Sunday, June 7, 2009
Trip to Japan: Day 7 - A Town of Hawks ５月３０日
My last full day in Fukuoka 福岡 was one of those dreary, overcast kind of days that result in lousy photographs. It began with a short subway ride from Nakasu-Kawabata 中洲川端 to Ōhori-Kōen Station 大濠公園駅, and Ōhori-Kōen 大濠公園 park. The park was created on the site of the old Kuroda 黒田 lords' castle, and is dominated by a large lake. It's a pleasant place, full of cyclists, joggers and walkers enjoying the quiet, green oasis.
The main attraction in the park is the Fukuoka-shi Bijutsukan 福岡市美術館, the city's art museum. The upstairs gallery has an interesting collection of Western art, displayed with contemporary works by Japanese artists, much of it also in the Western vein. Included in the collection were "The Madonna of Port Lligat" by Salvador Dali; "Elvis" by Andy Warhol; and "Seascape with Clouds" by Roy Lichtenstein. The painting below that I was able to sneak a photo of is by a Japanese artist named Sumio Gotō 後藤純男, and is called "Fresh Snow" 新雪 (1977):
The downstairs gallery is made up of early Japanese and Asian art, with the best pieces being the statues of the twelve guardian generals 十二神将 of Buddhism, each with a crown depicting an animal from the Chinese Zodiac calendar.
Leaving the park, I got back on the subway and rode it a couple of stops to Nishijin Station 西新駅. I then proceeded to walk about 15 minutes or so to Fukuoka Tower 福岡タワー, a thin, 234-meter (768 feet) communications tower which includes an observation deck. Even on an overcast day, the views of the city and Hakata Bay 博多湾 were fabulous:
Feeling satisfied that I could now say I had seen Fukuoka, I left the tower and went to the nearby Fukuoka-shi Hakubutsukan 福岡市博物館 local history museum. Northern Kyūshū 九州 seems chock full of excellent museums, and this one was no exception, helped immensely by the free English-language audio guide. The highlight of all the displays was undoubtedly the Kin-in gold seal 金印. This National Treasure 国宝 is a 2.3 square centimeter (0.36 square inch), 109 gram (3.8 ounce) gold seal presented by the Han Emperor of China to the King of Na 奴国 (a local kingdom during the Yayoi Period 弥生時代) in 57 CE (and rediscovered in a grave on a small island in Hakata Bay in 1784).
From the museum, I walked about 800 meters (0.5 miles) to the Hawks Town ホークスタウン area. The district consists of the JAL Resort Sea Hawk Hotel (with a high atrium facing the sea), the Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome ヤフードーム (home of the Pacific League's パリーグ Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 福岡ソフトバンクホークス baseball team) and the Hawks Town shopping mall.
I had hoped to go to a Hawks game while I was in Fukuoka, but my preference for weekday night games could not be realized as the team was on the road until Saturday. There was a game going on in the afternoon when I arrived on the scene, but I had to content myself with a visit to the souvenir store, which was showing the game on closed-circuit TV (the Hawks would beat the Chūnichi Dragons 中日ドラゴンズ that day by a score of 9-5). I left with a SoftBank cap (I had already bought Honey, the Hawks' female mascot, as a present for Amber the previous night at a Sports Authority スポーツオーそりティ outlet in Canal City キャナルシティ博多), and after walking through the mall, I got a bus for the scenic ride over the Aratsu-Ōhashi 荒津大橋 suspension bridge, and into the Tenjin 天神 area.
From Tenjin, I walked back to my hotel, and passed a demonstration against the transfer of a children's hospital to an artificial island:
After a short rest in my room, I ventured out again, and did the tourist thing in Hakata 博多 - eating a bowl of rāmen ラーメン at a street stall 屋台. I was surprised to find the yatai decked out in Saitama Seibu Lions 埼玉西武ライオンズ banners, but the friendly cook explained he had been a Lions fan since childhood, back when the team played in Fukuoka as the Nishitetsu Lions 西鉄ライオンズ, before moving to its present home in Tokorozawa 所沢. Though he had spent some time working in a Yoshinoya 吉野家 in Los Angeles back in the 1980's, we spoke in Japanese, and he was very interested in Taiwanese cuisine (as are many Japanese):
On my last night in Fukuoka, I walked back to Tenjin and soon found myself at the International Bar インターナショナルバー, where I had my only conversation with a Westerner during my entire visit, in this case the Albanian bartender. One draft beer and two Moscow Mules later, and feeling pretty good, I stepped back into the night, and on the way "home", paused to take a picture of the Akarenga Cultural Center 赤煉瓦文化館, erected in 1909 as the home for a life insurance company:
As I passed through Nakasu 中洲, the entertainment district built on a sandbank in the middle of the Naka-gawa River 那珂川, I decided to record the moment for posterity. The shaky camerawork in the first video was due to my attempt at being discreet. After reaching the end of the main road, I crossed over to the other side of the street, and walked back in the opposite direction. This time I made no attempt to hide the camera: