In Fukuoka, staying at the Tenjin district must be the boldest move for a new tourist in the city like me. It is a retail and food haven where many stores stay open 24 hours.
For food discoveries, try the Standing Sushi bar in the passage way between Nishitetsu Grand Hotel and the Tenjin station. I had the best Toro (tuna belly) and salmon sushi, yes, while standing on my feet.
Another cool idea is the Tempura restaurant at the Toho Cinema building, also near Tenjin Station. We went early at 10:30am (when it opens) to buy the ticket for our preferred tempura from the dishes set outside at a vending machine. As we were seated, we handed over the ticket. We were given a tray for our tempura order, which came with a dipping sauce, a bowl of rice and a bowl of miso soup. But we had to wait until the cook was done organising the batch of prawns, fish and vegetables for the tempura. Then, like a choreographed show, the chef went around serving each of about 30 diners in a U-shaped counter their order of choice—all-prawns or ebi tempura, or mixed with fish and vegetables, so hot from the deep fryer and served within seconds. We could not linger. The next group of 30 was waiting just behind us as we finished the last morsels of rice and side dishes in our bowls.
The best part of my visit was walking around Kego Park towards Matzuri Park along Keyaki-dori, a fashionable street with nice restaurants and bookstores. I chanced upon a café called Café Bimi and stopped for a cup of freshly roasted coffee. The tiny shop has a Fuji Royal coffee roaster on the ground floor. The barista at the dining area upstairs suggested a cup of their famous blend but, guess what? I spotted Philippine coffee on the menu for JPY800 (around P350 )! That surely made my day. I felt proud that our coffee has gone the way of Ethiopian Harrar and Indonesian Mandheling. Our very own Philippine Arabica coffee has landed in Japan.
Then there I was walking back through the park and, guess what? Cherry blossoms! On the fourth day the cherry blossoms opened as predicted. We snapped many shots (using our phones and a real camera). Nature truly has her way of weaving her own magic.
Thanks, Fukuoka. You showed me my very first cherry blossoms. If I could do a time lapse of each day in my camera, it would have been wonderful. But they say memories must be enjoyed as they happen. And no amount of photographs can capture the moment of joy I experienced watching nature at work.
Fukuoka may be underrated as a vacation spot, but I would go back anytime. Not just for the cherry blossoms, but also for the quiet and the food and the jazz. And don’t forget the coffee.
Read the first part of Chit Juan's Fukuoka adventure here.