Tag - Onsen

Kurokawa Onsen Village: Birthday Bananza

Another year, another year older, and as is my custom in January, I celebrated this passing with a party. But not by spending the night at a ‘Spoons, hitting on chicks called Sandra that work in HR whilst holding back Ginger Rob’s hair as he pukes, and not by working on coursework with the deadline the next day, but, by indulging in some truly Japanese past times.

Finishing school on Friday, we were off to Kurokawa Onsen Village, an hour Northwest of Miemachi. I love heading out in this direction, as you quickly enter Kuju with its steep, beautiful mountains, and rolling grassy hills. Regretfully the winery pizzeria was shut, so we headed onwards to the Ryokan.

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn, with straw-floored rooms and communal bathrooms and facilities, and you can walk around wearing yukata and chat with the owner.

Man in Yukata

A terrifying sight! The Last Samurai?

This particular ryokan was a little outside the onsen village (making it cheaper!) and was built within a narrow valley, with several wooden-construction buildings and the mossy, gravelling paths that fit with the overall wabi-sabi style you expect of Japan.

Checking in and dumping our stuff, dinner was next on the list. Only 2 or 3 of the restaurants we drove to were shut… Eventually finding a little pizzeria that was about to shut up shop, but stayed open for us, the highlight being the cured ham, blue cheese and apple pizza!

Hat, beer & pizza

I think as we get older, it’s important to bring hats into a repertoire

With the night rolling on in, there was nothing to do but make use of the public onsen! At this late hour I was able to use it alone, turning off all the lights so as to lie in the outdoor pool, arse and back in the water, chest and balls being caressed by the cool night air and look up at the stairs, contemplating what my 26th year may bring.

As tradition dictates (and also the allowed onsen times) we were up early and in the onsen a little after 7am. Again I had it all to myself, allowing for this cheeky snap!

Oyado Hanabou ryokan

Sneaky spy shot at the Oyado Hanabou ryokan

This time I could actually see the forest and waterfalls, and wave to passerbys in the distance who could see into the bath house!

No birthday would be complete without a little call to the parents, who hadn’t even stayed up particularly late, as since they both retired they both regularly stay up until midnight! But nevertheless their singing and enthusiasm, despite the hour at home, was most welcomed.

Japanese breakfast

A mix of sweet and savoury breakfast snacks – rice is a given

Japanese breakfast – I think I need a few more of these to adjust my pallette – but it exciting, entering the dining room which was a warren of small rooms, partitioned by the exact image of the Japanese paper and wooden lattice doors you image when you imagine a Japanese restaurant. Plus I got to wear a Yukata as I ate – lucky I remembered to put underwear on!

Winery-pizzeria near Mt. Kuju

The winery-pizzeria around Mt. Kuju – love it!

The schedule was to meet the posse at the onsen village a little after 12, so with some time to kill between that and checkout, adventure beckoned and we followed the river up until its waterfall head, before retracing our steps back to the winery pizzeria – I love this place! – for a birthday lunch, which Sean and Jess turned up to!

Winery pizza Kuju

Rika trying to steal all the pizza

Soon we were united with our crew of 10, and under Becca’s careful lead, we walked to our first onsen of the day.

Kurokawa has a cool system whereby you can by a wooden medallion, good for entrances to 3 onsen of your choosing, and at which you collect a stamp unique to that particular onsen!

Kurokawa onsen village

Kurokawa has worked hard to prevent chain hotels from opening in the area

The village itself looks a lot like a Miyazaki film, with definite hints of Jiufen, Taiwan, with its traditional-feel buildings, built along narrow streets and aged, wood buildings, built in a wandering style.

Our first onsen was the Ikoi ryokan. A set of low buildings, with a complex of corridors and exposed wooden beams that weren’t all that removed from a Tudor building back in England.

Ikoi ryokan

Men’s bath at Ikoi ryokan. Check out the waterfall shoulder massager

The onsen was cosy a courtyard, with an upper and lower pool, with a small cascade that connected them both, a wee sauna that us boys had a wee chat in, without the risk of the girls over hearing.

