Tag - Bungo Ono

豊後大野市: The Bungo-ono Guide

Situated in the southern part of Oita prefecture, in March of 2015 the city celebrated its 10 year anniversary since combining 7 small towns and villages: Mie, Ono, Asaji, Inukai, Ogata, Kiyokawa, and Chitose. While they have combined to form one “city,” they each retain their own identities as towns, including their addresses and tourist destinations.

Bungo-ono has rolling mountains covered in dense forestation, between which golden fields of rice fill the flatlands from August through September. A short ride away from Oita city by car or train, it feels like a lifetime away from the harsh concrete and business of the bigger city.

Bungo-ono really lacks a definite ‘city centre’, but Mie is the base for the JETs in the area. Most of the town is situated along the route 326/502. The northern part is home to the larger chain stores and shops, which turns into a restaurant/snack bar/entertainment district around the station area, before you pop back into the countryside.

Transport

Miemachi Station

Miemachi Station

The Bungo-ono area is connected to Oita city by train, with trains running about twice an hour. They are cute, little, local trains. Trains run from Oita to Miemachi, or Oita to Bungo-Taketa (Taketa).  There are also some local buses that run between the former towns.  A car is the best for travelling between the tourist spots, and for travel in general.​

Points of Interest

Olle Hike, Asaji – Taketa

Kyushu is home to a number of easy access hiking routes, one of which begins at Asaji Station and follows a 12 km route into Taketa. It offers beautiful views of the land, especially during fall when the leaves are turning red. Check out the routes here and here.

Izumi Stone Caves (稲積水中鍾乳洞)

This place has a series of caves that don’t really change temperature – they put that gem all over the advertisements! Has a few other bits and pieces, including a trippy, ‘back in time’ exhibition.

Harajiri Falls

Harajiri Falls

The view from the bottom of Harajiri Falls

A video posted by James Molkenthin (@jmolkie) on

“The Niagara Falls of Japan” is a common name for Harajiri falls. About a 20 minute drive from Miemachi, it’s the #1 thing to see if in the area. Conveniently, next to it sits the #3 thing to do in Bungo-ono (as on Tripadvisor) – the Harajiri road side station – which sells an array of omiyage and seasonal ice cream.

Harajiri Falls

The suspension bride across the Harajiri Falls

 

Chinda Falls

Two waterfalls with stories attached, and the ruins of old electrical power stations.

Eating, Shopping and Entertainment

 

Yumeya Curry

Yumeya Curry

The Dream, the Yumeya set

Disputably the best curry in Oita, it’s not to be missed. They offer a fine selection of curries, drinks and naans, as well as great value set menus. You can even choose your spice level. Try 10-15 on your first go, you should be fine! Facebook page here.

Cafe Paper Moon (カフェ ペーパー ムーン)

A small pizzeria cafe, you get the sense the owners have spent some serious time in Europe. It’s a great little spot for a pizza and drink in a nice, atmospheric, quirky place. Check it out here.

Random Pizza Place

Great for Friday night pizza! Offers thin crust with weird toppings, but after a while, you don’t even notice. Does take away, not delivery, though why you’d want to miss the quaint ski-lodge-like interior I don’t know! Menu is in Japanese (on the wall, on wooden planks) Address: 白木屋〒879-7125大分県豊後大野市三重町内田372−1

Peace Bar

A spirited snack bar, about 20m, in front and to the left of Miemachi station. Though there are many in Miemachi, this one is spacious with a large seating area for groups. Carries the latest songs, a few locals, and the owners always seem happy to have us visit. Rates in 2015 are 2,000円 for under 2 hours, 3,000円for 3+ if there until closing.

Kiku

A popular choice for group dinners, Kiku offers a set menu and nomihoudai for 3000円(2015). Over a number of courses you’ll get a mix of familiar and weirder dishes, with presentation from exotic to eccentric. The owner’s style is eclectic and surprising, so be sure to ask for some after dinner entertainment. Address: 喜久〒879-7111 大分県豊後大野市三重町赤嶺

Festivals

 

Obon

 

A video posted by James Molkenthin (@jmolkie) on

Normally in the second week August, Obon (the festival for the dead) is celebrated with a big carnival in Miemachi town including floats and food stalls – good fun!

