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The high priest here is said to have won the lottery at one point.
So that might shed some light on how they, uh,
how they funded this giant statue.
(cheerful music)
Good morning everyone and welcome back to journey across Japan.
Today, we're in Fukuoka City, the largest city in all of Kyushu.
And we have got just one day, 24 hours to check out the city.
Fukuoka is the largest city on the island of Kyushu with the population of 2.5 million.
Regarded as one of the trendiest places in Japan, just an hour's ferry ride from South Korea.
Even I once considered moving here after finishing my job as an English teacher.
Ultimately opting to stick closer to my friends in North Japan than head south.
Known as being one of the nation's ramen capitals, it's home to Hakata Tonkotsu pork broth ramen.
Which we'll be devouring along the way.
We'll also check out one of the largest Buddhist statues in the world,
and enjoy dinner at the city's infamous and intense yatai noodle night market.
Hopefully by the end of this video you'll have some ideas of things to do and
how to spend your pocket money the next time you find yourself in Fukuoka.
(light music)
And we start our day here in Ohori Park, in the heart of the city.
Which I've quickly decided is my favorite park in Japan.
Because it has the three key ingredients that all good parks need;
a lake, swan boats, and a Starbucks.
And speaking of Starbucks...yeah iced coffee. Thanks Ellen.
Em, for those of you have been watching, this is my good friend Ellen.
-Hello! -I've been her tour guide, her credible
bespoke tour guide for free. For free of charge.
Can you believe that? -Very generous.
And this is her last day in Japan. How do you feel?
- Sad. - Sad?
- It's hard to be leaving. I've had a blast.
- Heh, I've had a blast. The absolute lack of these out there.
(light pop music)
An oasis in the center of the city, Ohori Park was once the moat for
Fukuoka Castle.
In fact the word Ohori in Japanese literally means moat.
The part was built in the late 1920s, modeled on a classic Chinese garden.
And it's a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
And appreciate the laid-back lifestyle at Fukuoka is renowned for.
Although you will feel slightly guilty coming to the park if you're not exercising,
given that, that is essentially what everyone else seems to be doing.
I've been trying to put my finger on what it is about Ohori Park I like so much.
I think it's that there's a mixture of locals of foreign tourists because we're close to
South Korea and Taiwan from here, there's lots of tourists around the park.
But no matter where you've stopped and stand and look, you could see a scene unfolding.
There's couples relaxing on benches, there's guys feeding pigeons,
there's people and a whale of a time on a swan boat.
People aren't just passing through the park.
They're coming here for the park, who you can see that and the way
people are currently relaxing and enjoying themselves.
Oh my god, leaves in my face.
While Ellen heads off to spend the morning packing her bags,
I sneak off to the picturesque Nanzoin Temple on the outskirts of town,
to gaze on at one of the largest Buddhist statues in the world.
(peaceful music)
(up tempo music)
So I've actually seen the, um, the three historic big Buddhas in Japan,
such as the one in Nara and Kamakura.
But this one when I turn up and caught my eyes, I was kind of just in awe of the scale of it.
It isn't historic.
It was built in 1995.
But for me that doesn't stop the fact that this is just, just incredible.
Like it looks beautiful.
The 41 meters long and weighing 300 tons, the same as a jumbo jet
the Nehanzo Buddha is far larger than it's more historic rivals in Nara and Kamakura.
Buddhist statues typically come in three poses; Sitting, standing and reclining
The reclining pose signifies Buddha at the moment of death, passing into nirvana.
And it was constructed to house ashes of the Buddha donated by the country of
Myanmar as a thank you for the Nanzoin Temples donation medical supplies.
Buddhist statues of this size and scale typically have a reputation for bankrupting
local governments across Japan.
Such as the Nara Daibutsu, which actually nearly bankrupted the local government
in the 8th century.
But luckily the Nanzoin Temple is known for its good luck, its good fortune.
The, uh, the high priest here is said to have won the lottery at one point.
So that might shed some light on how they, uh, how they funded this giant statue.
As someone who's desperately trying and failing to be a photographer,
I can safely say Nanzoin is one of the most stunning and photogenic temples
I've seen in all my time in Japan.
Smoke waterfalls and haunting statues add up to a remarkable atmosphere.
Unfortunately though, in recent years, it's become a victim of its own success.
Recently the temple announced a ban on group tours due to disrespectful tourists.
Splashing around in the water, playing loud music and even climbing onto
the roof of one of the temples.
You know, let's call out these kinds of tourists for what they are;
So be sure to be mindful when paying a visit.
After all it's important to remember that this isn't some sort of theme park attraction.
It is a genuine place of worship for Buddhists all around the world.
So it's a well known fact with Buddha statues, if you touch a part of the Buddha, it's good luck.
Often, it's the stomach.
And it's a fun fact if you touch my stomach it's bad luck.
I will kill you.
But yeah, I'm gonna stroke his feet here, because that's the part of this Buddha
that you stroke for your luck.
