I was midway through a 14-day JR Pass journey across Japan when I arrived in the lovely city of Fukuoka. I got in late, around 10pm, after a long day. The morning started on the island of Yakushima at 5am - I took a bus, then another bus, hiked with a new friend for four hours through Shiratani Forest up to the Taikowa Rock outlook and back, took another bus, then a ferry to Kagoshima, then another bus, then a Shinkansen train to Hakata Station in Fukuoka. Despite my tiredness, I was still excited to explore the streets of a new city. And I was hungry - not just hungry, I was やきとり (yakitori) hungry, 50 skewers of yakitori hungry.
A JR Pass is a special ticket that gives the holder unlimited rides on Shinkansen (bullet) trains and other JR lines throughout Japan over a certain period of time. I purchased a 14-day ticket for $400 USD from https://www.japan-rail-pass.com. If I wasn't holding a rail pass, transportation for the trip would have cost well over $1,000 USD.
I'll write more about Yakushima in another post. But in the meantime, you should probably Google it and see how beautiful it is.
I checked into my hotel and immediately set off to meander through the city with my compass set to yakitori at やきとり 六三四. When I arrived around 11pm I noticed it was almost empty inside. I walked in and immediately got the "X" sign from an employee. The "X" sign is forearms crossed in front of the chest in an X shape. I never know what this means as I've been told it can signify many things:
- Japanese only
- We're closed
- No more
I walked around the corner and found another restaurant. An employee ushered me to a bar seat and handed me a food menu and a drink menu.
"ハイボール！" I exclaimed as I handed the back the drink menu.
ハイボール (pronounced ha·ee·bo·roo) is a Highball. Whiskey, soda, ice in a tall glass. My go-to.
I scanned the menu slowly to determine the exact combination of foods that would allow me to reach maximum satiation. I hiked a mountain today! And took like 11 buses! I deserved only the best.
The waiter came over and I proceeded to give my order. He stopped me, said something in Japanese, and gave me a subtle X. Oh no.
"たべものがありませんか？" (There is no food?) I asked.
I didn't know how to say, "why did you give me a food menu and watch me drool over it for 10 minutes" in Japanese so I just gave a disappointed nod. My stomach made a disappointed churn.
I sat there, drinking my highball, defeated. Then I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye. I tried to give a subtle glance without moving my head.
Is that man across the bar doing... jazz hands... at me?
I looked back down at my highball. More movement. He's doing it again, even harder this time, and looking right at me. These are the jazziest hands I've ever seen!
I pretended not to notice.
Oh god he's still going at it. I tried another glance. Now he's holding up peace signs. Again, I avoid making eye contact.
The woman sitting next to me leaned over and pointed out that someone was trying to get my attention. I told her, "I'm not sure what's going on but I'm trying to avoid it."
I looked again. Two inebriated, middle-aged businessmen were staring directly at me. Their faces lit up when they noticed I was looking back at them. They both gave me two thumbs up.
I smiled a smile that could only be interpreted as "that's very interesting, but please stop."
They both raised their beers and pointed at them.
The woman next to me leaned over again and told me that they want to drink with me.
I said, "yeah... am I an asshole if I don't want to do that?"
Normally I would, but tonight I was tired, hungry, and about to leave to find an izakaya that would hand me a menu and then hand me food afterwards.
I quickly paid my bill and walked over to the two men on my way out of the restaurant.
"いざかやへいきます。ばんごはんがすきです。" (I will go to Izakaya. I like dinner.) I told them.
They both smiled and shook my hand. I walked out the door.
I didn't look back at the two men... but I can only assume they rotated around on their stools to watch me disappear into the night... touching their glasses in cheers as they whispered, "kanpai".
A few minutes later I found a really nice izakaya called 居酒屋 まつり 春吉 and ate raw chicken by accident.