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  • The high priest here is said to have won the lottery at one point.

  • So that might shed some light on how they, uh,

  • how they funded this giant statue.

  • (cheerful music)

  • Good morning everyone and welcome back to journey across Japan.

  • Today, we're in Fukuoka City, the largest city in all of Kyushu.

  • And we have got just one day, 24 hours to check out the city.

  • Fukuoka is the largest city on the island of Kyushu with the population of 2.5 million.

  • Regarded as one of the trendiest places in Japan, just an hour's ferry ride from South Korea.

  • Even I once considered moving here after finishing my job as an English teacher.

  • Ultimately opting to stick closer to my friends in North Japan than head south.

  • Known as being one of the nation's ramen capitals, it's home to Hakata Tonkotsu pork broth ramen.

  • Which we'll be devouring along the way.

  • We'll also check out one of the largest Buddhist statues in the world,

  • and enjoy dinner at the city's infamous and intense yatai noodle night market.

  • Hopefully by the end of this video you'll have some ideas of things to do and

  • how to spend your pocket money the next time you find yourself in Fukuoka.

  • (light music)

  • And we start our day here in Ohori Park, in the heart of the city.

  • Which I've quickly decided is my favorite park in Japan.

  • Because it has the three key ingredients that all good parks need;

  • a lake, swan boats, and a Starbucks.

  • And speaking of Starbucks...yeah iced coffee. Thanks Ellen.

  • Em, for those of you have been watching, this is my good friend Ellen.

  • -Hello! -I've been her tour guide, her credible

  • bespoke tour guide for free. For free of charge.

  • Can you believe that? -Very generous.

  • And this is her last day in Japan. How do you feel?

  • - Sad. - Sad?

  • - It's hard to be leaving. I've had a blast.

  • - Heh, I've had a blast. The absolute lack of these out there.

  • (light pop music)

  • An oasis in the center of the city, Ohori Park was once the moat for

  • Fukuoka Castle.

  • In fact the word Ohori in Japanese literally means moat.

  • The part was built in the late 1920s, modeled on a classic Chinese garden.

  • And it's a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

  • And appreciate the laid-back lifestyle at Fukuoka is renowned for.

  • Although you will feel slightly guilty coming to the park if you're not exercising,

  • given that, that is essentially what everyone else seems to be doing.

  • I've been trying to put my finger on what it is about Ohori Park I like so much.

  • I think it's that there's a mixture of locals of foreign tourists because we're close to

  • South Korea and Taiwan from here, there's lots of tourists around the park.

  • But no matter where you've stopped and stand and look, you could see a scene unfolding.

  • There's couples relaxing on benches, there's guys feeding pigeons,

  • there's people and a whale of a time on a swan boat.

  • People aren't just passing through the park.

  • They're coming here for the park, who you can see that and the way

  • people are currently relaxing and enjoying themselves.

  • Oh my god, leaves in my face.

  • While Ellen heads off to spend the morning packing her bags,

  • I sneak off to the picturesque Nanzoin Temple on the outskirts of town,

  • to gaze on at one of the largest Buddhist statues in the world.

  • (peaceful music)

  • (up tempo music)

  • So I've actually seen the, um, the three historic big Buddhas in Japan,

  • such as the one in Nara and Kamakura.

  • But this one when I turn up and caught my eyes, I was kind of just in awe of the scale of it.

  • It isn't historic.

  • It was built in 1995.

  • But for me that doesn't stop the fact that this is just, just incredible.

  • Like it looks beautiful.

  • The 41 meters long and weighing 300 tons, the same as a jumbo jet

  • the Nehanzo Buddha is far larger than it's more historic rivals in Nara and Kamakura.

  • Buddhist statues typically come in three poses; Sitting, standing and reclining

  • The reclining pose signifies Buddha at the moment of death, passing into nirvana.

  • And it was constructed to house ashes of the Buddha donated by the country of

  • Myanmar as a thank you for the Nanzoin Temples donation medical supplies.

  • Buddhist statues of this size and scale typically have a reputation for bankrupting

  • local governments across Japan.

  • Such as the Nara Daibutsu, which actually nearly bankrupted the local government

  • in the 8th century.

  • But luckily the Nanzoin Temple is known for its good luck, its good fortune.

  • The, uh, the high priest here is said to have won the lottery at one point.