A video posted by James Molkenthin (@jmolkie) on

Okonomiyaka

Okonomiyaka at Obon/Raiden Festival

Harajiri Falls Lantern Festival

Keep a lookout for this – I can’t remember where it is, but it’s some point in late summer or early fall. All the roads are illuminated with lanterns, and there’s music around the falls.

JET Life in Bungo-ono

Hoyo Hotel, Miemachi

The view from Hoyo Hotel, Miemachi

As of 2015, there are 5 JETs covering the Bungo-Ono area, all of which live in Miemachi.

Hoyo Hotel Miemachi

Hoyo Hotel Beer Garden in Miemachi, during Summer

Four ALTs support Elementary Schools and Junior High Schools across the region, and are contracted by the Bungo-ono Board of Education. There is also one High School ALT at Mie Sogo High school, who visits schools in Oita and Taketa.​

Miemachi

North end of Miemachi

JETs can choose their own accommodation, though usually inherit their predecessors. BOE JETs require a car to travel between schools, though Mie town is spread out such that all JETs have cars regardless.

Miemachi

From MBox apartments, you can see Moody-machi!

 

JET: Japanniversary

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The view from the hotel Beer Garden in Miemachi

It’s my Japanniversary! So the 3rd August marked my first year of living in Japan, and thus the longest I’ve ever been out of the UK!

As I stride into my second (and final?) year in Japan, at least as a JET, I’ve compiled just a few things I’ve learnt and discovered this year – enjoy!

  • A 3 hour drive actually means a place is nearby
  • Inaka means countryside, so I’m an Inaka JET
  • Beer is a lifestyle, not a drink
  • Without internet, you truely are alone (so get it ASAP!)
  • Things aren’t as far away as they seem, it just feels that way because the speed limit is 80kph/50mph
  • A water jet is a much more refreshing way to clean your arse, especially in hot, summer weather.
  • Nomihoudai (all you can drink) is not a challenge, but a polite offer, treat it as such
  • Your bank card will only work in your prefecture, and the neighbouring ones only if you’re lucky
  • There is minimal graffitti – I can’t recall seeing any!
  • Network, network, network, the people you meet at the orientations will become your travel destinations!
  • Cash is king – what’s a debit card?
  • 3 questions you need to understand and answer in Japanese – “Where are you from?” “Why are you in Japan?” “What do you like about Japan?”
  • Japan doesn’t work harder than anywhere else, they just spend more time in their place of work
  • Walking around naked, around other people, in nature, is nice
  • Konbinis truly are konbenient
  • Tokyo is surprising far away (from Kyushu) to the extent that it’s quicker to fly to other countries
  • When Japanese people drink, they go hard!
  • Even ATMs need to sleep.
  • You pay to access your money
  • ‘Studying’ doesn’t equate to learning, especially in English class.
  • The only difference between school holidays and school is that some of the kids come to school in their own clothes, and you literally spend the day at your desk, not just most of it.

So why stay a second year?

It’s an interesting question. Settling in takes a long time, and I feel that my increasing Japanese can only open doors for me to foster more meaningful relationships, that I couldn’t forge when I had just arrived.

I think a second year of studying Japanese will bring it up to conversational fluency, and that will really help me to understand the culture and mindset better.

Whilst teaching is so-so, it is great seeing the progress of the few kids that want to learn, and some of the kids are just weirdly funny. And whilst a lesson that bombs is pretty distressing, getting it right is pretty rewarding!

Going into my second year, I need to get serious with my money. It’s been a great year, visiting S. Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, and Taiwan, with Hong Kong to come. Within Japan as well, I’ve been to Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Osaka, with Tokyo and Kyoto lined up, plus all the littler places. But… it has hit my wallet hard, and pushed freelancing to one side.

With many of closest friends leaving, I think this coming year could be a more self-reflective year, with the time, space, and desire to fit in more hiking, cycling and work, and to work on my professional side in preparation for after I leave the programme.

Whatever happens, I sure it shan’t be like the last!

4// Mie Machi: My new home 三重町

This is how it starts… Today was going to be my arrival in my new home for the next year, in Mie, Oita Prefecture: I was so not ready!

Tackling Tokyo

Once again battling jetlag and lack of sleep after an incredible night in Tokyo, I headed down for breakfast.

Entering the dining room, there was a strange air: a palatable taste of fear and trepidation, as thoughts turned to the enormity of spending a year in a new place, with gargantuan unknowns, be that whether we would enjoy teaching, whether we brought enough money to tide us over, or how far is the nearest McDonalds to our house?

