A Travellerspoint blog

Running Places!

OMG Randomness

Okay, so lets look at a map from Japan. Many of the cities are not actually labeled, that part you have to look up, but what is labeled is what the city is known for, often times not with words, but an adorable little picture.
"Hey, a castle, we haven't been inside one of those yet!"
"Okay, lets go!"
This was literally how we planned where we were going next that morning. With the Japan Rail Pass for only a few weeks, we were constantly traveling. It really didn't matter where we were going, just as long as we were going, because the travel was already paid for, weather we went or not. So we were going to go and see this whole damn country if it killed us (probably my idea more than Joe's, but he seemed to go along with it).

On to Kokura!


We actually didn't pass through the U.S.A. to get to Kokura, its pronounced: oo-sa

We made it to Kokura bright and early, got a map with directions to the castle, and the lady at the info counter said, "But in all honesty, if you are looking to the most authentic Japanese Castle, the one in Hakata is the best. It is just the next large town over on the train. It shouldn't take you more than 30 minutes to get there." Oh man! Joe and I searched each other's eyes for what to do next.

Well, we did come all the way here...
But we don't have that much time...
We could just spend a little time here...
I would at least like to see the castle from the outside...
Lets just go to the Castle, and then decide from there...

So with some sign language from the tilting of our heads and eyebrows, we took the map, then headed over to the JR Pass booth to book a train in an hour or two to Hakata. There, we also booked the trains from Hakata to several other cities on our way back to Toyooka! We had emailed Adam and Shinobu just after leaving Mochan and told them that we would be coming to Toyooka again about a week after we left the Wish Bus, and we were wondering if we could couchsurf with them. They agreed, and were very happy to get to see us again, this time with a little more personal touch to seeing Toyooka since we wouldn't be with a large group. According to the guy at the ticket booth, we had plenty of time to see both the Kokura and Hakata castle, and then make all our connecting trains this evening to Toyooka. Sweet! So with that we headed out into the city, plans and tickets in hand.

On the way to the castle we were one of the few tourists who did not stop to take pictures with this guy:


(point for us)

Moving on,


Now this next picture I took for Danielle. This jewelry shop doesn't just have a sign for Sex in the City 2, but they actually embossed in gold the name of the movie in their window glass!


(Joe couldn't believe how excited I was about that.)


Here, just before the castle, Joe and I hung out in this garden watching some guy splashing around. Yes, he had the appearance of a worker, and the big fisherman's waterproof overalls, and the fisherman's net... but he literally was just displacing water from one side of his body to the other. We watched for about 10 minutes, waiting to see him actually be productive so we could know what his job actually was for all the work he was putting into it. But, yeah, nothing much different happened.


Then from one surreal to the other...


(In this picture you can see the guy still walking around, splashing water.)

Kokura Castle, a revelation of time:


Then there was another shrine next to the castle, this one larger but with even less people than the little shrines from before.


Then it was finally time to go into one of these Castles, and Joe gets cold feet. It was a little pricy, but this was the one castle in all of Japan that we were planning to go to! But Joe was kinda set on the one in Hakata, even though this was one of the 3 best castles in the entire country according to our Japanese guide map. "You go in, take 5 minutes, see if its really worth it, then signal me at those windows if I should come in and buy a ticket." This plan sounded reasonable enough, so I went in.


Already, this didn't seem to be the inside of a caste... but a boat... my hopes are not high.

First exhibit, little town recreation of Kokura back in the day:


Not bad... but I want to see the inside of the castle, not a recreation of the town. NEXT!

Well, next I was ambushed by an animatronic theater! There was a recreation of a Japanese meeting house that you entered, sat down, and were given headphones for your preferred language. Then curtains opened, and a really fat wooden japanese child animatronic started talking to you about what it was like in Kokura back in the day, and then he took you on a really bad cartoon movie where he walked through the town, talking with villagers who's lips didn't move, but were more like paintings that were cut out and shuffled around on the screen. This went on for over 15 minutes! I was freaking out at this point, so I tried to exit the way I came in, but they wouldn't let me. "Ikimasen! Ikimasen!" "You can't go that way." "Wakarimas..." I grudgingly told them. "I get it..." So I filed out of the theater into a roped off through the castle. So much for getting back to Joe. Well, he'd probably figure it out.