Yamamizuki ryoken’s onsen was next, reportedly one of the best in the whole of Japan! I could understand why! It was one of the most open, and close to nature onsen I had ever been to! After a quick shower, and a series of small pool just wide enough for 4 gaijin guys, with small windows over looking the river below, we moved on what was essentially a large pond, right next to the waters edge, with views of the waterfall a little upstream. The low lying rocks made a wonderful bed which you could kick back, enjoy the bare trees against the bright blue sky, and relax with the water lapping at your bare gooch – it was so relaxing, and so part of the surrounding nature, that it more than justified the 20 minute up hill walk to it; plus it served delicious soft ice cream!

By this time it was almost 4pm. With one onsen left, and an hour drive home, two of our friends had arrived in Miemachi and were wondering on our ETA… Oops!

Getting back into the central part of the village, we chose to take our guys from the car park to the parking at the final onsen of the day – big mistake!

In hindsight, trying to find space for 5 cars in a small village perhaps wasn’t the best idea! And after getting within sight of the onsen, only to find the car parks full, so began our tour of the onsen village! Leading the pack Rika and I searched high and low, narrowly avoiding the laissez-faire pedestrians who moved like cattle – without a care to their own safety – only to end up passing the first onsen we had visited, exiting the village having to loop back to our original car park!

So our final onsen was chosen to be the one that faced the carpark, Ryokan Nanjyouen! It was small place that told us to be quieter as soon as we entered!

We ventured down stairs after stairs until we ended up a in small changing room, with signs pointing in opposite directions. This one had the air of a Hogwarts common room, I think because the ryokan was situation on a steep hill, so the semi-opaque windows had the light of being high up in the air, like the top of a castle tower!

To the left were 4 showers and a little bath barely large enough for 4 people – I think this added to the bedroom dormitory/Hogwarts feels!

Then downstairs was the “Star-gaze pool”, which was a small garden that had been flooded and converted into an onsen! Complete with mini hot tub at the top of some rickety stairs, and a couple of ‘man caves’ you could retreat into!

Alas, after 4 onsens in a day, I was quite content to go a little quicker this time, merely exploring, before washing thoroughly and heading out. Thankfully everybody felt the same, and we were soon headed back to Miemachi, just in time to arrive for a curry reservation at 7pm.

Dropping overnight stuff at my place before curry, there was still one drama to come as we bundled into Windsor’s car, only for it to refuse to start! After much umming and arring, we went to get jump leads, but thankfully, one last ditch attempt and she jumped to life! We were curry shop bound!

Miemachi's Yumeya Curry

The tribe at Miemachi’s Yumeya Curry House – a dream come true!

No Japanese-style celebration would be complete with a little karaoke, so obligingly we set off from the curry shop, for the 3-hours of karaoke and dancing to close off an awesome 25th birthday.

Peace Bar in Miemachi

Snack time at our so called “Peace Bar” in Miemachi

Oita Charity Bike Ride: Kitsuki to Aka

So having limited myself to two casual day cycles in about 24 years, I thought Japan would be the best place to tackle a 2-day, 190km round-route, bike race with friends – the 18th Oita Chairty Bike Ride event.

Day One: The Beginning of the Beginning

So despite the event not beginning until Saturday morning, my preparation began Friday night as I finished work, grabbed my gear and made my way towards Oita city to spend the night at a friends, and thus closer to the start point on Saturday morning, and so would begin the first on two nights spent on uncomfortable futons on tatami floors!

We're cycling HOW far? ©Rachael Booth

We’re cycling HOW far? ©Rachael Booth

Departing Saturday morning meant waking up at the regular school time, and taking a 45 minute doodling from South Oita, round Beppu and up to Kitsuki, our starting point.

Thankfully my hired road bike had been delivered to a fellow JETs house, and I even had the good fortune of a drinks holder! A god send since I hadn’t thought to bring a rucksack for carrying anything!

