I went to Kyushu with my parents for an entire week. Kyushu is the southern most island of the four major islands of Japan. Kyushu is the closest island to Korea and China. It’s known for its beaches, mountains, volcanoes, onsens and natural beauty. Kyushu's history is very interesting because it was the gateway to China, Korea and the west. The Portuguese and Dutch came to Japan through Kyushu and had small settlements. During the years that Japan was cut off from the rest of the world, Nagasaki was the principle connection to other cultures. The Chinese, Korean and western influences in Kyushu make for an interesting trip. We focused on the northern part of Kyushu.
We took a Shinkansen Monday morning to Fukuoka. As we were leaving the Fukaoka station, a crazy, old woman approached us and was talking to us rapidly in Japanese. She kept laughing and saying the Japanese word for foreigner and pointing at us. We were slowly backing away. Next thing we know, she touches Julian's right breast, then his left breast and then grabs for his package, I mean the one below his belt. She totally copped a feel! We immediately walked off and I couldn't stop laughing. Oh I mean, poor Julian, he was violated. I'm surprised his fist didn't shoot out, luckily he was so surprised that his automatic reflexes didn't kick in. If it had been me, I would have been traumatized, but Julian was okay, maybe a bit in shock but okay. About 10 minutes later after we had walked off, we came up with all kinds of funny responses, but that was 10 minutes later. Yes, that was the start of our trip.
Fukuoka is the largest city in Kyushu with about 1.3 million people. Their ramen is famous. The guidebook said they have over 400 ramen shops listed in the phone book. I selected a famous ramen shop, where you get to choose the amount of garlic, spice, onion, meat, special sauce, type of broth and it's fat content, etc. We had to fill out a ramen request form, which they had in English. We sat at a long bar/table and there were dividers so we could slurp our noodles in privacy. I think we ate ramen at least 4-5 times during our trip. I love ramen! And it's not cup o' noodles! It's authentic, meaty, fatty, pork, long curly slithery noodles, spicy, ramen-oishiilicious (a combo word I just made up of the Japanese word for delicious-oishii and of course the English word delicious, hence oishiilicious). I don't think it will catch on.
It was getting late in the day, so we headed to Karatsu. Karatsu is a small town on the coast that's famous for their pottery, Karatsu-yaki. We visited a museum and watched a video about Karatsu pottery. Karatsu pottery is very famous. It has natural glaze colors and it is made by using a special technique of paddle throwing.
The best accommodations for our entire trip was at a ryokan in Karatsu. It was located on a river near the ocean, we had a view of the small castle nearby as well. I think we were the only guests that night. The ryokan had American and French movie posters lining all of the walls. They made an amazing dinner and breakfast plus we had the most fluffy, wonderful futons ever!
The next day we went to a few stores and a couple of more places to see Karatsu ware before we headed towards Imari and Arita. We took a little, yellow, one car diesel train to Imari. It was an old train - looks like a yellow school bus.
We didn't have enough time for Imari, so we went straight to Arita. Imari and Arita, are small towns with strong pottery traditions. Their pottery is made from porcelain and has bright colors and designs. I personally prefer natural and earthy looking pottery, but I really appreciate the skill it takes to make Imari and Arita ware - such gorgeous ornate pieces. We also visited an old clay mine, which was really cool. Many of the stores were closed in Arita because they had just had a big pottery festival. So we wandered the back streets of the town along a river, through an old cemetery and on long winding roads. There were pottery shards everywhere! I mean everywhere. In the river, on the road, around the tombstones, in the walls, etc.
We headed for Nagasaki that evening. We had ramen for dinner again- yum. Julian wanted to go out, but after our huge meal, I fell asleep.
To be continued...