Oita City. The name has a certain grandeur to it. But to for all intents and purposes, Oita city is a city by name, and not much else, when compared to its neighbour Fukuoka.
But nevertheless, being my home for 18 months, I’ve decided to pull together a Molkie-Specific guide on how to pass your days in Oita.
Scroll to the bottom to read about my ‘Escape the Room’ experience!
2015 saw the final upgrade to Oita station which has brought it kicking and screaming into the 21st century and rivals the quality stations like Fukuoka and Osaka, though a little smaller. This addition was 3 or 4 floored shopping mall, including food court and cinema, as well as roof top garden and a fancy new hotel and onsen.
From bakeries to wineries, clothes to stationery, Amu plaza has certainly added a lot of convenience and life to the area.
City Spa Tenku
For the days when you feel more like treating yourself, the rooftop onsen of the Blossom hotel attached to the station should suffice. After slipping your shoes into the lockers, receiving your bag of linen and wrist dongle, you enter a world of premium onsen, high above the city. Both indoor and outdoor pools offer a bizarre, but pleasant, oily-soft water, whilst the carbonated pool grows tiny little bubbles all over your body! The sauna, steam room and cool pool are also worth a visit for the brave!
When you’re done, use your wrist dongle to purchase a nice milk, and feel free to blow dry your hair, or clean out your ears with cotton buds.
A modern city hall complex, it offers meeting spaces, as well as gym and dance studio and most importantly for my experiences – a large kitchen space! I’ve had JET meetings, dance classes and 2 Turkey Day/Thanksgiving Dinners, which have been super delicious, thanks to JT and pals.
Atami Onsen – A local onsen, for local people
Onsen is a fantastic quirk of Japan, and super convenient for the party lifestyler, wherein one may need, at short notice, a place to spruce up and clean off the memories of the night before. One is therefore always advised to have knowledge of a few in the area’s one frequents.
A short 3-5 minute walk west out of the North side of the station, this no frills onsen offer the basics. A man and woman doors which lead straight into the changing area, and beyond that, a few lines of showers and 2 piping hot baths, one of which nobody could sit in. At a few hundred yen it fulfills purpose without showing off.
Leading from the North side of the station is main arcade. Before the station upgrade, this was Oita. A covered arcade with a number of shops, from 100 yen stores, to designer boutiques, to cafes and restaurants, it must push a kilometre in length, and provides great rain cover on an otherwise sodden walk to PEI.
Along its length, starting from the station is an arcade (great for dates), which has purikura, Dance mats and air hockey! A cafe which sells super kawaii coffee cups with steam-milk art, the Starbucks, the 100 Yen shop, a bar where you can buy a drink, a Family Mart and a chicken wing restaurant that offers nomihoudai and steins of umeshu (Japanese plum wine). As you can probably tell, there isn’t much for me here, but it’s well worth exploring, especially some of the offshoots that are home to a number of small restaurants and hangouts, such as MilkBoy, which does French toast breahfast and some other, wouldn’t-look-out-of-place-in-the-trendier-parts-of-North-London/Hipster cafes.
It is also home to Forus, which was THE mall in central Oita, which consists of mostly clothes shops, Starbucks, a record shop in the basement and I think I’ve heard rumours of a bookshop!
Funai castle ruins are right in the centre of the city and unlike most castle ruins (of which nearly every castle is one in Japan) there aren’t really any ruins. From the outside, an impressive moat gives way to an impressive white wall, built on a high, sloping boulder base. Alas, inside is mostly a wide, open, gravelled courtyard, occasionally used for hosting Expos (I went to a health/gardening and home one once!).
The area’s saving grace is the beautiful cherry blossom park along one side of the moat, often used for wedding photos and is exceptionally busy during the wonderful 花見/hanami/cherry blossom viewing period (which really is the best time to visit Japan!).
A magic shop. Not a 100 yen shop, not quite an electrical shop, it sells ALOT of shit. Foods, personal products, thousands of electronics, seasonal goods, watches, and even has an adult only part, if ya know what I mean 😉
It’s all pretty cheap, ranging from known brands, to chinese imports, you can probably fid it here. Check it out for a limited range of import beers, or their special music DVDs set – Billboard 100 from 1995-2015 really set off my NYE party!
Ethnic Bros – $$$
Our resident Mexican restaurant, its biggest selling point? A picture menu, alway welcome when you’re not 100% on the what Mexican names for things are anyway! Worth booking ahead as it get busy, or pre ordering food if you’re big group, it’s a small, quirky restaurant, with a lot of Mexican themed dressings! It’s portions should leave you filled and with an extensive array of cocktails, a wide menu choice, it’s good for when you really have a craving, but perhaps not a place you would highly recommend if it was back in your home country.
Redwood – $$$
Nothing like the taste of homegrown, American classics… Redwood is an American-food restaurant, offering burgers, steaks and even Mexican food. It’s a tad expensive, but the extensive menu means I haven’t gotten to try to much of it yet! The vanilla shake is a definite highlight, but my suggestion is to stay clear of the ribs. The mexican food was delightful, I wish there had been more. Once again, it’s kind of small and gets busy, so book ahead.
The opening of the mall at the station must have really impacted the Park Place and Wasada Town retail parks.
Nevertheless, I still enjoy a good trip to Park Place, perhaps because it’s in between Mie and central Oita.
A very modern complex, the indoor mall opens out into an external area with numerous water features and pools, around the edge of which feature a number of prominent international brands – Gap, H&M, Uniqlo (Admittedly Japanese) and Zara – yes! A Zara!
