The Christmas Visitor
Posted by Heliocentrism on January 19, 2012
December 22, 2011 – January 2, 2012
Our agenda for today: 1. Go to an ATM, 2. Get a Burger, 3. Take a shower.
Tom made plans to come to Japan for Festivus/ Christmas since February 2011. Last year, Mark stayed at Tom’s place a couple of times, while getting his visa for Japan at the Japanese embassy in Seoul. They also spent last Christmas together because Mark was having some huge visa issues. I think they even had a huge Festivus party where Mark aired all his grievances against the Japanese immigration policies.
So Mark and I, who are on a tight budget have been saving our
pennies,.. one yen coins, for the occasion. But, when we asked Tom what sites he wanted to see while in Japan, he said he just wanted to chill out and hang with us.
We said, “Really, there’s nothing at all you want to see?”
Tom – “Well, okay, just Hiroshima and something in your town.”
So Mark and I thought that since Tom just wanted to hang out, what we would do is to take Tom to all the restaurants in town Mark and I always wanted to go, but didn’t because we are saving money. I had about four restaurants in mind, plus some we had already been to.
For the “something in our town” we took him to see Mount Aso. There is really nothing to see in Oita except for Park Place, the biggest mall this side of Kyushu. And yes, we did take him to see Park Place. There we ran into some of my students. I introduced them as, “my husband and a friend from Korea.” My students looked quite confused.
Students – Pointing to Tom “husband” pointing to Mark “韓国人”
Me – “No.” Pointing to Mark “husband” pointing to Tom “friend from Korea”.
They gave me funny looks, but smiled and walked away after the standard “nice-to-meet-chu’s.”
So rather than writing more about places I’ve already been to and blogged about before, some more than once, I will just write about the two unique events from this vacation.
Event #1: Tom Plays Pachinko.
Tom wanted to celebrate finally having money in Japan. Before he left Korea, Mark and I told him that getting non-Japanese bank cards and credit cards to work in Japan is very hard. But, he was running late when going to the airport in Korea and thought that he would just get some money at an ATM at Fukuoka airport.
That did not work. He called his card company and they tried to help him, but the ATM he needed was not at the airport. He didn’t have any yen and could not even pay for a subway ride to the train station. He was stuck at the airport.
Frustrated, he called me to tell me that he would just take another flight back to Seoul. That was when some lady, who overheard him talking to his card company earlier, handed him a 10,000 yen note (equivalent to a hundred dollars). When Tom asked the lady for her address so that he could repay her later, she told him to, “just go to Oita, and later, do something nice for someone else.”
For his next few days Tom had been calling his card company trying to figure this whole thing out. In the mean while, Mark and I paid for all his stuff. We weren’t sure if Tom would ever get any money in Japan. But, we didn’t care if he did. Tom had been so hospitable to Mark when they were in Korea earlier in the year.
Then one day someone from the card company asked if Tom had tried the 7-11 ATM. We went out to try it, and it worked. Well, first Tom tried it and it didn’t work. Then he called the card company again and they thought about it and figured that Tom might have asked for more cash than the daily limit. After that it worked.
The moral of this story is, if you go to Japan call your bank and ask what ATM’s you can use, then bring a bunch of cash.
So, the day that Tom finally had his own cash, he wanted to go to a pachinko parlor. So we went.
Everyone put 1,000 yen (~10 bucks) into their machine. Once it spat out a bunch of shiny balls into our baskets we started to play. Mark was the first one to lose all his
money balls. He was out within 10 minutes of playing. I hovered the drain for about 30 minutes, then I was out.
Then I looked at Tom. He had 2 baskets filled with shiny gold balls.
Me – “Oh my god Tom, are you winning?”
Tom – “I guess.”
Me – “How are you doing this?”
Tom – “I don’t know. That lady told me to hold this nob like so and tap this button like this. Balls just keep fallin’ out.”
Me – “Wow. I lost all my balls.”
Tom – “Feel free to play with my balls. They’re very shiny!”
Mark and I continued to play, grabbing hand-fulls of Tom’s balls. We tried to copy what Tom was doing, but it didn’t work for us.
When Tom finally got tired of playing, or actually, when Tom started to lose, we stopped. We looked around for someone to help us turn in the balls. An employee ran over to us and poured his balls into a machine. It printed out a receipt.
The lady pointed to another woman behind a counter. He gave the receipt to her. She handed Tom a red bean cake and a small case with some weird coins. Tom was delighted with his prizes. We were happy for him.