  • So that might shed some light on how they, uh, how they funded this giant statue.

  • As someone who's desperately trying and failing to be a photographer,

  • I can safely say Nanzoin is one of the most stunning and photogenic temples

  • I've seen in all my time in Japan.

  • Smoke waterfalls and haunting statues add up to a remarkable atmosphere.

  • Unfortunately though, in recent years, it's become a victim of its own success.

  • Recently the temple announced a ban on group tours due to disrespectful tourists.

  • Splashing around in the water, playing loud music and even climbing onto

  • the roof of one of the temples.

  • You know, let's call out these kinds of tourists for what they are;

  • dickheads.

  • So be sure to be mindful when paying a visit.

  • After all it's important to remember that this isn't some sort of theme park attraction.

  • It is a genuine place of worship for Buddhists all around the world.

  • So it's a well known fact with Buddha statues, if you touch a part of the Buddha, it's good luck.

  • Often, it's the stomach.

  • And it's a fun fact if you touch my stomach it's bad luck.

  • I will kill you.

  • But yeah, I'm gonna stroke his feet here, because that's the part of this Buddha

  • that you stroke for your luck.

  • So with that in mind...

  • Oh, yeah feel that bronze.

  • Feel that bronze premium finish.

  • Hopefully that bring me some good luck.

  • That'll help me, help me finish the neverending cycle of despair.

  • (light music)

  • The downtown district in Fukuoka is known as Hakata.

  • And Hakata ramen's thick creamy pork broth is regarded as one of the three

  • iconic variants of ramen alongside miso and soy based broth.

  • One of the restaurants that's been instrumental in spreading

  • the legend of tonkotsu is Ichiran.

  • Once a humble shop in Hakata, today it's a chain that demands queues all across the country.

  • Particularly with foreign tourists.

  • We'll get on to why that might be later on.

  • If like me though, your love of ramen goes beyond simply slurping the dish down,

  • the Ichiran Nomori Museum is a great place to start.

  • Where you can witness the dish being produced from scratch and learn about its history.

  • And like most ramen shops, the restaurant uses a vending machine

  • where you can choose a dish before handing the ticket over to the staff to get

  • proceedings on the way.

  • Best thing about Ichiran Ramen is you have counters, individual counters or to yourself.

  • So you don't get like annoying people in the way or anything.

  • Op.

  • -Hello.

  • -Ugh.

  • The reason they have the counters is they say you can just appreciate the food better

  • when you're not being distracted by people around you,

  • including the people serving you the, uh, the food.

  • You can't see them either.

  • There's a little bamboo cover stopping you from interacting with them.

  • -It's kind of quite alien.

  • I mean, I liked the idea that you can focus on your food completely.

  • But we don't have something like that in the UK we can't see the service face.

  • - Um. - Sometime it feels uncomfortable.

  • -Not personal, yeah.

  • The moment you sit down at Ichiran, you're given a lengthy sheet of options.

  • From the richness of the sauce and the amount of garlic,

  • to the level of spiciness, and even the texture of the noodles.

  • Outside of Ichiran, this level of customization is pretty rare in Japan.

  • Where diners are more willing to defer to the chef's recipe as they typically know best.

  • This is really cool, but...

  • Tonkatsu gets its distinctive rich sweet flavor and cloudy appearance from

  • pork bones, which are boiled for up to eight hours.

  • It's typically infused with garlic, with Ichiran's recipe using an original spicy

  • sauce and smooth thin noodles with slices of braised pork

  • and chopped spring onions resting on top.

  • It all adds up to the symphony of colors and flavors that come together to create

  • the mouth-watering dish.

  • - I'm ready for this.

  • Hmm yeah, it's really really light, quite delicate.

  • Um, but there is quite a kind of meaty flavor in the soup.

  • - If you can describe the broth in three words, what would those words be?

  • - Delicate and well balanced.

  • - Well balanced, umm no, that's that's one word.

  • That's one descriptive word. - Is it?

  • - Well one more word

  • - Mmm, everything I could ever dream of.

  • - That's not a word. That's a... Ugh...

  • - I won't be limited to three words.

  • - You have to be, this is new to you.

  • I did like Ichiran, I do like it.

  • I'm not that bothered about the customizable aspects of it.

  • Though I tend to place my faith in the, uh, in the chef usually in Japan

  • when it comes to ramen shops.

