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The Christmas Visitor

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 19, 2012

December 22, 2011 – January 2, 2012

All Pictures

playing cards at home

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.

We met Tom a few years ago when we lived in Seoul and did some traveling and free biking with him. Tom still lives in Seoul, but I don’t know if he still uses the free bikes there.

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.

Playing big titris at Park Place

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.”

You’d think it would be warmer near a live volcano…

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.

Look at all his winnings!

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.

Tom in Hell

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.

“I’m tired from all this winning.”

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.

“I won some dessert and novelty coins!”

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.

Is this another ATM?

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.

in front of Miyajima’s Torii

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.

in the crowd

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.

To Tom!

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

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.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • 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
(Beppu Jigoku)
(別府地獄)

How to get there:

  • 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

Address:

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.

  1. Oniishibozu Jigoku (鬼石坊主地獄)
  2. UmiJigoku (海地獄)
    • 別府地獄めぐり
      日本
      〒874-0000 大分県別府市大字鉄輪559−1
      0977-66-1577
  3.  Yama Jigoku (山地獄)
  4. KamadoJigoku (かまど地獄)(Cooking Pot Hell)
    • かまど地獄
      日本
      〒874-0045 大分県別府市御幸5
      0977-66-0178
  5. Oniyama Jigoku (鬼山地獄)
  6. Shiraike Jigoku (白池地獄)
  7. Tatsumaki Jigoku (龍巻地獄)
  8. ChinoikeJigoku (血の池地獄) (BloodOnsen)
    • 別府 血の池地獄
      野田778 Beppu, Oita Prefecture 874-0016, Japan

Phone:

  • 0977-66-1577

Website (Blood Onsen)

Download:

Cost:

  • 400YEN each or
  • 2,000YEN for all 8

Hours:

  • 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.)

Notes:

  • 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
(北浜温泉/テルマス)

How to get there:

  • 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.

Address:

11-1, Kyo Beppu

or

別府市京町11-1

Phone:

  • 0977-24-4126

Websites:

Cost:

  • 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

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 22:00
  • Admittance ends at 21:00

Notes:

  • 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.

 Mount Aso 
(阿蘇山)
(Asosan)
Komezuka
(米塚)

How to get there:

  • 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.

Website:

Cost:

  • Cable Car Ride – 600Yen one way, 1,000Yen round trip
  • To drive up to the top – 560YEN per car

Hours:

  • The toll road and cable car to Mount Aso are open 9:30 to 16:30 when the weather permits.
Videos:
about volcanoes:

Notes:

  • 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.

Hiroshima
(広島市)
by bus

How to get there:

The bus stop for this bus is across the street from the Tokiwa near Oita Station, in front of the Forus.

Website:

Cost:

  • Oita to Hiroshima – 5,700YEN or
  • 4,750YEN with a group discount

Hours:

  • Bus leaves Oita at 10:09 and gets to Hiroshima at 16:12

Notes:

  • 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.

K’s House

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°23’33.0″N 132°28’25.7″E

The nearest Station is Hiroshima Station.

Address:

1-8-9, Matoba-cho,
Minami-ku, Hiroshima city,
Japan 732-0824

Phone:

  • +(81)-82-568-7244

Website:

e-mail: hiroshima@kshouse.jp

Cost:

  • Depends on the room, but Dorm rooms are 2,500YEN/ night.

Hours:

  • the doors are lock after a certain hour. I don’t remember what time.

Notes:

  • No free parking, but there is paid parking nearby. Ask about the cheaper weekend parking areas.

Hiroshima Peace Park
(広島平和記念公園)

How to get there:

  • 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.

Address:

  • Memorial Hall

1-6 Nakajima-cho,
Naka-ku, Hiroshima City
(in the Peace Memorial Park)

広島市中区中島町1番6号(広島平和記念公園内)

  • Peace Museum

Peace Memorial Museum
1-2 Nakajimama-cho,
Naka-ku, Hiroshima City
730-0811, Japan

Peace Memorial Museum
広島平和記念資料館 啓発担当
住所:広島市中区中島町1-2

Website

Cost:

  • Most are free.
  • The Peace Museum cost 50Yen to enter.

Hours:

  • The park is always open.
  • The museum and hall’s times are 8:30 – 17:00.
Videos:

Itsukushima Shrine
(厳島神社)
(Itsukushimajinsha)

How to get there:

  • 34°17’45.2″N 132°19’11.7″E

There are 2 main non-driving methods to get to the shrine.

