Northern Kyushu Trip from 6 Feb to 14 Feb 2016


This is my long awaited second trip to Japan after my first trip more than 10 years ago. You bet! The excitement is way beyond words can describe.  I landed at Fukuoka Airport on a red-eyed flight with Singapore Airlines and took a taxi from the airport to the hotel thereafter.

I am staying at the Yaoji Hakata Hotel which is within walking distance to the JR Hakata Station. As the check-in time is only after 3pm, I left my luggages at the hotel concierge before walking over to check out on the shops inside Hakata Station.

While on my way to the station, I chanced upon this Doutor Cafe (beside one of the station exit) which was highly recommended that the sandwiches and coffee latte were really good and worth a try.

Immediately, I fell in love with the german sausage roll, egg & ham sandwiches and coffee latte. Now I know what it feels to be having love at first sight.

The JR Hakata Station is really huge and I am totally mesmerized by the sheer size of the station. There are many shops in the station. You will sight Hankyu, Daimaru, Daiso, Tokyu Hands, Yodobashi Camera, etc.

While in the station on one of the mezzanine floor, I noticed a food street with shops selling ramens. I read somewhere that Hakata is also known as the land of the ramens. Interestingly, the ramen seems to come alive and shouting for my name each time I passes by them as in the movie “Night of the Museum”. Before I even knew it, I am already in one of the shop, ordered a bowl tonkatsu ramen and slurping my way.

Afterwhich, I went to Canal City to check out the Fukuoka Ramen Stadium which is a must visit. 

The Ramen Stadium is located on the 5th level of the cinema building in Canal City. It consists of 8 different restaurants offering a huge variety of ramen dishes. Most of the restaurants have vending machines outside their restaurant for you to place your order. 

It is a simple process. Once you decide what you want, use the vending machine next to the menu to purchase a ticket for your ramen. Some of these machines have English menu too. If not, you just have to look at the picture on the menu. 😃

Being in the land of the ramens and in this Ramen Stadium, there is no reason for me not to respect this sacred place by paying homage to it. Without much hesistation, a bowl of black shoyu ramen with a plate of karaage (deep fried chicken) is already on my table. What else can I say other than Bon Appetit!

I continued the rest of the afternoon exploring Fukuoka City on a public transportation. There is a 100 yen Fukuoka loop bus that serves the Hakata & Tenjin area. You may get on and off the bus anytime, regardless on the number of stops and it costs 100 yen per pax per trip. This is one of the ways to explore the city other than on foot.

While sightseeing, I walked past a restaurant along one of the street and was attracted to the menu. Dinner was a bowl of curry katsu don and a beef steak set.

With a hearty meal, I decided to walk around the city to enjoy the night before going back to the hotel.

Ended the night with fond memories of an eventful day.

Started Day 2 with an early brunch in one of the restaurant inside Hakata Station. I had Chazuke, something unusual.

Chazuke or ochazuke (literally taken from ocha “tea” + tsuke “submerge”) is a simple Japanese dish made by pouring green tea or hot water over cooked rice, roughly in the same proportion as milk over cereal, usually with savoury toppings. 

Common toppings include Japanese pickles, seaweed, sesame seeds, salted and marinated pollock roe, wasabi and raw fish.

I had my Chazuke with mackerel fish. Chazuke provides a good way to use leftover rice as a quick snack as this dish is easy to make.

I make my way to visit Fukuoka Tower, one of the attraction in Fukuoka. 

Fukuoka Tower stands at a height of 234m, covered with 8,000 half mirrors and is the tallest seaside tower in Japan. Different season of the year will yield different views from the observatory room.

After the tower visit, I spend the rest of the afternoon at Marinoa City Fukuoka for my outlet shopping. This is the largest outlet mall in Kyushu.

Had a Gindaco for a snack break before further shopping.

Took a bus back to Hakata Station and proceeded for dinner before retiring for the night.

It is always rewarding to end a day with a good meal. 

Day 3, departed Hakata for Nagasaki.

The reason for visiting Nagasaki is to visit the Atomic Bomb Museum to fulfill my long desire wish. 

Safe arrival at Nagasaki Station after 2 hours. It was a comfortable ride with reserved seating.

I stayed at the APA Hotel -eki Minami which is a good 10 mins walk from the station. As it was too early for check-in, decided to take a walk to Youme Town Nagasaki, a shopping mall just opposite the hotel to have a quick lunch before checking in again.

