By slow train to Ōita

Early in the morning, we took the Limited Express Sonic from Kokura station directly to the onsen capital Beppu. Once there, it is advisable to visit the tourist information office directly in the station building, where you can buy combined tickets for your arrival and departure, as well as the entrance including a free pass for the Kijima Kogen Park just above the city. You can then reach the park with bus line 36, which leaves directly in front of the station.

On the way back, you get on the same bus line, but you should keep the departure times in mind. So it came as it should and we missed the last bus back to Beppu par excellence. Luckily for us, there is a bus going in the opposite direction to the city of Yufuin. There, you can then hop on a slow tram (with a price display for the distance travelled – very similar to the country’s buses) and chug into Ōita town. Delightful, considering that the whole operation just took us almost 3 hours and let us hop straight onto the last train of the day back to Kokura. The extra cost of this was absolutely negligible and a late evening adventure never hurt anyone.

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The Odyssey to the Overseas

On 24.08.2017, we were finally to set off. Since Nicolas’ journey was short and uncomplicated, I’d rather describe my own: Before I could even leave the house, I received an email from Korean Air that our flight would be taking off a few hours later in Frankfurt due to problems in Seoul. So I briefly informed Nicolas and immediately made my way to Hamburg-Harburg station. The IC to Cologne was on time, but the connecting train in Düsseldorf had already been cancelled. Without a constant mobile connection (and only sufficient in the DB stations), I had to find another train. Here, the DB Navigator app wasn’t useful at all, as it could never decide which trains to pick; in the end, however, I took the Sprinter from Amsterdam, which left Düsseldorf only a short time after my scheduled train. All in all, I arrived only 7 minutes later at the airport.

As compensation from Korean Air, we each got a €10 meal voucher for Frankfurt Airport and, as we could not get our connecting flight to Fukuoka, a voucher for 10,000 WON (about €7.50) for the airport in Seoul. We redeemed this voucher at Lotteria, the in-house burger chain of the Lotte Group – the only place at the airport where they had menus for this value.

We arrived at Fukuoka airport much later than originally planned. There, we immediately picked up our pocket wifi and withdrew some money at the 7-Eleven. Unfortunately, we kept the large 10000 yen notes for the time being, which turned out to be disadvantageous on the subsequent bus ride to Hakata station, as the exchange machine only accepts notes with a maximum value of 1000 yen and you always pay in the correct denomination. However, a helpful Israeli was able to help us, so that our first bus ride became the most adventurous and at the same time most instructive of the whole tour.

After saying goodbye again at the station, we quickly exchanged our vouchers for JR passes and made our first train reservation of the trip; in true Bullet Train style, we were to travel to Kokura in just 15 minutes, where the Comfort Hotel Kokura was waiting for us.

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