Navigating apartment living in Fukuoka, Japan

We plugged something into the kitchen outlet, it beeped and then it played a lovely 10 second ditty. After much consternation, we figured out this unusual looking device was to heat up hot water. We wanted the ditty to play again (and again) because it sounded so lovely, but alas, the hot water heater didn’t want to cooperate. So begins our new life living in Fukuoka, Japan.

As you can imagine, trying to figure out how to work Japanese appliances is very, very difficult if you don’t read Kanji. Turning on the apartment heat, turning on the TV remote or even trying to use the microwave is a tremendously humbling experience. Thank goodness for the internet!  So far I’ve seen several good photos of washing machines with the English words pointing to the necessary buttons. Ditto for the TV remote. And Andy uses Google translate whenever possible.  Hip hip hooray for the photo function! All you have to do is place your cell phone over the item you want to translate and in two seconds you have the translation on your screen.  Unfortunately, a lot of the time, the translation makes absolutely no sense. Case in point, last night at dinner we ordered miso pickles since this was the exact translation Google translate provided.  We never got anything resembling pickles at all, kosher, dill, sweet, old, new….we got nada.  We asked about them twice using Google translate but we just got blank stares. What we did get instead was a fantastic warm, wild mushroom salad with organic greens, another salad with raw salmon, and something called “miso cheese tofu”.  All were excellent!  I also had a kick-butt Earl Grey mojito.  Last nights dinner was our first experience eating at a restaurant with no photos on the menu (so we can point to what we want, and no models of plastic food in the restaurant display case window).  Due to Andy’s advanced use of Google translate, we were able to eat dinner successfully, sans miso pickles.  In another blog I’ll share some of the words Google translate comes up with. They are hysterical.

Our arrival


After a relatively peaceful journey from LAX to Osaka on China Eastern Airlines and then another flight on Peach Airlines from Osaka to Fukuoka (dare I say our flight on Peach airlines was peachy keen) we arrived in Fukuoka, on the Island of Kyushu.  From the plane Fukuoka looked sprawling and the Bay around the city looked gorgeous.

After landing in Fukuoka, our luggage arrived in record time (you wouldn’t except anything else in Japan).  We then took the train two stops to the Fukuoka Properties rental office and we were met by Sekuda. He went over the terms of our two-month rental contract in broken, but highly understandable English. We then hoped on a jam-packed bus and rode another 15 minutes. Then we took a seven minute walk to our new digs.

There is no way to properly describe this rental apartment.  I imagine this is what a 1960’s apartment in Russia might look like.  It’s typical Japanese in every sense.   It has a very, very tiny kitchen with a two-burner stove and two decently sized bedrooms. There is also a couch, a dining table for two, and a black easy chair. There is no separate living room. The couch, and easy chair are basically in the kitchen.  Everything is highly functional. There is not an ounce of character or color in this entire apartment.  It is completely void of photos on the wall except for three ugly photos of leaves in shadow boxes. The apartment is located on the third floor of drab building. I think there are probably four or five other units here. Until late last night, we thought that we were the only people in the building, until we met Canadian Justin, who lives upstairs with his wife. Like us, they are here for a few months hanging out. Justin confirmed he has seen one other person living in this building with them.  I’m pretty sure Fukuoka Properties owns this entire building and leases the apartments out to foreigners who want to live in Japan for a few months at a time.  Think clean and functional. That’s what we have.

This unit came fully furnished so it has towels (of medium quality) pots and pans (I’ve seen worse) and a fridge/freezer slightly larger than one would find in a dorm room. The neighborhood we are living in is called Yakuin.  It’s considered a very, very desirable area of Fukuoka and I can clearly see why!  There are restaurants, shops and bars within walking distance of our apartment which means we won’t have to take the subway every day.  There are two train stations very close to our apartment. One is a seven minute walk, and the other one is a nine minute walk. Despite the drabness of this pad, we like it very much. It’s more spacious than many other Japanese apartments and it has a lot of storage. Our decorating plan is to go to the Japanese dollar store and find some paper lanterns to hang on the walls, and score some cherry blossom cutouts to spruce this place up!  I feel very happy knowing we are getting to have a highly authentic Japanese living experience in Fukuoka.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  We can make it work!

Last night after dinner, we went to the local 7–11 which looks like an American 7-11 but is vastly different because it has an endless supply of high-quality food items for consumption. Really, it does. In Japan a lot of people buy tasty meals at 7-11. We bought a few items for breakfast and lunch including instant coffee, 3 bananas, 4 hard boiled eggs, a pack of bread (featuring five very thick slices) some endamame,  some chili sauce shrimp, two cup of noodles, some granola and a nighttime ice cream taste treat for Captain Andy.

