Welcome Spring!! (almost)
The key sign that spring is on its way is the emerging of the plum blossoms. These blossoms, often overshadowed by their better known and showy rival-- the cherry blossom-- come in all shades from subtle pink to smack-you-in-the-face magenta. While sakura get all the attention and Starbucks frapuccino flavours named after them, plum blossoms are happy to emerge quietly in the early spring, a beacon of the changing of the seasons to come.
My lovely friend Chelsea came and visited me all the way from a chilly London and we took a small trip to the town of Dazaifu. About 35 minutes away from Fukuoka by train or bus, Dazaifu is known for their many plum trees. We visited Tenmangu Shrine which boasts some 6000 plum trees throughout the grounds.
There is also a Starbucks there designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. I actually read about this Starbucks in a NY Times article (link) from a few weeks ago, after we had already decided to visit Dazaifu. Kuma is a well known architect in Japan and was recently selected to design the National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Before the stadium, his works have been relatively small scale. Including many buildings such as a ryokan, wooden bridge museum, pineapple cake shop, visitor centres, and this Starbucks. I'm glad I stumbled across the article because otherwise I would have just thought 'huh that's a cool looking Starbucks' without knowing the story behind it.
Good for an afternoon day trip with plenty of delicious snack options (see below), I would definitely recommend a quick stopover in Dazaifu.