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On the Way to Kyushu

JAPAN | Wednesday, 6 April 2016 | Views [604]

“I want to go to Kyushu,” I heard myself say while video chatting with my parents. It was a weird thing for me to say. Like someone in Chicago saying “I want to go to Minnesota.” There’s nothing wrong with Minnesota, it’s just a kind of odd place to want to go without a reason. Unless you like decent-enough-I-guess lakes. But for whatever reason, the idea of going to Kyushu was in my mind, and I kind of wanted to go.

When I realized we had a really long (four day) weekend coming up, I did some looking at plane and train tickets to see how feasible it was. I sketched out a rough trip that involved me going to Hiroshima, then Fukuoka, then Nagasaki, then back, but transportation alone would have made that expensive and kind of a pain to plan, and I wasn’t that committed to that idea. So I let that go, and was once again looking at a long weekend with no plans, and trying to decide if there was anywhere I wanted to go enough to change that.

It was at about this point that Rachel told me she was planning on going to Fukuoka, and asked if I wanted to go along. That sounded like a plan, so I agreed.

Rachel had planned most of the trip before deciding she wanted company, so I didn't have to do anything more than book the same things she had and maybe find something to do in Fukuoka. So together we bought night bus tickets there, I booked a bed in the same AirBnB hostel she had, and we planned on buying Shinkansen tickets back.

I had roughly two days to hang around considering going to Osaka proper, but ultimately deciding to just hang around and walk by the river. Then it was 8:00 Saturday night, and Rachel and I met up to go to Namba Hatch where we would be catching our bus.

The way to get to Namba Hatch was to go to Shojyaku Station, get on the right train, and ride to… Nagorabashi? And you're done? Seriously? Basically, the same way I'd get to Mondial Kaffee, the illusory second Mariage Frères, the big Tokyu Hands, or the restaurant alleged by multiple sources to have the best burgers in Osaka, but that seemed to always be busy or closed? Yes, the exact same way.

If I could go back and give myself one piece of advice for this semester, it would be this: “don't worry about the trains. I mean, they're expensive and annoying in comparison to the metro, but you literally only need to learn how to get to three different stations and you'll be fine. Oh, but you should probably know how to get back too. Learn what final destination goes past your apartment, the sooner the better.” But yeah. 3 stations in Osaka, 2 in Suita, and 1 in Kyoto. It's a lot simpler than it looks when you're staring at a train map.

Although the entire trip hadn't come together until kind of the last minute, especially for me, Rachel assured me several times over the course of the trip that she was not normally like that. She was normally more organized and planning and such. This reflected itself in our getting to Namba Hatch with nearly two hours to spare. Though technically she'd just wanted to get to the general area, and going all the way to where the buses were supposed to be to make sure we knew the exact location, then finding a place to sit and hang was my idea. Rachel took charge of navigating us there while I kept an out for promising hanging places, especially as we drew closer. McDonalds won for proximity and still being open, if not for anything else, so we went there and studied for a bit. Then we went to the bathroom, brushed our teeth, and headed back to Namba Hatch to wait.

After three buses came and left, our bus to Fukuoka arrived. It was pretty full, and Rachel and I weren't that near the front of the line, but fortunately we got seats next to each other instead of seats next to strangers. The bus driver made a long announcement in Japanese, from which I understood that there was to be no smoking in the bus and we'd be stopping for a break at either 1:00 or in one hour. And then he pulled the curtains separating us from the front, we started driving, and a little later the lights went off.

The point of a night bus is of course to sleep. The assumption being that you can sleep on moving vehicles. Which is something I do with difficultly even under favorable circumstances. The aisle seat of a bus isn't exactly a favorable circumstance. But the bus was dark, and even on their dimmest setting my electronics felt too bright. I spent large portions of the bus ride with my eyes closed getting really sick of the music playlists I normally listen to when I'm going to sleep. (Normally I don't get sick of them because I'm asleep after a few songs.) The rest of the time I hid under the blanket to cover the light just like I… Definitely did not do as a child. Because I was a good child who went to sleep when I was told.

The first time the bus pulled over for a break was freaky. Because every single window was covered with a curtain, and it was dark, but I could feel the bus turning and just hoped it was normal. It felt like I was being kidnapped, up to the point where they turned on the lights and told us to get out. OK, they told us we could get out if we wanted, which was, in context, an incredibly important distinction.

Given nothing bad had happened the first time, it was notably less freaky the next few times. And then, at last, the sun was rising and we were pulling into Fukuoka and being told that actually, though, this time we needed to leave. So we grabbed our bags and headed… to the train station? Rachel seemed to think it was a good place to head for bathrooms, coffee, Wi-Fi, and waiting. So off we went.

After seeing the options for coffee, I was not about to disagree.


Tags: bus, coffee, fukuoka, kyushu, transportation

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