On February 19th I left the Incheon Airport and made my way to Fukuoka, Japan to get my E-2 work visa (so I can legally work in Korea). Fukuoka is the closest Japanese city to Korea and some people take ferries from Busan (one of the southernmost cities in Korea) to Fukuoka, but I’ve seen Titanic, I know what happens! The flight time was only about an hour (then another 10,000 hours of waiting on the runway, waiting to get off the plane, etc.) and once I had cleared my way through throngs of tiny Asians (who are surprisingly aggressive when it comes to waiting in line) and made it through customs I hopped on a bus that took me to the Fukuoka subway. Fukuoka’s subway system is much more user friendly than Korea’s (at least from what I’ve noticed so far) because almost all maps and subway lines have English (and Korean) notes on them. It took me about 30 minutes to get to Hakata Station from the airport and then I had to try to find my hotel…not an easy task when you realize how huge Hakata Station is and that there are two main exits; of course, I took the wrong one and was going in the completely opposite direction of my hotel for a solid 5 minutes. Hakata Station is the main railway terminal for Fukuoka and the largest station on the island of Kyushu.
That’s just one side of Hakata Station, it had more than 10 stories (from the basement to the top) and it was its own little city. It had numerous restaurants, convenience stores, wedding shops, candy stores, grocery stores, and an entire shopping mall that spanned floors 5-10 (there was a level designated solely to books and stationary). So on my first day in Fukuoka I went to my hotel (found it 2 blocks from the station) dropped off my bag, and then ventured out to explore the area.
I found (another) giant shopping mall called “Canal City”, where I purchased a less conspicuous coat (my hot pink one was standing out pretty solidly, as if my hair didn’t do it enough) that was black. Korean and Japanese people don’t tend to wear bright colors unless they’re out hiking, then it’s neon green, pink, and orange coats and pants. Canal City had a giant fountain/riverway running through it and trees…I’d call it a park in the middle of the mall. After that adventure I ate in “Ramen Stadium” in Canal City. It was basically 10 different Ramen noodle restaurants-which I guess Japan is famous for. It was good ramen, but nothing super spectacular about it. Then again maybe I didn’t order the right thing.
On the 20th, I made my way to the Korean Consulate to drop off my passport and get my visa stuff done. I took the subway and got off at the right stop, but then I was walking for what seemed like forever (I had read and searched what the Consulate looked like so I knew I was looking for a traditional looking Korean building with a slanted roof) and finally found the building! But I couldn’t find the door to it so I snuck in a side door that was kind of blocked off by potted plants, but I thought “Hey, whatever, that’s just the best place to put plants for sunlight or something”. The door was locked so I pressed the little doorbell/call button and heard, “Hai! Hai!”and said, “Hello…?” A little woman opened the door and said, “Korean Consulate? Keep walking straight.”
Two things: 1) “Hai” in Japanese means “yes”, not “hi” and 2) This little old woman must get a lot of random English speaking people knocking on her door if the first thing she said was to keep walking for the Korean Consulate. Regardless, I finally found it, dropped off my passport and began exploring Fukuoka by 9:30am. I walked around the Yahoo! Dome, walked along Momochi beach (a man made beach and quite a chilly place in February), found a little cafe where I ate some sort of pastry with red bean paste in it (popular in Korea and Japan), and visited the Fukuoka Tower.
The Fukuoka Tower is the tallest seaside building in Japan and stands 767.7 feet tall. Beside the great view, I have to be honest, the reason I went is because the tower was featured in “Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla”. How could I not go?!
View from the Tower
That night I went out and walked around the area that Canal City was located in because I read it was the “happening” place to be. I saw from across the river a sign that said, “Beer. Over 40 different taps” and I was sold. I walked in and there were four other people in there. That’s fine, I ordered a beer from Kenji (the manager) and he spoke fairly good English so it worked out. Then, low and behold, another white person showed up (the second I had seen in two days) and he spoke Japanese and English! Beer brings people together…Americans anyway.
On the 21st I went back to the Korean Consulate to pick up my passport. A woman handed it back to me and THERE IT WAS! MY VISA! I also met Arlo, a Canadian guy who had been teaching in Korea on and off for 5 years. We were on the same flight so I stuck with him and he gave me some good teaching advice.
Moral of the story: If you’re in a country where anything related to Godzilla was featured, go.