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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Hakata Chuo JR九州ホテル ブラッサム博多中央

Stayed 26.03.2014 (Wed)
Reserved thru' Booking.com
- Twin Room = 12,000 yen (exclusive of breakfast)


This is the 2nd hotel we stayed in Hakata. Compared to Miyako Hotel, JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Hakata Chuo is newer in almost all aspects but the former has the classy flair. In terms of price, Blossom is cheaper than Miyako as well. There are two JR Kyushu hotels in Hakata, both strategically rooted near the train station - Blossom Hakata Chuo is located on the Hakata Exit, whereas Blossom Fukuoka is located on Chikusi Exit. Booked the twin room which are larger at 25 m2, with adequate walking space and could even occupy a side table with chairs. Modern design, business hotel concept, equipped with all the things one need for a good one night stay.

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What's nearby?

(1) Hakata JR Station, the busiest train station and gateway to other parts of Kyushu.

(2) Fukuoka city subway: Hakata Station (K11), on Kuko line (orange line)
  • 3 stops away from Tenjin Station (K08). Transfer to Nishitetsu train to Dazaifu and Yanagawa. 
  • 2 stops away from Fukuoka Domestic Terminal (K13).
Right: Delicious Hakata no Ishidatami from Chocolate Shop; Top left: Hakata JR Station signboard key chain from Tokyu Hands; Bottom left: Visited Doutor for breakfast before we departed from Hakata.
(3) JR Hakata City
  • Houses two shopping mall: AMU Plaza and Hankyu.
  • Tokyu Hands occupies five storeys here. On the first floor, a space is dedicated to the sale of Kyushu souvenirs and JR Kyushu merchandise. If you miss out on some of the merchandises sold on board the train, you may be able to find it here again. Bought a key chain with Hakata JR Station sign board here. 
  • Chocolate Shop, located on the first floor just opposite to Tokyu Hands, is a famous confectionery and sweets shop which originated in 1942 in Hataka. One of their signature cake is Hakata no Ishidatami (博多の石畳), made up of layers of chocolate sponge cake and chocolate mousse, sandwiched with fresh cream and covered with chocolate powder. The rich chocolate mousse melts and fills up the pores in the light and fluffy sponge cake, leaving a satisfying chocolaty sensation in the mouth.   
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JR Kysuhu Hotel Blossom Hakata Chuo JR九州ホテル ブラッサム博多中央
812-0011 福岡県福岡市博多区博多駅前2-2-11
http://www.jrk-hotels.co.jp/en/Hakatachuo/

Monday, January 4, 2016

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Kumamon Square くまモンスクエア

Visited 26.03.2014


Meet him in person! Have introduced this adorable mascot of Kumamoto in an earlier post - how popular he has become since he came into the scene in 2011. Had the chance to stay in a Kumamon themed room for two nights (in Mitsui Green Hotel) but nothing beats meeting Kumamon in person! Touted as the most successful ambassador of Kumamoto, his popularity has earned him an "office" in the heart of Kumamoto city. Kumamon Square acts as both a tourist visitor center and local community hall where the goodness of Kumamoto are being promoted here. Kumamon returns to his office occasionally to interact with his supporters and show off his amazingly agile dance movements! 

Also last minute. Slotted this attraction in last minute. Found out that Kumamon will be in his office on the day (at 1500 hrs) when we return to Kumamoto to collect our luggage before heading northwards to Hakata. Gave up the intention to visit Kumamoto Castle again to witness the blooming cherry blossom flowers (was not full bloom a few days ago) and decided to made our way to Kumamon Square shortly after lunch to finally meet this cuddly bear in person. 


Mini theme park. Kumamon Square is situated on the first floor of Tsuruya Departmental Store. Reached ahead of the performance timing by about 15 mins to secure a good spot. A decent crowd started to swarm in to occupy the entire hall as the time drew closer and staffs stopped more visitors from coming in when it was almost full house. Could only scan through the entire compound since we were unable to move around freely among the crowd. Kumamon Square is like a mini Kumamon theme park. His office door was closed and a window blind, which has a picture of him sleeping, was drawn down. Was expecting Kumamon to swing open the door and appear from his office; eventually he entered from main entrance of Kumamon Square. A black letter box (with Kumamon's face on it) was placed outside his office for visitors to drop him notes or letters. A section was dedicated to the sale of Kumamon's merchandises - postcards, stationery, plushies, snacks and tableware, which were created exclusively for Kumamon Square. Did notice that there is a snack counter selling soft serves and drinks too. 


