Monday, December 19, 2005

Hotel Shiragiku(ホテル白菊)

Mom was in town from Kagoshima with her middle shcool reunion. They chose the fanciest hotel in Beppu and invited us too! WE had a super full course meal with everything from fresh mackeral sashimi, to blow fish (fugu) prepared every which way! Fried, raw, and don't forget the sperm!
After an absolute feast, Jude and grandma and I hit the big bath. I had always wanted to use the bath here, but the price tag (1000 yen, just to bathe) always sent me searching for cheaper baths. At last. And this time I got to relax by myself instead of fretting about J- man running around...
The bath was a standard big hotel bath. You could smell chlorine, which I guess it's saftey first when you have a ton of guests and a repuation to uphold. Kind of a turn off tho. The outdoor bath was big and since it was like -5 C, no one was out there. Very nice! The lighting was just enough to make the mood.

With this onsen, we have reached 40. Level 5 clear! 6 levels left. I will post photos soon.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Kakujusenis a free city-run hot spring in the Myoban district. Most city-run joints are clean. This one passed my test. Like most hot springs up here it is hot! And it is salty and milky. Great for the skin, bad for the eyes. They often say you can take a dip in this area for the great effects on the skin, then stop down in Kannawa for a rinse off in the clear hot springs down there. We may want to try that next time and get 2 stamps in one night.

Kakuju Free hot spring

We have been using the onsen at the house lately. Too cold to venture too far. Slowly but surely we will hit our magic number. If not, we can never leave. ha ha.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sunabaru Onsen(砂原温泉)

This was another one of those community baths that you wouldn't normally include in your itinerary unless you were one of those crazy people trying to hit up 88 hot springs to get a special black and gold towel and 15 seconds of near-notariety.

The water was hot but not too hot and I don't know if it was someone's cologne or some element in the water itself but it reminded me of holy water. You know that smell of incense in the church that kind of makes its way into everything. Sublimely sweet....

So it was as nice as you can expect for 100 yen. There is some parking too. Bonus. Don't look at the ceiling or under the little seats. Mildew central.

But a little mildew will not deter these men from their mission. We are nearly half-way there....

Friday, November 11, 2005

Long time, no public bath

Well, my initial goal was to be a hot spring master within the year, but we have stalled out on our quest. I have a whole list of excuses, but mainly it's because we have been going to sleep earlier. We still hit the hot spring in the apartment building almost every night, so we are quite clean. We are only 3 away from level 5. We will get that before we go home for winter break for sure.
Keep coming back. Hope to have something for you soon.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Yamada Onsen(山田温泉)

Went back to the Hamawaki area because the owner of the last place said I could use his parking lot. Hit up Yamada onsen. Can't be beat for a 100 yen, as long as you don't look at the moldy ceiling or the green goo oozing from behind the wall mirror.
The water was nice and the best part was how friendly everyone (all 3 dudes) were. I haven't met such nice people since our trip tp Shinoyu Onsen. We didn't stay long since this is clear on the other side of town, so we were home by a little after 9Pm. After our ritual popsicle, Jude was asleep in no time.
We are 3 shy of 40 onsens. hit 56 and you are eligible to receive \20,000 (about $180) worth of free tickets and coupons for the hotels! So our final stretch will be high on the hog. Gotta hit all the 100 yen joints now!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Chabo Takasaki-no-yu (茶房たかさきの湯)

Got real lost on some incredibly narrow roads but managed to find this place which actually had Parking (very rare in Beppu). It was a little stone bath attached to someone's house. If you bought a drink at the cafe (someone's house), you could use the bath for free. So we had a bath, out first in the Hamawaki area and it was HOT. Then we came out and had a nice big bowl of shaved ice. Yummy! It was a cool little place. Turns out the owner hosts APU students for homestays every summer. He said I can park here next time I'm in the area. That is a bonus.
After 88 hot springs, not only we will be onsen masters, we will be masters of illegal parking.
Jude and Tanuki
This is Jude with the tanuki (like a racoon). They have big bellies and for some reason store owners put these statues in front of their stores (so the patrons eat their bellies full??). Any of you who played Super Mario 3 on the NES will remember the tanuki character...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Yumoto-ya Ryokan(湯元屋旅館)

