Fukuoka Day 1

Today we got up in time for breakfast at our hotel, the Floral Inn in Nishinakashu. Breakfast consisted of hard-boiled eggs, rolls, salad, miso soup, meatballs and rice. After breakfast, we immediately hit the streets, got our bearings and headed straight to Canal City for some shopping.

Canal City is a giant mall that took some getting used to (there are several floors and the layout is kind of sprawling), but nothing this formal mallrat couldn’t handle. For lunch we went up to Ramen Stadium (actually in Canal City). After reading up on some of our options we decided to try to Kumamoto and Sapporo styles. Our plan was to get a bowl of each and split them, but when we walked into the “stadium” itself we saw that our plan was going to need a little revising. Instead of individual food stalls, we saw that there were eight-or-so mini restaurants to choose from. So after a round of jan-ken (with the requisite re-do since we hadn’t decided what winning meant), we bought our tickets from the vending machine outside the Kumamoto-style restaurant. The ramen we ordered was kind of tangy – almost sweet and not too salty. It was filled with black noodles, lard, pork and a semi-boiled egg. We split the bowl and some gyoza and took about fitty-billion pictures. Our vote: totally delicious.

Next we darted across to the Sapporo-style ramen shop, where my greatest accomplishment in Japan to date took place: I made E love ramen. I’m convinced that ramen can be eaten three (or four) meals a day, but E tends to think differently. That is, until miso ramen changed his life the same way it changed mine four years ago. The miso ramen we ordered was just like what I had eaten on an almost daily basis while studying abroad in Sapporo. When it arrived teeming with sprouts and veggies and bits of meat, it smelled just like I remembered! I’ve never really had that experience before – where a smell transports you back to someplace in your memories. Somehow it’s different when I go home for the holidays and Mom cooks all my favorite foods. I think it’s because those familiar and beloved smells are filling the place I associate them with – i.e. home. But smelling miso ramen in Fukuoka caught me off guard and images of the Hokusei Gakuen cafeteria and the streets of Susukino flooded my mind crotchety-food-critic-in-Ratatouille-style. The taste was just as I remembered too – neither sweet, nor salty, but kind of spicey. When I confessed to E just how often I ate the stuff in Sapporo, he said that he didn’t blame me.

After a bit more shopping and making a mental note of movie times, we headed back to the hotel for a nap. For dinner we walked to Tenjin in search of this Italian restaurant that supposedly served pesto pizza. We found it, but it turned out that Napoli is take-out only! So we ordered a pizza, a salad and some olives and went off to eat them in the Yakuin train station. It was good fun in an aren’t-we-ridiculous kind of way, so we rewarded ourselves with some Baskin Robbins and then promptly punished ourselves by watching the last hour or so of the Scorpion King on TV. I was previously unaware of just how awful this movie is, but to be fair, it was the only English channel we could get.

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