Later today, we’ll go to the supermarket and try to stock up with some essentials. Unfortunately, we’ll only be able to carry back a few bags because our apartment is on the third floor and carrying up a lot of bags isn’t going to be an easy feat.  It’s going to be a different way of grocery shopping than we are used to doing in Mexico, that’s for sure.

Next blog post I’ll tell you about our great adventure at Spa World in Osaka. In the meantime, enjoy the photos of our humble, temporary abode.


P.S. Cherry blossom season has opened in Fukuoka. We’ll take a walk about later today to see if we can see any buds on the trees, but I suspect most of the trees will look bare. The temperature is cold, around 50 degrees but sunny.


This is the guest bedroom.


The washer is in a weird place!



A two-burner stove should work out OK. It has a small place to cook fish below it.


This is our small fridge. The freezer is below.


This is our bedroom. So far my nightstand is an empty box covered in a sheet.



I’m all tingly — and not in a good way

A heavy chest

“Goodbye, if I don’t return from Spanish class, I love you”

These are the words I said to Andy about 10 days ago — and I meant them.

This super sad declaration of love came about because I had been experiencing severe chest pain for at least three days prior to my declaration of unending love. The chest pain was accompanied by a strange sensation in my left arm. It was tingling and burning and it would not stop. I thought my left arm might eventually just fall off and dangle in the warm Mexican sunshine.  The only reason I didn’t go straight to the Mexican doctor all the gringos adore, was that my dad was in town and we were too busy enjoying the beach.  Fast forward, one day later. We’re at an all- inclusive resort in Ixtapa for the day and while I’m enjoying the day a lot, I’m just not feeling my chipper self. My chest/arm pain is at an all-time high and I’m convinced that I’m a goner.  Then Andy says, “what’s the strange rash all over your back”?  Strange rash? On my back?

Two hours later I’m visiting  El Doctor in Zihuatanejo. Surely stabbing chest pain, tingling, unending arm pain and a strange rash on my back are not the best signs. El Doctor comes into the office, and diagnosis me in less than one second! I’m not having a heart attack. but I do have a rather unfortunate case of shingles–the same virus caused by the chicken pox virus, but lies dormant in your system for decades and decades. And yikes, it’s starting to spread to my chest!  Some health care professionals think that the virus is activated by stress and my doctor shared these wise words of wisdom with me. “You need to de-stress your life”. So in addition to  anti-viral medication, a topical spray, and some strange vitamin, he prescribed 30 days of anti-anxiety medication to be taken at night to help me sleep. Since my meeting with El Doctor, I’ve learned that people who have completed chemotherapy are very likely to get shingles due to their compromised immune systems. I’m thinking this scenario is far more likely than me being “highly stressed” in paradise!  However, right before I got shingles I was just recovering from a two-week cold and some other strange skin rash I got during our trip to Taxco.  I was feeling a bit run-down but definately not stressed.

The biggest thing you should take away from this blog is that if you are over 50 get the damn vaccine. Shingles suck big time. I’ve been in pain for 12 days. Mine can be controlled with over-the-counter pain medication such as Advil and Motrin, but barely controlled. Sometimes my rash (on the left side of my back and chest) burns, stings and hurts so badly I can’t stand it. Did I mention the itching and blistering?  It’s damn depressing to think you are having a heart attack day in and day out. Did I tell you about the stabbing pain?  Thankfully, I visited the doctor within 72 hours of the rash starting so I was able to take the anti-viral medication. This is supposed to stop the rash from spreading and lessen the chance of developing nerve damage after the rash goes away.  I can see that I’m on the other side of it now–and while I’m much better rash wise, the pain is persisting.  You can read more about shingles here. 

Get the vaccine.  Get the vaccine.  Get the vaccine.

The Land Of the Rising Sun

We’re off to Japan and Korea on March 23 and we’re very confident we’re going to see a lot of cherry blossoms. Our research on when to go seems to have paid off. We’re probably going to be on the Island of Kyushu to experience “full bloom” and I promise to blog from Japan fairly often.  We decided to add Korea to our trip agenda because 1) We’ve not been to Busan. 2) They are having a large cherry blossom festival which we really wanted to check out.

After Japan

We will be returning to Morelia for six months.  We’re super excited to be spending six months in a city we love so much.

P.S.  I you have had shingles, feel free to tell me how much they suck in the comments section. I’d love to hear your stories.

The end.