Kumamoto Idol. When Kumamon appeared punctually at 1500 hrs, all the audience of all ages were exhilarated. Kumamon couldn't speak and had to rely on his co host to convey his thoughts; but he was a natural performer - every action he made never fails to tickle everyone on the ground. Every now and then, he will come down from the stage to shake hands with the audience and hug the children seated on the front row. During one segment, his co host asked where the audience came from to see him and I was surprised to see most came from other parts of Japan, some as far as Hokkaido! We were the only foreigners in the group. Raised my hand frantically and exclaimed I came from Singapore to meet him. And of course Kumamon gave a shocked look by means of action and bowed to us to express his gratitude. Had to leave in the middle of the performance to collect our luggage from the hotel and head for the train station. A short yet memorable encounter with the idol of Kumamoto! 

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Kumamon Square くまモンスクエア
〒860-0808 熊本市中央区手取本町8番2号 テトリアくまもとビル 1階
Opening hrs: 1000 - 1900 hrs
Fee admission.
Note: To meet Kumamon in person, do check out his schedule on the official website. 
How to get there? 
Take Kumamoto City Tram (A line from Kumamoto JR Station towards Kengunmachi 健軍町) and alight at Suidocho 水道町. Kumamon Square is located on the first level of Tsuruya Departmental Store East Building (東館).

Friday, January 1, 2016

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Kourantei 紅蘭亭 下通本店

Visited 26.03.2014 


What is Taipien? A modified version of Nagasaki's famous Champon noodles, known as Taipien (太平燕), is found in Kumamoto. Origin of this local gourmet food can be trace back to a century ago - a soup dish brought to Kumamoto by Chinese immigrants from Fujian Province in China. Similar to Champon, the rich broth is cooked using both chicken and pork bone but is less milky in comparison. Yellow noodles is replaced with vermicelli, topped with a fried boiled egg, plenty of vegetables, shrimps, squids and sliced pork. I prefer Taipien to Champon because it is lighter in flavour and I like vermicelli more than noodles. Rushed to have a bowl of Taipien just before I left Kumamoto at Kourantei (紅蘭亭), an established Chinese restaurant founded in 1934. Came to their flagship store at Shimo Tori (下通). 


Excellent Chinese food. During this trip in Kyushu, I patronised two Chinese restaurants without high expectations of the food quality delivered. The delicious stewed pork belly buns I had in Shihairou (四海楼) changed my impression of Chinese food in Japan. This pleasant experience gave me the assurance that Chinese food in Japan isn't as bad as I thought. At Kourantei, we decided to try out a 6 course meal (円卓料理) inclusive of Taipien. It was impressive and some of the dishes were even better than what I have eaten before in my life! The 6 course meal includes meat dumplings (quite similar to siew mai), a hearty bowl of Taipien, prawns cooked in chili sauce, sweet and sour pork, fried rice and Annin tofu (杏仁豆腐) as dessert. Apart from Taipien, I felt that there were two dishes which stood out from the rest - sweet and sour pork and almond pudding.   

- Sweet and sour pork. We were all stunned by how good this dish turned out to be. Meat was fried to perfection - crispy on the outside while retaining the moisture in the meat. Every piece of meat was well coated with the savory and appetising sauce, accompanied with "wok hei" fragrance! All agreed that this dish was the highlight of the entire course.

- Annin tofu. I have to say this was an excellent finale to complete the meal. Kourantei's version of apricot kernel pudding was very smooth in texture and melt in the mouth - a sensation I have never experienced before with this traditional Chinese dessert!

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Kourantei 紅蘭亭 下通本店
熊本市中央区安政町5-26 2F
Opening hrs: 1130 - 2130 hrs
http://www.kourantei.com/

How to get there?
Take Kumamoto City Tram (A line from Kumamoto JR Station towards Kengunmachi 健軍町) and alight at Torichosuji 通町筋. Walk for another 3 - 4 minutes along Shimo Tori covered walkway.



Note: Kourantei has another branch located along Kami Tori (上通).
Kourantei Kami Tori Pavilion 紅蘭亭上通パビリオン店
熊本市中央区上通町1-15
Opening hrs: 1130 - 2130 hrs