Kokura & Fukuoka – when nightmares became true and what I did against it

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Rooftop of the JR station in Fukuoka – one of the most perfect moments

I must say that this part of my trip has been one of the toughest situations I have come across during my whole life. It’s been a real struggle, with myself and the surroundings. I’ve come too close to stopping my trip in Japan. Maybe that’s the reason why it took me over 2 months to finally write about it…After a relaxing long weekend spent by the beach and bathing in hot water springs (onsen) I decided it was time to head back to civilisation & urbanity. I booked a night ferry from Matsuyama to Kokura ( 5850 Yen).  The trip wasn’t too bad, I got to sleep in a female-only room (the Japanese way: on the floor). It looked cozy and clean, but not being used to sleeping on very hard surfaces I woke up with the most terrible back-ache I have ever had. I almost didn’t manage to stand up and put on my backpack. From a cultural point of view the ferry was very interesting: I seemed to be the only tourist on it and was completely lost in translation (all signs and announcements where strictly in Japanese!). There were many old ladies in my room, all very polite and kind. Sadly we couldn’t really communicate much besides smiling, hand gestures and showing pictures of our families.IMG_2707IMG_2713I didn’t know what to expect from Kokura (landed there randomly) and was recommended a newly opened hostel. After walking a couple of kms from the pier to the hostel I reached a shabby building and had to think twice before entering. The sun wasn’t up yet and I was surrounded by a swarm of black ravens. After overcoming the shivers going up my back I went up with a small elevator to find the hostel. The entrance was very simple, no doors and no signs. There was nobody at the “reception” (I was around 5am), all the staff was sleeping on couches in the common room, which looked like a complete mess. I sat outside, was glad to have wifi and started to panic about where to spend the night. The more time I was spending there, the more I was thinking about how I couldn’t sleep in that place. I couldn’t find anybody who spoke a word of english in that moment and all I had were some comforting messages from home (thanks guys!). Every single hostel in Fukuoka was booked and all that was left were five-star resorts. I didn’t know where to go, didn’t know where to stay & I didn’t want to stay where I was. I looked up busses, trains, airplanes – everything. After about 2 hours I decided to take my stuff and head to Fukuoka. I was sure I’d somehow find a place to stay there. Before heading to the station I made a pit stop at Starbucks, which had officially become my favourite place: coffee, clean bathrooms & wifi. I left the ravens behind and boarded on a bullet train, hoping to wake up from the nightmare.IMG_2722IMG_2729My motivation after spending a night on a boat, having terrible backaches (and still having to carry a backpack), not having anybody to complain or to blame to other than yourself – all concentrated in this selfie. Believe me, you wouldn’t have wanted me meet mad me.IMG_2740After 30 minutes I stepped out in Fukuokas huge JR station. I didn’t know how to figure our the accommodation and I decided to ask at the tourist information when it opened, since it was still pretty early (thankfully I found a Starbucks Coffee to keep me company in the meanwhile). The tourist information office made a couple of calls and BOUM! it found a hostel called Aloha Spirit. The webpage looked good, the source seemed reliable and so I happily booked a room. I didn’t want to wait until 3pm to bring my backpack to the hostel, so I decided to go for a city tour, leave my backpack at the station and go to the hostel shortly before dinner time. I was starting to be mad at myself, for having left by myself and not having thought of booking anything in advance. I wanted to explore the city and keep myself occupied by things I enjoyed doing. So I bought a bus ticket which allowed me to ride around town and see various attractions. I stopped for a burger at the Hard Rock Café (yes, I was starting to feel homesick) and when I got a free drink I thought – hey, it’s not that bad! Stop complaining about your situation – you wanted to go to Japan, you wanted to go by your own so now live with it and don’t be fussy. I headed to the beach and chilled until sunset. Life is always good when you’re by the beach. Or at least so I thought._DSC5250IMG_2751_DSC5246Heading back to the station I was looking forward to arriving at a nice hostel, taking a shower and finally sleeping in a real bed. Since I hadn’t really met any other travellers for about 5 days then (and I couldn’t really communicate with most locals) I hoped to meet some people. Wrong, wrong and wrong. Once I found the hostel after walking by numerous suspicious shops with pictures of women and men lingering in front I couldn’t believe my eyes. The “hostel” was a shabby house, filled with men and filthy as nothing I had ever seen before. The owners couldn’t speak any English and they almost pushed me up the stairs to my “room”. Thinking I’m joking and just being a spoiled only-child? See for yourself:IMG_2763               IMG_2765Fake eyelashes, contact lenses and all types of trash was liying around. No sight of roommates. This was one of the toughest moments I had encountered on my journey. I took all my valuables with me and rushed out of the hostel (the bathrooms looked even worse – I didn’t dare set foot inside one). I felt alone, lost and completely demoralised by what I had seen. I doubted myself and kept wondering why the hell I wasn’t back in Zurich, enjoying summer with family & friends. I spent the whole evening at Starbucks (I think you can understand why) and couldn’t stop myself from bursting into tears. I was ashamed of my behaviour and knew I had to act quickly and change something. I struggled with finding an accommodation for the next night and by now it was clear I had to sleep in that hostel for one night. It was the weekend and everything was fully booked. I stood in front of the decision if to spend money on a fancy hotel and chill in Fukuoka for a couple of days, or if to continue down south. I managed to convince myself to keep on travelling and the next day I bought a 3-day north kyushu travel pass and travelled south. I knew (or at least hoped) that the best is yet to come.IMG_2769_DSC5274

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Tai Chazuke at the JR station before leaving Fukuoka – definitely the best meal I’ve had in Japan

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