I was fortunate enough to have two separate two-week vacations at my school, so I spent the first of the two in Japan exploring Okinawa, Fukuoka, and Nagasaki.
The trip began in Busan, one night before my flight to Naha. I stayed with the family that has essentially taken me in as their own and we went to a buffet for dinner; because they know YA GIRL CAN EAT. My flight was at 8 am, meaning I had to leave their luxurious beach home at 5 AM to get to the airport in time. I unfortunately developed chilblains that day, which are severely inflamed and swollen toes due to being exposed to cold for an extended period of time. I already have poor circulation so my poor toes were quite literally frozen for days straight. It was very painful but nothing a little cotton ball can’t fix! *honestly recommend putting a cotton pad under your toes if you ever get chilblains*
The flight was a very smooth one. It departed half an hour late but arrived exactly on time. I flew with jinair, a budget airline with very mixed reviews. I liked my experience, however! The flight was gorgeous as well since we flew over several islands, and I’ve never seen that before. Upon arrival, I went through the fastest customs clearance ever, but then spent nearly an hour trying to get the damn Sim card to work. I have never needed to buy a prepaid SIM, as my old t-mobile data plan was unlimited international so I was really struggling with this first world problem. Plus I have the newest galaxy phone, so there were no instructions on how to change my apn manually. It’s so confusing so I never want to do that again! Unfortunately I’ll have to during every trip I take. Siiiiigh. Anyway! Then I left the airport in search of the light rail. Off to a bad start already, as everything is in Japanese and I can only read English and korean.. So I asked a taxi man who insisted he just drive me instead but I was like nah homie, I want the yung cheap public transportation. I fiiiinally found it, not after an awkward encounter with a really cute backpacker who smiled at me and watched me walk back and forth, obviously completely lost. Oops. Once on the light rail, I took it straight to Kokusai Dori Street, conveniently located right next to my hostel. I meandered around this tourist attraction for several hours until check in time with my hostel. Not before I have a veggie burger from Mos Burger, and a toooon of samples from the random food shops!
My hostel. The Kitchen Hostel. I can only describe this hostel as literal perfection. The free breakfast was amazing and everything I had been craving for months; handmade pancakes and unlimited toppings, like fruit and granola. They also have free iced coffee for guests all day long. As well as a ton of free toiletries and face cleaner, face masks (the mouth kind and the moisture kind) plus a ton of books to read and shoes to wear. The staff was lovely, the beds were comfortable and the place was very quiet. I really liked staying here. It was also a 5 minute walk from the main shopping street and the light rail!
Day two: shrines and dines. I walked for hours scoping out shrines I had been obsessively looking at pictures of online. I also went to the weirdest beach of all time; it had a freeway overpass about 20 feet in. But there was also a beautiful Cliffside temple,so it was kind of an odd mix of modern and traditional. This was also the day I got to meet a lovely girl from Seoul at my hostel. We went to dinner together and shopped around.
The next few days consisted of wandering aimlessly and getting Starbucks because I’ve been deprived from good iced coffee!
City number two: Fukuoka. FUK YAAAAH. I took the ferry to fukuoka and a bunch of weird ass old dudes kept watching me and smiling and trying to talk to me and I was like ‘hi hello yes, can you not? I look 17 anyway ya big freak’ naturally I didn’t really use those words but you know how it is. Now it was in fukuoka, a city dominated by korean tourists, that I realized I am VERY lucky to speak korean. Everything was written in Japanese and korean only! And most workers I encountered spoke those languages and not English. My god I would have been a mess without korean knowledge. But I do really wish I spoke Japanese! The first two days in this city were spent exploring the enormous canal city as well as the neighboring areas and shrines. Shrines and temples are my heart and soul.
While shopping I realized a massive difference between korean stores and Japanese stores; Japanese people don’t watch you and follow you everywhere. They just let you do you. I’ve missed that. I’ve been conditioned to never want to enter boutiques because I hate being breathed on, but nope, not here! They say hello and let you do your own thing. It’s so great. I forgot to mention, I am staying at an airbnb smack dab in the middle of the city on the 7th floor so it’s quite a spectacle!
The next Japanese city I visited was kokura. A city known for its beautiful and picturesque castle; Kokura Castle. To get here I had to take a very inexpensive train (1800¥ as opposed to 3400¥ that google maps said I’d pay) that took me there in about an hour. We made several stops that I didn’t notice when we made it to the actual destination. The driver of the train kicked me off at the final stop because I was the only one on it. Honestly I’m so happy my stop was the final stop or I would have gone way too far. I’m such an embarrassment. But in my defense everything was written in Japanese and the fact that I even got on the right train was a accomplishment in itself. The next several hours I spent wandering abound castle grounds and aimlessly through the streets of kokura. I had lunch at a restaurant with a buffet. You had to order a main dish AND the buffet separately so I ordered a curry which ended up having meat in it so I was only charged for the buffet (because I asked and probably pissed them off.. My b). The buffet had these glazed sweet potatoes so I’m 90% sure I had 1500 calories of potato and I ain’t even mad. Although my stomach is. Upon coming back to Fukuoka, I ended up getting on the wrong train, I got on the super fast, super expensive reserved seat train and I only found out because a girl told me I was sitting in her spot. Oops. Oh well, I made it! Then I was going to walk back to my airbnb but I walked for an hour in the opposite direction and ended up in an absolutely beautiful residential area and fell in love. I truly think I made a mistake in moving to Korea and not Japan. I smiled at some guy who was staring at me and about 2 minutes later I got tapped on the shoulder and it was him. He told me this, ‘Hi. You don’t know me.. Obviously. But you smiled at me earlier and I wanted to say thank you. It means a lot’ and that seriously effected me. It was so sweet! I have always smiled at everyone who makes eye contact with me but to be told and to someone it made a difference in their day really really makes me feel good about myself.
The final day. I spent the final hours of my time in Japan, wandering around castle ruins and shopping malls. It was raining all day which ruined my original plans to walk around the entirety of Nagasaki. It’s okay though, I’ll be back. Japan captivated me beyond measure. The politeness I was shown here makes me rethink my life choices in coming to Korea. I so don’t want to go back there at all. But I must, for now.
I am already itching to get on another ferry from Busan. 3 hours on a boat is nothing, when the experiences here are worth so much! Catch you all later.