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Ferries and Shinkanesen, Everyone's Favorite Modes of Transportation

JAPAN | Thursday, 21 April 2016 | Views [356]

Sunday morning, Rachel and I planned to catch ferry to Nokonomishma. This required catching a train, then either a bus or a ten minute walk, buying ferry tickets, and getting on the ferry. Which wasn’t all that complicated until the last step. Since Rachel and I had about forty minutes to kill after buying the tickets, we figured we could walk around for a bit. We got back with ten minutes before the arrival of the ferry and a truly horrendous line. Our questions of whether the ferry would be big enough to fit all the people who wanted to get onto it was answered in the negative when the line suddenly stopped moving with several dozen people still in front of us. So Rachel and I settled in to wait for an hour for the next ferry.

Fortunately for us and everyone else in the line, they decided that their were enough people to send a “relief ferry” for us in between the normally scheduled hourly ferry. So after only half an hour of standing in line, we were boarding a ferry to Nokonoshima.

The ferry docked, and Rachel and I headed towards what looked like a tourist information center. It kind of was, in that it had information and places to return maps, but it was pretty empty and deserted, and we couldn’t see any maps, so after looking around for a bit we decided to go out and try and find food. It was a little early for lunch, but we were hungry, so off we went.  Without maps or much idea of where anything was, this was slightly challenging.

After walking a few blocks in one direction, turning around, and walking a few blocks the other way, we determined that there wasn’t much in the way of restaurants. Like, we’d seen two restaurants right when we got off the ferry and nothing since then. Not only that, but we’d gotten off of a very full ferry which had followed an even fuller one. And, after leaving, we had immediately lost everyone else. Wandering around we saw a number of houses and a shrine, but no trace of all the people who, like us, had come over to the Nokonoshima from the “mainland” of Kyushu.

Pier

Lack of food options meant we headed to eat at the first place we’d found, which was a place selling “Nokonoshima Burgers.” You know it’s good because it’s named after the island we were on. After making sure that their burgers were actual burgers and not fish or something, Rachel and I agreed that it sounded fine, and ordered. The server left to get us English guide maps, which was really exciting since we hadn’t seen anything even close to that earlier. The food was OK, I guess, though I’ve definitely had better burgers in my life.

During lunch, Rachel and I plotted our next move. There was a coffee farm nearby that had tours and a tasting included with entry, so that sounded like a good thing to head to. Then of course there were the famous gardens near the top of the island that we should head to. (Of course, because I’d definitely done research about what we should see on this island…) The coffee farms were closer, so we started with those.

Closed coffee gardens

Or… not. Because it wasn’t a thing that you could tour, or that even seemed to grow coffee beans. How old were the maps that we had?

After wandering around for a little bit more, we headed back to where the ferry had dropped us off so we could catch a bus to the top of the island. Here at last we met up with our friends, huge crowds of people who were waiting in line to catch the bus. Rachel and I ended up being a little too late far back in line to catch the first one that arrived, which meant we were in the front of the line for the next one and actually got to sit. Which did make the ride much more enjoyable than it would have otherwise been.

The gardens had a thousand yen entrance fee, which was definitely worth it. I finally got the question of where everyone else who came over on the ferry had been hiding answered, and Rachel and I wandered around enjoying the beautiful views.

View from gardens

 

And the beautiful flowers.

Flowers

And the beautiful trees.

Sakura

Basically, Fukuoka and the surrounding area is just really, really pretty.

Wildflower field

At last, we were done wandering around admiring the gardens and caught a bus back to the base of the island. Then a ferry back to Fukuoka. Then we decided we were tired of being crammed in a moving vehicle with lots of people, so we walked to the train station. Then caught a train back to the hostel we’d stayed the night before, then walked to the station to wait for our next train. Where better to wait than the Seattle’s Best Coffee? (Answer: nowhere. There are few better places to wait ever, and none in the Fukuoka train station.)

The shinkansen is the pinnacle of the best and worst parts of Japanese trains. It’s fast and furthermore, it’s convenient. On the other hand, it is really expensive. (If those past two sentences had been written in Japanese, I would have used two new grammars and Yamaguchi-sensei would have been borderline proud of me.) Still, it had made my list of things I wanted to do in Japan, so I’m glad I had it. I can now confirm that it’s a super convenient way to transfer, and then even if an airplane flight is probably cheaper, it’s nowhere near as nice. Basically, I want an employer to someday care enough about me that they pay for me to take the shinkansen. That’s a reasonable goal, right?

Tags: coffee, flowers, gardens, hamburger, kyushu, shinkansen, transportation

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