After a day of spending more than 3 hours on the train, we were back at the station to catch the train to Beppu. I think the time I spent taking the train in Kyushu for one week was more than I’ve ever spent taking the train in Toronto for a year. I was starting to get super grumpy from the long train rides, even though I knew there would be more to come.
We arrived in Beppu quite early. We checked the bus times for our Hells Tour later in the afternoon, then decided to go drop off our bags at the ryokan we would be staying at later that evening. As we were walking out of Beppu Station, we spotted a statue of the Pika Pika Ojisan. I couldn’t help but try to mimic his pose – unfortunately I couldn’t find an oni to hang off of my jacket. =P
Once we arrived at the ryokan, I was surprised by how small it was. It looked more like a residence than it did a hotel (which was what I was expecting). I was a little worried at first because there was no real reception area and I wasn’t sure if I should enter. Luckily there was a deliveryman outside who seemed to understand our dilemma and helped us ring the intercom. The cutest little granny came outside to greet us. I was trying to explain in broken Japanese that I wanted to leave our bags. She told us it was okay, but I was really worried if she would be able to carry everything by herself. Once she assured us everything was fine, we proceeded to make our way back to station to find a place for lunch.
Since there wasn’t much at the station itself, we continued walking along until we found an indoor shopping street. It was still pretty quiet in the neighbourhood, so we were lucky we found a restaurant that was already opened for lunch. We weren’t too sure of what to order, so we decided to go with all the local specialities listed on their menu. My favourite thing that day was the dangojiru, but all the dishes were equally yummy. One thing about traveling with more people is that you get to try extra things each time. =)
After lunch it was time to head back to the station to buy tickets for the Hells bus tour. Aside from the onsens, the most famous attraction in Beppu are the 8 Hells. Each hell is quite distinct and they’re fairly closely suited together. All the hells are easily accessible by bus. We decided to take a tour bus instead of a local bus since it would save us more time. Our guide gave us each a headset as we boarded, then we were off to our first hell.
Our first stop was the Blood Pond Hell. As the name suggests, the water from the hell was red in colour, giving off the impression of blood.
The second hell we went to was just a short walk away, called the Spout Hell. The ‘spout’ is actually a geyser that would erupt every 30 to 40 minutes. There’s a large seating area where everyone waited for the next eruption. I seemed to be more preoccupied eating the kobacha ice cream I bought, but I did snap photos of the geyser when it erupted. =P
For the remainder of the hells we took the bus over to another area where they were all situated. The first one there was called the Sea Hell. The water was incredibly blue but the steam seemed to cover the entire surface.
The next hell we visited was called the Shaven Monk’s Head Hell. The hell is named after the mud bubbles, which apparently resemble the shaven heads of monks. I just thought they looked really cute. Hehe.
The fifth hell was the Mountain Hell. This one wasn’t all that interesting. There were ponds of steaming water and a zoo in the area with a hippo and an elephant.
Oven Hell was pretty neat in comparison. Everything looked like it was steaming hot. You can even try the hand and foot baths inside and buy onsen eggs to eat.
The next hell was called Demon Mountain Hell and is known for its crocodiles. There were cages and cages of crocodiles inside. Most of them were either suntanning or soaking in the hot springs.
The last hell we went to was the White Pond Hell. This is similar to the Sea Hell with lots and lots of steam, except the water was white. There was also an aquarium to the side, but most of the cases were empty.
Overall our afternoon tour was quite fun and I would highly recommend visiting the hells for anyone thinking of traveling to Beppu. It’s best to pick a nice day because there is a lot of walking involved. By the time we got back to the station we grabbed a drink inside to rest our feet. After browsing through the souvenir shops, we slowly made our way back to the ryokan for the night.
One of the things I found out about the ryokan was that everything was super traditional. The ryokan seemed to cater strictly to Japanese tourists, even though it was recommended through a Chinese guidebook. All the staff only spoke in Japanese (which I should have known because I booked it through their Japanese website). Maybe I was a little too hopeful that I could get by half in English and half in Japanese. =(
It also became apparent that we were the only guests staying in the ryokan that night, because the lobby and the dining area were completely empty when we went down for dinner. The lady that served our table was really kind and tried to explain to us what we were eating. I still have no idea what I ate that night, but I definitely knew I ate some fugu. I was pretty scared at first, but after confirming that none of my dining companions had dropped dead from eating it, I thought it would safe for me to try. I actually really liked it. There’s not much of a taste, but the texture is quite nice.
The rest of dinner passed by quickly. We were really tired from walking, so we all took turns going to the onsen. Since our room didn’t have an onsen attached, we used the public ones. This onsen experience was way different from the ones I’ve been to. Maybe cause the ryokan was so small, the onsens were all unisex. Before you go in, you need to place an ‘occupied’ card in front of the door to claim it as yours. Once inside, the shower room was absolutely freezing while the water in the onsen was scalding hot. There were instructions to turn on the cold water tap if the water was too hot, which I had also never seen before. I filled it so much cold water that I was afraid I would flood the entire room. LOL. Anyway, it was an experience.
Later that night we caught some VS Arashi on tv before turning in. There were lots to see in Beppu, so I’m glad we had such great weather for our hells tour. I’ll probably have less to write in the next entry because the nice weather turned into rain the following morning…