I'm in Japan. I'm in Tokushima on Shikoku island. I'm so happy to be traveling again.
I left Seoul on Wednesday morning after final drinks with friends on Monday and Tuesday night. Less than three hours later i was stood in Busan at the other end of the country thanks to the KTX high speed train which licks along at 300km/h or so. I wandered into the ferry terminal and managed to get a ticket on a busy little ferry called the Beetle which skimmed across the water at such a speed that we had to wear seat belts and there were warnings that we might have to slow down or make sudden changes in direction in order to avoid hitting whales. This must have been interesting for the rest of the passengers on board all of which appeared to be over sixty. I was one of the few people on board who didn't have grandchildren. It was at this point that i realised that all old people, no matter what the country, love the same things. Queuing - they just love being in a que even if they don't know what the que is for. Hot drinks - tea, coffee, soup, magma, anything liquid and hot has to be consumed no matter what the weather, time or location. Mints or boiled sweets and the sharing of mints and boiled sweets. Grey jackets. Free stuff - if it's free they have to have it.
Anyway, i arrived safe and sound that afternoon in Fukuoka on Kyushu island. I hopped on a bus into the city centre and found a little guesthouse that was already full but the nice old woman who owned the place called another guesthouse and showed me the way there. We were greeted on the street by a tiny old woman who was at least three times my age, had no teeth but kept smiling at me anyway and understood no English. But that was fine, the guesthouse was cheap and cosy and my Japanese skills amount to being able to say, "Hello", "Thank you" and "Yes". We did managed to figure out that i wasn't from the USA but from England at which point she smiled again and said, "Ah, Elizabeth".
I'd been to Fukuoka twice before, both times to go to the Korean consulate and get a working visa. I was walking around the streets again when i remembered certain things about the city from previous visits.
1. It's so quiet. There are 1.5 million people in Fukuoka but it's like a library. The buses cut their engines when waiting in traffic. People talk in hushed tones. Nothing is loud.
2. Everybody has a bicycle.
3. All the women are gorgeous.
4. All the men look cool.
5. None of the banks accept my ATM card.
6. Old women have no teeth.
7. They still haven't finished the train station. It looks exactly the same as it did 12 months ago. They must be building it out of matchsticks or playing cards.
This morning i got the expensive yet hideously fast Shinkansen better known as the Bullet Train from Fukuoka heading east to Okoyama on Honshu Island and from there a much smaller and slower train going south here to Tokushima on Shikoku Island. Tomorrow i will start walking and probably won't stop for about six weeks. The hike circles all of the island and is about 1500km long. I probably won't make all of it on foot but i really want to try. I've been thinking and dreaming about hiking around the hills, towns and cities of Japan for a while now so this is the chance.