A little mom and pop inn in the Myoban district. This hot spring was a cloudy brown color. Yes, it sounds gross but it was the high concentration of minerals: calcium, salt, alum and copper. You have to keep it out of your eyes because it burns, and it is pretty hot. The Myoban district is way up on the mountain and the closest to its source so it is naturally pretty damn hot. Luckily there was a water faucet so I could cool it down for Jude.
Now the coolest part was when you got out and dried off. This left your skin feeling silky smooth. Here is one for all the ladies out there. Granted, it reminded me of when we used to live in Tiffin with the water softener and you could barely get any suds off your bar of soap, but even the next day I felt good.
It's on a narrow road. Parking for 3 cars. Be careful.

Friday, September 23, 2005

3-day weekend:Hot Springs Galore

Mom is back in Kagoshima so it's just Jude and dad for 3 days. We started our 3 day weekend off with a trip to the "secret onsens" up in the mountains.
Hebin Yu

This is the "secret" all-natural onsen furthest back in the woods. It is right next to a crytsal clear brook. In fact, I think Jude liked playing in the river, more than sitting in the hot spring. hebin-yu1
It was very clear for being out in the "wild" and quite relaxing with the nature all around. But you can't really get clean out here. Just come for the soaking experience.
Here is the bath
And the sign. These photos are proof that we went, and we can exchange them for stamps in our Spaports.

Tsuru no Yu
The other secret onsen. Well it was hard enough to get Jude to leave the first place. On the way I realized it was almost 1:30 PM so I busted out the lunch I packed and Jude and I scarfed it down in the car on the side of the road.
This onsen is located just beyond a giant graveyard. We parked in the graveyard and nonchalantly walked past the parking lot attendant. The stream coming into and out of the tub area is white with sulfur. And hot! Jude put his feet in but we didn't do much else here. If you like em HOT, you should come check it out.

The white stream
Jude's foot bath
The sign: our proof for the Spaport

Art Hotel Ishimatsu
So after our eventful day in the mountains, we stopped by a playground on the way home. there was a giant fort with slides and ropes. To make a long story short, Jude fell off the top and I ran him to the hospital, but he was OK. In fact he started running circles around the chairs in the waiting room. Thank god! So we went home and took a late nap. I then proceded to cook dinner. After we ate, we were both in need of a good washing. I chose Art Hotel Ishimatsu from the photo in my book. Took Jude out in his training pants and he peed in his car seat. Ooops!The entrance was all decked out with "artsy" bamboo objets, but once you got into the hotel is was just a regular old hotel. The bath was old but not too bad. Spacious and hot indoor bath. A semi-outdoor bath (covered but open sides). Jude loved the water bath. He splashed away and laughed. I was happy he was Ok after his fall. But the biggest news today was Jude's mishap at the shower. As I said, he peed in his car seat. he then peed in the shower. That is forgivable for a 2 year old. As I soaped up, I saw him sqaut and thought, "You just peed, kid" Only then to see it come out from under him. "Daddy, poop." What can I do? I did what any self respecting citizen would do and played it cool. Turned the shower on high and washed that shit right down the drain, only hoping the other 2 old guys in the bath wouldnt notice, and hoping nothing chunky would remain in the drain. That was a first. Shh! Don't tell.

So with our semi-marathon today, we have achived Level 4 on our road to onsen mastery. Now at 34 onsens, we have 54 to go.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Ichi-no-Hara Onsen(市の原温泉)

A very simple concrete hole in the fround with hot water in it. Not your average tourist attraction. What can I say, the book hailed it as the king of the B- class hot springs.
The buidling (aka shack)
Post-bath Jude
An old billboard (perhaps for fermented soy beans)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sesseki Onsen(セッ石温泉)

A 150 yen onsen on the grounds of an old shrine. Kinda spooky at night with fox statues (conniving shape changers in Japanese mythology)and stray cats, and even spookier when you go in. Put your money inthe box. There is no one there. There was a navy calendar. Shinto was the state-sponsored religion during Japan's imperial times, still a very nationalistic bent to it. Kinda scary. Then the scariest part was the onsen with bits of skin and hair floating in it. Like I said, there is a big difference between the 800 yen bath and the 100 yen class, although sometimes the cheap ones will suprise you. needless to say we made it a quick trip tonight. Went home feeling not so clean. had a popsicle to forget about it. One more stamp in the book, at least.