  • And I feel like by adjusting the recipe by tailoring it to myself,

  • I'm kind of compromising what could be an amazing flavor.

  • Because I don't know how the best way to have it.

  • Now, I often hear people proclaim the Ichiran is the best ramen in Japan.

  • And it definitely isn't.

  • No chain can beat the quality found on independent family-run establishments.

  • But it is pretty good, and the overall dining experience is unique enough to justify a visit.

  • If you get halfway through the meal and you still a little bit hungry, on the chopstick

  • wrapper you've actually got additional things you can get like;

  • an extra egg, or some extra pork, or some extra noodles.

  • And although I'm already kind of thought like this is filling me up rather quick,

  • especially as Ellen doesn't like pork.

  • She likes the taste of pork soup, but I've got her pork slices, so that should fill me up.

  • Feel quite greedy.

  • Closing thoughts?

  • - Really tasty, really filling.

  • - Do you think this could work in the UK?

  • - Yeah, I don't know why we don't have more of this actually.

  • Um, it is quite... Is it healthy?

  • - No. - Ok, haha.

  • Well, it's cheap, it's filling, its tasty.

  • Yeah, big thumbs up for me.

  • If like me, you don't feel like you've truly seen a city until you've have had

  • a bird's-eye view, Fukuoka Tower is definitely worth a visit.

  • Overlooking the waterfront, not only has it got it's own beloved mascot,

  • but also a pamphlet reassuring visitors that the tower is thoroughly durable.

  • Yeah!

  • So from afar Fukuoka Tower looks like a skyscraper.

  • It's eight thousand sheets of glass.

  • It does like a normal skyscraper, but actually its hollow.

  • There's nothing in it apart from observation deck.

  • 123 metres high.

  • Best of all though, in Japan they've got mascot for everything.

  • And Fukuoka Tower is no exception.

  • Look, they've got Fuhta - the little mascot tower, Fuhta.

  • With little facts here about the tower the largest earthquake in Fukuoka had

  • a seismic intensity of a lower 6.

  • Rest assured, Fukuoka tower is durable.

  • Boy, they keep boasting about the durability of Fukuoka Tower,

  • it better be durable.

  • We're 123 metres above the ground, bloody thing to fall down.

  • Because Fukuoka Tower was very bottom-heavy, there is no doubt about

  • its structural stability.

  • It's very durable very good tower.

  • But it is the tallest seaside tower in Japan.

  • So you get really nice sweeping view of the bay, the island

  • I'll give Fukuoka Tower seven out of ten.

  • - Mmm, I give this in 8.2 - 8.2?

  • - You've got yeah, you've got the oceans, got mountains and the sprawling city.

  • So.. - How could it be better?

  • - Uuu, if it had an open-top we could look out.

  • - An open top.

  • And more durability.

  • I don't feel like the tower is durable enough.

  • Having spent the afternoon gazing out of Japan's most durable tower,

  • the night rolls in and as the clock strikes 6, the city's Yatai-mura night markets stalls

  • burst into life.

  • (cheer jazz music)

  • This is Yatai-mura.

  • Kinda look like a little village of stools, selling all sorts of thing.

  • The most popular thing usually is yakitori,

  • skewered meat so it's right up my alley.

  • This is known as being one the most famous yatai-mura in all of Japan,

  • but these days it's pretty common.

  • They're pretty much popped up all over the country.

  • So it's a pretty popular thing.

  • You're crammed into a small space with about a dozen people.

  • It's very intense, you've got food being cooked right next to you,

  • you're rubbing shoulders with the locals.

  • And now we're just looking for somewhere for us to sit down and

  • stuff our faces.

  • Each yatai stand is typically run by one or two chefs.

  • You run them with ruthless efficiency.

  • Customers sit down, eat, drink and head off typically in under an hour.

  • The name of the game here is customer turnover.

  • The customer isn't eating or drinking, the etiquette is for them

  • to pay up and leave.

  • It's essential, given the limited seats.

  • But the essence of yatai is the atmosphere.

  • Thrown together with strangers with amazing food, most stalls operating

  • no phones policy to encourage people to chat and socialize with the locals

  • that find themselves rubbing shoulders with.

  • That quite literally, given the cramped seating arrangements.

  • So, we're at Yatai-mura which leans on little stand, little stool.

  • It's about 5, 6 people sitting around each one.