UPDATE : 2020.7.14 Tue 23:06
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A taste of Japan

Having seen many Japanese cartoons and animation movies since childhood, then meeting a few Japanese people who have become my friends, I longed to finally experience the sights, sounds, and smells of Japanese culture and people first-hand. So, the long Chusok holiday finally gave me the much-awaited chance. My daughter and I went on a four-day trip to Fukuoka!

When we arrived in Fukuoka, our first destination was Hakata Station since our hotel is situated right behind it. A bit disoriented and not knowing any Japanese, it took us hours to find the hotel. After a short rest and shower, we decided to head out and explore the neighborhood. We went to the underground shopping centers, saw a variety of small novelty shops, looked around gourmet shops, and had authentic Japanese food for dinner—tempura, udon, and tonkatsu. When we got back to the hotel, I planned our itinerary and learned a few survival Japanese phrases and expressions like ‘Ikuradeska’ and ‘Arigato gozaimas’.

Our time in Fukuoka was spent visiting places such as shrines and temples, shopping districts, and museums. We went to Sumiyoshi Shrine, Kushida Shrine, Rakusuien Garden, Gokoku Shrine, Shotenji Temple, and Tochoji Temple. Among these, my favorite is Kushida Shrine which houses beautifully decorated floats for the Hakata Dontaku Festival. Near the main hall, there is a small fountain that is said to spring sacred water that preserves youth. Of course, I took a sip -- I wouldn’t miss the chance to have a drink from this fountain of youth!

There are many places in Fukuoka where you can enjoy shopping and gourmet food. Tenjin, located in the center of the city, is a place where you can find anything from the latest digital cameras and electronic gadgets to kimonos and woodblock prints. We went to the underground shopping arcade where we spent hours and hours just wandering around from one shop to another. We also went to Canal City and saw the fascinating ‘Fountain Dance’. We went on a shopping frenzy at Hakata Kawabata shopping arcade where we found 100 yen shops and Japanese folk crafts. We tried one of the food stalls that lined the streets of Hakata and had the best yakisoba we’ve ever had.

Whenever I visit a new place, I make it a point to check museums or historic sites to learn more about its past. Fukuoka is a culturally rich area where you can experience both the old and the modern Japan. We visited national historic sites such as Fukuoka Castle Ruins and Korokan Ruins Museum, and we were introduced to the life and culture of Japan in the old days at the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum, Fukuoka City Museum, and Fukuoka Folk Museum.

Our final leg of the journey was Fukuoka Tower, the symbol of the city. The top offered a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and the harbor. Right next to it is Robosquare (a must-see!) where you can see, touch, and experience some of Japan’s latest robot technology. We were entertained by awesome singing and dancing robots, and my daughter considered this the highlight of her Japanese experience.

In Japan, everything seemed to operate like clockwork – the buses and trains were always clean and ran on time, the people were very polite and friendly, and shop clerks always greeted us with a polite bow and ‘Irasaimase’. Although we spent a short time in Japan, the experience gave me and my daughter lasting impressions. I’m definitely going back for more!

Cecil Hwang  media@changwon.ac.kr

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