So with that in mind...
Oh, yeah feel that bronze.
Feel that bronze premium finish.
Hopefully that bring me some good luck.
That'll help me, help me finish the neverending cycle of despair.
(light music)
The downtown district in Fukuoka is known as Hakata.
And Hakata ramen's thick creamy pork broth is regarded as one of the three
iconic variants of ramen alongside miso and soy based broth.
One of the restaurants that's been instrumental in spreading
the legend of tonkotsu is Ichiran.
Once a humble shop in Hakata, today it's a chain that demands queues all across the country.
Particularly with foreign tourists.
We'll get on to why that might be later on.
If like me though, your love of ramen goes beyond simply slurping the dish down,
the Ichiran Nomori Museum is a great place to start.
Where you can witness the dish being produced from scratch and learn about its history.
And like most ramen shops, the restaurant uses a vending machine
where you can choose a dish before handing the ticket over to the staff to get
proceedings on the way.
Best thing about Ichiran Ramen is you have counters, individual counters or to yourself.
So you don't get like annoying people in the way or anything.
The reason they have the counters is they say you can just appreciate the food better
when you're not being distracted by people around you,
including the people serving you the, uh, the food.
You can't see them either.
There's a little bamboo cover stopping you from interacting with them.
-It's kind of quite alien.
I mean, I liked the idea that you can focus on your food completely.
But we don't have something like that in the UK we can't see the service face.
- Um. - Sometime it feels uncomfortable.
-Not personal, yeah.
The moment you sit down at Ichiran, you're given a lengthy sheet of options.
From the richness of the sauce and the amount of garlic,
to the level of spiciness, and even the texture of the noodles.
Outside of Ichiran, this level of customization is pretty rare in Japan.
Where diners are more willing to defer to the chef's recipe as they typically know best.
This is really cool, but...
Tonkatsu gets its distinctive rich sweet flavor and cloudy appearance from
pork bones, which are boiled for up to eight hours.
It's typically infused with garlic, with Ichiran's recipe using an original spicy
sauce and smooth thin noodles with slices of braised pork
and chopped spring onions resting on top.
It all adds up to the symphony of colors and flavors that come together to create
the mouth-watering dish.
- I'm ready for this.
Hmm yeah, it's really really light, quite delicate.
Um, but there is quite a kind of meaty flavor in the soup.
- If you can describe the broth in three words, what would those words be?
- Delicate and well balanced.
- Well balanced, umm no, that's that's one word.
That's one descriptive word. - Is it?
- Well one more word
- Mmm, everything I could ever dream of.
- That's not a word. That's a... Ugh...
- I won't be limited to three words.
- You have to be, this is new to you.
I did like Ichiran, I do like it.
I'm not that bothered about the customizable aspects of it.
Though I tend to place my faith in the, uh, in the chef usually in Japan
when it comes to ramen shops.
And I feel like by adjusting the recipe by tailoring it to myself,
I'm kind of compromising what could be an amazing flavor.
Because I don't know how the best way to have it.
Now, I often hear people proclaim the Ichiran is the best ramen in Japan.
And it definitely isn't.
No chain can beat the quality found on independent family-run establishments.
But it is pretty good, and the overall dining experience is unique enough to justify a visit.
If you get halfway through the meal and you still a little bit hungry, on the chopstick
wrapper you've actually got additional things you can get like;
an extra egg, or some extra pork, or some extra noodles.
And although I'm already kind of thought like this is filling me up rather quick,
especially as Ellen doesn't like pork.
She likes the taste of pork soup, but I've got her pork slices, so that should fill me up.
Feel quite greedy.
Closing thoughts?
- Really tasty, really filling.
- Do you think this could work in the UK?
- Yeah, I don't know why we don't have more of this actually.
Um, it is quite... Is it healthy?
- No. - Ok, haha.
Well, it's cheap, it's filling, its tasty.
Yeah, big thumbs up for me.
If like me, you don't feel like you've truly seen a city until you've have had
a bird's-eye view, Fukuoka Tower is definitely worth a visit.
Overlooking the waterfront, not only has it got it's own beloved mascot,
but also a pamphlet reassuring visitors that the tower is thoroughly durable.
So from afar Fukuoka Tower looks like a skyscraper.
It's eight thousand sheets of glass.
It does like a normal skyscraper, but actually its hollow.
There's nothing in it apart from observation deck.
123 metres high.
Best of all though, in Japan they've got mascot for everything.
And Fukuoka Tower is no exception.
Look, they've got Fuhta - the little mascot tower, Fuhta.
With little facts here about the tower the largest earthquake in Fukuoka had
a seismic intensity of a lower 6.
Rest assured, Fukuoka tower is durable.
Boy, they keep boasting about the durability of Fukuoka Tower,
it better be durable.
We're 123 metres above the ground, bloody thing to fall down.
