Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Fukuoka Airport

So as anticipated, my flight to Korea has been ostensibly delayed (I suspect it will be cancelled, but right now it's officially only delayed). Specifically, it's delayed for 4 hours. I was due to fly at 11.05, which meant I was told to arrive at 9am - I suspect the ticket agent was over-zealous, because the actual airline desk says they stop check-in 40 minutes before departure. This meant getting up at 6.30 in order to leave the house at 7.30 to reach the airport for 9am, grabbing breakfast on the way.

Naturally, the delay means I am due to check in at lunchtime, and then wait until mid-afternoon for my flight, at which point I will emerge into Korea and immediately need food again. So it goes. Or, more likely, be told at 2pm that the flight is delayed until 6pm, and then at 9pm be told it's cancelled altogether. But I am letting my cynicism run away with me.

The immediate problem is that I'm stuck in Fukuoka Airport for another 4 hours, and it is deadly boring.

Fukuoka isn't going to win any awards for Worst Airport, but it does have about as much to do as a small low-end suburban dormitory town. There are between two and four shops, depending on how you define them; these sell an array of overpriced souvenir foods, travel aids like inflatable pillows, sunglasses and a few magazines. You can also buy more baggage to put your tat in. Upstairs, there are three cafe-restaurants selling basically identical ranges of noodles, although it is possible to buy a cup of tea here. The cup of tea is fairly expensive and milk is not available - you have a choice of drinking it black or with (shudder) "coffee creamer". Are we animals? I'm also not very inspired by the prospect of getting food there, having eaten very similar things for several days last week, which is a problem because I don't particularly want to fast today. If I were in another country, I'd buy byself a snack and some fruit to tide me over - but this is Japan. One does not simply buy fruit in Japan.

Since I was expecting a brief flight and a couple of boring hours in the airport, I brought little entertainment. My laptop battery will run out fairly quickly and was only brought to keep in touch occasionally, mostly with Sean. As far as I can establish there are no powerpoints here to recharge it, which is a perfectly reasonable decision, but not one very amenable to modern society and the dismal reality of constant delays and cancellations that mean many passengers would undoubtedly find it really useful to be able to recharge their devices. I do have an ebook reader, but it's glitchy and not even I can read for six hours in the airport, then keep reading for the other three hours of the journey, then entertain myself reading in the evening.

EDIT: After much wandering, I have suddenly discovered a charging station in a corner of the airport, so I can in fact use my laptop for a while to try and stay entertained.

I'm sure there are reasons why airports don't attempt to provide more in the way of facilities and entertainment for the vast numbers of bored people left sitting there for hours, but I don't know what they are. It would help, I think.

Coming back to the ostensible point... eventually, to my surprise, we are allowed to pass through security into the departure lounge. This is where I got up to with Okinawa, so I'm still sceptical. I am dismayed to realise that somehow, this manages to offer even worse facilities than the main hall. There are several duty-free shops to choose from, selling expensive perfume, watches and handbags - some of these are fairly large and all have quite aggressive staff. I walk down to one end of the deck in search of the food court. And then back. And then back again.

It turns out that your eating options for the sole international terminal in Fukuoka are the equivalent of a station cafe somewhere little-travelled in the fen country, except that they don't sell tea (at all) or any kind of fruit or vegetable product whatsoever. There are many kinds of boiled sweet, lots of bottles of chilled coffee, sandwiches that are so pale and floppy they appear to have crawled out from under a rock and could have been sold on British Rail trains in the 1980s, pot noodles, and an assortment of snacks based on dried fish and rice crackers.

One of these stalls advertises five different hot dishes. All are marked "sold out" with stickers that look to have been there since the advent of the Major government. The other still seems to be serving instant noodles to a short line of customers, but mostly wants to sell you coffee. There is no restaurant. You cannot get a toastie, pizza, pasta salad, grilled eel, yakisoba, takoyaki, steak and chips, hamburger, okonomiyaki, baked potato, vegetable stir-fry, spare ribs, stew, or anything other than an instant noodle dish even when they are in stock. This despite the fact that customers have nothing else to do for around two hours apiece, and that restaurants in the departure lounge have a captive audience. The Japanese passengers sit impassively around the lounge playing with mobile phones, giving every appearance of having embarked on a determined fast. Only one young man nearby dares to buck the trend and devour a pot noodle.

Having had my fill of ramen, udon and other quickfire noodle-based soup dishes recently, I rebel at the prospect of buying a rather shoddy-looking version to eat for yet another meal. I eventually manage to track down a lonely shelf of orange juice and plonk this, plus three Snickers (or rather, Soccers, since we seem to have exported a massive surplus to Japan and that's all they have here). The cashier looks at me oddly, but clearly perceives a cold rage within me and says nothing.

If for some reason you have to use Fukuoka airport, be aware that it is an extremely boring place, and has a fairly meagre food and drink options. So far 100% of my flights here have been delayed (due to small sample size, p is large). Prepare accordingly. This is to say, bring a hamper containing two entire meals, paying particular attention to fruit and vegetables, as well as several books and a small chamber orchestra.


  1. Worse than French motorways services a few years ago, when you could only have lunch from 12.00 to 14.00 and then closed for the rest of the day...

  2. you made me dislike Japan gradually, Simmin san:(

  3. I too have that feeling sometimes, but ultimately it is unfair to judge a country by its airports. Since all I have seen of Korea is airports and the vassals of airports, I seethe with resentment, but try to remind myself that there is a wide and fascinating country beyond. I have never seen an airport I liked, except the one in Madagascar where animals grazed on the runway, the security was a uniformed man with a stick asking if you had anything you shouldn't, and the whole resembled a scene from a Gerald Durrell memoir of Bafut, or a country station before the days of Dr. Beeching.

    To put it another way, my dislike for Fukuoka airport pales into insignificance when set beside my feelings about any airport in London, Crewe station, or the national express bus centre at Birmingham. I once waited eight hours in Heathrow (or possibly Gatwick), having come all the way back from China and wanting only to reach Liverpool, but while I was deeply tempted to walk out in a rage and take the train, it would barely have saved any time once I factored in getting out of the airport and across London.

  4. I never had any flight delay problems in Fukuoka airport. It isn't the case all the time. I guess you had no luck.
    In Japan, people doesn't spend hours in airports like we does in Europe for exemple, I guess that's explain why there are not so much shops.
    The international terminal is much more furnished but of course don't expect to be as important as Narita airport for exemple.
    Fukuoka airport is just a normal Japanese one for a a city like Fukuoka.