Wednesday, December 21, 2011

24 hrs in Fukuoka, Japan


A few weekends back, some friends and I decided to go to Japan for the weekend. Twenty-four hours or so, to be precise. Insane? Absolutely. But it was definitely worth the sleepless weekend. The airline tickets to Fukuoka, Japan were surprisingly cheaper than a ferry, so we hopped on a plane and landed in 45 minutes. Let me just start off by saying that everything in Japan is cute. It's true. Yes, even smoking signs. Which, by the way, it's frowned upon, if not illegal, to smoke while you're walking. The same goes for drinking and eating, as well. Oh and you don't talk while riding public transportation. I remembered this from the last time I was in Japan, but upon my revisit, it became clear to me that things haven't changed. Not one bit. No one talks while riding the subway. No one. (Well, except for obnoxiously loud foreigners, which we tried really hard not to be!)

When we made it out of customs, my first stop was the conbini (Japanese for "convenient store") where I purchased my beloved Van Houton Cocoa and prepackaged inari & sushi from a doll-like Japanese woman with a tiny baby voice. When I studied in Japan two summers ago, I literally lived off of this stuff. Japan gets really expensive, really fast. So I always ate these at the convenient store. Reunited and it feels so good...

  



My buddies playing make-believe.
 We stopped by a furry mall (really...it was swathed in vegetation) and listened to some Japanese singer-songwriters playing their hearts out beneath a giant white Christmas tree. The architecture curved around the stage and the many levels looking out over it served as bleachers.

Everyone decided to go for ramen, which Fukuoka is apparently known for. I opted, instead, for conveyor belt sushi. It was scrumptious and so much fun. You simply grab what you want, stack your color-coded plates when you're finished, and they total it up for you. Can I get an oishii-des-yo? ("Delicious!")



We did some shopping and sight-seeing along the river after lunch. Strolled past beautiful buildings and yes, cigarette vending machines. For a country that doesn't allow smoking while walking, they sure have a lot of those! Also, the sky was gorgeous, despite the fact that the forecast had called for rain all weekend. Don't you love it when that happens?


 


 We visited some historical architecture, including the grounds where the Fukuoka castle once stood. 




 Leaves were still changing in Japan, even though everything is already brown in Korea. So I took full advantage of that and laid in them. My friend climbed the tree above me and snapped some pictures. :)
  


The view from the top of the Fukuoka castle property was beautiful. We snapped a group photo and even partook in some swing dancing...which, I found, I am definitely awful at.


Later the group split up and Nia and I went to a nail salon. Japanese girls are known for their crazy nail art, so I thought I'd give it a go. Mine were like PG versions of their crazy talons. But still a little more sparkly than usual (usual, of course, meaning, "never manicured"). We had Indian for dinner and it never fails -- every Indian place I've eaten at in Japan has enormous naan! See below.

 

 
 Instead of blowing a bunch of money to spend the night somewhere (every place was so expensive! Made me miss jjimjilbangs...), most of us stayed up until our flight the next morning. We spent a majority of our night at a jolly little joint called Happy Cock. Yes, yes. I know. I laughed, too.  But it was seriously cool because they had a special wrist band you could buy for the equivalent of about $30 and drinks were unlimited. I found that they put very little alcohol in the cocktails though, which was actually a good thing, because I got to try various drinks that I had never had before. And I still felt normal afterward. Phew. The bartenders all spoke English, too, so that was nice...


But then things got weird. Really weird. The bar was exploding with beats and it was impossible to keep yourself from moving. So we started dancing. And that's when we discovered that it was illegal to do so. Dancing was illegal! Footloose or what? It goes back to the 1984 addition to the 1948 Fūzoku Eigyō Torishimari Hō (Entertainment Business Control Law), which was originally designed to regulate hostess bars, cabaret clubs and gambling establishments. These days, eight different licenses are required for bars to be able to perform different activities under the law; one allows late-night drinking, which is the only license that most venues hold. In order to permit dancing after a certain late-night hour (which varies between cities), there is a size requirement, which only ballrooms and dance studios seems to meet. Therefore, dancing is technically illegal in most of Japan's venues. Tokyo is able to get away with a lot, however, venues in Fukuoka and places like Osaka have had a harder time escaping the crackdown, I discovered. In fact, Happy Cock was shut down for a short time in November because people were found dancing inside. God forbid! 


"The local laws prohibit us from letting customers
dance in our facility. Refusal to cooperate
will get you banned." Ridiculous.
So occasionally, we'd feel a tap on our shoulders when we realized our bodies were (uh oh) swaying to the beat. The staff was cordial about it, and they made it clear that they understood that these laws are ridiculous. But they couldn't take any chances. Can you imagine how hard that must be for a nightclub or bar business? It seems like you'd almost have to break the law in order to stay in business...


Which is actually what a lot of places do.

Our attempts to mock the law. Uh oh! We're dancing!!

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