1. Take the train to Miyajimaguchi Station then hop on a 10 minute ferry to  Miyajima (170Yen). You can just walk to the shrine from there.

  • 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.
2. Take the boat from Peace Park. It costs 1,900Yen on way. But, don’t toss your ticket when you get to the island. When you show your old ticket you will get a discount for your return trip (1,500Yen).
  • 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.

Website:

Cost:

  • 350Yen to enter the temple

Hours:

  • It’s a temple, so I don’t think there is an official closing time, but monks do need to sleep…

Downloads:

Notes:

  • 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.

Map

Posted in Aso 市, Beppu 市, Hatsukaichi 市, Hiroshima 県, Hiroshima 市, Honshū, Japan, Kumamoto 県, Kyūshū, Miyajima 町, Oita 県, Oita 市 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bigger Than Godzilla

Posted by Heliocentrism on April 2, 2011

March 19-20, 2011

All Pictures

This is what a live volcano looks like.

Take 2

A few weekends ago Mark and I noticed that the weather was warmer. It wasn’t summery enough to go camping, but non-wintery enough not to have to worry about icy roads up mountains. So we thought, “Why don’t we visit all the places we tried to see, but couldn’t because of snow and ice on the roads.

Is that smoke from the volcano or our car?

First Stop: Mount Aso

This is a live, though not-so active, volcano. People can drive all the way to the top. My car almost didn’t make it. The hill, umm, volcano is very steep. There was a burning smell coming from the hood when we finally parked.

Normally you can see down into the volcano, but we went on a foggy day. We will have to go back again sometime on a clearer day; maybe when someone visits. When we do, I’ll park the car somewhere and take the cable car up. It’s better for my transmission.

This is what the bridge looks like when it’s not spouting water.

Next Stop: The Water Spouting Bridge

We then got back into the car and headed to Tsujun Bridge. We looked at it, walked around it, walked over it, all while wondering when the water was going to shoot out.

We stopped by one of the shops by the parking lot to ask about the water works. “No March. Water in April,” we were told.

Great… We’ll have to come back for this too.

Finally an attraction that is in complete working order!

Last, but not least: The Dream Bridge

How could I not see the bridge that is advertised as being bigger than Godzilla? It is indeed a big bridge. One whose only purpose is to attract tourist to a part of the prefecture with nothing much else to do.

But, what is that in bananas?

You pay your money and cross the bridge. Once on the other side the only thing to do, if you’re not hungry, is go back across the bridge again to get to your car. Yeah!

There was tomato flavored ice cream…

The side of the road foreigner trap

Watch out for the non-existent curb!

Now I must complain about the roads here. I consider myself to be pretty tolerant of other cultures and other ways of doing things, but this is one thing I really hate about rural Japan.

Complaint #1: Are you sure this is supposed to be a 2 lane road?

There are some “two lane” roads that are slightly bigger than my car. Keep in mind that I drive a tiny k-car that is dwarfed by most vehicles. Yet, these roads are not one-way streets, but have two lanes going in opposite directions. What makes this worse is complaint #2.

Complaint #2: uncovered drains and road moats.

If you look at the picture above you will see what I call a “road moat”. It’s just an open ditch that runs along the side of the road waiting to swallow up any k-car that veers too much to the left. There is the smaller version, which is just an open drain. It’s not big enough for your whole car to fall in, but it will hold a tire or two while breaking an axle. What makes this worse is complaint #3.

Complaint #3: Can I get a street light?

It would be nice if there were some sort of light to help me see these little death holes along the side of the road. But on most streets that are not downtown, there are none.

Where are my tax yen going?

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

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.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • 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 banktoaskwhatATMs 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.)

 Mount Aso 
(阿蘇山)
(Asosan)
Komezuka
(米塚)

How to get there:

  • 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.

Website:

Cost:

  • Cable Car Ride – 600Yen one way, 1,000Yen round trip
  • To drive up to the top – 560YEN per car

Hours:

  • The toll road and cable car to Mount Aso are open 9:30 to 16:30 when the weather permits.
Videos:
about volcanoes:

Notes:

  • 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.