The next level of the castle was a museum.


Then the level after that was some sort of science museum like interactive gaming area.


(he is playing the put the sushi out for the nobility properly game...)


So I am already disappointed and no longer looking for an authentic castle experience, so this next part I can take as being kinda cool now that I know what to expect. The next level started out with a video of silhouettes behind what looked like a Japanese paper window talking about ninja assassins! It was a pretty cool video, like you are actually eavesdropping on the people talking about the ninjas, and they you get to see the attack and watch the castle burn! And yes, you are kinda inside it, so the video cuts out with your vision getting all blurry and dark. (Awesome!)


They had a whole room filled with these ridiculous cutouts, and my awesome high was cut down. Luckily the views were still really nice from the windows.


And when I finally got to the very top, there were vending machines for ice cream and arcade like games! It was ridiculously stupid. The whole room was window fronts to the whole city, and yet most of the people were in the middle of the room putting coins in slots.

So yeah, all in all, major bust.

When I finally made it back to Joe he was a little put off by me not contacting him, but glad that we didn't both go through the castle. Then we decided to head out and try and see the Hakata castle.


On the way back to the train station Joe and I were a little hungry, so we stopped by the sushi place that the woman at the info desk said had the best sushi in town.


Yay for sushi trains!

This gave us a little skip to our step, and we hopped on the Shinkansen to Hakatta fairly easily.

Pictures on the train:




At Hakata we agreed to try and see the castle, and the most famous thing in Hakata (according to our picture map of the country), the Fukuoka Dome! So walking as quickly as possible, here are some of the shots we were able to get off on the way to the castle:


(Yes, the child is being pulled under and drowned by the turtle... vicious little things.)

Then we made it! The entrance steps to the castle! I'm so excited!


And! ...




This castle really was the most authentic castle in all of Japan, because it was never rebuilt. All the castles in Japan were made with wood, so the only thing that is authentic is the stone foundations... so that was all that was here. We could see squares and rectangles where the castle and the castle city once stood, but that was it... no castle. I need to get better at speaking Japanese. Ah well, it was turned into a nice little park that over looks the whole city, making what we can out of the trip I guess.


And hey, there's the Fukuoka Dome! "Good enough for you?" "Yep, thats a good enough view of the dome for me." Well, at least we checked that one off our list of things to do. ^.^*


On the way back we decided that we had enough time now to visit the free castle museum, so we got to enter that and see the archeological exhibitions.


Then on the way back to the city we passed some in progress archeology:


(I took pictures of the site through the fence... sneaky photography)

Then back in the city Joe was for whatever reason determined to get to the top of a building and take pictures. For the life of me I can't remember why. All I remember is that I had no intention of walking into one of these tall buildings, getting on their elevator for no good reason, and then trying to get out onto their roof. I guess I just suck like that. Maybe I would have done it if we were in the States, but naw, probably not even then. I just didn't see the point. So we agreed to meet back in one hour at this nice looking cafe that wanted to be Starbucks, but wasn't. And here is the product of Joe's quest:


Yeah... getting coffee was way better. But like Joe said, at least his hour was spent doing something free.
(slow motion fist into the air with a less than enthused "whooo")

Then we wondered the town a bit.


And yes, those fairy/ children are peeing on the clock fountain. So cool, and so very strange.


Then, the kudegra! These following pictures are for Corey. Japan is somewhat famous for popularizing the idea of using rooftop gardens to maximize a building's insulation, add more photosynthesis and oxygen to a city, and pure architectural feng shui.


It even had waterfalls!

Yeah, we never did end up finding that shrine we were looking for. But on our way back we found this really cool Greek pillar statue that was in some way a home for ravens (I picked up 3 really huge feathers just walking to the structure).


