Returning ‘home’

I always thought the pedestrian crossing at the Hakata station bus terminal was narrow. There’s always a crowd of people trying to make the crossing, only to be met by a tiny doorway that was the entrance.

The crowd inside was even more impressive. Perhaps it’s a weekend, but it always was a squeeze. The terminal itself is a non-descript rectangular building, with bus bays on either side. Each served multiple buses, there being so many routes and destinations.

Burdened with my bags, I struggled towards bay 13, which was located at the far side of the terminal. On my way, I passed the omochi shop, and people (mostly men) were slurping noodles loudly at the same tachigui stall.

I reached bay 13. There was an imposing line of people waiting for services 37, 39, 39B, and…ah, a new line serving Fukuoka Airport’s international terminal. That explains the queues, I figured.

But why would anyone take a bus to the airport? It’s only 2 stops away on the metro!

39B soon arrived, but the queue remained motionless. Evidently, no one was getting on, so I did what I had always done before – bash my way through the crowd. There was actually no bashing involved; this being Japan, everyone gave way.

The announcements on board were familiar, as was the announcer’s voice –

「ご乗車ありがとうございます。このバスは、豊町、月隈団地経由、_往きです。次は、_町、_町です。お降りの方は、お知らせください。」

(“Thank you for boarding. This bus is bound for ____, via Toyoko-cho and Tsukiguma Danchi. Please inform us if you wish to alight.”)

This was soon followed by a similar but rather sleepy announcement from the driver himself.

I was not quite familiar with 39B – it ran a shorter route through yutaka-cho, but was less frequent than either 37 or 39. 20 minutes into the ride, the bus passed through a pretty sakura-lined road. I knew I had almost arrived.

「次は、正手、正手です。お降りの方は、お知らせください。」

(“Next stop is Shote. Please inform us if you wish to alight.”)

It was expected that passengers should wait until the bus stops before leaving their seats. So I did, and the driver offered a (rather sleepy) arigatou-gozaimasu just as I alighted.

sho-tei. Nothing has changed – the post office was there, the coin laundry was there, the 7-11 was there, and, as I had always done, I climbed the ramp, and there, almost at the top, was ‘home’.

I opened the gate. People in this neighborhood (as in others) do not lock their doors. I could have opened the front door as well, but I thought I’d wait.

The door opened, and a not-so-elderly gentleman peered out.

「お父さん、ただいま!」

(Hi Dad [host father], I’m back!)

「おぉぉぉぉ、バーナード!」

(Oooooh, Bernard!)

I have returned ‘home’ in higashi-tsukiguma.