Tsūjun Bridge
(通潤橋)
(Tsūjun-kyo)

How to get there:

  • Coorinates 32°40’53.6″N 130°59’37.4″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 265 heading south.
  • ♦Stay on route 265 until you get to a town called Soyō (蘇陽町),
  • look out for route 218 and take it heading west.
  • Head south on the nameless road right after the light for route 445. If you miss it, just take the 180 heading east.

From Aso Mountain –

  • head back to route 111 where you came from,
  • get back on the 57 heading east, and
  • get on route 265 heading south.
  • Then follow the directions above from the “♦”.

Phone:

  • TEL 0967-72-1933
    • Call between 10:00 ~ 16:00

Website (translated by google)

Cost:

  • free and free parking

Hours:

  • The water only spouts for tourists in April and May on Sundays, Saturdays, and some holidays. Usually at noon, or noon and 14:00.
  • Check with the schedule on the website.
  • The rest of the year it spouts when the farmers need it to.

Notes:

There is a campsite not too far from the the bridge.


Kokonoe
(九重町)

How to get there:

By car –

  • Take route 210 or the Oita Expressway (toll road).

Websites:

Notes:

  • Be careful when driving in this town in winter.
  • Check the weather forecast before leaving your house.
  • If you do drive to Kokonoe when there is a lot of snow on the ground make sure to drive slowly, put chains on your tires, and watch out for crazy drivers who feel that they do not have to drive carefully in snow because they own SUV’s.

Kokonoe Yume Otsurihashi
 (九重“夢”大吊橋)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°10’25.9″N 131°13’36.4″E

By car –

  • Take route 210 toward Kokonow.
  • Then take either route 11 or route 40.
  • Look out for signs to the bridge.

Address:

1208 Tano Kokonoe Ōaza
Kusu-gun, Oita Prefecture

大分県玖珠郡九重町大字田野1208番地

Phone:

  • 0973-73-3800

Websites:

Download:

Cost:

  • Adult – 500YEN
  • Kids – 200YEN

Hours:

  • Jan – Jun 8:30 – 16:30
  • Jul – Oct 8:30 – 17:30
  • Nov – Dec 8:30 – 16:00
  • Close Dec 31.

Notes:

Parking is free.

Map:

Posted in Aso 市, Japan, Kokonoe 町, Kumamoto 県, Kyūshū, Oita 県, Yamato 町, Yufu 市 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

All I hear is “Closed”.

Posted by Heliocentrism on February 13, 2011

February 11-12, 2011

All Pictures

Who is that!?

1008 Buddhas

Mark planned this trip. He made and printed out the directions and everything. There was a three-day weekend and I told Mark I wanted to, “do something” so he put this all together.

Our first stop was to see a thousand and eight Buddha statues. Mark wasn’t too sure he could find this place because there wasn’t much information about it online. He knew the town it was in, but that was about it.

“What’s going on here?” “These foreigners are lost.”

We walked into a grocery store. I found a lady walking around and stopped her.

“Sumemasen. Egio-ga wakademas-ka?” (Excuse me. Do you speak English?)

She responded by saying something like, “not even a little bit” in Japanese. But, I didn’t let a little thing like her not knowing any English at all stop me.

“Renjoji Temple, doko des-ka?” (Where is Rejoji Temple?)

Then she did something that almost all Japanese people do when they have to answer a hard question. She tilted her head to one side and sucked in air through her mouth. Mark took out the map and handed it to her.

As she looked through it another lady passed by. I don’t speak Japanese but I imagined the conversation went something like this.

Lady 1 – “Oh let’s see…”

Lady 2 – “Hey what’s going on? There’s a foreigner standing right there… and is that guy there Korean or something?”

Lady 1 – “They want to go to Rejoji Temple. Do you know where that is?”

Lady 2 – “Oh yes. Took the grandkids there 2 years ago. Had a great time!”

Lady 3 – “Hey what’s going on? Why are there so many foreigners in this store?

Lady 2 – “They’re lost.”

Lady 3 – “You don’t say. It’s kinda like that time when that other foreigner and his friends were in this very store. Remember Ethel?”

Lady 4 – “Oh yes. A fine day that was!”

and so on.

Eventually, with the help of a small crowd of old ladies, we were able to find the temple on our map written in Kanji. So remember, dear reader, when lost in Japan, go to a grocery store to ask for directions.

The smart one is the one in the middle.

Of course we would have still missed the turn to the 1008 Buddhas had it not been for the giant lady in the picture at the start of this post. The roads on the map are a little ambiguous. We thought the turn was further down the road and we weren’t even looking out for signs yet.