Watch out for Niko and… if you’re watching your wallet, as it sells awesome home furnishings. Village Vanguard offers a range of strange, popular Japanese culture and design pieces – good for Xmas presents – as is チャイハネ/Cayhane which sells, dare I short-hand it…. Alternative, hippy clothes and wares, which is similar to Marika, which sells a lot Arab and Indian influenced wares and accessories.
The pet store on the 3rd floors has many cute puppies and kittens to yearn for, and is also where you’ll find the cinema – always read the poster to check the language/subtitles!
Surprisingly, there’s an HMV still going strong and a Lush body shop. ABC mart overs a range of shoes, some which go up to a UK size 10, and the massive Sports shop sells all sorts of sports equipment, and you can buy Oita Trinita FC shirts!
So close to the fictional African nation of Wakanda from the Marvel Universe 🙁
Having only been here once, my knowledge is somewhat limited. It is definitely an older, more run down retail park, offering similar shops to Park Place. It definitely has a sports shop, and that my friends, is my knowledge.
Judging by Google Streetview, Bistro Shun was being built in Dec 2015 – so I was lucky to find it at the end of January 2016! Really close to the station, in the same building as Hotel Smart Sleep, it’s located under the stairs and maybe could host 10 people at a push! He only sells Heineken and wine, and in his little cubbie he has a kitchen – hence the Bistro!
Very friendly, reasonably priced, it makes a cool little place for a quick beer, or maybe a date!
The only place I know in Oita that has Guinness on draught! And thus is well worth a visit for this alone. An underground bar, it has, to me, the air of what would make a cool Jazz venue. The bar offers other import drinks like Blue Moon, but Guinness, so why bother? What’s nice is you can go in just for a drink, rather than the izakaya-style food & drink menu, but it also serves some hot nibbles and food, allowing you to develop a thirst from some salty, salty, fries.
If there’s one place you’re guaranteed to find ALTs, foreign students and Japanese people who can speak English, it’s PEI. A great, ‘Canadian’ bar, North of the station in Miyako-machi, it’s a melting pot of people from all over the world.
On a quiet night, Meg and Richie are real easy to chat to, both being native speakers of Japanese and English. The food is super delicious, my recommendation is the nachos and Oreo milkshake, and they frequently have nomihoudai offers.
Once a month they have a themed trivia night which always brings out the competitive spirit, and the last saturday of the month is Haze, a nomihoudai banaza, with dancing, which a huge mix of expats, University students and Japanese people – it gets messy!
Be sure to ask for a shot from the snake bottle!
For Y3000 a night, you get half hotel/half capsule. Though you get your own room, the doors don’t lock, nor do the walls reach to the ceiling, instead, having curtains for the top foot or so. Alongside your TV is a computer you can pay to use. The bathroom facilities have individual showers, this blew my mind! It’s 1 block from the North side of the station and allows hour access, with check-in from 1700 and check out at 1000.
It offers male and female dorms, so is one up on New Gloria (see below), however, it is further from PEI!
Either new, or under redevelopment, this place is a real hotel, so great for friends sharing. We booked a triple room for Y9750 – Y3250pppn. As small as any Japanese hotel, it offered comfy beds and a small private bathroom. It’s location is pretty central to all the nightlife and restaurants, and half way between the station and PEI, offering a quick trek back.
New Gloria (Capsule) Hotel
After a hard night partying, you may want/need/be taken to a bed in the nearby capsule hotel – so long as you have a penis, sorry girls.
If taken here, try not to panic.
Waking up in a coffin, to the sounds of invisible people snoring is terrifying. Having no memory, and the only clue being a key on a hair band around your wrist, is like waking up in the middle of an escape the room game.
“But at least I have my clothes on.” I thought to myself, “Time to get out of here… Argh shit my head”
Shuffling my arse closer to the illuminated edges of the curtain at the bottom of the bed, my legs reached out into thin air.
“For fuck sake” As I attempted to curve myself into a backwards C, so as to get my feet on the ladder, without smacking my head.
Grabbing the guide rail, I swung out, over shot, ricocheting off the bed next to me, and heavily dropping to the floor, like a hangover cat, after gnawing on the wine infused scraps of a good beef bourguignon.
This morgue of beige and brown had me trapped. I walked to one end, only to find further endless pods, like a 70s inspired, alien birth room. The other way lead to some stairs, and a number of mirrored automatic doors. With no windows, I had no idea if I was up or down.
Choosing the stairs, the hieroglyphics on the wall offered no information beyond that I was 3rd floor. There I was, with a key and a floor number.
Going down to floor 2, I found the stairs went no lower. At the end of the second floor corridor was another mirrored sliding door.
Panic set in, and I ran back up stairs.
What was this key for? What did the number mean?
I ventured towards the mirrored sliding door, at least I still looked handsome. Then it opened, the sight so abhorrent, as a naked man, caressed by gentle steams, walked out.
Walking, I sharply turned, not missing a beat, as if my aim was to walk in a ‘U’ shape all along.
Back down the stairs. But surely this door also lead to an onsen?
I ventured closer, when I an idea pushed itself forward from the back of my mind and made itself known.
There was a wall of lockers.
And I had a key.
Looking down, I had no shoes on!
Searching for 248, the key slid in and fitted.
Inside, were my shoes.
This had to be the entrance, so maybe it was the exit? Tentatively I made my way to mirrored door. It slide open to reveal a reception area I had once been to before, and across the room, a familar spiral staircase lead down to a exit to the streets of Oita.
I had escaped the room.