Celine and I are back in Japan! We were in Japan in March 2017 during winter, and this time we went to Fukuoka in November 2018 (8 to 13) for our birthday trip and to experience fall. I think it was the perfect decision because the weather was pleasant. It rained from time to time and it was especially cold in some areas, but it was tolerable for a tropical girl like me. I am really just happy to be seeing the changing colors of the leaves, and the fallen leaves on the ground.
So, before the trip, we had to do some preparations:
FLIGHT AND VISA
We booked our flight from Manila to Fukuoka in June and it was only PHP4700. That is quite cheap. It was cheaper than our flights to Nagoya in 2017. Next time, though, I will make sure to book luggage because it’s much cheaper. I spent around PHP 1600 for the additional luggage, which Celine and I shared.
Since I had a single-entry visa last time, I needed to get another one for this trip. It was pretty much the same process as the last one, which I also blogged about in the past. Read about that here. The only difference this time is that I don’t need to submit a birth certificate because they already have that in their file, which is a relief to me. I didn’t specifically apply for a multiple-entry visa, but they issued me one anyway. That is pretty amazing because it’s valid for five years. It will be much easier to go back and forth to Japan in the next five years. I want to during spring next time. I’m not sure I will be able to go this 2019 honestly since I just got a new job and I really can’t be gone for a week this soon but hopefully in 2020.
Accommodation in Japan is pretty expensive so it wasn’t a question that we will be booking a bed in a hostel. I chose Kia Ora Budget Stay, because of its location. It’s within walking distance of Hakata Station, which is the main station in Fukuoka. It was a no-brainer that we needed a place in Hakata. I booked it through Agoda because BPI gives you an 8% discount when you use your card to pay. We arrived quite late at night and we thought we were going to do self-check-in, but there was actually someone there to help us check in. We booked a bed in the room for 10 people, which is on the 4th floor. The hostel has an elevator so that is helpful since we had luggage. It’s a capsule-style bed, with a cabinet and shelf, and curtains for privacy. The room is spacious enough and Celine and I were lucky to be placed in the area by the door. Also, we had space for our luggage. They have hooks with hangers for coats. There is a door that leads you to the toilet, bathroom, and sink area. On the ground floor, there is a common kitchen and lounge area. The lounge area is probably my favorite place in this hostel. That’s where they serve the free breakfast and where you can try on the yukata for free. I totally recommend this place, it’s a perfect place to stay in Hakata.
Obviously, we needed one. I booked our 4G Portable WiFi Rental from KKday, because it was cheaper than in Klook. I only paid PHP1134 for 6 days. We picked it up from a booth at the airport and returned it in the same one before we left. It was very reliable, fast and the transaction was very easy. Probably my only complaint is that the device sleeps when it’s idle for a while and it can be quite annoying because I needed to reach into my backpack a lot to turn it on. Other than that, it was such a great help during our trip.
DAY TRIPS AND JR PASS
We booked our tours through Klook, and that was convenient, so we didn’t have to bring a lot of yen. We booked the JR Pass, Harmony Land, and Huis Ten Bosch through Klook, because they are cheaper here than buying directly.
We decided to purchase a JR Pass because we had day trips planned for Harmony Land and Huis Ten Bosch, which are located around 1.5 to 2 hours away from Fukuoka. We were also able to use it to go to Uminonakamichi and Ainoshima Island. We purchased the North Kyushu Rail Pass for 5 days. You can have it delivered to your address I think, but we decided to just pick it up from the JR Office at Hakata Station. We decided to do this on the morning of our second day before going to Uminonakamichi. The first step is to have the Klook voucher exchanged for the actual pass itself, we just needed to show the voucher along with our passport. We also decided to purchase our tickets for our day trips for the coming days, just so we can get our seats reserved. To do that, you have to go to this desk where you see all the routes. There’s a staff who can help you plan your route. You just need to write down the stations you need to get off so the staff at the booth can print out the tickets.
When you have a JR Pass, you don’t really need to go through the doors where you usually tap your card, you pass through the side and show your pass to the train master. You show the seat reservation ticket to the conductor on the train. We only reserved seats for going to the destination, but we didn’t going back. For that, you can sit in the unreserved car of the train and just show your JR pass to the conductor when he asks for your tickets.