We saw a huge statue sticking out on the horizon. We were wondering if we should go look at it before or after seeing the Buddhas. Mark concluded that since the 1008 Buddhas might be hard to find, we should check out the lady first. Then we might find someone who could give us better directions to the Buddhas.

There was no one there to ask for directions, but in our search for the path up to the big lady, we found the temple with the many Buddhas. Hazzah!

No touching!

Stalec-might?

Our next stop was the Underwater Cave. It was not hard to find at all. The drive was a bit scary due to the windiness of the supposedly, 2-lane back roads with drops off sheer cliffs. Some drivers seem to take these roads as a challenge and refuse to drive at a sane speed. I try to pull over whenever I can to let these types of drivers by. I think they should die alone and definitely without me.

It’s cold and wet

The cave was okay; nothing like Hwanseon Cave in Samcheok, but still worth seeing. There were many kitschy things to pose with and take photos of outside the cave. It might even be a nice place to go camping or “cabin-ing” in the summer.

Japan’s Niagara

Every country has its Niagara.

I travel a lot… a whole lot. Everywhere I go the locals of whatever country I’m in will say, “Go to such-and-such Falls. It’s the Niagara of this country.” Then I would make my way there, usually by hiking up or climbing some horribly steep mountain to see the falls, only to be disappointed.

I think to myself, “Have any of these people ever actually seen Niagara? If they did they would stop comparing this little trickle of water to it.”

Below is the Niagara of the US and Canada; otherwise known as just Niagara Falls. Notice how small the 100-passenger boat looks in comparison. The falls in the picture above does not have enough water to float a dinghy, much less a 100-passenger vessel. …And the picture below is of only part of Niagara. There is more to the left out of the shot.

Niagara’s Niagara

So, lets all agree that Harajiri Falls is no Niagara. That said, it was still very nice. If I lived in Ogata I would come here for a picnic at least once a month.

There was a terrifying, but, hopefully safe, rope bridge to walk across. Nearby there was a lovely restaurant. The falls came with more that ample free parking, which I love. And I think it’s worth a trip here just to get some nice photos.

This was when our timing and good luck ran out…

“Put snow chains on your tires, now!”

Tie me up in chains

We left the county… I mean prefecture. We were going to see a volcano, a mound, and then maybe a bridge that spouts water. Now I must digress from my tale a bit to tell you about something we happened upon.

Three times on this trip we heard some weird sounding music. The first time it happen, we just thought that someone in the car ahead or behind us was play their music at full blast on very bad speakers. The second time it happen we knew exactly where the music was coming from. The third time, we recorded it.

We were driving over a musical road. If the road were to be thought of as a record, then my tires would be the needle and my car itself would be the cone-shaped part of a gramophone. Take a listen…

Alright, back to the story…

Mark and I went all the way up Aso mountain, or as far as we could drive for free. When we got to the toll road it was closed. We were an hour too late. It was 17:00 in the evening. Even though Oita city is about a 2.5 hour drive from where we were in Aso, I didn’t want to go home. I still had hopes of seeing the volcano the next day and it didn’t make sense to drive home to then drive back.

Unplanned overnight trips and sitting by wood burning stoves and now my favorite things.

I remembered that we passed a hostel on our way up the mountain. Mark and I decided that if the cheapest room cost 4,000YEN per person per night or less, we would stay.

We pulled into the hostel’s parking lot right in from a big hand written sign that said, “¥2,000 a night”. We thought nothing of it. Many motels have “bait and switch” prices to lurk customers in. When a traveler goes in and asks about the advertised price, he or she is told that those rooms are all taken, or that the sign is quoting a weekday price…

It’s just us.

Well, the sign was accurate. It really was 2,000YEN per person per night; no strings attached. The hostel is run by two sweet old ladies, who speak a little English. That night we were the only guests.

The ladies worried about how our trip would go. “Tomorrow many snow,” one told us. “You car have tire chain?” It didn’t. “Maybe bus better…”

They had the bus scheduled hung up in the lounge. We planned to take the bus up the mountain and then the “ropeway” to the crater if there was indeed “many snow” the next day. …which there was.

It’s like a snow cloud threw up everywhere!

