Day 14: The Kindness of Strangers & The Long Road Home
Our first day on the return journey starts in an inauspicious manner as it transpires that we have not read the cash only small print of our booking reservation. Consequently we find ourselves high in the volcanic mountains about an hour away from the nearest town and in a hotel that is incapable of accepting credit card payments for what is quite a hefty bill ... oops.
In any other country in the world this would probably be the cue for all kinds of unpleasant discussions and recrimination coming our way, however this being Japan it is the guest house who are apologising to us for not being able to take our payment and within 15 mins we find ourselves being chauffeured by the owner of the ryokan herself in a very plush Lexus all the way down the mountain to the nearest ATM. Quite how I will bring myself to travel in another country after experiencing Japanese hospitality such as this remains to be seen.
Once our billing troubles have been smoothly resolved we throw ourselves onto the beautiful mercies of the Japan Rail and start heading back up the country. We had picked Fukuoke as an interesting place to spend our penultimate afternoon and evening. Sadly very heavy rain meant that we could summon the enthusiasm for no more than a spot of money changing and checking of emails. We did however manage to go out and experience some of its much vaunted night life. Apparently the town has a reputation for siring the most beautiful women in Japan and while I can't confirm that pound for pound they are the most genetically blessed women in the country, I can certainly confirm that they have a taste for high and daring fashion.
Sanj and I had an enjoyable time traipsing through the nightlife area trying to find a bar that wasn't either a strip joint or a really high end waitress bar that would have relieved us of all our final yen in minutes. We got lucky and stumbled upon a bar with just about every brand of beer known to man and later we headed down to the riverfront to try some of the more traditional food stalls. I ended up having a very expensive evening (barbequed cow's toungue is much more expensive than you might imagine, even in a tiny shack beside the river) but it was one of the few times that we got to have a beer with some genuine locals who despite having about as much English we have Japanese (collective total 6 words) seemed to genuinely enjoy drinking with us.