Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fukuoka :: Home to Hawks and Ramen

Last month, my husband had an opportunity to watch the final game of the Japan Series from the owner's box of one of the competing teams. That is not an opportunity you turn down, especially when it means you get a good excuse to take a weekend trip. I myself did not have a ticket to the game, but was happy enough to tag along for the 6 hour Shinkansen ride to Fukuoka.

Fukuoka is the largest city on the island of Kyushu. It is known for tonkotsu style ramen, my personal favorite. Typical ramen broth is made with a salt, soy sauce or miso base. Tonkotsu ramen, or Hakata Style, is made with a pork bone based ramen that is milky and very rich. One of the most famous ramen restaurants in the world (not an exaggeration) is Ippudo. If you've ever waited in that line in NY, you probably know why. Ippudo originated in Fukuoka and serves up a bangin' bowl of tonkotsu ramen. Another famous chain in Japan is Ichiran, which I wrote about way back when.

Going straight to the source. It's what dreams are made of. This humble looking bowl of ramen may have been the best thing I've eaten since moving to Japan. *WHOA* To be fair, there were a lot of factors working in its favor - it was cold, I was eating outdoors and I had just drank a 500 ml bottle of beer on my own. 

"Eating ramen outdoors alone?" you may have asked yourself. Why, yes. Fukuoka is also known for their delightful yatai - outdoor nighttime food stalls. And since I didn't have tickets to the game, I wandered around downtown Fukuoka in search of ramen. As with most places, some of the best food can be found in or near the red light districts. What can I say, pervs just know how to eat. These yatai along the river were just a stones throw away from some pretty seedy stuff. Gross or convenient, depending on who you are. 

Meal of champions. 

Fukuoka is also known for their adorable bite-sized gyoza.

The opposite of bite-sized - a sumo wrestler. November is sumo season and along with the Japan Baseball Series, there was also a big tournament over the weekend. 

It's really hard to find experimental sushi that is not gross, but I managed for find something really unique and delicious at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant in the basement of a shopping mall. This is raw salmon nigiri brushed with mayonnaise, half-cooked and caramelized with a blow torch, topped with a slice of jalapeno pepper and cracked pepper. I really wish this shop had an outlet in Tokyo because it was amazing. 

Oh yeah, the baseball. Now, as you may know, I am a big Yakult Swallows fan. The Swallows made the playoffs this year and even beat their nemesis, the Yomiuri Giants, to move on to the 2nd stage. That's not nothing. But they eventually lost to the Chunichi Dragons. Needless to say, for various reasons, I was rooting for Softbank Hawks to beat Chunichi. 

This by the way, is a bronze mold of the hand of Sadaharu Oh. Along with being a lyric in a Beastie Boys song, he is also the original Homerun King of Japan and former manager of the Softbank Hawks. 

I watched Game 7 from the Stadium Gift Shop with a bunch of die hard fans who were also ticket less. 

And Softbank won! 


  1. One of the best characters in 'Kafka on the Shore' wears a Chunichi Dragons baseball cap. So in short, I totally get all of cultural reference and am knowledgeable.

  2. It is weird that he included that in his books since he is a die hard Swallows fan like us.