Thursday 19th

Early bus back to Kumamoto, and time for another shinkansen – this time up to Fukuoka. At Fukuoka station, they had a shop full of merchandise about the 500 Type EVA train that I’d spotted on my last trip – this place is seriously train mad! Found a great ramen and gyoza place at the bus station for a big lunch. Spent a few hours at the hotel putting material on the blog, then headed out to the Fukuoka Tower – not actually a building but a transmission tower, with great views from the observation deck and a cool light show on the exterior – as you can see, the Japanese go very big on Halloween.

Friday 20th

Started the day in Starbucks for something calorific and one of their nitro cold brew coffees. Very smooth coffee, looks just like a half of Guinness. Walked from there to the picturesque Ohori park via the Fukuokakengokoku shrine. Ohori has another lovely example of a formal strolling garden, beautifully put together and maintained. As with Suizenji in Kumamoto, the idea is to take elements of the country – mountains, cliffs, waterfalls – and portray them in miniature. Very popular spot for couples having their wedding photos taken.

On into the main park, which has a large lake with an island joined by causeways to the bank. One of my favourite photos here – just something about the ‘out of time’ nature of the two girls in kimonos – checking their smartphones!

Back at the station in Kagoshima, I’d seen an advert for the Fukuoka Oktoberfest beer festival – which I’d thought wasn’t happening this year. Hence my addition of the city to my itinerary. Took the subway to a nearby station, and spotted a ‘British pub’ with the intriguing name “Morris’ Hippo”. Who Morris was, and why he had a hippo, remained unanswered.

New pals

Stopped in for a drink and a snack, and while sitting out on the patio was engaged in conversation by a couple of ladies – business partners who’d knocked off early for the day. Natasha was originally from Russia, but had been living in Japan for 19 years, and Erico was Japanese – Natasha described her as her ‘Japanese sister’. Erico was a fashion designer, and Natasha designed accessories. Clearly a certain amount of red wine had been consumed, and Natasha was rather taken with me – they said I reminded them of Bruce Willis, ‘very handsome’ – still not sure how to take that…

They offered to take me to dinner and then to a club, I politely demurred and said I was on my way to the beer fest – so they decided to come along. Had a nice hour chatting with them – well, since Erico spoke very little English there was a certain amount of translation, and since English was Natasha’s third language (Russian and Japanese being first and second) she was a little frustrated at times finding the right words. When it became clear I was still not going clubbing with them, they decided it best to leave me to it – I was hardly dressed for a club anyhow, still in shorts and sandals!
(I have to admit I was in fear of losing said shorts if Natasha got carried away…)

The beerfest was awesome. Apparently there is a joint German/Japanese partnership that hosts these around Japan throughout the year, but Fukuoka is one of the ones that’s actually in October (we’ll ignore the fact that Oktoberfest Munich actually starts in September…) and was started by a local who fell in love with Germany when he lived there for a time. All the big German breweries were represented, but I stuck with beers from a Japanese bewery – Fujizakura – who specialise in German style beers. I even got to meet their head brewer.

Spam musubi!

It was quite a sight as you’ll see from the video and the photos – Japanese (some in lederhosen or dirndls) singing along to the German guest bands and having a whale of a time. The guys at the front in the first video were German, and did a great job of geeing up the crowd.
I even found the wonderful Japan/Hawaii delicacy – Spam musubi! Basically a large block of sushi rice, with fried Spam on top. Artery blocking but utterly delicious. Some photos after of my stroll back through the city.

Saturday 21st

Bit of a slow start this morning, but Seattle’s Best Coffee sorted me out and I found my way by bus over to Hakata station. Two shinkansens this morning – Hakata to Shin-Osaka, then onward to Nagoya. Still raining hard when we pulled in, so was very pleased that the hotel was right next to the station.

BeerPub BRICK LANE for dinner – good reviews for their burgers, but I’d call what arrived a steak sandwich… still tasty. Stopped by Y.Market brewing on the way back, very sensible signage on their outside balcony.