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Beppu, and the days before


Today I’m sitting in Beppu, having decided to not just run out and find something to see yet. I’ve got lots of time in a way. I’ve seen ancient temples and modern shopping meccas. I’ve walked the urban jungles and been warmed by sun filtered through thick forests. So today I’ll rest. My feet are still a bit sore from all of the walking I’ve done in the last few days actually.

On Tuesday, I left the internet cafe I was in and headed for this volcano. I get ideas from other tourists, and this was one of them, though I can’t remember exactly when I got it from. But the ferry ride over was quick and cheap, only $1.50 or so. Once off, I rented a bicycle. I’d read in a guide that you could bicycle in a 35km loop around the peninsula. It looked like it might be fun. Of course, the bicycles are a bit small, so its hard to pedal them. I rode for a bit, stopping to take photos a time or two, and then decided that the bicycle was just too small. It really bothered my knees. I took it back and asked for a refund for the unused time, which the man gave me.


I also rethought my packing strategy, and stuffed nearly everything into locker at the ferry station. Now much lighter, I set off for the unknown. I bought a boxed lunch from a 7-11 or similar store, and found a park. After eating, I discovered a “foot bath” which allowed people to just plunk their feet into hot spring water. I didn’t sit for too long, and decided to come back before I left. There was a walk around a lava field which was very nice. Nothing too “other worldly” but you could walk down to the beach which was made up of large volcanic rocks. I took a few photos, which you can see in the gallery.


As I walked along the path which went on for several kilometers, the temperature warmed up. I found a pretty little harbor with some boats, and also sunken bicycles and boats. I really wanted to just jump in and SCUBA around. The water was so clear. Oh well, it was probably cold anyway.


After stretch, the path ended, and I continued on the road until I came to a road that led up to the observatory. It was a bit of a challenge, and there was no way I could have ridden the bicycle up. However, I wished I’d had the bicycle to coast down the hill. The haze was quite bad, so photos didn’t work out too well.


The downside of walking is that you tend to see fewer things, but you see them more in depth. Thus, I can take 50 photos of flowers from different angles. Bicycles allow you go faster but you can still stop. Private motorized transport begins to create a hassle when you want to stop, and you can forget public transportation. Which is why I often would rather walk than take buses, though it takes me 3 hours or more rather than 20 minutes to get somewhere.


When I got back to the port, the foot bath was closed. Too bad. I got onto the ferry, which was still running about every 10 minutes, and got back to Kagoshima. I walked back to the internet cafe where I spent a second night.



The next day (The 11th) I decided to go to see some sand baths. I’d never heard of a sand bath before, and though I’m really not one for spas and other treatments, I thought I should try it out, since Japan has so many hot springs around. A quick and easy train ride, and then a short walk and I had arrived at the sand bath. I’ll just quote from an email I sent:


I show up to the place and it was really strange to see these heads just poking up through the sand like, well heads of lettuce or cabbage. I paid my money, and changed into this little cotton robe. They give you a little towel that you put over your hair to keep the sand out. They have slippers, but I don’t think they are made for my size. Anyway, you go to the beach which must be over a hot spring. You lay down, and these 50-60 year old women with shovels start heaping the sand over you. You can hear the scraping of shovels around you, and of course, you immediately have images of being buried a live. So you sit there covered in hot sand, and you start to sweat. And then visions of zombies rising up out of the sand pop into your head and a huge smile breaks out. . .

After that, you go into a room, wondering if you’ll be hearing the screams of women when they spot the clueless foreigner. Its the men’s room. Ok. Now, the Japanese have certain things you do before actually getting into the hot springs, or else it would be like peeing in the pool, and announcing to all of the swimmers what you just did. In this room, there’s a bit tub of water. Do I get in it? Hmmm, what about the little showers? And the “JET SHOWER.” This was cool as there was a big red button that you push. However, I didn’t use this shower. I did throw the cotton rob into the laundry shoot, and also, unfortunately my little towel which still had some purpose left in its existence. Just as I was leaving this room, an older gentleman who walked like a gorilla lumbered in. He went to the tub, grabbed a plastic scoop, and threw water over himself. Hmmm, I skipped that part.

Now, I opened the door into a steamy room containing the hot spring water in a pool. I stepped up to the pool, but in the back of my mind I was remembering reading about how you are supposed to shower very well before getting in, and the previous showers didn’t seem like they were enough. Would I be peeing in the pool?

I happened to look back and saw a number of shower stations behind a low wall. Each had a small stool, soap, and shampoo. Ah, I showered again and lathered up, hoping that the gorilla man would be along shortly so that I could copy his actions, though not necessarily his walk. Ok, I’m being mean. He probably had back problems, but really, if his arms were much longer, he’d not seem out of place in the Congo.

I rinsed off and got into the hot spring pool just as the G-man entered and began to lather up. Hmmm, he really was scrubbing. If my actions up to this point were enough to empty the pool, I couldn’t tell; the only other men in the pool had left as I was entering, perhaps a good decision.

I’m not one for spas and hot springs, and after a bit, I decided to leave. Copying the men who had left just as I had entered, and the G-man, I went up to another tub, and tossed some water on myself to rinse off I guess. Here’s where my towel was missed. You are supposed to wipe off the excess water before entering the dressing room (which is where you started this strange ritual) but I had no towel. I strutted in and ran to my locker to grab a shirt, and then noticed the towels. After drying myself off, I was left with the question, where to put the towel. I asked a man and he seemed to have some trouble as well, despite being Japanese, but perhaps he didn’t know what I wanted. The final question remained. I think I told you that my plan was to throw away used clothing as it was worn so that my pack would become lighter as the trip went on. Now, I had to figure out where to toss my underwear. There was a large container, and as near as I could tell, there was a 50-50 shot of it being a trash can, though I’ve never quite seen an opening like the one this one had before. It might have been another used robe return. But I tossed my underwear away when no one, including the recently arrived G-man, was looking. It was time to leave.”


So there you have, it my report of the sand bath.


But I had a problem: it was 11AM and there didn’t appear to be much else to do in the town of Ibusuki. I’d already drawn up a plan to go to Beppu which is another big onsen town, famous for the hot springs. As luck would have it, I’d drawn up the plan to leave the next day (today in fact) and had train times. Interesting enough, I’d picked the departure time of 11:36, so I had enough time to get back to the train station and get on the train. It was a rather long train ride, not being one of the Shinkansen, but it was interesting as this was a fairly small train. It was diesel powered, but no separate engine. Instead, the train cars had a motor in them, so our train consisted of two units.


I arrived at Beppu and armed with a brochure for a hotel, I found it. Turns out, it was a good deal at only $20 a night. I checked in, then went out for dinner. I was hungry but wanted to try something different. However, I didn’t find anything Japanese in time, and instead went to a restaurant called Jolly Pasta. Frankly, it wasn’t very good. Tonight I’ll try to find something Japanese, but different than what I’ve been eating. Sadly, this restaurant was not very good, and I headed back to the hostel.



So today, I’ll probably go out to eat later, then walk around. Tomorrow (Friday) I’ll go to see these 1,300 year old Buddha statues. Saturday is a bit of an unknown. Either spend some more time here, or go to another place where they have canals running all over town with giant carp swimming in them. Then I might check out Osaka on Monday. On Tuesday, its back to Tokyo. Wednesday will be the last day in Japan, because I leave on Thursday!



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