Having managed to scavenged a cycle helmet that had the style of a Mod riding a moped, I was fortunately lent a proper bike helmet with ventilation!

Despite its good looks, this helmet was really hot! ©Scott Kawaguchi

Despite its good looks, this helmet was really hot! ©Scott Kawaguchi

Once we set off, I had music in my ear, my friends at my front and rear and a feeling like nothing could stop me!

With the first kilometre, we hit road works on a small country lane, that forced us off the road and to carry our bikes through a field. Back on track, it wasn’t long until the groups spread out, we popped out from under a bridge, and had no idea where to go. After a few moments, we took a lucky gambled and found ourselves passing checkpoint one.

Not the most confident cyclist ©Scott Kawaguchi

Not the most confident cyclist ©Scott Kawaguchi

The first part of the journey followed a river as it meandered through the hills, and everything looked jolly. About 10 km in we hit the hill, and struggled up a continuous incline for a good 15 minutes, before hitting the delightful peak, and free-wheeling down, body dropped for maximum streamlining, and stopping at the first konbini an hour or so in.

The first of many konbini stops ©Rachael Booth

The first of many konbini stops ©Rachael Booth

Here we were informed that the biggest hill was now behind us, though there was the suppressed undercurrent of thought that it would be waiting there at the end of the 190km tomorrow…

Day 1 Pack ©Scott Kawaguchi

Day 1 Pack ©Scott Kawaguchi

Here we formed a fairly fixed front running group of about 12, though this would eventually drop down nearer to 9 as we approached the end.

In terms of description, I’m afraid this becomes a lot more vague and less interesting as we moved out from country roads onto the main route 10 highway, but being as we were passing through Kyushu, rest assured that there were mountains galore in the distance, and being Japan, a ton of konbinis to rest our weary bodies, and stock up with drinks!

At some point the penned directions disagreed with the planned directions, and around lunch time we found ourselves having passed through Usa, but a bit unsure of where we were suppose to head. Breaking for lunch at a roadside cafe, we eventually spoke to the volunteer team, and found we had taken a wrong branch of route 10, and would need to head back in towards Nakatsu city.

Being the hometown of long suffering friend Rachael, we even managed a photo opportunity outside of her school.

©Rachael Booth

©Rachael Booth

Riding through Nakatsu was a killer, hitting traffic lights every few blocks, and giving rise to a high risk of collision as our bikers sped up and slowed down, desperate not to get too separated from the group.

The straight, flat roads were perhaps the most difficult part of the journey. By now my hands were more than suffering from pins and needles, as were my toes, and the road seemed unending.

At least when there were hills you could pedal at a variety of speeds and difficulties, and get the free ride from coasting down the hill, but on the flat, as the peddling became harder, you knew the only thing that meant was that you were getting more tired.

Eventually we hit the infamous Cosmos shop we’d been hunting for, and pulled off the main highway, and began cycling on smaller, quieter streets – it felt like the beginning of the end.

It wasn’t. We probably ended up cycling for another hour and a half, or more, but psychologically it helped! Especially bumping into another group and knowing we were back on track!

From here the landscape began to thin out again, smalls hills reappeared and it felt like we were getting close.

The End is Nigh

Stopping at a konbini, rumour spread that this was the last konbini and that there was only 5km left to go!

Stocked up with booze, we headed out for the final 5km, cycling alongside a meandering river, and determined to be the first group there!

What nobody had cared to mention was that the second trickiest hill was still to come, and with only a couple of km left, we hit it. It was excruciating, our leading pack began to thin out, and I felt like this would never end.

With only a km left, the incline gave way to a decline, and we rode the final part with style, and arriving first to the camp site.

Being first in meant we had no idea where to go and milled about in the carpark, before spotting the cabins we’d stay in, and parking up the bikes. To kill time we spotted a river and headed out for a cool wade whilst waiting for the others.

Naturally, being Japan, the site had an onsen, and so eventually others turned up and we made our way to the onsen to loosen those tight muscles. Well, loosened until we found the pulsating, or more accurately, the electrocuting chairs, that zap and tenses your muscles into spasms.

