Despite my 4 amazing days in Hiroshima, it was time to head all the way down to Fukuoka City, Fukuoka. Just in case you're unfamiliar with where Fukuoka is (because it's not a very common tourist destination) I included a map below.
It was only about a two-hour train ride from Hiroshima to Fukuoka so I arrived pretty early in the day. When I stepped out of the station it was immediately apparent that I was in the south of Japan; the sun here was intense.
Unfortunately, the hostel I chose was about a 45-minute walk from the train station. Under normal circumstances that walk would be enjoyable, filled with sightseeing and exploration. However, with all my belongings piled onto my back, a mini backpack, a neck pouch, and the sun beating down on me... let's just say that there wasn't much adventure happening at the moment.
When I finally reached the spot where my GPS led me, my shirt was plastered to my back with sweat...and my hostel was nowhere to be found.
I circled the whole area in desperation, hoping I'd just gone one street too far, but still no luck.
In utter defeat, I dropped my heavy bags to the ground, bought a cold milk tea from a nearby vending machine, and plopped on the curb.
After about 10 minutes of feeling bad for myself, I picked up my bags again and decided to look for the hostel one last time. I walked about ten feet, looked left...and realized I was behind the hostel building the whole time but the sign was so small I hadn't noticed it before!
I checked in early (it was about 1:30 and normally check-in times are around 3-4pm) and to my surprise, I had the whole room to myself! I was able to choose which bed I wanted and control the air conditioning.
I didn't mention this before, but being able to control the a.c. unit in the room was a huge deal because at previous hostels, the rooms were always sweaty and so quiet that I could hear every move my roommates made all night.
The hostel was also designed with a lot more privacy than normal hostels (I chose bed #1) and the futons and pillows were so plush!
But I digress. After checking in, I freshened up, secured all my belongings in my bunk, and headed back out.
One of the only things I really knew about in Fukuoka was the Canal City Mall. I'd seen countless photos of the mall's unique architecture and I wanted to see it for myself. According to my GPS, the mall was only a 20 minute walk away!
Canal City was more beautiful in person than in the photos! The architecture of the buildings looked like the Grand Canyon and there was ivy climbing up the walls. The bottom floor even had a river with a fountain that put on an occasional, synchronized water show.
I explored the mall and quickly realized that, although it was beautiful from the outside, it didn't have many stores that interested me. Most stores were high-end clothing stores and I really wasn't there to add more weight to my luggage.
I did find a store with Studio Ghibli merchandise and a Jump! store, so I spent a bit of time nerding out. But after an hour or so, I realized I'd been walking in the heat all day and hadn't eaten.
Remembering that Fukuoka was known for its tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen, I pulled out my phone and looked up where I could find the best ramen shop in Fukuoka City. I chose one that was about a 20 minute walk away because it had great online reviews and started walking. At this point, I could feel a blister developing on my ankle but I knew Fukuoka ramen would be worth the walk.
Just like earlier, my GPS brought me to a random street corner and told me I'd arrived. I couldn't seem to find a ramen shop anywhere in the vicinity but the sun was getting low and I was starving so I decided to eat at the first restaurant I saw.
I quickly realized that the restaurant I wandered in was actually an izakaya (similar to a pub). I was sat at the counter and given a menu which consisted of yakitori (meat on a stick) style food and drinks. Of course, I ordered my favorite umeshu (plum sake) with soda water and ice and skimmed the menu.
I ended up ordering a selection of beef, chicken, tofu, and bacon-wrapped-cheese on a stick and it was all delicious! I mean, how can you beat melted cheese wrapped in bacon? Most skewers on the menu had descriptions in English, but not all of them. I decided to be adventurous and order a few foods that I had no idea what they were.
Then it happened. I accidentally ordered a giant, bloody animal heart. Now, I know that eating hearts is very normal in many cultures and I'm not judging other people for eating them. In fact, I try to be adventurous when eating in other countries. However, eating hearts in my culture is not a regular occurrence and after the long day I'd had, I was not in the mood to try my first one.
When the waitress gave the chef my order, he looked over at me as if to say to her, "are you sure that foreigner ordered this?" The chef came over to me and held up the heart to ask if I really wanted it. In a panic, I shook my head no and said I actually meant to order the item under it: chicken breast. He nodded as if he knew it was an accident and began prepping the breast.
I was so thankful that the chef was considerate enough to make sure I knew what I was ordering and I drank my umeshu in relief. Thank goodness I played it safe with chicken breast...
In just about a minute, the waitress brought over my plate of raw, seared chicken breast with a side of soy sauce and green onions. So much for playing it safe. Everything in my foreigner mind told me that eating raw chicken breast was a death sentence. I was going to contract salmonella and die.
You would think that in that situation, I could just politely not eat the raw chicken or try to cover it up. But nope. I was sat right in front of the chef who was watching me to see my reaction. In Japan, you're expected to eat every grain of rice on your plate in appreciation of all the hard work it took to get it there. And the chefs take a lot of pride in their work. So not eating it was out of the question.
So yes, I ate an entire raw chicken breast. I soaked it in soy sauce and covered it in green onions to mask the taste. But to be honest, it was the texture that made me uncomfortable, it didn't have much of a taste.
After that, I paid my bill and hurried back to the hostel, as it was getting late and almost completely dark now.
I got ready for bed then laid in my bunk and reflected upon my day. Not all adventures go as planned but that's why it's called an adventure. It definitely wasn't my best day in Japan, but it was a day I'll surely never forget!
And no, I didn't die of salmonella or get parasites. And now I can say I've eaten raw chicken in Japan! ...Is that something to brag about?
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