. It's cheaper than a hotel, and nicer to boot. Name me one hotel you've stayed at that has a free massage chair, free internet, free movies on demand, free drinks, and hot food 30 feet away. All for under $10 per 3 hours.

Anyway, sleep is for suckers. I woke up this morning after 4 1/2 hours of sleep, ran for 1 1/2 hours, took a shower, bought my adapter, and then headed out. 7 hours of walking later I had hit the beach, Hakata (canal city), several neighborhoods, all in all over 7 miles of walking and the blisters to prove it. I am officially out of band-aids. Even my replacement Japanese ones.

All this time, however, I ran into Westerners exactly 3 times. Once, while running near a popular hotel, then at the beach, a German family (used some German, in Japan. Double points for that), and then at a man-made lake. Each time, there was this funny greeting we made, as if we knew each other from "back home." It's bizarre. It's the camaraderie of being the handful of Westerners in a city that is NOT a tourist destination for Westerners.

Favorite interaction of the day, though: Riding the elevator at Hakata Station with a 5 year old boy behind me. I said "Konnichiwa!" He replied "Konnichiwa, Ji-San."
Translation: "Hi, Old Man!"

Not good.

More pics tomorrow, if I can get a computer to read this damn memory stick. No luck here.

Oh, and it's my first day of school tomorrow.
Wish Annie a Happy Birthday if you haven't already!!