Coming out of the onsen, and with some time on our hands, the boys headed into the curry restaurant for a beer, that turned into a quick, cheeky curry.

Dinner Disaster

By 1930 we had word no fire had been started in the camp, thus there was no food, so we stayed back for some more beers. Come 2000 some more of the team showed up announcing that that would be no dinner, and so they came for curry too! In the end about 16 of us we in the curry house and playing drinking games.

Returning to the camp, we discovered the kitchen area, only to be met with an icy reception. As it turns out, there was no cooking team, and it had been expected that everyone would come and help cook – oops! Some miscommunication there!

Settling into cabin J, the party cabin, we finished the night with a few drinks, before throwing in the towel at around 0000.

Day Two: The Long Way Home

With insufficient curtains, I was awake early, and out helping prepare breakfast before 7am (I’d learnt from the previous day’s lesson). Breakfast was an ensemble of scrambled egg, cheese, bread and leftover kebabs (which were delicious!).

With great efficiency, the group managed to all leave by about 9am! Hanging back with the Bungo Boys to clean the cabin, meant I ended up the group with the regular and fittest cyclists, and was apprehensive about getting left behind!

And they’re off!

After tackling the second most difficult hill, we reached the konbini and bumped into a group who had set of before us.  Keen on the sound of their slower pace, I sacrificed my break to cycle alongside the river with them. After a few more kilometers, we hit the hill that marked our leaving of Aka, and promptly overtook this slow-paced group – there’s nothing more painful than doing inclines at a ridiculously slow pace, and soon found myself in a speedy three-way with KJ and Bernie, with whom I would end up spending most of my ride with. We pushed on a mighty place, slowing occasionally when one of us would fall outside of sight from the lights.

Two hours in, we took a hearty rest at a konbini, catching up with our Japanese sisters Megu and Mai, and spotting two of the best cyclists overtaking us. Struggling with a hangover, KJ encouraged us to take a longer break, but within 20 minutes we were on our way, frozen sports drinks melting under the heat of the sun.

Usa Shrine

Passing through Nakatsu, I sighed as we passed the delicious restaurants I knew there, and soon we were approaching Usa and the continuing dreaded flats.

At one set of lights we agreed we’d stop for lunch at Usa shrine, which then turned out to be a lot further away than we imagined! We had a delightful lunch of toriten chicken, and megan getting messages through from Rachael, who was just passing through Usa.

We made the call to wait for her, and she was soon within our mitts, and we decided to explore Usa shrine, turning our lunch stop into an over hour long affair.

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©Bernadette Arthur

The grounds of Usa shrine far outshone the hyped shrine, especially since it had hideous white marquees erected in front of the shrine, but it was nice to walk under the trees, and looked at the various stone pieces and ponds. Maybe I’ll return again since we didn’t have time to explore the entire grounds.

©Bernadette Arthur

©Bernadette Arthur

Back on the road, we were two thirds the way there, but well aware that the hardest hill lay ahead of us.

The riding was pretty easy for the next 10 or so km, with our 4some taking a good spread out formation.

Suddenly we’d lost two of our group, and cycled back to find them stopped outside of a konbini with some of the guys we hadn’t seen since the morning!

The Beginning of the End

They were prepping for the big hill, and made a funny sight. Taylor had chosen to ride topless, and was busy applying sun cream, despite this, he had already again a rucksack shaped tan line. Sean had scuffed and bleeding knees, and Becca had an almighty red graze on her shoulder, cut up knees and legs, and a bleeding hip.

As it had transpired, a woman on a moped had turned without signalling, Martyn had braked, Becca, who was now on her third bike of the day pulled one brake, only on this bike it happened to corresponding to the front brake, and cartwheeled over the bike, causing Sean to brake head and come off too!

I’m glad I hadn’t been in that pack!