At 9:50 we were standing at the bus stop to wait for the 9:55 bus. We waited in the cold. The wind whipped at our backs. Even though I had on my pajamas under my jeans and yesterday’s dirty socks over today’s clean ones, I felt grossly under-dressed.

There was an electronic sign hanging over the road. Many cars would drive up to it, then turn around and head back to town. Mark and I speculated on what the sign said. “Maybe the road is closed…” “Maybe there is a horrible accident up the road…” “Maybe our bus isn’t coming…”

We took a picture of the sign and walked back to the hostel. We showed the picture to one of the ladies. “Put chain on tire,” is what she read. At that moment our bus drove by, without us.

The next bus wouldn’t pass by for another hour. Mark and I decided to drive down to the bus station and catch the bus there. That way, we could wait indoors and maybe get a cup of hot coffee. Besides, if it started to snow harder, it would be better to not have to drive down the mountain later.

When it’s icy enough, you can just slide down Aso.

We walked into the bus station’s ticket office. There was a small line. I over heard a Korean couple asking about the bus to the top of Aso mountain. The Japanese ticket clerk didn’t speak English very well, but he managed to say that the bus was still running, but the cable car and the toll road were closed.

A German couple behind us in line asked if we could walk to the crater. Incredulously, I said, “But that’s a 3 kilometer walk; there’s no way it can be done in that snow!” The German lady seemed to like the challenge and responded, “I can do it.” Her husband nodded in agreement.

By then the resident English speaker of the bus station had stepped out. “No, you cannot. It is not allowed. The mountain is closed today because of the snow” Marked asked if it would be open tomorrow. “Maybe, but don’t count on it.”

We drove back to Oita with heavy hearts.

This looks a bit sketchy…

Wild Onsens

Back in our neck of the woods, we drove over to Beppu to look for some free outdoor onsens. They are referred to as “wild onsens” which make them sound even more appealing.

That’s not a good.

We knew of 3 and planned to test them all out by doing a little onsen hopping. But the first one had no water. The other two were completely closed off with a locked gate and a sign like the one in the picture above.

Last August a woman named, Hiromi Yokote from Kobe while alone near the Nabeyama-no-yu onsen was murdered. The Police are apparently still looking for suspects and/ or witnesses.

All the wild onsens that Mark and I know about in Beppu are closed. I’m not sure if it is because of the murder or the season.

Warming up

Our plan B was to go to any of the many private onsens in the area, but they were all full or separated by gender. So we ended up going to an onsen that we had both been to before.

All in all, it was a very good weekend!

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

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.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • 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 banktoaskwhatATMs 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.)

Uchiyama Kannon
(内山観音) &

Yuchizan Renjoji Temple
(蓮城寺)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 32°57’22.8″N 131°35’01.1″E

From Oita City by car –

  • Take route 10 south. Follow 10 to Inukai.
  • Be careful, in or near Inukai do not get on the Inukai By-Pass.
  • Instead go onto route 326.
  • Route 326 will then merge with route 502 heading west.
  • Take 502 heading west.
  •  When routes 326 and route 502 splits, stay with route 326.
  • When you see this sign, follow it to Uchiyama Kannon.
  • (If you pass the gas station you’ve missed it. But you can turn at the gas station. See the google map below.
    •  The Giant lady in the mountain should also be a clue that you’re near the temple.)
  • You will find 2 temples. One is right by the parking lot. The other is a 1 minute walk away.
  • The giant statues is a little walk up a trail by the second temple.

Address:

大分県豊後大野市三重町内山527

Phone:

  • 0974-22-2616 Mie-cho Tourist Association (Japanese)

Website:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:

Lots of free parking and a decent public bath, but you will have to bring your own soap.


Inazumi Stalactite Grotto /
Underwater Cave Inazumi

(稲積水中鍾乳洞)
(Inadzumi Suichūshōnyūdō)

How to get there:

  • Coordinate 32°54’01.4″N 131°32’36.5″E

From Oita City by car –

  • Take route 10 south.
  • Follow 10 to Inukai.
  • Be careful, in or near Inukai do not get on the Inukai By-Pass.
  • Instead go onto route 326.
  • Route 326 will then merge with route 502 heading west.
  • Take 502 heading west.
  • When routes 326 and route 502 splits, stay with route 502.
  • After you pass Bungo-Kiyokawa Station look out for route 45.
  • Take route 45 heading south.
  • You will see a sign for the cave on your right, eventually.