The initial energy and enthusiasm of the previous days had seemed to have melted to, at best, a luke-warm pool of excitement, with the harsh realisation that many of the friendships we had made would end here. The previous compulsion to discuss at great lengths our reasons for moving to Japan with total strangers reduced to little more than an unwilling head nod. From this point forward, we were alone in our adventure.

“…it seemed as if the air was so heavily saturated, that it condensated upon surrounding buildings causing water to pour from all the nearby roofs”

Of course it could have been everybody was on the come down from a night of drunken debauchery – it’s a moment I’ll never get to revisit and so neither you nor I shall ever truly know, my dear reader.

Joining the other Oita JETs for our onward journey, a jolt of fear surged through my being as I failed to spot an ‘Oita’ sign in the concourse and gambled on ‘Ohita’ being just as fun a way to spell it as any! Thankfully it was and we were on our way, racing along the high-rise motorways through the skyscrapers of Tokyo to Narita airport.

Waking up to the plane bumping down on the tarmac is not a habit I would recommend though, alas, a habit I indulge in regularly. Arriving groggy and confused at Oita airport, I was reminded of Nairobi airport, I think due to the sense of time having stood still in this place, a vague sense of having been built in the 70s and never having the investment to move on.

The oomph of the heat, and wading through the densely humid air of Oita, was not that dissimilar to Tokyo, but the heavy scent of the vegetation, carried on the visibly evaporating water from the surrounding rolling hills, instantly took my mind back to an amalgamation of a wet season’s sunny afternoon in Uganda, combined with wading through densely populated tropical forest.

The kind of heat that never laments, initially it seemed as if the air was so heavily saturated, that it condensated upon surrounding buildings causing water to pour from all the nearby roofs – as it so happened, it had only just finished raining and so this was in fact just normal run-off!

We’re on the road to Mie (aka Nowhere…)

Sitting aboard the coach, the prefectural ALTs, those teaching in Senior High Schools, were whisked away to the Board of Education in Oita city to sign their contracts.

Coming from Tokyo, what struck me the most was the sheer volume of green that raced by the window, and how incredibly high and steeply the surrounding hills/mountains lurched up over us – not too dissimilar to the lochs and hills of Scotland, when I travelled between Glasgow and Oban.

Passing Beppu resembled a scene from Lord of the Rings with mists rising from deep in the valley from multiple sources, as if under massive industrial development like that of the 19th century. In reality, the steaming city of Beppu is famed for its geologically heated baths, Onsen. Numerous in number, they are some of the best in the region, if not Japan, and upon closer inspection of Beppu, it resembled less of an industrial, orc-filled chasm, and more of a large town or city.

Travelling through Oita city, the place felt rather small, reminiscent in my head of Adelaide, or some expanisive town in the sticks in the US. Coming from Tokyo, the non-dominace of skyscrapers, of being able to see mountain and hill, gave the city a highly novel and cutsey feeling. Even more so as we passed through a street of American-style diners and restaurants – what had I let myself in for???

No sooner had we signed our contracts, than had our supervisors turned up (normally JTEs, Japanese Teachers of English, from your high school who help to set everything up with you) and we were selected, like puppies in a store, or evacuees in WWII and taken away from all that we had known.

Sitting in the car with Ogawa-sensei, I felt truly alone. As apartments gave way to houses, houses to farms, and trees came to be the dominant lifeform in the vicinity, I was two parts trepidation to one part excitement! Chatting with Ogawa-sensei was great, she had studied in Durham, so at least I had fallen on my feet with an excellent English speaker.

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Just down the street – Look at those hills! Beautiful!

Running behind schedule, my arrival into Mie was unceremonious. Within minutes of being told this was my town, I stood awkwardly in what can only be described as a newsagents-cum-estate agents’ shop. Sweating profusely, within minutes I was £600 pounds down and the proud owner of some keys!

Racing to the flat, the gas men were there, as was Briedi, my predessessor! Within the hour I was off to dinner with the local JETs, nine of us in total, though shortly it would drop down to eight, chomping though plates of traditional sushi – varieties of fish, all shades of pink, draped over beds of rice – miso soup, rice and all variety of things, each with a strong salty but tempting flavour.

My shoes sitting outside the paper sliding door room, myself sat on a tatami mat, my legs outstretched under the low rise table and a beer in hand surrounded by Japanese artwork, I had truly arrived in Japan!