After settling down, I took a stroll down to Shinchi Chinatown which is about half an hour walk to soak up the Chinese Lunar New Year atmosphere. 

The place was crowded with locals and tourists. In the street alley, you can see street stalls selling street foods. 

The entire Chinatown was filled with festivities celebrations and everyone is soaking to the fun. 

In the night, I took a ropeway to reach the summit of Mount Inasa, a 333m high mountain in close distance to Nagasaki’s city centre. The night views from Mount Inasa are ranked among Japan’s three best night views besides the views from Mount Hakodate and Mount Rokko.

After the shivering experience from the summit, had a sumptious dinner to end another eventful day.

Day 4, started the morning with a good breakfast at the Youme Town food court before visiting Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, highlight of the trip.

Here I am. Going back to past history to learn about the Events leading to the Nagasaki Atomic Bombing.

Are you ready for the lesson? If so, let’s go…….

It was indeed a painful experience for the people back then. We are really fortunate to be living in this life of ours. Let us cherish what we have now while we can.

With this, my next desire wish is to visit Hiroshima to see the Atomic Bomb Dome. I hope to plan a trip next Chinese Lunar New Year to put a closure on this World War II chapter.

Next, visited the Immaculate Conception Cathedral which is round the corner.

Christians built this church over the course of 30 years, starting from 1985 after enduring a long period of oppression. Once renowned for being the largest Roman-style church in the east, it was destroyed by the nuclear blast. A new cathedral was rebuilt in honor of those lost. It was reconstructed to its present shape in 1959 and the brick construction was renovated in 1980, a year before the Pope’s visit.

Chance by this local town, Peace Town and saw this small eatery joint operated by a local couple. Couldn’t help but step in for a quick bite. It is as though you are home for a home-cooked meal. Food was super tasty and good. Oishi!

Took a tram and visited Sofukuji Temple. It was built in 1629 and is a national treasure and stores many cultural assets.

The beautiful red gate at its entrance is called Ryugumon.

Dinner was at one of the yakitori restaurant. Another satisfying meal to mark off the day.

Day 5, time to bid farewell to Nagasaki for Beppu.

Had a quick bite at Mister Donut shop before boarding from Nagasaki to Beppu. This noodle tasted somehow like our local version of the prawn noodle soup.

The train ride from Nagasaki to Beppu takes about 3.5 hours and I needed to change train at Hakata Station.

After 2 hours of train ride, I arrived at Hakata Station. Instead of having a packed bento lunch onboard the train, I decided to get off the station and had a quick lunch before proceeding with the remaining journey, fully utilising my unlimited JR pass.
Immediately after arrival to JR Beppu Station, I check into Nogamihonkan Ryokan Beppu which is less than 10 min walk from the station.

What is a Ryokan (旅馆)?

Ryokan is a type of traditional Japanese inn originated in the Edo period (1603 – 1868), when such inns served travelers along Japan’s highways. They typically feature tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, usually segregated by gender, using the water from a hot spring (onsen) if any are nearby.

The main highlight of staying in Ryokan is mainly to enjoy the onsen and their meals. Most Ryokan offer breakfast and dinner, which are often included in the price of the room. Most visitors take their meals at the Ryokan and it consists of traditional Japanese cuisine known as Kaiseki, which features seasonal and regional specialties.

After settling in, I went off to explore the surrounding area as I would always do (kind like a standard protocol). Caught a glimpse of the Beppu Tower while strolling the street of Beppu.

Along the street, saw this stall selling takoyaki & fried chickens (guess Japanese and Koreans alike, they simply love fried chickens) and bought some to ease my temptations.

Dinner was back at the Ryokan which was provided. In order for each dish to be enjoyed at the proper temperature, Ryokan stress that guests should be punctual for their meals. For this reason, most Ryokan ask guests to confirm the time they want to take their meals. 

In this Ryokan that I am staying, there were 3 different time slots to pick from. My meal slot is from 7pm to 8pm and it was served at a communal dining area.

Yum yum, what a great sumptuous dinner spread. Awesome, I am now looking forward to my next morning breakfast. 😋

Wake up to Day 6 knowing a great breakfast awaits ahead. After a hearty traditional Japanese breakfast, I went for sightseeing.

