Friendly Fukuoka - First Week

Hello everyone!

I am starting a new series on this blog about my life as an exchange student in Japan. I joined the JTW Program of Kyushu University in Fukuoka. I will stay here for ten months to study (and party ;)). I wanted to start this series mostly to let everyone at home know what I am doing here. But I hope that I can inform my international readers about the fun and fabulous Fukuoka. And I can use it in one of the classes that I intend to attend which requires to keep some kind of diary about my life here. Now that's what I call three birds with one stone! I am calling this series Friendly Fukuoka because the people in Fukuoka are known to be very nice people and until now it has proven to be true :)

So I took a direct plane by KLM from Amsterdam to Fukuoka on the 22nd of September. Ten hours later I landed in Fukuoka Airport in the morning. My first challenge was to catch a taxi to Hakata station to go to my hotel. There were different kinds of categories, like deluxe and standard taxis, so I was kind of confused which one to take. But I ended up fine and well at my hotel near Gion station for a reasonable fee. It was way too early to check in so I just left my luggage and went to the shopping malls around the station. This was not the best idea ever because I already bought some things within an hour of being in Japan. After a few hours of wandering around and having a drink in a cafe I could finally check in at the hotel. Now I was hoping to take a rest and get ready for dinner but I couldn't get my suitcase to open! I spent an hour trying different ways to open the lock and in the end I just tried every single code possible from 000 to 999. Luckily it opened somewhere in the 200's.

I then had to rush to get ready because my lovely Japanese friend came to pick me up for dinner with a few of her friends. We went to an izakaya which is a Japanese kind of bar where you can get some drinks along with a range of small dishes. We had things like yakitori, sashimi, pizza, salad and more. The nice thing about these small dishes is that you can try a lot of different foods. It was really nice to meet an old friend and make new friends on the first day because I immediately felt like I belonged here and didn't feel lonely at all. I also got to drink some wonderful umeshu again, which is a sweet plum wine and I absolutely love it. But I hadn't had sleep for more than 30 hours and had a small jetlag so soon I grew tired and speaking Japanese after a break of almost four months was a little bit of a challenge. One of the friends, another old friend of mine, was late and came when we were just leaving. He has a car so he brought us home by car, so nice. I had a lovely first evening and these nice people set the tone for the rest of my stay in Fukuoka.

The next day I met my Japanese friend again when she picked my up at the hotel to move my luggage to the dorm. I was finally moving in! I had to fill in a lot of documents and then had to check my room for abnormalities. Besides a moldy fridge and a chair that's had it's best years my room is fine. There is a lot of closet space and I have my own tiny bathroom, which is really convenient. There is a desk and a bed where I sleep on with a futon, Japanese style! It's a very boring room but slowly but surely I am decorating and filling it with things I bought at the hundred yen shop. Those shops are awesome; you can find almost anything and everything costs maybe about 0,80 euro cents. So I ended up with a lot of useful and cheap things. Going there is a little bit addictive though because everyday I think of something that I need and then I go there and come back with a bag full of things.

This is also the day that I met my tutor. She is a sweet girl who will help me with all kinds of difficult things like paying bills at the post office, getting a phone or registering at the ward office. I had plans to meet up with my friend from Belgium who was traveling through Japan and was in Fukuoka at that moment. My tutor helped me to go the place where we would meet, the aquarium! Marine World is an aquarium in the suburbs of Fukuoka, about an hour away from Hakata station. When my friend arrived we said goodbye to my tutor and went to the aquarium. It was not the biggest or most beautiful aquarium I have seen but it was fun. Sadly I forgot my camera so I had to make do with my iPhone.

We first ate something in the restaurant from where we could see the dolphins. And then we watched all the fish, penguins and sea lions. The seals were so cute! They kept looking at us and swimming towards us, such curious animals. And we could also feed them :) We then went to my friend's hotel to take a shower (because it's so hot and humid here) and dress up. We met the Japanese friend who helped me with moving in the morning, and another old friend of ours. We had another night of drinking and eating delicious food at an izakaya. Really, the food and drinks are great and there is so much variety, so you can never get enough of izakaya. It was nice to meet them again and catch up. The Japanese girls had to work the next day though, so we said goodbye to them after going to the subway station through the pouring rain. And we went to karaoke until end the night with some singing. Because I mean, we're in Japan after all.

