Its been two weeks since I returned from Fukuoka. Yes, I still say I went to Fukuoka, instead of saying Japan directly because I really only saw this one city. Did we even see the whole of Fukuoka. We may have, we may not but I’m very pleased with what we did and nothing is going to spoil that.
Two things before I begin: I was toying with the idea of writing this entire post in Kanji but that may not be possible 🙂 Second, if I have to give an orientation programme or write any report about the trip (since it was an education program cum environment conference) I may be quoting extensively from this post. So if you catch me doing it, feel free to pass a wink. I’d be our lil joke!
And yes, this is another long one. Just try scrolling down. Also, the best things to do with long blog posts is to click on the title so that you exit the home page with ALLLL the posts and when you now scroll, you only go down THIS post.
And finally. FUKUOKA.
At first I was… Apprehensive (safe word) about the seven hour plus two hour journey because as a kid I didn’t take airtravel well. But talking nicely to the check in attendant pays off people, I got the first row window seat which basically means I had both leg space and a view. Hint: Just generally be nice at the airport if youre not always nice anyway. You never know who will make your journey better.
A smooth and sleepy ten hours later I was in Fukuoka, having had lunch at the airport which was like a hard foreboding for most of my team. Spices are non existent in Japanese food, and Indians will notice that. Besides that, the city clearly had everything going right. The people were friendly despite neither party understanding the other’s language most of the time. The weather was splendid and that matters more than food to a person like me. I took a gazillion photos and thanks to a DSLR that is possible, and the inherent free and happy vibes of adventure put me in Smile Mode for all eight days.
You all largely know what my schedule was. You might in fact know more about what I did than my mom does, because she wasn’t able to follow the instant updates on Ruchika Online and you could. I’ll fill in the gaps now.
The day we landed, we only had an orientation program on the itinerary. Two very sweet prefecture government officers welcomed us to what may be called, due to the way Fukuoka is written in Kanji, the Happy City. You know- I often wonder about the extent to which I can reveal things on my blog, and I’m going to just say this one out – a lot of girls on my team Liked the officers.
This was the second time I marked NO to a lot of food on our food preference card. At first I though they only asked about octopus for the sake of it, but a few days later while at homestay, I was told that octopus was as common in Japan as ladyfinger in India.
What was nowhere in the itinerary but got special time and eventually happened every single day was- SHOPPING. Every body was excited about souvenirs and Action Kamen candy and this chocolate stick the team discovered called ‘Pocky’. I sincerely believe we may collectively have bought all packets of Pocky at the shops in Hakata subway station on the last day. I am not that into shopping so this just meant A LOT of time for me to click photographs. Conclusion: I had to borrow three pen drives (20 GB in all) to bring all those snapshots back home.
I visited Hakuryo Senior High School where we did small scaled science experiments to show cleanliness of water, made PET bottle microscopes, danced the bhangda, made four new friends one of whom has the craziest photo pose ideas. (Kenji tilted his waist about thirty degrees and put his fingers on his dimples just cause he was bored!)
Then. We went to Kyushu University.
This is my favourite part of the trip. There’s something about having lunch with the students and being shown around the campus with the very awesome Kensho, and then taking him along for our workshop on Organic LED of which I doubt either of us understood much… you had to be there to feel it. Kensho has been the definition of a nice person and photobooth tantics, nonlinguistic jokes and lots of talking later, I have a friend in him. I don’t even know how you describe a person when they’re simple. Complications are easy to notice but happiness, simplicity and genuineness are hard to describe.
I remember thinking when I filmed for YouTube that night, that if the first day was this buoyant, what should I be expecting from the next six.And what kind of people should I look forward to. Does anybody even get angry here?
The second day, it perked up a step. We traveled a long distance, most of which I spent sleeping since I’m such a nocturnal being. Merin, my friend from my team woke me up when we pulled into Nissan Motor. This is where I missed my friend Harshit a LOT. We all have that one friend who really likes cars, and not because he wants to be an automobile engineer, just because they’re cars. Harshit had once explained the entire manufacturing of a Lamborghini to me for a magazine article, which resulted in a strange thing. I was actually answering queries when we walked the plant. Pictures weren’t allowed or I’d show you the three new cars that even someone as ignorant about cars as me could appreciate.
