This past weekend was a whirlwind of traveling, making arrangements, and translating from Japanese to Korean to English. The first time Junkyu’s friends came from Korea, our plans got muddled and things went awry, so I was a little more than nervous to see how this trip would turn out. Thankfully, I had already met his family while in Korea, and was excited when I heard that they were planning on visiting me here.
I set my alarm for 8am on Saturday because a package I ordered was due to arrive that day. In Japan, when you order you can usually select a preference for delivery times, as you have to be able to sign for your package. However, the first slot is from 8-12 and Junkyu had told me to be able to meet him and his family at the ferry terminal by 11. If my package didn’t show up before 10, I wouldn’t have time to catch my train, buy 11 people’s bus passes, and take my bus to be able to meet him in time. I told him to wait for me and I would try to be there by 11:30.
I paced around the house trying to make sure I had everything ready and my plan for the day was flexible but would be enjoyable for a big family with children. I got dressed and ready and was about to give up on signing for my package when the doorbell rang. I rushed to get my mail and ran out the door. The sky looked ominous and it had been rainy the few days before, so I was worried it would pour all weekend and ruin our trip to the park. I took an umbrella just to be safe.
When i was on the train, I got a call from Junkyu but when I called back, I couldn’t reach him. It was around 10:40 and I panicked. I thought that he had tried to call me because there had been a problem getting on the ferry, but I just had to hope everything was fine. I got to the train station and went to buy bus passes for all 11 of us. In Fukuoka, you can buy a one-day bus pass to get around and it costs about 510 yen per person, with discounts for families and groups. I decided it would be easier and cheaper than riding the trains or making sure a huge group of Korean tourists had change for the bus.
I got on my first bus to the ferry terminal and ran around the entire building looking for Junkyu and his family but not many people were there at all. I was relieved to see that their ferry would arrive at 11:40, so I was early and would be able to meet them as they came out. Around 12:15, Junkyu emerged from the doors and smiled as he came up to me. He told me that he tried to call and let me know they would be later than he originally thought, but I was just happy everyone arrived safely. The rest of his family came out and we took pictures before getting on our bus to Hakata Station. It was really easy taking the buses because we could just flash our day passes and get off, making things really smooth and painless.
We ate lunch (sushi and tonkatsu) before making our way to Ohori Park. We walked through the park and played with the kids (Junkyu’s nieces and nephews) and had a great time chatting and taking pictures. We felt a few drops of rain but it never really came down, and most of Saturday we had nice blue skies. We took another bus to Fukuoka Tower, which was lit up pink and purple with a heart for Valentine’s Day. Strange to think Junkyu and I were just there when the tower was lit up with a Christmas Tree. Time really flies as you get older.
I made reservations for us to go to an all-you-can-eat yakiniku place in Canal City. They told us we would have to sit at separate tables, but we ended up being at three tables next to each other in the back. It was nice to go around and ask how everyone’s trip was going so far. Everyone enjoyed the food and loved commenting on how different Japan and Korea are. The restaurant served kimchi but although the kids loved it, the adults complained it wasn’t spicy enough. Japanese cuisine is probably the least spicy in all of Asia, as not many Japanese can handle spice.
We made our way back to the station and half of the family stayed with me and the other half got a hotel room. The next morning, we ate breakfast and found our bus stop for the hot springs. There aren’t many onsen in Fukuoka prefecture, as most of the natural hot springs are in Oita with a few in Nagasaki. However, I found an amazing onsen near Hakata Station called Manyo no Yu. Koreans love going to spas (mostly jjimjilbang) but Junkyu told me not many go to oncheon (onsen/hot springs). Since Kyushu is known for it’s onsen, I thought it would be a nice Japanese-style outing.
The place we went to had a free shuttle bus to and from Hakata station and other areas around Fukuoka, so it was really convenient. The onsen is huge and has indoor and outdoor baths, saunas, reading rooms, movie showings, a game center, and a restaurant. Since we had small children with us, I knew a big place like this would be fun for everyone, and we ended up having a great time. The food menu was vast and the wait staff was courteous and friendly. The only real issue we ran into was when we were checking in. Japanese service is great if you speak Japanese, which I am used to doing. However, it was a shock for me to learn that a lot of people hate dealing with foreigners or simply aren’t able to.
Both me and Junkyu’s older sister spoke in Japanese to the lady at the counter of the onsen, but she almost refused to listen to us and decided to ask us how many people we had using broken and confusing English. I was really annoyed at the way we were treated, but it happened later that night at the hotel as well. The hotel manager ignored my Japanese and tried to use English, which he clearly could not. He kept saying we didn’t have a room that we reserved and that we hadn’t paid, but he never let us know the problem and kind of got mad at us and tried to book us a new room. Finally, a staff member who spoke Korean asked for the name the reservation was under, and after they found it on the computer, another girl told the manager, “Oh, they already paid.” It was really frustrating to see that staff who are probably very good at their jobs in Japanese are almost incapable of doing them in English. The hotel is located near a major train station where foreigners often pass through, and I cringe to think how he treats other families who don’t speak Japanese.
Besides that, the rest of our trip was amazing. On Sunday, we had clear skies and warm weather and we visited a shrine and ate Hakata ramen for dinner. The family was so fun to travel with and everyone kept telling me how much fun they were having. I was really happy to hear they enjoyed their stay in Japan and that we didn’t really have many issues.
Junkyu and his family really make me feel so welcome and accepted, and I’m really glad I was able to speak a lot more Korean with them this time. I impressed myself by keeping calm, guiding a big group of foreigners around by myself, and translating and speaking three languages all weekend.
This is my second year on the JET program, and I’ve decided not to renew my contract, which ends in August. This year I will be searching for jobs in South Korea and hopefully moving to Daejeon after spending a few weeks with family and friends back in America. I enjoyed living in Japan again, and I learned that working here is completely different from being a student, and life as an expat living alone has been kind of tough. I’m ready for a new job and new challenges, and I’m so happy I will already have lots of supportive friends and family when I arrive in Korea.
Thanks to everyone who continues to support me in my journey! I can’t wait to share more updates with you, as 2015 is bound to be full of new surprises!