What is he doing all the way over there ? [03]

Sorry for the belated, almost picture-less and short post. But I'm getting very tired, and unfortunately Day 5 is a event-heavy one, which means quite a bit of writing. So bear with me here, I'll try to get "episode 4" done quick snap.

Day 4 [02/05] : A prelude

So, I said something about a "more culure-oriented" day, right ? Well, this was because it was the day when Pascale and I would have the opportunity to attend the 50th anniversary concert given by the Fukuoka University's mandolin club.

One can ask : "But why ? You're not particularly known for your passion for mandolin.", which would be a valid point. But the thing is, I know two members of said mandolin club, which was more than enough of a reason for us to take this chance to try something new. Not to mention one of the two mandolin players had sent me two tickets for the event ! So sweet (and if you ever read this, thank you so much, Erika) !

The Fukuoka Acros, where the concert was taking place. Beautiful with all those plants, and the inside is just as impressive.

And I'm really glad I went. Even though I must admit, not all the pieces played were awesome, much of the concert was very good. It was also a very original experience. At first I thought it would be only - or almost only - mandolins, but it was a whole bunch of them, plus many guitars, and some other instruments (percussions, flutes, contrabasses, ...). That made for a very full sound. And at one point, a Japanese singer, Kazuo Zaitsu, came to perform some of song, backed by the orchestra. So, all in all, an impressive and memorable experience. Too bad I couldn't take pictures inside the concert hall...

But, but, BUT, that's not all ! After the concert, I was left alone by Pascale to wander through Tenjin while she went to meet her famed boyfriend before they would come and pick me up so we could go to his grandmother's house in Kumamoto.

Yeah, you left me alone, "bad sister" !

Saying that I was impatient to finally meet "the man" would be an understatement. I didn't even have the chance to talk with him on Skype like my parens did, so I really only had seen pictures of Takahiro, and of course the description from Pascale. But that wouldn't do anyone justice, now would it ?

Conclusion : a very cool and natural first contact. We readily went along, and the trip to Kumamoto ended up a very relaxed one, with us going to eat a ramen before leaving Fukuoka. We had fun watching the very scary ramen shop owner, who really didn't seem like the kindest person...

Kumamoto, here we come !

The end of the evening was spent a Takahiro's grandmother's house, among the almost non-english speaking family, and I must say I was really nervous at first. But then, as I discovered that not only could I pick up the general topic of what was being talked about in a satisfying manner, but that they all were very nice people, it was a bit easier. To give you an idea, there was a total of 8 people in the house : Takahiro, his cousin, his aunt, his uncle, his older brother, his mother, Pascale and me. Made me realize I really should take those Japanese classes I've meant to for so long...


What is he doing all the way over there ? [02]

So I heard I didn't put enough photographs in my first post ? I'll try to correct that with this one, then ! (But I want to keep some so that I can still bother everyone when I get back :D)

Day 2 [30/04] : Standing there

Well, seeing how late the previous day ended, we took it easy. And in fact, pretty much the only thing we did was going to the nice nearby supermarket, because Pascale wanted to cook me something.

Hey, don't laugh! It's quite tricky to make a "e".

Something, as in yakisoba (a sort of fried noodles). And it was so good ! She'll tell you that it was too "liquid", but I say it tasted very good anyway. And afterwards we spent the evening watching movies, a "serious one", Die Welle, and a more funny one, 2012. But do not think it was the start of a lazy period, because the following day was quite packed...

Day 3 [01/05] : Look into the air

As we were now well rested, we kicked the day off by going into Tenjin, Fukuoka's busy retail district. If you like browsing through shops - almost any kind of shop, in fact - it's those kind of district that you should go to. Everywhere, huge shopping malls that sell everything from the latest clothes to Hello Kitty spoons. It has, of course, a big Tower Records shop too, which is pretty dangerous for yours truly's wallet...

A rare sight : an empty walkway section in Tenjin !

What's even better is what you discover when you are guided by someone who had the time to look past all the flashy-looking stores to discover the ones filled with an incredible amount of random... random... stuff. I mean, there's no other way of describing the ginormous variety of things they sell in Village Vanguard stores. There's almost no room to move around the store, and you stumble successively on books about coffee, on NES controller-shaped bags, then on halloween costumes or math-rock CDs. It's crazy...

Lots of massive buildings in Tenjin...

Then, after all the randomness, we went to see some of the landmarks of the Fukuoka cityscape. First on the list was Fukuoka Tower, the tallest building of the city located just next to the beach. We didn't go all the way up because of the rather expensive admittance fee, but it was already impressive seen from the ground.

If this doesn't look like vacations, I don't know what does.