From there, we took the scenic route to Kyushu Environmental Museum. The Japanese countryside has beautiful traditional houses with trimmed gardens and for a country low on space, even with their reclaimed land and cabin accommodation, the place was Huge. The museum may in fact be at the core of our environment education trip. If Japan could go from fatal pollution levels and rainbow smoke in the 1960s to being one of the most livable countries on the planet, India needs to step up its game. And India can. We also did a lot of impressive craft work with 80+ year olds. This was best out of waste minus the cliche. And lastly, we walked through an ECo House, made of volcanic ash that could potentially save 60% energy consumption. I should also mention, 23 tired students dropped by a waste management plant on our way back to beds and showers at the hotel, and ALL of us had first mistaken the structure to be a park or something alike. Where’s the dirt, Fukuoka, spill already.
The next day was tight. Literally, my skirt had some problems fitting over the stockings at first. We were in school uniforms or formals, dressed to present Delhi Eco Club to the vice Governor of Fukuoka Prefecture. Our two friendly officers had arranged to take us from lunch to the offices for showtime. But before any of that, we were to be exposed to more privileges of the kind we had been exploiting like kings and queens so far. We… got to see… NOH theatre. Performed by men in archaic Japanese, on a special stage not to be ruined by hand oils, with negligible props and simple lighting is Noh and its comic counterpart is Kyogan- all of which was shown and taught in part to us by professional artists. I have strong feelings of respect for those artists we met that day, mostly because while treasuring this art form dearly, they could laugh with a bunch of curious teenagers who had just been shown something they just didn’t understand and found ridiculous.
And lastly, for the next three days we were put into HomeStay. I’ve already written about that in detail before. I didn’t report the Farewell though. There might be a reason that exchange students before us went insanely excited to tell us about this leg of the programme. Homestay doesn’t just put a kid into a completely new environment to adapt and work within. It also not only shows us the culture of the place for what it truly is. The best part about HomeStay for me was that I entered Techan’s house under the instruction of calling it Home, and left it with the self inclination to. Techan gave a lovely toast at the farewell, where he continued to tease his batch about the late hours and the dancing and the food and ice cream we hogged. I got to try on a Kimono courtesy of another homestay family. I gave the Farewell speech and am glad that it made everyone laugh.
The official work of constructing action plans and giving presentations may not interest you so much. On the day before last, we visited the Dazaifu shrine and painted wooden blocks shaped like bull finches and I DANCED ON THE STREETS on my final night in Fukuoka, in the rain. (Although Dex, the DSLR had to be protected under an umbrella!)
The team went mad that night. We were partying on two floors, eating out of packets in whichever room we were, packing our stuff, I helped pack others’, taking showers and clicking pictures.
The next day it was just airplanes and airports. The entire team slept through the first two hour flight because we had stayed up the entire night. In fact, I do not even recall feeling the plane take off OR land and was only woken up at Tokyo by a radiant cabin attendant who didn’t mind my sleepy drooly self. And then we went through a LONG customs check. Like an idiot I took the three remaining ready to eat packets in my hand baggage. Those got taken out at customs. Guess what else I had in my hand bag? A pair of scissors. Great packing, Ruchi. -_- At the airport, I had some yen unspent and my mom literally instructed me to spend it. So I went around the shops and of course, the food shops and one of the things I bought is this little thing here. Its completely adorable and the sword is a real piece attached behind it!
We landed fine. We said smiling goodbyes and went away with our families. It was really hot in Delhi and has continued to be so since. I’ve been reminded what power cuts are. There are many clear differences in where I was and where I am now. My mom is extremely happy I went on this trip because she says now I know what to aim for. (We consider me going out of India for college..)
And lastly, the title of this post. Fukuoka has been great and I will always look dreamily at my photos from there. But I may need to now get down to hard core reading for upcoming exams, adapt back to the heat and the very different culture of Delhi. In fact, one of my friends even told me, not so subtly, that I should stop comparing as it could get irritating for those listening.
So here I am. Writing the Final Word on Fukuoka, two weeks after I wrote the First Word on it… and I smile, filled with dreams of that last night I spent in the hotel lobby with a dear friend, looking out of the window and sighing and laughing. I knew it then, and I remember it now: I will never forget the place, the people or my feelings, and I will go back one day, running into the city’s heart.