If you haven't done so already I'd just like to remind everyone that there is plenty of time left to donate to the tsunami relief efforts. Loads of people out there need your help! Info on places to donate if you are in Japan or Canada I put in this previous post.
One of the side effects of the disaster - which it bears repeating is the worst natural disaster to ever strike an industrialized nation - in Kyushu has been the cancellation of a bunch of train-related PR events. The Shinkansen which opened between Tokyo and Osaka way back in 1964 finally made its way to this backwater a couple weeks ago. Well, actually its been in Fukuoka for a while, but they only just completed the Kyushu line, which connects all the way down to Kagoshima. The Kyushu Shinkansen made its massively anticipated first run on March 12, 2011 - a day that planners thought would be one just like any other but in actual fact turned out to be the day after the disaster. While the train ran on time, all the celebratory events that would have attracted massive crowds were, as one would expect, quietly canceled.
Some of these events revolved around Hakata station, Fukuoka's main station and one end of the new Shinkansen line. The station, whose entrance is pictured above, itself opened for the first time just days before the quake hit.
Since I arrived here two and a half years ago, Hakata station has been more or less a giant construction site that somehow managed to also serve as a train station. The new building is a massive structure that has been in the works for years. I have no idea what the old station looked like. The new one is 10 stories tall, most of which are devoted to the 229 stores that the massive shopping complex houses. Its construction has created a bit of controversy as its sheer size is seen as a threat to the merchants in Fukouka's other centre of consumer gravity, Tenjin, which looks to lose a lot of shoppers to the new behemoth.
The ribbon cutting ceremony of the station went ahead before the quake, but everything else has been canceled. Nonetheless, the station has become a massive attraction in its first couple of weeks. Ena and I decided to head over today to have a look at the thing as it has a ton of restaurants that we wanted to check out for lunch.
The entrance is quite impressive. I really do have to learn to take these "couple self-photos" in a manner that does not accentuate my double-chin though:
The place was an absolute zoo. Wall to wall people, from the 1st floor to the 10th (we went through them all). We got a seat at a Mexican restaurant on the 9th floor, which was quite nice. We had non-alcoholic margaritas with our lunches for just 100 yen extra:
After that we headed down into the cavernous interior of the beast:
They've got a lot of stores. A lot. Trust me. No shortage of stores here. Mostly clothes.
Some of them had neat stuff though. At the Tokyu Hands department store they have a fake lego model of the Fukuoka Dome with a baseball game going on which I though was really cool:
They even had little people playing the game and sitting in the stands. I want this, but it isn't for sale:
On the 8th floor I did a double take when getting off the elevators. They have a model railroad shop:
I love model railroads. My earliest childhood memory is from Christmas of 1979 when my dad and Grandpa surprised me with a big electric railroad that they had spent some time putting together. They are the best. Later in the 1980s when my Dad was transferred to Germany we put together a German railroad set together, which was a lot of fun. Looking around at the big train set they had in the store I recognized some of the buildings as being the same as our German set:
I convinced Ena to let me have a look. I love stores like this. With everything set up in glass cases looking really good:
You can see where this is going. Ena was really sweet and bought a train for me.
We couldn't afford any of the expensive new ones in the glass case, but this shop is great because it sells old used ones too for a lot cheaper. So we got one of those.
This is what it looks like. "N" scale. They come in their own box:
Open it up and hey, a train:
I also got some rails:
And we picked out some little people together:
We set them up on the coffee table and played with them for a bit. I have no way to make the train run (no transformer) and not enough track to actually make a loop, so our options were pretty limited:
The people didn't come with bases, so they were incapable of standing on their own. We just sort of piled them up here and there, which is all we could think of to do with them at this early stage in our sojourn into model railroading:
Very colorful. I like that.