Today Jude woke up from his PM nap early so we set out to catch an onsen that closes early, one we couldnt normally hit in the evening after dinner.
I drove to one place but the parking lot was full and we missed closing time. It was a little inn that specializes in food steamed with the hot spring steam (super hot steam full of mineral. Delcious and healthy). Called the next joint, Kannawa-en. We were in time. So I sped up the hill trying not to hit pedestrians and pulled in to the parking lot. The grounds are hige will koi ponds and Japanese landscaping. It was an old inn they revamped. It is pretty classy. Now the coolest thing is that the onsen itself looks baby blue because it is full of silicon which reflects blue. I had seen it on the local walking tour and today we finally got to check it out.
It is 800 yen for adults and 400 for kids. A bit pricey, but once you go there you realize the difference between and 800 yen onsen and one that costs 100. This place is designed for pure relaxation. Jude liked it too.
By the way, that is Jude giving a peace sign. Can't get the other finger up yet.
After our soak, we went in and go changed. THe sign said don't take a shower because it will wash off the silicon, which is good for the skin. oops, i was already dressed when I read that. Jude meanwhile lounged on a huge bamboo chair.
Reminds me of that Tom Petty video with all the huge furniture and Alice in Wonderland type charcters.
On a final note, I hereby declare this as the best onsen in Beppu (as of Sept 18). There are still a few that might top it but I better start saving my money to get into those places.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Yu no Sato (湯の里)

This is th biggest, most famous onsen in the Myoban area. Myoban is on the mountain near the actual source of the hot springs. Very sulfury and very hot. The outdoor bath was cool enough due to the chilly night air. Very nice water. Smooth on the skin and people will wonder why I smell like sulfur tomorrow at the graduation ceremony.
We had a 100 yen off coupon so me and Jude got in for 500 yen. Not bad.

On the way home I heard the FM Oita radio ad calling for theme songs so I came home and dug throught the music I made way back in the day in Osaka, made a little MD and sent it off. Might be my big break. Ha ha! The net says they will play your song and then invite you to perform on the show. Problem is, I havent practiced guitar since 02 and couldnt repeat my performance w/o a recording. Ha ha!

A coment on comments

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Future Onsen Master

Korean BBQ Keisho-an(焼肉慶松庵)

So, Jude and I tried to go to the el-cheapo onsen right across the road from the dumpy hotel we went to last time. I parked in some other hotel's lot and immediately a crusty old guy comes motoring up on a moped, "You can't park here." I feigned ignorance of the sign, but quickly left. Winding through the narrow streets behind the station, I tried to find another el-cheapo onsen I had passed once, but it was dark and before Iknew it we were heading up the hill away from the station. So Plan C was the BBQ restaurant in the Kankaiji district. I had my doubts about the onsen, I mean it's a BBQ joint. But I was pleasantly suprised. It was a little wooden structure (recently redone) with a bath that could handle about 10 people. All made of volcanic boulders. Very cool. And we happened to be the only ones there so even better. Not too hot and very soothing water. It had the faintest hint of sulfur and you could see the sulfur crusties on the side of the tub. Those are ok. Not like mildew or anything. We had a nice bath and afterwards, Jude insisted on pushing the ink stamp into the spaport. needless to say he left very clean except for the purple ink on his hands. ha ha.
There are actually quite a few places in Beppu where you can eat then grab an onsen. There is even a ramen noodle joint with its own onsen. We will have to check that one out some night.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Business Hotel Matsumi (ビジネスホテル松美)

Looking for a place open late, Jude and I went here. In Japan "business hotels" are the equivalent of an American motel. Bare essentials. So for a motel it had a nice natural hot spring. The faucet was shaped like a lions head and Jude thought that was cool. Never mind the mildew on the ceiling or the broken showerhead that scalded me. But on the road to onsen mastery, not all is pretty. It wasn't the worst, but it's definitely no tourist attraction.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Ogura Yakushi Onsen Oka no Yu(小倉薬師温泉丘の湯)

