Day 6 started off very early, but I didn’t complain because I knew that Anna was up until very late planning our trip and cleaning the apartment. We left around 5 AM. We had to get to the Tokyo station to get our JR passes. We got to Tokyo station around 6:30 and asked for directions, but it turned out that the office didn’t open until 7:30!!! Oh nooooooes. We were meeting a friend of Anna’s in Hakata so we’d have to tell them that we were going to be a lot later than we thought.
The JR office was in some other part of the station so we spent the next 20-30 minutes trying to find it. Anna was pretty sleep deprived so I did my best to ask for directions. Note to those whose Japanese isn’t so great, ask staff people at a desk if they have a map they can point to “sumimasen, chizu ga arimasuka?” We went all around, up escalators, down escalators, up and down long hallways. There were plenty of maps in the station but I wasn’t sure if the JR offices listed were the one we were looking for. Finally we reached a dead end, and Anna stayed with our luggage and I went to ask for directions one more time.
This time I paid very close attention to the landmarks on the map and walked over to look for a JR office that was still closed. Success! It was nearby an area called something like “Kitchen street.” I went back to get Anna and retrieve our luggage. It turns out that the JR Pass office isn’t on the map!!!!???? This office is one of the most important for tourists yet they don’t have it marked clearly on their map? We had to wait about half an hour, and in that time a line started forming with other people who needed to get their passes. The line formed ahead of us, but a nice travel group from Europe let us go first since we were already waiting when they arrived. Phew!
We hurried over to the shinkansen ticket office, and Anna got the tickets that would get us there as early as possible. We ended up losing about two hours to this ordeal, but at least we made it! I had never rode the Shinkansen before so I was very excited. The seats are super nice and there’s a ton of leg room. I knew it was fast but it really is super fast and smooth. I was sitting by the window so I could take photos. The train was so fast I had to be really quick on the draw if I saw anything.
We made sure that we sat on the right side so that we’d get a view of Mt. Fuji. I took a bunch of photos, then slept for a little bit. When I woke up I jolted up because I saw that we were a lot closer to Mt. Fuji so I quickly snapped several more photos. We passed a lot of farmland which I took photos of because it reminded me of the area in Totoro where Mei and Satsuki’s house is.
We had a transfer so while we were there we picked up an ekiben which is a bento they sell at train stations. I had heard before that these ready to eat bento were very good so I was very interested to see what they were like. Looking at the display bento I picked one that looked good. Ekiben have a lot of assorted foods in them. We split one because we knew we were going to have lunch when we arrived in Hakata. I wish you could get this kind of ready to eat food in the States 😛
When we arrived in Hakata we met Anna’s friend and went to a tonkotsu ramen place. I was a little worried because there was this really strong odor coming from the restaurant, but I guess that was the smell of their tonkotsu? I’m still not really sure what it was. The ramen was very good, noodles very smooth and a light brown egg that I later found out was soft boiled on the inside.
Anna’s friend got gyoza and they were the TINIEST gyoza I had ever seen. I took a photo so you can get an idea of just how small they were. The tonkotsu broth was much thinner than Minca’s so I had no problem finishing off the entire bowl.
We still had time to kill so we headed to MOS burger to sit down. I ordered a large melon soda thinking that it’d be pretty small, but actually their large was surprisingly big. I’d say it was probably the equivalent of a medium in the U.S. but that’s still big especially considering I don’t really drink soda anymore.
It was only an hour more to our destination and we arrived! Anna’s dad picked us up at the station, and when we got to their house there was a huge feast waiting for us. There were two things that Anna had been looking forward to eating when we got to her hometown: sweet shrimp and basashi. Sweet shrimp is cheap in her hometown, but elsewhere in Japan it can be expensive, and basashi well… basashi is horse meat. I know Americans don’t eat any kind of animal that is domesticated but I was very interested in trying it out.
The sweet shrimp was indeed sweet. They were very small, but eaten raw they really did melt in my mouth, very tasty indeed. Basashi was served raw too with onions and was very tender. It’s always hard to describe new meats, but it wasn’t too far from other red meat sashimis I’ve had. There were a bunch of other things like crab which Anna’s aunt dutifully cut apart for others to eat, some veggies and tempura veggies. A very filling and delicious dinner!
The next day we were heading to Kagoshima which is where we’d be taking the ferry to Yakushima. Anna’s dad is a hiking buff so he had laid out all his hiking gear that he was going to lend us for the trip. I’ve never done any serious hiking so I was getting very intimidated and a little scared about what was going to happen on this trip.
He had every little thing we could possibly need. Several layers of clothing, powdered drinks, first aid kits, cups, swiss army knives, raincoats, waterproof covers for our backpacks, fleece jackets, windbreakers, hats, baseball caps, a walking stick, umbrella, and big thick socks. He drew the line at the can of oxygen he had though 😛
After a lovely dinner we turned in for the night. This was the first night’s sleep since we arrived in Japan when we didn’t have a set time we needed to wake up so it was a very good night’s sleep. The next day we were going to look around Anna’s hometown, do a little shopping and get tonkotsu ramen!