Thursday, January 28, 2010

Winter Vacation - Beppu

After leaving Aso we took a bus to Beppu where we checked into our hostel for the night. The next morning we were up early and on the onsen/hot spring trail.

We started off at the Takegawara onsen which was only 100 yen and very basic. They didn't even have showers - you just dunked your bucket into the pool and rinsed yourself off before climbing in. It was full of other tourists and wrinkly bent over old ladies. And the water was very very very hot.

Then it was onto one of the famous Hells. The hells are hot springs that you don't get in but just look at and are unashamedly tourist traps. There are eight in total but Danielle and I narrowed it down to four we wanted to see and even then I skipped the last one. I was much more interested in sitting in hot springs rather than looking at them.

The first one we visited was Chinoike Jigoku or the bloody hell. It's name comes from the color of the water which is a nice red. Although I was disappointed to learn that it's not really the water that's red but clay at the bottom of the pool.

I was dressed to match!


A statue of an oni or devil at Chinoike.

Then it was onto another onsen. We visited Hyotan Onsen for lunch and a post-meal bath. The food was delicious and the baths were beautiful. They had a variety of indoor baths, including a waterfall bath that massaged your shoulders and an outside bath with another waterfall and momiji (autumn leaves) that floated down and into the water. They also had a spring that we drank from because the brochure said it was good for your health. What it didn't mention was that the water tasted terrible!

My lunch came with an onsen tamago-an egg boiled in the onsen water.

Still smiling because I haven't tasted the water yet.

We visited the nearby Shiraike Jigoku (White Pond Hell) next. Honestly, it wasn't that exciting. It was just more hot water, which I could see for free just by walking around Beppu. Even the water running down the street gutters steamed. But it was a nice break between baths.

While the Shiraike Jigoku was boring, the Oniishibozu Jigoku was not. It was hot bubbling mud. The name comes from the mud bubbles that look like the bald heads of Buddhist monks. I skipped out on the last hell of the day and waited impatiently for Danielle to get through it so we could try out some of the mud we had seen at Oniishinozu.

We caught a bus to Hoya Land Onsen where we had a mud bath. And not just a mud bath but a mixed mud bath! The inside baths were separated by gender but the big outdoor mudbath was not. We were a little worried when we got there and realized this but the woman at the desk assured us that it was faces only. They had a privacy entrance for women to enter the pond. I assumed, mistakenly, that they also had one for the men. But no, the poor guys had to stroll outside with nothing but a very small towel for modesty (choosing between to cover the front or the back) which they had to discard before they got in. I learned if that I focused my gaze in one certain direction I was much less likely to get a frontal view, although I did see a fair share of butt cheeks. Danielle, however, did not and I couldn't tell by her shrieks if she was traumatized or slightly excited. ;-)

In the end it was definitely an interesting experience. The mud bath itself was great but the rest of the facilities were so run down and poorly heated that we were in danger of developing frostbite when we got out of the water. Nothing beats being stark naked in a unheated shack in the middle of winter! They also didn't have very good showers so after we got back to the hostel that night we took another fourth bath in order to make sure we were completely clean of the mud and some alcohol helped scrub clean our poor afflicted minds of the images of naked middle-aged Japanese men.


Next up: Usuki and finally Fukuoka

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