Fukuoka Before the Storm

I arrive in Fukuoka ahead of a typhoon. Beige, white and cornflower blue houses doze on either site of the street. Almond eyes peek at me from behind a bush. The morning sizzles.

Naohiro looks happy to see me. As he finds my booking, I pour my attention into every detail of the lobby; the wood surfaces, bulging black suitcases at the foot of the stairs, green and white umbrellas leaning against a shoe rack. Each object throbs and says, “I am Japan.”

“Minato Guesthouse is one hundred years old,” Naohiro tells me on the way to my room. Floorboards creak beneath us. “By the way, did you know there’s a typhoon coming?”

The pine bunks and oak ceiling beams make the room feel like a log cabin. At the far end, pale light filters through bamboo curtains, beyond them a small rock garden. It seems that, so far, I have the place all to myself.

Back in the lobby, Naohiro heaves the black suitcases upstairs. Nine am. I’m in Fukuoka. I’m in Japan. This would be a good time for coffee.

“Minato Guesthouse is one hundred years old,” Naohiro tells me on the way to my room. Floorboards creak beneath us. “By the way, did you know there’s a typhoon coming?”

“Blendy Stick – Expresso Au Lai”. I tear the sachet, tip it into a mug decorated with cartoon animals. Boil the water. Pour. Sit.

From the large wooden table I survey the empty lobby. Through the window nothing moves. My coffee is smooth, and blendy.

A warped copy of Lonely Planet Japan in the middle of the table. Slide it towards me, flick through a while. Remember the phrasebook in my daypack, take it out.

No problem…dai-jo-bu
Great!…su-goy
Please…ku-da-sai

Naohiro checks in an elderly man wearing safari trousers and a panama hat. A girl on a blue bicycle floats by outside.

Ku-da-sai. Ku-da-sai. Ku-da-sai.

I sip my coffee. Nine forty five. I’m in Fukuoka. I’m in Japan.

A typhoon is coming.

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