RTW2007: Fukuoka, wherein our analytic adventurer admires the amazons of ASFUK and has pork bone soup for second breakfast.

Tonkotsu ramen at Ichiran, Fukuoka

Immigration was painless and Customs, unusually, didn’t even bother to open my bag. I hopped on the shuttle bus to the domestic terminals (there are three) and engaged in Japanese speed-reading to figure out that my flight to the non-major destination of Komatsu must be leaving from T1. Female Japanese airline staff tend to be selected for more than just bean-counting ability, but the Ms. Tanaka who awaited me was gorgeous even by ANA standards; more interestingly yet, her nametag proudly proclaimed that she was working for Airport Services Fukuoka, abbreviated “ASFUK” in big capital letters. Oh my.

I’d completed the gauntlet by 8:20 and my flight left at 10:15. This meant there was only one thing to do — head into the city and sample Hakata ramen noodle soup! The subway was right below the terminal, and 15 minutes later I was outside Nakasu-Kawabata station, reading the instructions on the vending machine outside Ichiran: “Just get the basic ramen and go in.” I deposited my 650 yen, got my slip and ventured in. There were a few customers this early Sunday morning, but I took my seat along them in my little curtained partition and handed over my slip, receiving a questionnaire in response. Would I like my noodles firm, standard or soggy? Would I like my soup thin, standard or thick? Would I like my soup mild, standard, or spicy? And so on. I circled all the “standards” and handed over my form, and within minutes, a Japanese Industrial Standard Hakata tonkotsu ramen appeared, faithfully replicated from the platinum-iridium copy kept double-locked in a Parisian vault right next to the official kilogram. I sampled, I slurped, I drained it to the last drop. Delicious. Back in Japan!