I stayed at my friend's hotel where we talked until deep in the night, or morning, and had to get up at 10am to go back to my dorm. There we had to gather with a group of about 15 students and a few tutors who would help us to apply for residence cards and register our addresses at the ward office of Hakata. This was the first time meeting some of my classmates and we had to wait very long at the ward office so it was a nice opportunity to chat with them and get to know them. They are all awesome and sweet people and I know I've already made some friends for life. After the whole thing was finally finished I made some plans with my classmates to meet up in the evening and eat together.  I then went to meet my Belgian friend one last time before she would leave for Okinawa (and after that back to Belgium). We ate some cake at the hotel restaurant and took purikura (photo stickers) at an arcade hall. Time was quickly running out and I had to say goodbye to her. When I came back to the dorm I bumped into a friend from my university back home. She's staying at the same dorm and uni, but is in a different program. I invited her to dinner with my classmates. We all went to a shopping mall near the dorm and ended up eating soba noodles in a restaurant there. It was nice to have some more bonding time with them and I think by then we were already friends haha.

On the friday I went shopping at the hundred yen store with my new friends, because we all needed some essential things like cutlery, cups, bowls, dust bins and what not. We also took a quick look in the arcade hall there and took purikura. We had to hurry back though because in the afternoon we had orientation day at the university. Basically it is just a lot of information being told in a few hours. It was tiring but important. And because we all don't like to be alone we went to dinner again with a big group. This time there were even more people than the day before, some who I hadn't met yet and there were also some of the tutors going with us. We went to kaitenzushi, which is basically sushi in fastfood form. A conveyer belt runs along the tables and on this band theres all kind of sushi which you can take from the belt. You pay by the amount of plates you have. It's quite cheap, about 100 yen per plate and there's vegetarian options too.

The saturday was a day off before our Orientation trip around Kyushu in the weekend. The girls and I went to Hakata in the afternoon for some more shopping. I needed some things from the electronics store and we also went to the hundred yen shop again because the one at Hakata station has a bigger collection than the one near our dorm. We also bought snacks for the weekend trip there. We also played some games at the arcade hall on the top floor of the electronics store. The electronics store we went to is Yodobashi Camera and it is huge! You can find almost anything there. So I usually go there when I need something for my computer, camera or mobile phone. The collection of iPhone 5 cases is the most extended one I've seen so far, so I have bought a pretty Japanese iPhone case. In the evening we met op with Carol and went to eat at the top floor of the station's shopping mall. The restaurants there looked so nice, but the prices were too high. We ended up in a ramen restaurant where the prices were very reasonable. I tried tonkotsu ramen which is a specialty of Fukuoka. It was super delicious and I can recommend it to anyone!

That's it for the first week ! I wil tell you about my orientation trip and the rest of this week in my next blog :)
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  1. What an eventful week you've had - can't believe you've managed to squeeze so much into seven days! So happy for you that you've made so many great friends too! Excited to hear more about what you get up to over the coming months :)

    1. An eventful week it was indeed. My life since I came to Japan has been a busy mess with so many events, but that makes it all the more memorable :) My classes start today so I might just get slightly less busy with partying and more busy with studying, but I am sure I will have enough interesting stories left to tell :)
      Thanks so much for your nice comment!

  2. Aahh I'm so sorry for replying this late! Just busy with university stuff eheh ^-^" forgive me! Anyway I'm really glad you arrived safely in Japan and already made lots of new friends. At least you won't feel lonely there. I'm already getting hungry by seeing all those delicious foods and stuff. You definitely need to try Sata Andagi (did I spell this correct) this time :D.
    The Aquarium looks so nice, too bad you forgot your camera, but hey the pictures made with your phone aren't that bad :). But what are those weird fishes, the ones after the dolphin photo :P. I'm sure you will have a wonderful time in Japan and everything will be okay, because there are people there who can help you as well ^-^.

    1. It's okay, I am the same hehe!
      Yeah, all these delicious foods! But I didn't come across Sata Andagi yet. But if I do, you know I will try it :D
      The aquarium photos turned out pretty OK, long live iPhone! But my memory was full at some point so I could only take a few photos T^T
      Thanks, I am pretty sure about that too, I wouldn't know what to do without the people here ^-^
      But Vienna seems to be turning out well for you too and I am sure that it will be awesome as well!