One of my favourite things to do in a big sprawling foreign city is to search for the remaining traces
of what the place used to look like before urbanisation and gentrification set in. These could be in the back streets, in just-at-the edge neighbourhoods, in quaint un-touristy places where you'll find the locals going about their daily lives.
In Japan, I enjoy going to the traditional shotengai or shopping street that you can still find even in the uber-urban sophistication of the biggest cities.
Shotengai are old-time covered shopping arcades lined with small stores -- selling goods and services to the neighbourhood. The shotengai can be a few hundred meters or a kilometre or two long.
It is always lively, vibrant and gives you an idea of the soul and character of the city.
In Fukuoka, my favourite is the Kawabata Shotengai -- casual, comfortable, friendly -- just like the spirit of Fukuoka itself.
There are many stores along the covered arcade including small restaurants and coffee shops.
Craving for some western food? L.A. Diner advertises burgers and sodas.
I am surprised to see that there is a hostel on top of this cafe cum bar. The target would most likely be students and young tourists.
Cinderella's clothes look a bit dated and gaudy -- our tour guide Mariya san mentioned that Kawabata is just around the corner from Fukuoka's "entertainment" district so the dresses are what the working girls are probably in to.
Not all the fashion is flashy though -- there are regular clothes and at sale prices too.
It isn't just women's wear that you can find at the arcade.
Surprise, surprise! A children's store with Jay's name on it. So of course, we had to take a photo
with the "owner" himself.
I was so intrigued by this store --it sells a lot of things that you might need for a Buddhist home altar or a shrine. Can you see that giant dipper hanging in front? It's like what you would find in a temizuya or purification fountain, except of course this one is made for a giant's hands.
And yes, I will admit that I seriously thought about how I could bring that dipper home.
Kokuyo is a stationary store. I control myself from going in as Japanese stationary stores are insidious places that make you want to buy and buy and buy all the things you want but don't need.
Beware the Japanese drugstore -- like the stationary shop you will not be able to resist its wares from colourful socks to all sorts of "seen-only-in-Japan" cosmetics and hair and skin care products.
I gave this one a wide berth.
I almost stumble on these boxes of traditional Oshogatsu or New Year decorations. Hung on front doors, these are called shime-kazari and are symbols of good luck.
There are many Koreans living in Japan -- Fukuoka is actually closer to Busan than it is to Tokyo.
This store in Kawabata sells all sorts of Korean goodies, perhaps even tickets on Korean Air?
It's also one of my favourite places to grab a bite in Fukuoka.
Now excuse me while I go and have lunch ...