A short 40 minute hop on the train from Saga took us to the largest city in Kyushu, Fukuoka. In the news recently as the place where the massive sinkhole appeared, Fukuoka was a lot more built-up than Nagasaki and around the central Hakata station was very reminiscent of Tokyo, being surrounded by huge 10-floor department stores and electric shops.
We were only there for a short time; the first evening we strolled around and had dinner in a yatai. On the riverfront, these are a collection of small temporary restaurants with space for only about 10 customers, serving ramen or yakitori. We had ramen, which though basic was delicious
The next day we left Fukuoka to go to Yanagawa, a very small town built on a canal system. Nowadays, the town primarily seems to function on offering punt tours around the canal, allowing tourists like us to see such sights as the old house of a famous Japanese poet and a statue commemorating where Yoko Ono’s grandfather used to live.
The punts themselves were typically Japanese; everybody had to take off their shoes before getting in, and there was a kotatsu running down the length of the boat. Kotatsu are effectively tables on a blanket, with a heater underneath the blanket to keep everyone warm; mainstays of a Japanese house in winter but not something I expected to see on a small boat.
We had a 70 minute punt through the canals, visiting the different schools and famous old houses of Yanagawa, occasionally being serenaded by the driver who burst into song when he was out of things to say. Luckily the weather was fantastic, a very clear and sunny day, and with the heat from the kotatsu and gentle breeze provided a very relaxing jaunt.
We got back to Fukuoka in time for dinner, before having a little snooze. For it was New Year’s Eve, a night to see out the old year, welcome in the new one and party like it was 2017 already. Or not. We were both knackered, and had to get a bus at half 8 the next day, so we woke from our nap and headed out of the hostel at about 11 towards the harbourside where we’d googled that there might be some fireworks. Picking up a beer on the way, we arrived at what looked like a shopping resort, but it was bustling with people and a live band on stage. Flittering back and forth to try and get the best view of any possible fireworks was a little challenging, due both to the number of people blocking the way and the lack of knowledge of where the fireworks would actually be. Finally at 11.57 we settled on a spot which turned out to be perfect and saw in 2017.