The original plan for today was an epic railway ride as far as the continuous Shinkansen tracks go, from Hachinohe in Japan’s north to Hakata in the south (actually, there’s another stretch of Shinkansen track down to Kagoshima from Shin-Yatsushiro, but there is a break in between there and Hakata). Well, as noted before, we didn’t make it up to Hachinohe and Japan’s north is as yet unexplored by us. But the ride from Tokyo to Hakata was still pretty long in itself.
The old Type 300 Shinkansen was looking a little long in the tooth, but it was still fast and comfortable. We departed about 12:30 and had a lunch of bento boxes that we had bought at the station. I love o-bento for the variety of foods you get in each set, even if everything isn’t always to my taste.
We raced out through Tokyo suburbia, past Yokohama and nondescript countryside, then into a pretty, hilly area. Then, suddenly, the magnificent white cone of Mt Fuji is visible to the right. This sacred mountain looms impressively over the landscape and it is a glorious sight.
Eventually we say goodbye to Fuji-san and settle into the less scenic route between of the coastal plain between the mountains and the ocean.
We stopped at Maibara for a while, but too late I noticed that the vending machine has my treasured Gokuri grapefruit juice.
Shin-Osaka saw a change of Shinkansens to a black and yellow Rail Star, giving us a chance to wander around the station and stretch our legs. Then onwards south into the golden afternoon light. Past Himeji, with it’s impressive original castle. Past Hiroshima, past Fukuyama’s castle, near to the station, past Tokuyama’s port and steelworks.
When we finally crossed under the Kanmon-kaikyou straight that separates Honshu from Kyushu it was just like any of the many other tunnels that we had passed through on this ride.
Six and a half hours later we arrived at Hakata station. Our hotel, the Toyoko Inn Hakataguchi Ekimae Number 2, was surprisingly nice for an inexpensive chain. Decent size double room and lots of little features. Very clean too.
Hungry, we caught the subway up to Tenjin. The shops were mostly closed, although we found a supermarket that stocked nappies and a convenience store that… sold Gokuri grapefruit juice!
Our dinner was the famous Fukuoka speciality tonkotsu ramen (noodles in pork bone broth) at a yatai, a mobile stall that is another feature of the city. The other patrons were taken with Alex and gave us a free meal of another Fukuoka speciality: karashi mentaiko. This is cod roe pickled in chili and left a while. It looks like toungue and tastes kind of spicy tomato like, which is to say not very nice in my (and B’s) opinion. You can get mentaiko flavoured chips, sweets and even mayonnaise here in Hakata.
It wasn’t quite enough food for us, so we popped into a Mos Burger for a shrimp burger and a teriyaki chicken burger. Far nicer than a McDonalds!
Alex seemed to enjoy the long train ride and seemed to be a lot better in the evening. The Shinkansens are a very comfortable way to travel, far superior to an aircraft or a local train.