Dateline: November 18, 2008
The Green Bus
Today we rode on the Fukuoka City Loop Bus (“Green Bus for Sightseeing”) around town while hirosan was at work. True to its name, the driver shut the bus off whenever we stopped at red lights. We’d learn from hirosan a little later that this is what most buses in Fukuoka do.
The bus itself looks similar to other city buses from the outside, but on the inside it’s a very different story. The seats are curved wooden benches with green fabric covers (well, this one had them, anyway; another bus we took didn’t), and the whole interior has an “airy” feel to it.
During our first round on the Green Bus, we were the only people on board.
Right inside the doors we were met with by a white and metallic pink robot trundling down the ramp towards us. It’s an autonomous information robot that wanders the mall (when we came back on a later date, we found it off in another section) with a touch screen on its chest to provide visitors with directions. Unfortunately it was heading back to its charging station, complete with backup warning beeps, so we couldn’t play around.
On the first floor of one of the sections we found a bunch of different branded merchandise stores. There was a Pokémon store, a Sanrio store (makers of Hello Kitty), and even a candy-esque store that had Giant Pocky! There was a store full of Christmas decorations and other homey-feeling items that, to my surprise, had licensed stuff from the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer TV special.
In the center area about the canal, we found a bunch of Christmas decorations set up in the water. There’s also a large area called the Urban Theater, which is about seven storeys high. While there wasn’t anything happening during this visit, during the evenings there would be a regular water show similar to what you get at the Bellagio in Vegas. In fact, they were testing the system just before we ventured back to the Green Bus.
Back On the (High) Road
Since we just missed the next Green Bus outside Canal City, we decided to use the time to walk to Stop 3 to get the next one. There are three buses that run the loop and they come by each stop every 30 minutes during the week and every 20 minutes on weekends.
The bus ventured through more of the city and we skipped the next few stops on the way to Fukuoka Tower. The route took us over a section of toll freeway which culminated in a big section of double-decker bridge over the bay. Just on the other side of the bridge, we went past the Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome, which is where the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks play.
We disembarked at Stop 6: Fukuoka Tower. Before heading to the top of the tower to see the sights, we went into on eof the adjacent buildings in the complex and stumbled upon Robosquare. It’s sort of a cross between a mini robot museum and a showcase. There was a little display set up near the middle of Robosquare where we got to play with an AIBO ERS-7 for a while. Tissues, anyone?
On the way to the elevators, we caught a glimpse of a failed suicide attempt by a blue-clad Santa. The observation deck in the tower is 123 meters high and provided a fantastic 360˚ view of the city and the bay. I even managed to get a shot with the Pokémon jet in it. Plus being up so high gave me a great opportunity to play with the 75-300mm lens I borrowed from a co-worker for the trip. I even managed to find two more ferris wheels to add to the ever-growing list.
In a moment of better timing this go ’round, we got back to the bus stop right as it pulled up.
Next up we got off the bus to head to an outdoor covered shopping street. At one of the stores I found out scarves are called mufflers in Japan, even though most everything else in the cold weather apparel category is named the same. And, as usual, we spotted some interestingly-named businesses. While the sun was poking out through the clouds periodically, there was a very cold wind all day so we headed back to the bus to continue on the tour of the city.
Stop 12 is the central shopping district in Fukuoka. We spent most of the time in the Tenjin Core building and also in “the most beautiful underground mall in Japan”, Tenjin Chikagi. It definitely had a neat atmosphere, but some of the others we’d been in were “nicer” (marble, wide open space, etc.). It felt like being in a gothic dungeon with its dark brick and arched ceilings, which was pretty cool. The street entrances made it feel like you were about to descend into an old pub. The building itself was the basement floor of a long shopping center with a slight bend in the middle. Each half of was incredibly long, to the point you could barely see the end of the hallway.
The last stop of the day led us to a largeish shrine complex. Shortly after crossing through the torii, a kindly little old lady came up to us and practically dragged my brother through the complex. The only English she knew was “please”, which she said earnestly while gesturing to follow her; it was tremendously cute.
While my brother was being whisked away, I slowly wandered through the complex taking a bunch of pictures. Compared to most, if not all, of the shrines we’d been to thus far, this one had a significantly higher tree density. I really liked the amount of trees here because you couldn’t really tell you were still in the middle of a modern city. This shrine was also the first of a few places I found “tree grass“.
Back to the Hotel
The cold wind was still blowing on us and the fact the sun was about to set didn’t help matters. We hopped onto the second-last bus back to the depot. The poor guy kept mis-aligning the back door so he couldn’t get the ramp out. Well, he could, but the ramp was aimed right at a wall! After a few tries he got it right and my brother could get off the bus without having to hop off the side of the ramp which was reasonably steep and had raised edges (to prevent accidental sideways exiting).
We’d be going to bed early tonight as we had a 6:29 am train to catch tomorrow at the start of the rail rage with hirosan. He stopped by the room on his way to visit his uncle to do some last-minute planning and then it was into the sack for us.