We headed towards the exit with thoughts of dinner. Our friend just won some strange coins from a pachinko parlor. Who would believe that?
Then a guy in uniform ran after us. We turned to look at him, wondering what was going on. I mentioned wanting to use the bathroom as we were walking out and thought that he was showing us where the facilities were.
He took us through the casino and out a different door. There was no bathroom out that door, but he pointed to a little window. It looked like a teller’s window for a very shy clerk.
All you could see was a pair of women’s hands. The uniform guy gestured for Tom to put his coin case through the window. The coins were taken and cold hard cash replaced it. Tom got 5,000 yen. He won actual money!
We all agreed that money was better than strange coins.
Event #2: Itsukushima Shrine – OMG are we in a line?
We went to the Itsukushima Shrine on New Year’s day. The shrine is on an island called Miyajima near the city of Hiroshima. It has an iconic gate where tourist gather to take photos. It is also a place where many religious Japanese go on New Year’s day to pray and ask god, or whoever for favors.
It was beautiful and crowded; so very crowded. We were just walking along one of the streets as the crowd of people gradually got thicker. We stood there for about 15 minutes slowly making our way forward when we realized that we were in a line for something. We had no idea what it was, but if this many people wanted to see it, it must be good.
It ended up being the Itsukushima shrine itself. After this Mark and I and Tom split up. Tom wanted to take photos of things and Mark and I wanted to get some omiyage, or souvenirs, for our co-workers.
It was nice, but because of the crowd we felt a bit intimidated. The Japanese are generally known for their politeness, but crowds are always the exception. We spend a lot of time hiding out in a nice, but highly overpriced well heated coffee shop. It was nice, almost empty, but the prices were steep.
I recommend going on a non-religious holiday.
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.
Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)
Beppu Hell Onsen
- Coordinates 33°18’57.2″N 131°28’10.8″E
From Oita City –
- Head north on route 10.
- Turn left on route 500. (The turn is just before the Las Vagas pachinko parlor.)
- Keep on 500,
- then turn right at the light after the intersection with route 218. You should see lot of steam rising from the ground.
- Park anywhere that’s reasonable.
- Six of the Hell osens are within walking distance of each other.
- There are two others that are about a 5 minute drive from the directions given above.
By Bus –
- Take bus #2, #5, #9, #41, or #43 from JR Beppu Station to the Umijigoku-mae stop
There are 8 Hell Onsens. Seven of which, are within a walking distance from each other. The other two are a bus or car ride away. Please ask at the ticket counter for bus information.
- Oniishibozu Jigoku (鬼石坊主地獄)
- UmiJigoku (海地獄)
- Yama Jigoku (山地獄)
- KamadoJigoku (かまど地獄)(Cooking Pot Hell)
- Oniyama Jigoku (鬼山地獄)
- Shiraike Jigoku (白池地獄)
- Tatsumaki Jigoku (龍巻地獄)
- ChinoikeJigoku (血の池地獄) (BloodOnsen)
- 別府 血の池地獄
野田778 Beppu, Oita Prefecture 874-0016, Japan
- 別府 血の池地獄
Website (Blood Onsen)
- 400YEN each or
- 2,000YEN for all 8
- 8:00 – 17:00
- Go to Tatsumaki-Jigoku (the onsen with the geyser last if you’re running out of time because this one stays open later so that visitor can see the geyser blow at the end of the day.)
- It might not be worth a trip all the way to Beppu just to see this. But if you are in Oita prefecture, why not?
- You cannot get into any of the hell onsen. There are a couple that you can put your feet into, but no full body soaking.
Kitahama Termas Onsen
- Coordinates 33°17’09.5″N 131°30’18.5″E
By Car –
- Drive to Beppu at way of route 10 which is also route 52 through downtown Beppu.
- It’s along route 10/52 and across the street from a pachinko parlor; what isn’t in Japan? The nearby landmarks near would be Beppu Central Hostipal and a short swimmable section of beach.
By Public Transportation –
- Go to Beppu Station.
- Exit through the east end of the station.
- Head east until you reach route 10.
- Then go north on route 10 until you pass Beppu Central Hospital.
- Cross the street and look out for the osen.
11-1, Kyo Beppu
- Adult – 500JPY
- Kids – 250JPY
- You can bring your own towel, razor, or what have you, or you can rent them.