By bus/train –

(from wikipedia-Japanese) –

Address:

稲積水中鍾乳洞〒879-7263 大分県豊後大野市三重町大字中津留300番地

Phone:

  • 0974-26-2468

Website:

e-mail: Info@Inazumi.com

Cost:

  • 1,200YEN/ Adult

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00

Notes:


 Harajiri Falls
(原尻の滝)
(Harajiri no Taki)

How to get there:

  • 32°57’55.9″N 131°27’08.0″E

From Oita City by car –

  • Take route 10 south.
  • Follow 10 to Inukai.
  • Be careful, in or near Inukai do not get on the Inukai By-Pass.
  • Instead go onto route 326.
  • Route 326 will then merge with route 502 heading west.
  • Take 502 heading west.
  • When routes 326 and route 502 splits, stay with route 502.
  • When you get to the town of Ogata look out for route 7.
  • Turn left on route 7.
  • The falls are about 200 meters down route 7.

By bus/train –

(from wikipedia-Japanese) –

Address:

大分県豊後大野市緒方町原尻936-1

Phone:

  • 0974-42-4140

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always available, though the restaurant and shops nearby do close.

Notes:

Free Parking


Kumamoto Aso Youth Hostel
(阿蘇ユースホステル)
(Aso Yūsu Hosuteru)

How to get there:

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.
  • The hostel will be on your left before the information center.

Address:

922-2 Kurokawa Aso-shi, Kumamoto 869-2225 Japan

Phone:

  • 096-34-0804

Website:

Cost:

  • 2,000YEN/ night

Notes:

  • This place is run by 2 little old lady who speak a little English. They are both very nice.
  • It does not have a restaurant, but there is a Joyfull (not Joyful,butJoyfull) not too far away on route 57.
    • Turn right from route 111 onto route 57. It’s next to a Family Mart.

 Mount Aso 
(阿蘇山)
(Asosan)
Komezuka
(米塚)

How to get there:

  • 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.

Website:

Cost:

  • Cable Car Ride – 600Yen one way, 1,000Yen round trip
  • To drive up to the top – 560YEN per car

Hours:

  • The toll road and cable car to Mount Aso are open 9:30 to 16:30 when the weather permits.
Videos:
about volcanoes:

Notes:

  • 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.

Free Onsens in Beppu

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°18’41.1″N 131°26’34.8″E

Mostly you will get lost.

By Car from Oita –

  • Take route 10 heading north. When you see “Las Vagas” turn left on route 500.
  • Pass the Hells of Beppu and stay on route 500.
  • Be careful, because route 500 turns. If you find yourself in route 11, you weren’t paying attention.
  • Grave-side onsen – (If you anything bigger than a small kei-car forget about this one. Your car should also have very good breaks.)
    • Before you pass under the expressway, you will see a shrap turn on your left. You will look at it and think, there is no way in hell my car, or any car for that matter, can make it up that hill.
    • Go up that hill.
    • Follow it until you have to make a turn.
    • Turn right there and go under the expressway.
    • Drive as far as you can pass the hundreds of graves.
    • When you almost get to a round-about you will see a flat area on the left where you can park.
    • Park your car and walk up the hill.
    • Then follow the path to the onsen.
  • Nabeyama-no-yuandHebi-no-yu- (I only got as far as the gate)
    • After you pass under the expressway, route 500 will take a sharp turn right.
    • You will leave route 500 and go straight.
    • Keep going straight even though you will begin to think that you can’t possibly still be on a drivable road.
    • Honk your horn around corners if it makes you feel safer. Who knows, it might help.
    • This road leads you straight to the gate. Then you’re on your own.

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:

  • When I went there all 3 of these were closed or had no water in them. It might be because of the season, the murder, or a combination of the two.
  • *Update: The police have apprehended a suspect in the murder of Hiromi Yokote.

 

Kitahama Termas Onsen
(北浜温泉/テルマス)

How to get there:

  • 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.

Address:

11-1, Kyo Beppu

or

別府市京町11-1

Phone:

  • 0977-24-4126

Websites:

Cost:

  • 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

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 22:00
  • Admittance ends at 21:00

Notes:

  • 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.

Map:

Posted in Aso 市, Beppu 市, Bungo-ōno 市, Japan, Kumamoto 県, Kyūshū, Mie 町, Ogata 町, Oita 県, Ōno 郡 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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