15 Apr Fukuoka
After leaving Yobuko, we made the short, 20nm trip to Fukuoka in calm, sunny conditions. Fukuoka, population 1,500,000, is the largest city we’ve visited in Japan so far, the largest city on the island of Kyushu, and the sixth largest city in Japan. The skyline is notably different than the villages we’ve become accustomed to.
Kirk Patterson, our agent at Konpira Consulting, arranged for us to stay at Marinoa Marina. He was on the dock waiting for us, along with Rob and Kathleen Hurlow from SV Capaz, sailors from Bainbridge Island and fellow CCA members who were moored across the dock from us. We tied up to a nice float amongst yachts, with good 50-amp shore power and water. Much easier than a wall in a fishing port!
The marina sits at the foot of a huge outlet mall. I’m not much of a shopper and never made it into the mall. Actually, I did visit the udon shop on the first floor, where $3.50 bought a delicious bowl of freshly-made noodles that I quickly slurped down. Slurping, by the way, is the correct way to eat noodles in Japan. We’re told the louder the slurp, the more satisfied the diner–silent slurping, or no slurping at all, signals to the chef that the noodles aren’t very good.
Across the road is a replica of Notre Dame. It has no religious significance but is apparently a popular wedding venue, complete with a stretch-limo Hummer to whisk the newlyweds away. The place looked like it was lifted directly out of Las Vegas.
A few blocks from the marina things were more…authentic. Cherry trees in full bloom lined the sidewalk on the way to the nearest supermarket (15 minute walk away, extremely well-stocked).
A little further away is a park with beautiful forests and ancient fortifications.
The nearest subway station is about 20 minutes away. This was my first taste of Japanese public transportation. I’m impressed! The stations are spotlessly clean. Signage and kiosks are in Japanese and English. Maps and routes are logically laid out and easy to interpret.
The cars are clean, too. They even have plush fabric seats. Other riders are quiet and mindful of those around them. It never feels like someone is going to reach into your pocket and steal your wallet or follow you up onto the street to mug you. Nobody’s strung out, vomiting, or screaming in mental anguish. It’s pleasant, efficient, and affordable.
The train ride to downtown Fukuoka takes about 30 minutes. I emerged from the train station into a bustling area filled with shops, restaurants, and entertainment. One of the most popular attractions in downtown Fukuoka are the food stalls, known as yatai, which line the streets at night. The New York Times put Fukuoka on their list of 52 places to visit in 2023 largely because of these food stalls.
These small, mobile food stands offer a variety of delicious and affordable dishes, such as ramen, yakitori, and oden. The atmosphere is lively and welcoming, with locals and tourists gathering around the stalls to enjoy the food and company. I saw more westerners wandering around in a few blocks here than I’d seen the entire time we’ve been in Japan. The biggest challenge is the temperature: the food stalls don’t really get started until after dark, and by then it’s in the 50s, which feels awfully cold for outdoor dining!
Thanks to the incredibly low crime rates, wandering around in an unknown city is completely free of anxiety in Japan. No looking over your shoulder, no holding your hands on your phone and wallet in your pocket, no worrying if you’ve gotten off the subway in a bad neighborhood. It’s liberating and wonderful.
One of the highlights of our time in Fukuoka was getting to know Rob and Kathleen Hurlow from SV Capaz and Kirk, Tsuyoko, and their daughter Fuka-chan. We’d FaceTimed with both as we planned our Japanese cruising and it was nice to finally meet them in real life.
Rob, Sharry, and me (Sam)
Kathleen and Celeste
Rob and Kathleen are both doctors who are on their third major Pacific cruise. Their stories and insight made for fascinating conversation. We toured Capaz, their New Zealand-built steel sailboat. I particularly admired the 5-cylinder Gardner diesel. A piece of mechanical art!
Kirk Patterson is Canadian by birth but has been living in Japan for decades. After retiring from academia here in Japan, he flew back to Canada, bought a sailboat in Victoria, and returned to Japan by sail. He continued sailing around Japan for several years before meeting his wife, Tsuyoko, in Fukuoka. They now have a daughter, Fuka-chan, and Kirk runs Konpira Consulting, which helps foreigners like us navigate the Japanese bureaucracy and plan our Japanese cruising. We had a great time discussing Japanese politics and history, cruising, and planning stops for our coming months of cruising.
Tsuyoko and Fuka-chan
Sharry, Sam, Kirk
Don and Sharry’s son Brooke, daughter-in-law Shannon, and granddaughter Kat joined Starr in Fukuoka.
Kat, Sharry, and Brooke
Don, Sharry, Kat, Shannon, Brooke
We spent several days in Fukuoka waiting for wind to dissipate. One of Kirk’s neighbors is a family with a 14 year-old daughter named Yuma-chan, who is enrolled in an English language program. Yuma-chan and her family came by Starr, and Kat and Yuma-chan had a great time wandering through the mall, sampling Japanese candy, and visiting Nobolt, an “indoor experience facility that combines sports, athletic equipment and entertainment.”
Over the coming days we’ll venture into the Seto Inland Sea towards Hiroshima. This promises to be a very different kind of cruising than we’ve had so far. No ocean swell and calmer weather conditions, but much stronger currents, narrow passages, plentiful fish farms, and more traffic.