A small public bath with a long name. It wa 100 yen and very nicely kept up. I think the local municipal volunteers run it. right next to a shrine to a famous guy called Yakushi something. I need to figure what he did cuz his name is everywhere.
There was no stamp at the onsen so I went to the litle shop donwn the street where it was housed. A nice old lady came out and talked to us and gave Jude snacks. Bonus!
Parking can be troublesme at busy times and the water temp flucuates so be careful. But good to get the neighborhood feeling, not like the big all-purpose places (but very clean, I must stress)

We have now completed 25 hot springs. That is 3 levels down, 8 to go. Rock and roll! Winter will be upon us soon and I bet we'll knock em down in no time.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Hotel Fugetsu-Hammond(ホテル風月HAMMOND)

This is the hotel run by my friend Mr. Kai. Been meaning to go here for ages now, but it is only open until 8:30 PM to the general public. Used my 100 yen off ticket to get in for 400 yen. Jude and I had the tub to ourselves. Slightly hot but Jude liked getting out of the hot water and into the cold bath over and over. I like the push-button vibra-bath. Tonight we met Ms. Kim, the Korean intern at the hotel. She fell in love with Jude so I made him blow her a kiss when we left.
This hotel is the first where I saw directions in English on how to take a bath the Japanese way (rinse first, soak, get out and soap up, rinse off and soak again etc). Mr. Kai knows how to cater to foreign guests.
There is a big parking lot and if you are too late for the hotel bath, you can go to the public bath next door. It's open till 1 AM. It is also run by the hotel. See my earlier post on Yumetamatebako.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


Well, theses onsens won't count toward our 88 goal because they are the places we frequented when we went back to mom's hometown. But just to let you know that we were still enjoying the wonders of hot water there too.

Located directly behind Kirishima Onsen Station just over the Makizono border in Yokogawa town. They will all merge in Nov. so it doesn't matter. Jude went here twice with grandma. Loved it. Dad has tried to go here twice but it was closed on both occasions so I can't give you a real play by play, but if you ever take the train to Makizono, this is the first onsen once you get off.

Iwaibashi Onsen
This is mom and dad's favorite onsen in Makizono. Run by the Maruno family. It is rustic and the water has some soothing soft magical quality. The outdoor bath is always on the lukewarm side and perfect for little tikes. Jude loved it. Loved it even more when it started raining.We were lucky to get in the tub before a whole high school basketball team showed up.

Sunset Resort
This is not technically an onsen. It was the big indoor bath at the hotel we stayed in on Tokunoshima, a sub-tropical island just north of Okinawa. It was very clean with many tubs to choose from. Jude liked the vibra-bath with all the bubble making jets, and he loved the water bath. He is not phased by jumping into a bath full of cold water, and he won't come out. He is a stronger man than I. I had to keep him away from the electric bath. Yes, it is a tub with live outlets in the sides that give you mild shocks while you bathe. You know that feeling when you lick a 9 volt battery. It' like that all over your body. I don't know whose bright idea that was but I avoid those baths. I stuck my hand in, but that was enough. Jude successfully peed in the outdoor bath. Dont' tell anyone.

Here is Jude and I in the ocean in Tokunoshima. He loves the waves!!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Ryokan Miyukiya(旅館みゆき屋)

Drove all over the Kannawa district trying to find an onsen open past 8:30 PM. Called one place and got detailed directions only to get lost on a road that barely held my car. It was dark and Jude had fallen asleep so I drove aimlessly down the main road until I came across a place with an actual parking lot: Miyuki-ya.