Departing from the konbini, we left Bernie behind in tangle of head phones. Next thing I knew I was passing Rachael as the incline began, and had my sights set on KJ in the distance.

Being an unconfident cyclist at best, I tackled the hills in a seated position, lowing my gears from the maximum 3-8 configuration, and by the apex was cycling around 2-2. This hill was exhausting, going on for about 15 minutes, cars passing within inches and I swayed slowly up the hill.

Then one turn around the corner, and the down hill began. I pushed my bike higher up the gears, but to my dismay, my bike would no longer get back up into 3rd gear, and I was capped at 2-8, but with KJ getting closer by the second thanks to my patented streamline position.

Thinking he was miles ahead, he pulled over to slow down as I passed him, and his face dropped as he had to get back up to speed.

The Final Countdown

Whilst I had hoped we only had 2-3 more miles to go, it would eventually turn out to be nearer to 6 miles, but we stuck together through the familiar winding mountain roads. A quick check on the sat-nav informed us we were only one left turn and 3 km away! Spurred on, we raced to back to the station, arriving in unison like true Bungo brothers, and becoming some of the first to make it back!

Between stretching and resting we cheered the other back, until we were all in!

Heading back with Savvy, we discussed how her saturday night hadn’t been so much fun since she had been the head cook :/

But by the time we were in Mie, we were on good enough times that she came and had curry with all the Bungo Boys to see out our weekend.

 

Aso: A stroll around 阿蘇

Off to back of our Izumi Crane tour, we’re were invited by a Minami-Aso tourist group to experience and improve their tour of Mount Aso, and surrounding areas – here’s my story.

Having spent the night in Takata, I gave myself a 30 minute headstart on the journey. Despite some issues (like my car not starting… repeatedly…) us drivers met the passengers at the train station, and began the 2 hour journey to Aso, with many singalong tunes along route (much to the dismay of my passengers!).

We met with Jonathan, a Belgian expat, and the women and children of the tourist board who were joining us.

After boarding the bus, we introduced ourselves (in varying elegances of Japanese) and soon arrived at the tourist centre, a smoking mount Aso in the distance.

Both fortunately and unfortunately, the mountain has become increasing active over the last few months – indeed, driving past for the Izumi Crane Bike tour, our cars were filthy with the expelled ash in the air – so whilst we got a beautiful, atmospheric sight, it would mean that we were unable to venture too close.

Inside the museum was a highly complex, slightly humourous animatronic display of the Aso area over a few thousand year building, demonstrating how various eruptions had gone on to shape the landscape of the area.

Many of the earlier exhibition, displaying the history of the volcano (kazan/火山), were thankfully in English, then as we moved through the museum, the display about geology became exclusively Japanese.

Going up dat hill - Photo by Becca Guttentag

Going up dat hill – Photo by Becca Guttentag

Due to our tardiness, we could only afford a short walk around the area, before heading off to lunch at an onsen.

The lunch was awesome! Real roast chicken, mash potato, and 3 distinct flavours of rice balls – yum!

Naturally, we took the short interval as a chance to enjoy the onsen, and followed it up with milk and ice cream – the former of which I manage to make explode whilst opening, cover myself, the ice cream machine and nice, old Japanese lady in milk.

Then back in the bus to make our own paper! I don’t know why, but it was fun! Using framed, fine metal gauzes, we scooped paper fibres from a vat to create a mushy layer, added dies, glitter and leaves to create wonderful works of art.

Look at them shine - Photo by Becca Guttentag

Look at them shine – Photo by Becca Guttentag

Then our instructors sucked the shit out of the paper to compact it, then threw it on heaters to dry. I’m sure you’ll agree, the artwork is exceptional!

Here, there was also a small shrine, as well as a fresh water spring, from you which you could drink straight from (or bring a dozen large plastic bottles and fill them with water, whichever you wish…).

Our final stop on the official tour was a small service station that sound delicious icecreams, and had wonderful views of the mountains.

Though the official trip was over, the best was yet to come! Jonathan was the proprietor of a small, Belgian restaurant, and was making us dinner!

