Canal City

Canal City

Here in Fukuoka we’re staying at the Grand Hyatt (strictly in honour of our anniversary; we can’t afford three weeks of it), which adjoins Canal City. Canal City is a shopping mall such as only the Japanese can create: flamboyant, luxurious and bewildering. Instead of an information desk, information robots (infobots?) patrol the centre, automatically stopping and entering info mode if you walk up to them. A series of fountains rising out of the canal (which flows through the centre of the arcade) does a choreographed routine to music every hour on the hour: on our first day we were present entirely by accident when ABBA started playing.

At the end of our sojourn in Hiroshima I developed a slight cold, so I’ve been a bit sick for the last couple of days (hopefully Sim won’t follow suit). Luckily, if I had to be sick, I picked a good time to do it, since (a) there’s not that much to do in Fukuoka anyway, and (b) since this is the nicest accomodation we have booked for the whole trip, I can at least be sick in luxury. The way I know it’s luxury is that, instead of the toilet making gurgling noises when you sit down, it instead makes a noise like an extremely subtle jet gearing up for takeoff. (The most superior toilets we’ve had all trip were the ones at La Rochelle last night, which flushed automatically when you stood up.) I’m starting to get used to these kinds of idiosyncrasies in plumbing equipment.

Speaking of La Rochelle, yes, 1978 has been and gone, but the Japanese do crepes Suzette with such flair and theatricality (and with such an absence of irony) that I understand now why they were such a big hit to start with. But that was yesterday, and our anniversary has been and gone for another year, so today we took a trip to the other end of the dining spectrum and had a peasant food day: the ubiquitous okonomiyaki for lunch, and yatai for dinner.

Yatai is a Japanese name for street food carts, which in Fukuoka line up along the river bank and cater to the passers by. During the day you can see the yatai in their hibernating state: they look like closed-in wooden wheelbarrows, and are certainly not very impressive. At night the vendors unfold them into little huts and put stools around them, and lit up along the water they look quite pretty (at least from a distance).

We had read that ramen was a speciality of the local yatai, so we went in search of some, having learned the Japanese characters for ramen (for once no picture menus appeared to be available to assist us in our ignorance). On our way we passed other vendors including fortune tellers, a woman selling ice cream and apparently collecting money on behalf of her dog, and, inexplicably, two large tanks of live eels which passersby were apparently being encouraged to catch. We still don’t really know what that was about, but a nearby wooden board had unmistakable signs of dead eel on it, so paint your own picture. My recovering-from-cold body was not, however, quite yet ready for freshly killed eel or any of its cousins, so we continued in our quest for ramen. When we eventually found it, it did not disappoint.

One thought on “Canal City”

  1. It will take some thought and planning to match this anniversary experience for future times. Your grandmother, Holly, would be disappointed you had an opportunity to fish and rejected it.
    Did you get up close and personal with the infobot ? I am wondering whether it is programmed to converse in English.

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