Gokoku guardianAfter a few days of major stress and running around, Amy and I had completed the process of posting, selling, recycling or leaving behind all of our possessions. We had an all-too-brief few days together, and then reluctantly separated for what will be more than two months. While Amy is allowed to leave her job early and still receive her holiday pay, I am not and therefore have to return to Korea in February on pain of losing two month’s salary. I decided to use this holiday efficiently and return to the UK to see my family (which I would otherwise have to do after leaving Korea, making my arrival in Canada even later), taking a side trip to Japan in the process.

Autumn/winter leavesHakata Port felt curiously familiar as I stepped off the jetfoil onto blessedly solid ground, but almost immediately asserted its authority as I was subjected to the most thorough customs search I’ve ever had (the officials went through everything – flipped through my books, squeezed my toothpaste, searched every pocket in every item of clothing, questioned me at length about my medical kit [“Are you a doctor?”], went through my passport [Why were you in South Africa? What about Mozambique?”] and got rice cracker crumbs all over the inside of my bag – but failed to find my laptop.). I finally got to a nice little hostel that wasn’t here the last time I was, about three hours after my ferry docked.

Maizuru treesFukuoka isn’t considered a very large city, but I certainly felt the distances as I spent a day walking around the major temples, shrines and parks (all separated by several miles). One thing I wasn’t expecting was the temperature – from -10 °C in Seoul, I was going to +20 °C – within a few minutes I had removed my jacket and was seriously considering shorts. The clement weather meant that I was experiencing a pleasant late autumn again, complete with fiery trees and the occasional insect.

Tochoji treeKushida torii

Kushida lanternsOhori Park

Gokoku toriiLantern within a lantern

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