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!