Busu enjoying the beer - Photo by Becca Guttentag

Busu enjoying the beer – Photo by Becca Guttentag

His joint not only sold a range of Belgian beers, but also delicious ginger ale for us drivers! The food was divine! A warm Belgium salad with ham, chips, sauerkraut and to finish waffles with pumpkin ice cream! A veritable feast, that really topped off a fine day!

Check out his restaurant here!

Beppu: To Hell(s) and Back

Another Japanese National Holiday – Coming of Age Day – so that can mean only one thing! A chance to travel, and try something new, with my usual partner in crime – Lachalu Buusu!

Saturday – In which we Learn the Value of Toes

Arriving at Oita station, I greeted Buusu with the sounds of her own people; Teddypicker by Arctic Monkeys and we were off to do gaijin shopping in Oita mall, Park Place. After a couple hours of shopping, and swooning over puppies we were in Beppu, on a desperate hunt for something unique, exciting and Japanese – sand baths.

Pulling up along to the beach and spotting such a spot, we quickly stripped down to our birthday suits and threw on yukatas, enabling us to hide our shames as we walked along the beach front and onto the hot sand beds.

In no time at we were being buried alive under several inches of warm, moist sand and not long after that, I was left blinded by the sweat that had scaled the fortresses that are my eyebrows, and invaded my eyes, much to the entertainment of Buusu!

Fresh from the pits of hell, sand needed removing from certain crevices!

As we walked around the beach, it was clearly kite weather as a swarm of youngsters took to desperately throwing up limp and aerodynamically unsound looking kites into trees the air. The occasionally box-kite soaring effortlessly above the mess of suicidal kites.

By now the day was growing weary and handing the mantle onto night, as we made our hunt around Beppu on a quest for a snack bar in which to consume and sing karaoke.

Life is about opening doors, and I lost count of how many snack bars we ventured towards that turned out to be shut, had nobody in them, or said “er… no English”, alas we persevered, and found a snack bar, willing to serve us, with a delightful poster of what was probably a transsexual on the door.

Whilst being empty, the bar was delightfully what I had hoped for, with soft furnishings and trims, and utilising our passable Japanese we even figured out the controls for the karaoke system. Over time, our singing began to pull in a crowd, but unfortunately our hour was coming to a close. The woman behind the bar I had to come realise was a man, this didn’t surprise me, what wrong footed me more was that the young, attractive, half nude woman photo hanging on the wall, would transpire to me the old gentleman next to me, who also happened to run the bar – a baggy jumper can hide all sorts of things it seems!

Sufficiently inebriated to think our luck was in, we headed haphazardly to the Hit Parade, the 1950s themed performance restaurant on every visitor’s list. On top of the all you can eat “Viking” banquet of hot dots, baguette and wedges, surpassing the all you can drink nomihoudai, were the 20 minute performances of the best of rock’n’roll songs of the 50s, with the entire room on their feet dancing along.

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Are you jive, turkey?

Needless to say, with a lethal concoction of hotdog, whiskey and vigorous jiving, I was unable to remain dancing for the entirety of a single set, and felt very off colour whilst those around more meagrely jingled to the music.

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A nice dancing and singing lady

Once over, we returned to the streets, on the hunt for the best Saturday night action Beppu had to offer.

Within the hour we had returned to the car, and gone to sleep.

Sunday – Mud, mud, MUD!

Turns out that winter’s pretty cold in Japan, especially in the morning.

Awaking to Buusu’s meek cry of,
“Is it bright outside yet?”

Let me know that she to had succumb to placing her coat over her heard in the vain hope of recycling her own warmth – it didn’t really work.

Walking on frozen, cramped feet, I had never been so grateful to see a Starbucks!

So we were off to Hoyoland, arguable the best mud onsen in Japan – and most importantly for our boy/girl duo – unsegrated.

Hoyoland, set in the rolling hills on the outskirts of Beppu, is a cute little place that hasn’t seen much of an update since at least the 90s. Reasonable rates and lockers for valuables, lead to a small meandering path down to the changing building, a number of indoor pools and out into the mixed onsen zone with several mud onsens.