I spent half a day touring the 8 Hells of Beppu. The hot spring Hells of Beppu are a nationally designated “Place of Scenic Beauty” in the onsen town of Beppu, Oita, Japan. The “hells” (地狱, jigoku) of Beppu are 7 spectacular hot springs for viewing rather than bathing. 5 of the hells are located in the Kannawa district and 2 in the more remote Shibaseki district.

Chinoike Jigoku – the “blond pond hell” features a pond of hot, red water and a large souvenir shop. It is one of the more photogenic hells.

Tatsumaki Jigoku – the “sprout hell” features a boiling hot geyser, which erupts every 30-40 mins for about 6-10 mins. A stone plate above the geyser hinders it to reach its full height. A short walking trail leads up the forested slope in the back of the hell grounds.

Shiraike Jigoku – true to its name, the “white pond hell” features a pond of hot, milky water. The pond is surrounded by a nice garden and a small, run-down aquarium that has seen better days.

Oniyama Jigoku – a large number of crocodiles are bred and kept on the grounds of the “monster mountain hell”.

Kamado Jigoku – the “cooking pot hell” features several boiling ponds and a flashy demon statue as cook. On the grounds, visitors can drink the hot spring water, enjoy hand and foot baths, inhale the hot spring steam and try various snacks cooked or steamed by the hot spring. 

Umi Jigoku – one of the more beautiful hells, the “sea hell” features a pond of boiling, blue water. In its spacious gardens, there are a few smaller, orange coloured hells and a clear water pond with lotus flowers whose large leaves are strong enough to carry small children.

Oniishibozu Jigoku – this hell is named after the mud bubbles, which emerge from boiling mud pools and look like the shaven heads of monks. There is also a foot bath with clear water. 

Yama Jigoku – a variety of animals are kept here in enclosures that look uncomfortably small.

It was quite an experience visiting the attraction. Had a quick lunch before hopping on the the next attraction.

On the way to catch a bus, I catch a quick bite at this small eatery joint on the side of the road. Had a bowl of the spicy piping hot ramen with tasty karaage and tempura chicken. Food was surprisingly good and exceed way beyond expectation.

Next attraction is to visit Mount Tsurami. Mount Tsurami is a 1,375m high mountain that overlooks Beppu. The mountain is accessible via the Beppu Ropeway which takes visitors nearly 800m up the steep slopes to a small park near the summit. The park offers multiple observation decks with panoramic views of Beppu and Oita City, Mount Yifu and as far as the Kuju Mountains when visibility is good. The small park is covered by a network of walking paths that lead to the various nearby viewpoints.

Beautiful view of the Beppu Ropeway.

Finally, rounding off the late afternoon by visiting Oita.

Teabreak snack was Yakisoba at the Oita Station food court before proceeding back to the Ryokan for my Kaiseki dinner.

Prior to dinner, I went to the private onsen for a soak in the hot spring. I made advance reservation for my private onsen the day before. During daytime, the onsen is for communal use. Comes evening, you may book your slot for your private onsen time. 

The long awaited Kaiseki dinner. Oishi!

Day 7, time to bid farewell to Beppu and back to Hakata.

再见了別府。

After arrival in Hakata, took a quick snack before checking into Hotel Sunroute Hakata which is conveniently located beside JR Hakata Station.

Horse sashimi

Lunch was at a Yakitori restaurant inside Hakata Station.

Saw this inviting futomaki at the supermarket waving at me. Left with no choice but to pick it up. 

Guess you would have done what I did too. 😝 Right?

Before retiring for the night, had a simple dinner in a ramen restaurant.
Day 8, had my last breakfast at Doutor Cafe.

I started my first brekkie here, so thought of having a proper closure by ending it here before leaving. In chinese, it is called “有始有终”。
Spent my last day in Fukuoka rounding up the city and enjoying the last moment here. Not to mention, stocking up last minute snacks, souvenirs and food stuff home.

Lunch was ramen since it is the last time I will be having it in the land of the ramens.

Dinner was sashimi and yakitori. I will definitely miss this place and the food.

Left Day 9 early to catch my morning flight from Fukuoka Airport at 9.50am back home.

Bye Fukuoka, I promise to come back and explore the southern part of Kyushu next time. For now, I will look forward to my next trip to Hokkaido in a couple of months’ time in Nov 2016.

Till then, see you and Sayonara!

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