- Shampoo, conditioner, and soap are free.
- Parking is free
- 10:00 – 22:00
- Admittance ends at 21:00
- This is a co-ed onsen, so you must wear a swimsuit when you go outdoors. You can go naked in the gender segregated areas.
- Every now and then they change the gender of the locker rooms. So don’t head off to change in one direction that was the lady’s area the last time you came.
- You will need to have a 100 yen coin to put your shoes in a small locker in the main lobby. Everyone must have their own locker and you will get your coin back when you retrieve your shoes.
- Give your shoe locker key to the front desk clerk and he or she will give you a corresponding key to the lockers in the gender segregated area. Put your stuff in that locker.
- Take a shower. Put on your swim suit and head outdoors.
- There is also a sauna and a bucket of freezing cold water that you can torture yourself with.
- Coordinates 32°53’12.7″N 131°05’03.0″E
From Oita City by car –
- Take route 10 south. Follow 10 to Inukai.
- Then get on Route 57 (Inukai-Chitose).
- There are 2 Route 57’s. If you get on the wrong one it doesn’t matter. They both basically* go the same place. One is just more windy than the other.
- *Route 57 (Inukai-Chitose) will end somewhere in Onomachi Tanaka. When this happens just head north on route 26 to route 57 (Higo Highway).
- Once you’ve left Oita Prefecture and you’ve passed the windy mountain area look out for route 111. Take a left onto route 111.
- For Aso Mountain take route 111 all the way to the toll road, where 111 ends. You can then take the cable car up for 1,000YEN round trip/ person or drive up the toll road for 560YEN/ car.
- For Komezuka turn right onto route 298. You should see Komezuka in 1 kilometer.
- Cable Car Ride – 600Yen one way, 1,000Yen round trip
- To drive up to the top – 560YEN per car
- The toll road and cable car to Mount Aso are open 9:30 to 16:30 when the weather permits.
- Don’t go in the winter to avoid the chances of you going all the way out there only to find that it’s closed due to snow.
- It is recommended that people with asthma, bronchitis, or heart disease should not go to the top of Mount Aso.
The bus stop for this bus is across the street from the Tokiwa near Oita Station, in front of the Forus.
- Oita to Hiroshima – 5,700YEN or
- 4,750YEN with a group discount
- Bus leaves Oita at 10:09 and gets to Hiroshima at 16:12
- There is a bathroom on the bus.
- The ticket for this bus ride includes a boat ride from Kyushu to Honshu. But you can buy tickets for the boat alone.
- Coordinates 34°23’33.0″N 132°28’25.7″E
The nearest Station is Hiroshima Station.
Minami-ku, Hiroshima city,
- Depends on the room, but Dorm rooms are 2,500YEN/ night.
- the doors are lock after a certain hour. I don’t remember what time.
- No free parking, but there is paid parking nearby. Ask about the cheaper weekend parking areas.
Hiroshima Peace Park
- 34°23’34.1″N 132°27’08.1″E
- Take the tram #2, 3, 6 or 7 to Atomic Bomb Dome (Genbaku Dome-Mae)
- This will put you right in front of the dome.
- From there you can cross the bridge and head south to see the park, the museums, and other monuments.
- Memorial Hall
Naka-ku, Hiroshima City
(in the Peace Memorial Park)
- Peace Museum
Peace Memorial Museum
Naka-ku, Hiroshima City
Peace Memorial Museum
- Most are free.
- The Peace Museum cost 50Yen to enter.
- The park is always open.
- The museum and hall’s times are 8:30 – 17:00.
- 34°17’45.2″N 132°19’11.7″E
There are 2 main non-driving methods to get to the shrine.
- This is the cheapest option, but not the quickest.
- For crowed days, like New Year’s day, this is not a very good option. The crowd is huge and everyone is pushing their way on to the boat.
- Link for Schedule
- The more expensive option, but it’s really easy.
- No crowd. The boat can only fit a few people.
- But, because the boat is small, tickets do get sold out.
- 350Yen to enter the temple
- It’s a temple, so I don’t think there is an official closing time, but monks do need to sleep…
- There are tons of temples on the island. Most of them up hills. Some up the mountain. There is even one, Sankido, that warships ogres.
- You can take a cable car to the top of the mountain for some great views (1,800Yen round trip).
- There are lots of deer just freely roaming the island. There are signs that say that they love to eat souvenirs and passports. That’s sounds implausible, but you never know.