[Monday, December 21, 2009]


21/12/2009: Kagoshima/Nagasaki, Japan

Got up and went to the Ferry Terminal downtown where the ferries are frequent and cheap. We decided to rent a car to go around the peninsula formerly known as an island from Sakurajima Renta Car. 4500yen for 2 hours. Not bad.

The view from the observatory was not too bad. We could see that the caldera was smoking and leaking into the low-lying clouds.

This is a shout-out to the nice people at Sakurajima Renta Car--they gave us slightly over-ripe mikan when we returned the car and offered to drive us up the road to the Rainbow Sakurajima Hotel for lunch! I love the extras people throw in every now and then.

Lunch at the Rainbow Sakurajima Hotel was decent--the fried chicken set was good--and a word of warning for tourists, there are limited food options in the area around the ferry terminal. Ditto the entire peninsula formerly known as an island. There's a cafe and a combi across the road from the Rainbow Sakurajima Hotel--and that's all I've seen. Even after going around the island and stopping here and there.

Took a late afternoon train to Nagasaki and arrived at 9pm. Found a late dinner of steak at the mall attached to the station before going back in the cold and heading to our beds.

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[Sunday, December 20, 2009]


19/12/2009: Beppu, Japan
Left Hakata for Beppu in the morning. In the hot-spring capital of Japan today for a lot of soaking. We hope.

Checked into the ryokan I booked and strolled back to the station to get to the buses. We decided to go see the jigoku for a short while before heading to Hyotan--an onsen that A got the brochure for and I had researched previously.

We got the bus pass and set out to Kanawa. Stopped at the Umi Jigoku bus-stop and decided to look into that one. Doing all eight were a little much, so we tried sampling one. The jigoku are basically really hot springs and this one happened ot be turquiose blue. Very touristy, with the jigoku-tamago (eggs boiled in the hotspring) and purin (custard pudding steamed in the hotspring).

We decided that one jigoku is enough as it was freezing brass monkeys out there and decided to go for a soak.

The buses at the Kanawa end come with long intervals in between. Had to walk to Hyotan from the Kanawa terminal with me as the guide as usual. After swearing and declaring that I hated them all for indecisiveness, we trooped off in search for Hyotan Onsen.

With a sketchy print-out from Google Map that I had printed out before the trip and the sketchy map from the Hyotan brochure, I managed to get us there in 10 minutes.

Xian and I headed into our side and it was quite impressive. The water was mineral-rich and quite strong smelling. It had different pools and the trickling water that massages your back. I popped in and out of the sauna and realised that we have been swamped by Korean tourists.

We headed back to make it for dinner--the bus schedules are a bit spotty on weekends here. Back at Beppu Station, we settled down for late tea.

Dinner . . . could have been better in terms of the sashimi. It was the standard Japanese course with many small dishes--wish they did not leave the stuff on the table before you come in. (It can't beat my favourite ryokan in Hakone, that's all I'm saying)

Our private onsen session was very merry indeed as Xian and I had bought a can of Asahi 'Super Dry' beer and a tetrapack of umeshuu from the combi. We brought the beer and light plum wine into the private onsen, popped them on a stool beside the bath and drank while we soaked.

We got so merry that Xian told me about beer conditioner being sold at shops and I suggested that we dump the dregs of the can on my hair and leaving it for a minute before rinsing off. Yeah, it was that kind of day.

Did not sleep well at all despite the soaking. Weekends in Beppu . . . are noisy. The people exiting the bars and kareoke joints around the ryokan at 4am in the morning and the hostesses screaming "arigato-gozaimasu!" in the street made it a bit difficult to get back to sleep after being woken up by the freezing cold--unexpected cold front strikes again.

20/12/2009: Beppu/Kagoshima, Japan
We lazed about in the morning after breakfast and our scheduled soak until check-out time.

Managed to convince A to come along to Takagawara Onsen just down the road from our ryokan. The Hyotan sandbath experience was . . . not quite it.

The Takegaware Onsen has regular onsen and the sand bath. The sand bath involves stripping off, getting into a short yukata and getting buried up to the neck by vigourous obaasans wielding shovels. We had our pictures taken by said aunties and it's weird, really, your disembodied head perched on blackish sand.

Made it to Kagoshima after a long train ride, checked into the hotel and headed down to the main shopping drag for a bit of a look-see.

Drank the local favourite, imo-jouchu, with dinner at Watami--an izakaya chain that has also made its way here. Xian said it was like vodka, but I thought it went down more smoothly. (It's all root vegetables anyway.)

But the alcohol might not have been such a good idea. Almost lost my camera by leaving it at Watami. Thank goodness most Japanese restaurants are honest and very nice when you come back in muttering "Wasure-mono ga arimasu . . . kamera . . ." The dashing about was very warming and I rejoined them at Doutor Coffee.

I had been hankering for a milk crepe most of the trip. It's a cake at Doutor Coffee mad eof a lot of crepe layers sandwiched together with milk cream. Delicious with hot chocolate--with a marshmallow on top--on a cold night.

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