I'm back from a one-week stay in the city of Fukuoka 福岡. And while I missed my family, and my feet are sore from all the walking I did, I had a great time in Kyūshū's 九州 largest city, with a population of 1.4 million. Like most Japanese urban centers, Fukuoka isn't a particularly beautiful city, but it's certainly better looking (not to mention cleaner and safer) than any metropolitan area here in Taiwan, including Taipei (Taihoku) 台北. If circumstances were different, Fukuoka would make a nice place to live and work.
There's a lot of history related to Fukuoka. It was the gateway to the Asian mainland in the early years of Japan's history. The Mongol invasions of 1274 and 1281 元寇 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongol_Invasions_of_Japan) took place close to the modern day borders of the city. During the Edo period 江戸時代 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edo_period) there were two towns, Fukuoka (home of the feudal lord and his castle) and Hakata 博多 (where the ordinary people lived and worked). Today's Fukuoka is once again acting as Japan's channel to the rest of Asia, at least judging from all the Korean writing seen around the city.
I spent my seven nights in Fukuoka staying at the Hakata Riveride Hotel (http://www.itcj.jp/eng/hotel_detail.php?hotel_code=840017). Despite its status as a budget hotel (only ￥3900 a night - $41 or NT1330), my room wasn't as small as I'd imagined it to be, plus it came with its own shower and bath. And I certainly couldn't complain about the location, as the hotel was a short walk down the Kami-Kawabata shopping arcade 川端通商店街 from the Nakasu-Kawabata subway station 中洲川端駅 . The Canal City shopping center キャナルシティ博多 and Nakasu 中洲 nightlife district were nearby, and the Tenjin 天神 area was a short subway ride (or walk, in my case) away.
One other great thing about Fukuoka is the close proximity of its airport 福岡空港 to the central part of the city. Hakata Station 博多駅, the main train station in Fukuoka, is only two stops from the airport on the subway, while Nakasu-Kawabata and the Tenjin shopping district are only four and six stops away, respectively. My flight didn't get in until just before 9pm on Sunday night, but I was checked-in and in my room before 10:30. You can't do that coming from Narita 成田国際空港 or Kansai 関西国際空港!
For the next week I'll be posting descriptions and photographs of my trip. The first day was a short one, however, so I'll leave you with this picture of a float from the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival 博多祇園山笠 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukuoka#Festivals), taken inside the international terminal just after clearing immigration and customs.