Then we made it a big open field right in front of the building covered in roof garden's.






When we were inside we figured out that it was a multi level building with the center all hollowed out and another large room for the symphony orchestra (wonder if the gardens help the acoustics...?) We tried going up the stairs and getting out onto the rooftops, but the few doors we tried were locked (I guess thats why we didn't see more people waling around the rooftop gardens).

Now it was about time to head back to the train station.


You are not allowed to smoke on the main streets in downtown Hakata! Which is crazy, b/c look at how they sell cigarettes just around the corner from thiese banners that hung on every street lamp:


(she actually works at the vending machines, moving from location to location... weird)

Then Joe talked me into making one more quick stop at a sushi train restaurant:


But then we really did have to go because we had to get to all of our trains to Toyooka. First it was a Shinkansen back to the main island, past Hiroshima, and all the way through Kyoto. Then we had to switch to local trains. This was always a pain in the butt, and slow as hell! Especially at this time of night, all the school kids were on the train getting off from their after school activities (which are actually required, so all kids have to do at least one), and all the workers were getting off from their jobs.

The twilight hours started to pass into night, and now I was starting to worry (who me?). We were supposed to get on our last train before 9pm, and it was getting close to 10 now... Joe was still unaffected.
"When is the last train?"
Confusion passes through both of our faces. I got out the time schedule the guy gave to me at the ticket booth. It was actually printed out and everything. We passed our fingers over times, and everything added up... except for our last train to Toyooka.

I stood up and went to the train driver... I showed him my paper, distressed, and unable to speak, especially not in Japanese. "Ee-eh" He pointed to our last connection. "No..." I agreed. "More trains tonight?" I asked in the worst Japanese possible. "No..." he answered again. "When is the next train?" My Japanese was looking up despite our circumstances opposing behavior. "6am" he said while pointing skyward. Yeah, 6 in the morning, I understood, the funny look was actually from something swelling up into my throat. Okay, don't panic. We just wouldn't make it to Toyooka today, this happens to us all the time, we'll just get a hostel or something. The train driver asked me if I had someone I could stay with in the next town since it was the train's last stop. "Ee-eh" I told him. He shook his head. "My home town" he explained to me. Sure. He knows the area. Good. "Hostel? Hotel?" "No..." he responded. You could tell he was searching for something in the back of his mind. An invite maybe, into his home for the night for 2 lost and confused travelers who got bad train directions... but it was beyond his ability. Maybe his wife disapproved of having strangers over. This wouldn't be the first time. It is very Japanese to do everything you can to help people, but their homes are sacred places, and thats why we had so much trouble finding couchsurfers in Japan. I went to sit down by Joe again, and I told him the bad news.

At the station we unloaded with everyone else. Then the train operator followed us around the station, explaining to all the night workers what happened to us. Unfortunately, I was the only bilingual English/ Japanese of the group, so while it sped up the process of having him explain our long story... getting helpful information back to us was close to impossible. "I don't understand" I found myself continuously saying. Finally one of the station workers laid down on one of the benches and mimicked sleep. "I understand" I said with a sigh of relief. At least we didn't have to sleep in the streets of this small, small, small, small, small, village. Joe started yelling at me that it wasn't okay, and sure we had a place to stay, but we had to tell Adam that we wouldn't be in tonight, otherwise he'll worry and stay up waiting for us to call him and tell him that we were ready to get picked up from the station! I had enough problems already, I was stressed out beyond belief, and even now my entire body aches just writing about it, and has ben just about 6 months to the date! "Excuse me, I'm sorry, thank you, but, my friend in Toyooka, phone, I speak with my friend on a phone, please, where is a phone?" Did that make any sense? "No phones" he explained to me. This village was so small they didn't even have any payphones. "Please, cell phone?" I was getting desperate. "Se-gu-ru-fo-nu ku-da-sai" Yeah, thats the best Japanese for cellular phone I got. "Ahhh, choto mate" Wait a minute, something I said got through! The little old man got out his cell phone and gave it to me excitedly. See, he could help us! (his thoughts, not mine... okay thats not fair, he was helping a lot, and it was a lot more than most people would do for us in other countries, no offense to other countries) "Hi Adam, its Rain. Yeah, I know, we got our times all screwed up and we are at the --- station. Yeah, I know its in the middle of nowhere. Yeah, we know its such small village that there are no places to stay. They are letting us sleep at the train station. No, please don't drive out here to get us. No two hours is not that close, and remember, then its 2 hours back. Yes, we are just calling you to let you know not to worry about us. Sorry, Joe is giving me the speed this up hand gesture so I should be getting off this man's cell. Yes, thank you so much, we are sorry, no, thanks, we're good, thanks, thanks, see you in the morning, don't worry about it, thanks, thank you, thanks again, bye, thanks." Yeah... I'm not shaking at this point... yeah, no, I was. I handed the little old man his cell phone back, and he gave me a hug, a smile, a pat on the head (yes he was shorter than me, so it was a bit of a struggle, I had to slouch for him), and then he was off, hobbling into the night with his little suitcase.