Of course (I was with my sister, after all) we ended up on the beach next. But that shouldn't make you think it was a totally ordinary one. It's Japan. So, one section of the beach was occupied by what is called "Marizone". And not "Mari" as in "Marine". No no, "Mari" as in "Marry".

Aaaah, Japan...

Yeah, yeah, that's right, a fake "European-like" church, and some "lovely" buildings all dedicated for marriage. It's awfully kitsch, but I guess it's kinda successful, or at least it attracts enough people to make selling hot-dogs a profitable business.

Just got married ? How about a nice hot-dog ?

You know, maybe the main attraction is in fact that hot-dog shop with its signs, and Marizone is just capitalizing on the crowd it attracts...

Before going back to the International House, we dropped by the Fukuoka Dome, or rather Yahoo! Dome, the baseball stadium of the city. Which is big. And has a dome on top of it, hence the name. There's a lot of baseball merchandising that's being selled and bought, and if you want you can shake hands with a lot of stars whose hands are replicated all around the dome. If you get the chance, I suggest checking those out, because some are accompagnied with words that will make your eyes sparkle with renewed ethusiasm.

Thank you Jon, now I know everything is possible !

So, I told you, quite a busy day... Before a quiter, more "cultural" one, who would also see me meet Takahiro, Pascale's boyfriend, for the very first time. Exciting, isn't it ?

Don't nitpick, it's somewhat dome-shaped.


What is he doing all the way over there ? [01]

Ladies and gentlemen, let me FINALLY welcome you to this first episode of my "Japanese Adventures". I know, I know. It sounds a little pretentious, and it's more of a relaxing vacation than a full-fledged adventure, but whatever.

So, what have I been up to ?

Day 0 [27-28/04] : Wanderlust

Before one can enjoy life in a far-off country, one first needs to get there. And oh boy, was this travel long... Just to break it down :

5 hours spent waiting in Zaventem Airport;
1 hour to fly to Munich
2 hours waiting in Munich before...
11 hours and a half to get to Narita Airport.

But Narita is still far away from Fukuoka, so you need to add to that more than 6 hours of train... So you can imagine how happy I was to FINALLY meet Pascale... Who didn't want her photo taken, apparently.

This one looks like a commercial picture

After that long-awaited reunion, we went to the the creepy building I would be staying in for a little more than 2 weeks. And it was really creepy, with the wind making strange noise with the windows, the eerie silence and the slightly run-down appearance of it all...

Okay, now you tell me. WHERE are the zombies ?

But, you need to know that I could have agreed on sleeping anywhere at that point, because I was hungry as hell. Because, you see, I was asleep when they brought the meal in the plane. Then, with all the trains and so forth, I didn't have the chance to grab anything to eat. So I put down my stuff, and we rushed to the nearest "Joyfull". Now laugh all you want, but the double "l" is not a misspelling on their part... It's some kind of 24h/24 semi-fast food that serves all kinds of hamburgers (not in buns like "typical" fast-foods, though), pizzas, and also some japanese dishes. And that double-hamburger with cheese was more than enough to fill me up. Not sure if I was full with joy, though...

Day 1 [29/04] : Past times with good company

The next day was the day my sister took me to what was supposed to be a ginormous electronics store with everything I could ever want in it. I won't comment on that, but let me say that she was "also surprised, [she] thought there was more in it". But anyway, that was cool because then we got to eat some Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. And even if that contained a lot of cabbage, it was still delicious. A little difficult to eat, but it tasted awesome.

This is where the delicious food gets eaten.

The evening of the 29th was something I couldn't wait for : I was to meet the group of students that came to Louvain-la-Neuve at the end of winter. This year again, seeing them go had been a sad moment, so being able to reunite with at least some of them was something I was really looking forward to.

And what a night it was ! First, we went eating in a restaurant where we had a reserved room, and where we could order as much drinks and food as we wanted to. I'm sorry, I can't remember what we ate exactly though, there was just too much different plates... Anyway, we moved around quite a bit, changin places so that everyone was able to talk with pretty much everyone, which was really fun.

As you see (maybe), some other international students where there too (as was my sister). The more the merrier !

Afterwards, we went - of course - to an arcade to take some crazy "Purikura" pictures, then off to the karaoke we went ! And seein as we (as in, Pascale and I, because she was falling asleep) left at 3:30 in the morning, you can guess how much fun we had !

And I sang 2 Backstreet Boys songs... Not alone, but still. At least I compensated with Stratovarius and Enter Shikari !

All in all, that was an awesome way to kick off this trip, I was so glad to be able to catch a first glimpse of Pascale's universe in Fukuoka, and of course to see everyone again ! Now, this will do as a first batch of "news", because the internet connection is acting up here, so I'll wait until later tonight when I can upload pictures more easily... Stay tuned for more news almost-live from Fukuoka !

...from this building, in particular.