NH318 FUK-KMQ 737-800 “Super Dolphin” seat 2F

I headed back to T1 and got there with an hour to spare. While the international side of FUK is pretty slick, T1, which only caters to small planes to obscure domestic destinations, is a bit worn around the edges. After half a year in cricket-crazy India, though, I did like the way that the gate entrances were termed “Wickets” in the English signage. (Bowled for a duck, wot wot?) And then it was time to end this maiden visit and wave buh-bye to Kyushu; I’ll be back.

Sometimes the sheer dedication of Japanese to their job amazes me. As the aircraft rolled out of the gate, they all lined up in front of the gate, waved goodbye to the plane and its passengers, and then bowed deeply. Maybe it was just jet lag and lack of sleep, but I swear I had to wipe away a tear just watching it.

This zippy little dolphin, which can take barely 100 pax, is one-class and as cramped as a cheap can of tuna. But it’s only an hour’s flight to KMQ, so I’ll manage…

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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!

TG648 BKK-FUK A300 seat 34K

The plane turned out to be the flying museum piece I expected, a crunky old Airbus (the oldest in Thai’s fleet, if I’m not very much mistaken) with all the aesthetic charm and usability of a Commodore 64. I can understand Thai flying these domestically, or even making the occasional hop to Singapore and back, but medium-range redeyes with these things is pushing it. But then again, flying to FUK instead of KIX/NGO/NRT saved some time and (for NRT/KIX) a pretty painful transfer, so beggars can’t be choosers…And it could’ve been worse. The flight was around 70%-ish full, but my neighbor jumped across the aisle, leaving me with two seats to use. After a “light meal” that consisted of a pastry and a cup of juice, I strecthed out diagonally and, much to my own surprise, slept for ~3 hours of this 4.5 hr flight.Breakfast was big but bad. Yogurt, fruits and juice I could deal with, but the centerpiece was a “crepe omelette” gruesomely splattered with a vomitous white sauce so foul I could only eat one — I can’t remember ever running across literally inedible airline food before. What happened at TG catering, which is usually pretty good?

The sky over Kyushu was cloudy as we flew in, only the shapes of a few hills peeking through the mist. I girded myself for the battle that awaited.