Since we had booked our tours, which comprise the bulk of our expenses, I only had to exchange about PHP10,000 to JPY. Almost for all trips when I need to do currency exchange, I go to Sanry’s. I live close to BGC so I always go to their branch in Market Market. By the end of the trip, I still had about JPY6,000 left, which I had exchanged back to PHP at SM Aura.
On with the trip…
I had some time to rest before this trip because my last day of work at Uber was the day before. Our flight was super delayed. It was delayed for 2 hours, which is crazy and embarrassing, knowing how punctual Japanese people are. A lot of passengers complained about how they were going to miss their trains or buses going to other parts of the city. Our plans for the night were just to get our JR Pass and go to Nakasu for dinner, which can be done the next day anyway. We weren’t that affected, just that we checked in late.
Can I just say that it was pretty cool that the airport staff gave us extra legroom seats? He assigned us to the first row! It was my first time, seriously. I’m guessing he saw our birthdays on our passports, I dunno, and gave us nice seats. I was sat next to an old Japanese man who was offering me snacks. I politely declined, but I thought that was really nice.
In this blog, I will also be talking about some helpful tips when going around Fukuoka:
TRAVELLING FROM AND TO THE AIRPORT
So, there are two options to go to Hakata Station from the airport – train or bus. The bus is more direct but there is a schedule. The subway is not connected to the international airport, so you need to take the free shuttle bus to the domestic airport and take the subway from there. I think at that time, we just decided to go for the one that arrives first. The shuttle bus was already there when we got out of the airport, so we decided to get on and just take the subway. Hakata Station is just two stations away from the airport so travel time was quite fast. The fare was JPY260. From Hakata Station, we just walked to our hostel.
Going back from our hostel to the airport was pretty much the same. We found out that our hostel is actually closer to the Hakata Bus Terminal since it’s behind the Hakata Station. We decided to take the bus directly to the international terminal. It’s pretty straightforward because they have a dedicated terminal for each destination and you just need to listen to the announcements. I asked a security guard about where to buy tickets and he led me to a machine, while Celine queued with our bags. When I got back with the tickets, we were almost in front of the line. The bus fare was JPY230.
I think I need to also talk about their bus system. Well, just because we had to figure it out by ourselves. We had a JR Pass but that doesn’t cover buses as it is run by the city. Here are some of my pointers:
You need to figure out which bus number goes to your destination and you need to wait for that bus. Also, you need to know if you are on the right side of the road. It’s kind of like when you are in EDSA and you need to figure out if you are northbound or southbound. I’m guessing the bus routes are circular anyway and you will get to your destination as long as you have the right bus, but if you are on the wrong side, then there’s a possibility that you will be on that bus forever and it will cost you more.
Once you have figured out all that, get on from the door in the middle of the bus, and take a paper from the machine. There will be a number on that paper, and you have to match that to the monitor near the driver. Whatever amount or fare corresponds to the number on your paper, that’s what you need to pay.
You need to pay the exact fare. If you don’t have the exact fare, there is a coin exchange machine by the driver.
Avoid the seats for pregnant/senior citizens. It’s not cool to sit on those if you aren’t one. Well, it should be like that in every country anyway, but let’s face it, we get away with this all the time here in the Philippines. But don’t bring that mentality to other countries, especially in Japan.
Make sure to ring the bell before your stop because if no one does it, the bus will not stop. It doesn’t stop at every bus stop.
There are 100 yen buses around Fukuoka. Normally, the buses within Hakata and Tenjin areas are 100 yen. Also, the bus from the Nishetsu-Shingu Station to the Ainoshima Island ferry is 100 yen. For that bus, it was the opposite, we got on the bus using the front door and paid upfront to the driver.
The trick is to always prepare your exact fare to avoid any hassle. You can easily check how much the fare is on Google Maps.
We mostly bought our food from the ever-reliable convini. There’s a 7-11 at the corner of one alley going to our hostel so it’s the place we always go to. We usually buy snacks from there before going on our day trip, or before we go back home at night.
I will be doing a separate post for our activities during our 5 days in Fukuoka but will link them all here.
Nov 9 – Uminonakamichi / Canal City / Ramen Stadium
Nov 10 – Ainoshima island / Tochoji Temple / Kushida Shrine / Don Quijote
Nov 11 – Harmony Land
Nov 12 – Huis Ten Bosch
Nov 13 – City Tour