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A short stroll in Beppu


Well, today was pretty relaxing, and I hardly did anything. After getting sufficiently hungry, I decided it was time to descend on Beppu’s eating establishments like a Mongolian horde. Scratch that image; I’m not Mongolian, I’m not a horde, and I didn’t pillage any women or rape the cattle. I did head off to a 7-11 and grab a box lunch, which was heated up the the attendant. I was very cold so as I walked along I bought hot drinks from vending machines and arrived at the seashore.


There, a mob of hungry pigeons massed up and flew over my head like something out of Hitchcock. I ate my lunch, and then was reminded about something I really dislike about Japan: the lack of trash cans. Generally, you can find a bottle and can receptacle near the vending machines, but being designed for cylindrical drinking vessels, its hard to shove the lunch packaging inside. Usually, I end up popping the tops off the garbage cans and in goes whatever should not go in the bin. The only other place you can reliably find a decent can around Japan is near the convenience stores. So going to the park with your lunch means you’ve got a problem to deal with until you can find a few good bins. Oh well.


After my lunch, I decided to go for a walk towards the hot springs. Little did I know, but events would conspire in such a way that I never did make it to the hot springs. First, I spotted this strange tower. It had a feeling of a bungee jumping tower and I was transported back to Guangzhou. Could I jump in Japan? No, it was just an observation tower. I went up and took a few photos. However, I was ultralight this afternoon, and only carried the D300 and the 35mm lens. I figured I could return a later day if something really cool came along. Like this tower. I might return another time, perhaps around sunset.


The tower did alert me to the fact that there was a nearby bookstore. I hadn’t had much luck in finding a book, and my abridged copy of Lonely Planet was beginning to make me sick just looking at it. LP is an incredibly dry read. So I went inside to take a peak. Japan has an incredible selection of periodicals and magazines. Everything from fat men (sumo wrestling) to skinny women (porn) could be found in this book store. I was particularly interested in the camera and technology magazines but alas, it was all in Japanese. But seriously, there appeared to be a very broad range of subjects and a huge selection of magazines for any particular subject.


I did find the English section, with some help, and discovered a small but decent selection of books. The section seemed to be more for Japanese students of English rather than foreign tourists. Some books were both in English and Japanese, others had difficulty levels on the back. I selected 4 books after much consideration. Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Big Fish, by Daniel Wallace, and Tolkien’s The Children of Hurin. The first three I’ve either read some of the authors work or seen the movies, the last, I’ve not read much of Tolkien, nor even heard of this story. But hey, its Tolkien so it must be pretty good. I’ll end up reading these on trains and the airplanes.


After that, I began to head back to the hostel. Along the way I swung through a park. It wasn’t terrible exciting, and of course, being a bit early, much of the park was a bit barren. I’m sure it would be stunning in a few weeks. There were some BMX bikers practicing stunts. These guys were attempting some pretty cool things. A couple of guys would pedal forward, flip the bike 180 degrees, pedal backwards for a bit, and then flip 180 degrees again so they were once more pedaling forward. Had I had either or my other two lenses, I would have spent more time and taken some pictures, but I did sit and watch them for a bit.


I found an electronics store, and browsed the cameras for a long time. They had a wide range of cameras on display, and many had power, so I checked out DSLR’s from Pentax, Olympus, Sony, Cannon, and Nikon. In short, nothing came close to my camera, though it was interesting to see what some of the newer players had to offer. Some did have features and functions easier to use than the features on my camera. Live view for example. Today it seems most people don’t know how to use a traditional viewfinder, and try to use the LCD screen. The d300 can use the LCD as a viewfinder, but its really more for tripod work, or something you use when you can’t use the viewfinder. The operation is counter-intuitive I think, and it people don’t know how to use it. Some of the newer cameras have LCD screens that can be used for general purpose shooting.


Anyway, after browsing around I set off again, and walked into a slot place. The noise is deafening to be sure. Its a bit like Vegas, and a little smoky. I walked up and down. Many of the slot machines had you playing for large ball bearings. Some people had baskets of them stacked up next to their seats. Other machines had you playing for tokens or perhaps actual money. I didn’t stay long, but I did sneak a few photos. Its a bit challenging to maintain a low profile with such a large camera around your neck. Everyone kept staring at me. I think I stood out in the place, but aside from my camera, I don’t know why. . .


Finally, I wandered into a food court, and up to Mcdonalds. Yep, I’ve gone to Japan, and I’m eating at the golden arches. Well, its bad I know, but here, they have different things than in China, so I’m sampling Japanese food. Or American. They had a strange burger that I’ve never seen before. It had 4, count ’em, four patties inside. It was only after seeing the packaging (since the menu was in Japanese with pictures) that I realized a fitting name had been chosen. MEGA MAC!





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