Two Months in Fukuoka

Two Months in Fukuoka

In early February we went to Japan. This is the first part story of our trip. I don’t have any idea how many parts it’ll write about, but I’ll start here.

We woke around 4am after minimal sleep and around 7am I dropped Misa-chan off at Sunshine Coast Airport with our luggage. I drove back home, double checked everything was good, then caught the bus back to the airport. Our first destination was Sydney.

Normally, if you live on the Sunshine Coast and want to go to Asia (or north) you need to drive 90 minutes south to Brisbane Airport. And if we weren’t going for so long we probably would have. But I came up with a plan to fly to Sydney to Singapore to Fukuoka, with four hour layovers in Sydney and Singapore.

Going the Brisbane route would give us four hours in Cairns – BORING! – and 10-12 hours in Tokyo – BORING! – before catching the first flight in the morning to Fukuoka.

Here’s the pros and cons for y’all that want to travel from Sunshine Coast (MCY) to Japan (FUK, KIX, NRT):

The pros of flying from Sunshine Coast to Japan

  • You don’t need to travel 100km to Brisbane Airport. This saves an hour or two of your time, $20 in petrol each way, money spent on long term parking. If you prefer to ride the bus it’s $55 per person to catch the Con-X-Ion shuttle (though Con-X-Ion are very awesome. More about them in a later post) and takes at least 2 hours. The previous time we went we got a ride to BNE the night before and stayed at the Ibis hotel, so that’s another $100 (Accor staff rate, mind you) spent.
  • You check your luggage in at the Virgin Australia desk at Sunshine Coast Airport and take it off the luggage carousel in Japan. That’s right, you don’t need to collect your luggage and wheel it through every connecting airport, they handle it all for you. AirTags are a great way to see them en route to T1 International.
  • You spend four hours in Sydney (allowing 20-30 minutes to get to the T1 International terminal on the free shuttle service), plus four hours in Singapore (allowing 60 minutes to dawdle in a dead straight line to the next departure gate). Also, Changi Airport is often voted as world’s best because it’s epic. Cairns is not even close to being Queensland’s best. Even when you don’t leave the terminal (and go through security) at Changi, there’s heaps plenty to do.
  • As noted above, you don’t need to spend four hours at Cairns International Airport, where the terminal and departure lounge haven’t been updated since around 1984, and the shopping experience is just one duty-free store, a sheepskin store, a vending machine and a coffee shop.
  • For us, we flew Singapore Airlines from Sydney to Japan as it was the same price as Jetstar (at the time of booking). On Singapore Airlines we got meals included, drinks whenever we wanted, free entertainment, and in the A380, a wee bit more legroom.

The cons of flying from Sunshine Coast to Japan

  • The cons were more flight time. We flew an hour to Sydney, seven and a 1/2 hours to Changi plus five and a 1/2 hours to Fukuoka. It can get tedious after a while, like I just wanna get there, alright! I don’t know how people can fly to Europe or USA.
  • The logistics on the morning of departure. If you’ve got a friend driving (or you’re travelling light) is okay, but for us, I drove Misa-chan to the airport with four suitcases, raced home, and got the SunBus back to the airport. A bit of faffing about, but still better than the drive to Brisbane, I guess.
  • Sydney Airport prices. You’ll read about that later on. I’ve never spent so much for so little at any airport.

So we hopped onto Virgin Australia’s finest and spent the next hour flying down to Sydney. Pro tip – get a seat on the left side of the plane. You’ll hopefully be able to get a sweet view of Mount Coolum as you take off, plus a spectacular view of Sydney city as you come in to land.

Virgin Australia Plane Sunshine Coast airport
Mt Coolum behind the Virgin Australia plane

In Sydney we waiting for our luggage to come out, but nothing. I was beginning to stress until the Virgin baggage staff told us our luggage was already being taken to the Singapore plane, we just needed to get our butts to the international terminal. Sweet! Checking the Find My app to see where our AirTags were confirmed the bags were on the move. That was a huge relief as we had a ton of luggage to carry around.

It was a short bus ride to Terminal 1 and a pretty quick walk through customs/immigration. Killing the next 2 and a bit hours before our flight we spent $28 on two McDonalds burgers & fries, and I then discovered one beer and one Jack Daniels to be $39. It would’ve been cheaper to buy a bottle and some Coke at the duty free store, but I would’ve been way too drunk to fly.

Drinks at Sydney Airport
Typical Australian alcohol prices

We were pulled aside when we were boarding – the system flagged us as travelling to Japan and they wanted to see our COVID documents. (Have no fear, as of late-April there are no COVID requirements for entering Japan).

Singapore Air Sydney to Singapore
The flight to Changi

The flight on Singapore Airlines’ A380 was epic; the smoothest flight I’ve ever had. I was able to drink a few freebie beers and watch some freebie movies and F1 – the way it should be. We got into Changi around 9pm and just walked and walked and walked. We were dead tired with no enthusiasm, saw the butterfly exhibit, and bummed around for a few hours before we boarded. Just a heads up in case you’re travelling through Changi – the security screening is at each gate. Don’t have TWO cans of Monster you bought at the airport in your bag because they’ll throw it out. Waste of money.

Singapore Airlines 787 to Fukuoka
Singapore Airlines 787 to Fukuoka

It was another smooth flight from Singapore to Fukuoka on Singapore’s 787, and we had breakfast which was a nice surprise. The flight was five and a half hours and we landed in Fukuoka. The next part I was dreading, but I didn’t need to worry as it went smooth. I had our COVID vaccine documents, and Japan immigration documents all printed, all with screenshots on the phone AND iPad, but with WiFi we could access the Visit Japan Web website and it went smooth.

Just a flash of the blue screen to progress from quarantine to immigration, and after numerous QR code scans, fingerprint scans, portrait photos and questions I reunited with Misa-chan who had breezed through 20 minutes earlier through the Japanese citizens queue.

Welcome to Fukuoka

Outside the chilly morning hit us, it was about 5°C – a huge difference from the 24 degree humid mornings we’d suffered through back home. The bus came and we hitched a ride to the domestic terminal. Then I encountered something they don’t teach you on Japanese learning websites.

“Do you need a bag?”

But it was in Japanese. I stood with a blank look. “Bag?” asked the clerk, this time in English. Oh, yes. Hai! *small bow*

All the Japanese learning websites give you questions you may encounter, like where’s the toilet, what do you recommend, do you speak English? but no questions like do you need a bag. Because bags cost ¥1 to ¥5, depending on the size. It’s all about reducing single use plastic. The weird thing I found on the trip is that everything is wrapped in plastic – even fruit (which, naturally, has the protective skin), and the clerk will put each item in a small plastic bag, but the moment you need a plastic carry bag you have to pay for it because they want to save the planet.

Anyway, I had my first taste of cola-flavoured Monster – tasty! – and we caught the train to Misa-chan’s parent’s home.

The train home
The train home in the Subway

After we arrived we went down for a good sleep; by now we’d been awake for 30-something hours and the Monster wasn’t really doing its job. I guess being awake for so long cancels out the caffeine.