Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hell in Beppu

Date: Wednesday & Thursday, July 14-15
Vu, Linda Le
Travel: Bus;
Stay: Linda's House
Photos: 2009071415Beppu
In the morning, I follow my cousin to her APU campus. On the bus ride up I notice steam coming out of the ground and some of the homes, and I could not wait for the tour later on. It was an absolutely sunny morning and very humid. The campus was beautifully etched into the mountain, with a nice view of the town and sea below. I got to spend the morning in economics class, where I was a bit surprised it was taught in English. I thought I was supposed to be in Japan!
After venturing around the campus, I rest inside a cafe, where I end up hearing a sound as if the windows was being power washed. I look outside and I can see the students fighting against the wind. It was a typhoon, and the rain was coming down so hard. I could have sworn it was just sunny like 15 minutes before.
After waiting the rain out, my cousin was finished for the day and we get to make our way to our first Jigoku (a hell!). It's just a water spring. The first was the Honbouzu Jigoku, which is the mud hell. Here you can see natural pot like structures with what looks like boiling mud. The warm steam underneath the mud causes air pockets underneath to rise to the surface. There was an all-Jigoku pass which you could use to see all the Jigoku's, but we only decided to visit the top few. The next Jigoku on the list, was Umi Jigoku, which means Sea hell, due to its bright blue colors. This particular place you can smell the sulfur in the air. Over the steaming part of the Jigoku, you can see that there are some chicken eggs being "soft-boiled" inside the warm waters. It was quite tasty. This particular Jigoku was nicely landscaped and developed, with a water garden, and even another spring in red clay. The final Jigoku for the day was the Shiraike Jigoku, which is supposed to mean white or milk hell, because of the white color of the spring. While we were in the area, we just happened to "run into" a hihokan, which is a sex museum. It wasn't really a coincidence that we stumbled upon it in our paths, I read about it somewhere and was like, what?? only in Japan (or probably many other asian countries). We didn't spend much time to realize it was going to be a throwaway of 700 or so Yen, but what's sort of interesting is that there was still some sort of censorship, albeit a very weak one. There was also a disturbing exhibit involving Snow White and the seven dwarfs. Come on now...Snow White is a family character.

The Next day
After another morning spent at the APU campus, we headed out to our final Jigoku stop, the Chinoike Jigoku, which is the blood hell. This is basically just a large red clay pool of hot warm water, surrounded by tall towering trees. It was quite a peaceful scene and worth the time to take it all in. We went home for an afternoon break, since my cousin spent the previous night up finishing her paper, and slept on the floor
(she would not let me sleep on the ground but only on the bed..still, I'm such a jerk).

We get to release some of our own steam that evening at Takegawa Onsen, which is known in the area for its traditional look, and the sand treatment. The bath itself was not all that great, as it was a pretty small room, but being buried in the sand was quite an experience. It was very warm, and you could feel all the moisture leaving the body. It was a tough 10 minutes but after wards it felt soooo refreshing. I even bought a small souvenir towel, which I find so amazing because the tiny thin towels were used commonly in my cousins house. It didn't look like it could dry much but it was extremely efficient, and probably very easy to clean. I have always been used to thick, bulky towels. Now I can see another aspect of my lifestyle as inefficient and wasteful.
For dinner, we went out for champon ( I remember this from their little english slogan "we are the champon") and my favorite, ice cream.

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