Because Fukuoka Tower was very bottom-heavy, there is no doubt about
its structural stability.
It's very durable very good tower.
But it is the tallest seaside tower in Japan.
So you get really nice sweeping view of the bay, the island
I'll give Fukuoka Tower seven out of ten.
- Mmm, I give this in 8.2 - 8.2?
- You've got yeah, you've got the oceans, got mountains and the sprawling city.
So.. - How could it be better?
- Uuu, if it had an open-top we could look out.
- An open top.
And more durability.
I don't feel like the tower is durable enough.
Having spent the afternoon gazing out of Japan's most durable tower,
the night rolls in and as the clock strikes 6, the city's Yatai-mura night markets stalls
burst into life.
(cheer jazz music)
This is Yatai-mura.
Kinda look like a little village of stools, selling all sorts of thing.
The most popular thing usually is yakitori,
skewered meat so it's right up my alley.
This is known as being one the most famous yatai-mura in all of Japan,
but these days it's pretty common.
They're pretty much popped up all over the country.
So it's a pretty popular thing.
You're crammed into a small space with about a dozen people.
It's very intense, you've got food being cooked right next to you,
you're rubbing shoulders with the locals.
And now we're just looking for somewhere for us to sit down and
stuff our faces.
Each yatai stand is typically run by one or two chefs.
You run them with ruthless efficiency.
Customers sit down, eat, drink and head off typically in under an hour.
The name of the game here is customer turnover.
The customer isn't eating or drinking, the etiquette is for them
to pay up and leave.
It's essential, given the limited seats.
But the essence of yatai is the atmosphere.
Thrown together with strangers with amazing food, most stalls operating
no phones policy to encourage people to chat and socialize with the locals
that find themselves rubbing shoulders with.
That quite literally, given the cramped seating arrangements.
So, we're at Yatai-mura which leans on little stand, little stool.
It's about 5, 6 people sitting around each one.
Although they've, some how they've managed to put twenty around this one.
- Nhnn.
- Um, my beloved cameraman Chris Okano,
he's at the end of the bar.
He's literally falling into the barbecue.
"How did Chris Okano die?".
He fell in a barbecue.
This is Ellen's last dinner in Japan before she flies back to the UK.
She's actually having dinner here, then flying for Fukuoka to Tokyo,
and Tokyo to London and your flight from Tokyo is at 2:30 a.m, right?
- Yeah, that's ridiculous.
About 20 hours plus, ahead of me.
- That's bonkers.
You're going to be so damn jet lag tomorrow.
- Haha, yeah. - So at least have a fun night.
- Yeah, cheers. Thanks for inviting me.
- That's right, its been fun.
Been fun showing you around.
Would you recommend me as a tour guide?
- I would, I would. Yes.
Yeah, I would give you 8.7 stars.
- 8.7 stars! - There's room for improvement.
- How so?
How could my tour guide skills be improved?
- More fresh fruit. - What?
Fresh fruit?
Fresh fruit, well, they're rubbish.
So what do you think the appeal is, umm, Yatai-mura, Elen?
This is quite nice community-based, you know, idea.
- Community based idea.
- Yeah, you get everyone together, you smoosh up,
and then you have some dinner.
- It's a cool atmosphere. - Yeah.
It's a lot of fun witnessing the chef preparing dozens of ingredients spread
around the counter whipping up a variety of dishes.
And whilst we were at the store, we ate everything from grill pork and chicken
to grilled chicken and pork.
Don't expect an English menu here though.
You are gonna have to wing it if you can't speak Japanese.
Just point at things on the menu and hope for the best.
Or just shout out the phrase, "Osusume onegaishimasu".
And hope that the chef's recommended dish doesn't involve
the fish guts or fermented despair.
Good luck with that.
(merry music)
So guys that's our day in Fukuoka and it concludes Ellen's part of the trip.
Traveling with us from four or five days from Hiroshima to Fukuoka.
What was your favorite day and was your favorite memory?
- Ohhh, I think probably the day when we were in Miyajima Island.
- Miyajima Island, in Hiroshima. -Yeah. It's beautiful there.
- You also learned Japanese.
What was your favorite Japanese word you learn?
- "Abunai". - Abunai, dangerous.
With that now guys, Ellen's back off to the UK.
Go back and tell the people of UK what Japan's like.
But for now have a safe trip back to London.
- How do I do it?
The airport is six minutes that way. - Why you don't show me?
Use the Japanese that you've learned. You could do it.
Anyway guys, we've got one last leg left from Fukuoka to Kagoshima.
It take about 5 or 6 days, I think.
And we got one more guest joining us as well, who is a cool girl.
But for now, no matter where you might be joining us from out there
in the big wide world, thanks joining on Journey Across Japan.
And we'll see you right back here tomorrow to do it all over again.
I think Ellen's genuinely gone.
Clearly the Japanese she learned the other day has worked.
Hopefully she doesn't get lost.
(bell ringing)