I wondered outside to see what there was to see. Joe went inside and made busy with laying out clothes for bed padding. Where was our tent, mattress, and sleeping bag when we need them?


By the time I got in Joe was already lying out on the bench asleep. I was hyperactive. I went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth, washed my face, and then went to work at layering up my body. The brisk night air swept through the station, and I tried to close some doors to make it at least tolerable inside, though people were still randomly wondering through the place. I couldn't sleep. I got out my book and started reading. About an hour later we were joined by another of the homeless. He was all dressed up in his business suit with his expensive leather purse, I mean briefcase. He sat down by Joe's feet. I felt uncomfortable, so I went to the vending machine to buy something warm... all cold drinks. This had to be the only vending machine in all of Japan that didn't sell both hot and cold cans of sugar water. I cursed at someone in my head and wished I had something better to direct it to. Joe was not comforting me, he probably never would again. He didn't even care. Wouldn't he realize that if he was cold, that I would be freezing? Maybe he did realize this. Maybe he didn't care. Maybe I wanted to burst into tears and go screaming into the night. I could forgo the screaming into the night part, but it would probably make me warmer. My head ached. I went to the bathroom. It was warmer in the bathroom. The door was thick and had insulating rubber. I pulled my pants down and popped a squat (thank god not for real, this one had real seats and even bidets). I sat there, warming up my body and my heart (the metaphorical one). I didn't want Joe to care about me anymore. I didn't care about him, so it was only fair. I don't know why, but these thoughts were comforting. Maybe it was because I was holding onto my last thread. Even the most insignificant thoughts, when you are grasping for anything, can be mountains. I pushed the button for the bidet and turned the temperature on full hot. I actually contemplated sitting there forever, warm/ hot water splashing on my under region. Then I gained some control over myself, and willingly pressed the stop button. I used the environment as an excuse to air dry so I could spend a bit loner in the warmth of the restroom. Then it was time to be brave, no, not brave... it was time to be complacent. Time to allow what happens to happen. It was time to be accepting. My wants became nonexistent. Wanting never did you any good when you were helpless. So in these moments of complete abandonment, all there was to do was abandon right back. I laid out what clothes I could spare on the bench above Joe's head. Then I made my backpack into a pillow, and my purse into my teddybear. Then I realized why I think lingerie is called a teddy. Because men want to hold them? No, that didn't make sense, but I wanted it to. I needed it to. When a man sees a woman in a sexy teddy, they just want to cuddle with them all night long. I pulled my purse into me tightly. The hug made me feel a bit more protected from the cold. It wasn't as good as a stuffed animal... but it would do. I wanted to be held, so I would hold. Abandoning abandonment and finding a duality of protection of my things, and of myself. I was tired now, and I let the cold enter my body as my breath and heart slowed and my mind slipped into the unawairment of sleep.

Posted by - Rain 22:16

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