The main pool provides access for females fully hidden from the site of males, with a covered walkway and hidden corner into which to get into the water. Across the middle if the main onsen is a bamboo barrier, that seperates the two sides, though it would seem perfectly acceptable for woman (at least gaijin women) to pass across freely.

For the more adventurous, there is a smaller onsen pool, a foot deep with mud behind the main onsen pool – adventurous as the only means to get into it for female bathers is around the outside of the pool, pass the mens’ section – though well worth it for the opulence the mud provides.

Now feeling totally mellow man, we floated effortly in the car to the legendary Beppu ropeway, offering unparalleled views of the entire Beppu bay area.

Arriving to only be battled and barged by ravenous winds, near ripping off the doors from the cars, throwing dirt into our eyes like tiny bullets, and causing the ropeway to visibly bounce by several feet – it was most definitely closed!

Having thoroughly defrosted our bodies, a feast of pizza and pasta warmed our bellies, and we head to the legendary MONKEY MOUNTAIN.

Objectively speaking, it was little more than a hill, though very pretty, with some nice stairs and playground for the monkeys, and HUNDREDs of monkeys, though naturally the school of baby monkeys took most of the attention!

Strolling across to the aquarium, the “what we could read to admission fee ratio” was too great, and so we didn’t venture any further him.

This didn’t dampen our afternoon as we headed up to Suginoi Hotel complex for an afternoon of entertainments.

Set atop the rolling hills of Beppu, it looks North up along the coast of Beppu, and overs a delightful rooftop onsen experience. But that was not for today, as instead we chose to visit the bowling alley!

Unsurprisingly, the finger holes in the balls, not cut for gaijin fingers, proved particularly painful, and what started off as a raging torrent of strikes and spares soon died down to a distinctly average performance. This was followed by some taiko drumming and a smidge of ice hockey.

Getting lost in the hotel was like being trapped in an inception-style nightmare, in which the whole places morphs seamlessly into itself, in a never ending tunnel of doors and striped carpets.

After nearly losing our toes the previous night, the executive decision was made to spend the night in a Beppu hostel, offering much needed warmth to our toes!

Monday – To Hell(s) and back

Japan and its love of national holiday! Another Monday off enabled Busu and I to check out the hostel and hit up the infamous Beppu Hells – eight crazy coloured pools, far too hot and/or toxic for people to bath in. Fortunately six of these hells sit upon the same hillside! Each offering its own treats;

Kamado Jigoku

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The heated seat experience – can I have it in my house, please?

Offers the touristiest experience, with heated seats, steam vents, footpath and restaurant.

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It’s so blue! That’s a grape fanta, not a beer

Oniyama Jigoku

Has crocodiles and alligators… No idea why…

Yama Jigoku

Grape ice cream, a number of large and small animals in small cages, and a steamy pool.

Umi Jigoku

Offers the brightest, bluest of the pools, with a lovely walk around it, and eggs cooked in the waters.

Oniishibozu Jigoku

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In Japanese, it’s name means, ‘bald monks head’, or something…

 

The muddy hell, from which gaseous bubbles erupt, giving the pools a tree-ring like appearance.

Further down the hill is the;

Shiraike Jigoku

A white pool, surrounded by housing and appartments, feating a lil, past its best aquarium (a generous name I feel…).

Then a few kilometres away, are the final two hells;

Chinoike Jigoku

Like a scene from Jurrassic park as the steam rises from the rust red pools – historically used for dying cloth.

And

Tatsumaki Jigoku

Has a showtime, every 30-40 minutes it spouts boiling water, for a 6-10 minute show. It’s one of the most reliable geysers in all the world!

Having finally got them under my belt, I feel I can leave Beppu finally satisfied.

And as if in conjunction with this momentous achievement, I found tortillas, tacos, salsa and quacamole in Beppu’s big mall – YouMe Town.