This place was a traditional Japanese style inn. Lots of wood, rustic. There were old postcards of Beppu in the loby. Very cool indeed to see the old steamships on the bay. The old guy at the counter was nice as could be. Only 500 yen for the 2 of us to have a n outdoor bath all to ourselves. It turns out all the baths here were family baths. You get an hour and you dont have to worry about other patrons gettin in your way.
It was very clean and the water was mineraly. Quite nice. Lots of basins and shower faucets for Jude to play with, too. The bath had some "aloe salt" that you were free to use but I didnt feel like reading the explicit instructions on a fading piece of paper so I opted not to use those.
When we finished, the old guy showed us where to stamp our spaports and he gave Jude some bubbles. He was pumped, thought he would get to blow some bubbles. But dad burst his instead...Sorry bud. I parked in front of a Coke machine and bought a Lemon Coke before getting into the car. Jude spotted me and cried that he only had water in his cup. I burned rubber outta there and took him home. Mommy was in the onsen when we got back so he cried for her. I recognized the tiredness in his cry, quickly brushed his teeth and put him down.
A good onsen was had by all.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Hyotan Onsen(ひょうたん温泉)

Jude is back in town so we did our first onsen in a month. The Hyotan Onsen just reopend after rennovations. I had always meant to go there and since I heard it had been refurbished I figured now was better than ever.
I checked the prices and prepared a pocket full of change to cover the 700 yen fee for me and the 200 fee for children under five. When I entered I found that adults are 550 after 6 pm and kids under 3 are free. A very good start.
After paying, we walked thru a courtyard which serves as a beer garden into the bathing area. It was HUGE. There was a rock bath, 2 banks of showers (about 20 showers each), a cypress bath (great aroma), a little bath shaped like a hyotan (gourd) a giant outdoor bath, and about 20 waterfall baths. These are high pressure streams of water that you let pound your shoulders and they feel great. Jude's fave was the Pebble bath. A narrow strip of a bath that you walk thru. it was bout 20 yards long and the bottom was covered in pebbles to give you a foot massage as you walked. We did about 20 round-trips through that thing. Jude also liked putting his plastic elephant watering can under the waterfall. I couldn't get him out of there!
They had a nice ice-cold water fountain in the dressing room which I liked to drink and Jude like to turn on and off.
I missed a work party here the other night, but I would like to come back and go for dinner and a bath here sometime. It is the perfect place to take company to. Anyone gonna be in town?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


While Jude was away, I sent our Spaports to the Tourism Bureau to certify our bathing adventures thus far. By the end of July we had hit 21 onsens which qualifies us for Level 2, the white towel. We also got official stamps in our spaports and official looking certificates. Each level authorization costs 500 yen (4.50) in postage stamps, so it's not much for something so fun. I figure we won't have to "get" every level, but I'll try to get the different colored towels (i think there are 4) at least. If I had a scanner, I 'd show you our stuff, but for now I'll leave it up to your imagination.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Summer Break

Jude is at grandma's for the summer. We're just gonna have to wait until it cools down to enjoy any more hot springs. We'll have to do some catching up this winter :)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Yu no Mori Tanimoto(湯の杜たにもと)

Our first onsen in a while. The rain cooled things off tonite so we decided to go out for a change (and give Shiho a break)!
This is a little inn just off the highway, but you'd never know it. Very quiet. It's actually right next to the Kyushu University Botanical Research Labs where they use hot spring water to grow exotic plants. You can see the steam rising from the greenhouses.
Anyway, this little darkly lit inn actually had 2 baths which you paid 500 yen to get one all to yourself (Jude cost 300). They were pristine wooden baths, very deep with adjustable water temps (good for little ones). the outside bath had great atmosphere but it was a bit too hot. Jude said Ouch! then bye-bye and went back inside. When we left he said, "bye-bye onsen, bye-bye ouch" Ha ha! he found squishing the bars of soap to be too much fun.
the old dude that was manning the counter informed us that this place is expenise 20,000 per person and up a night. That is nearly 200 bucks a person. But I bet it's a real treat. I'd love to take Shiho there someday.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Long time, no post

I must apologize, but it is just too damn hot to go in the hot springs lately. We had some rain cool things down today, so maybe we'll go tonight. It all depends on if I get my butt out of the recliner after I sit in it...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A regular old bath

We were tired and stayed home. Jude didnt seem to mind the "boring" old bathtub.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

Netsu no Yu Onsen(熱の湯温泉)

Ok, I should have been more wary of a place that calls itself "Heat Hot Spring," but we got lost looking for a different onsen and the road dumped me off int the neighborhood...
It was hot, yes! And we ran out of soap (bummer). I had enough to do Jude but I could't put him in the tub. Very hot! And slippery. All said, it was 100% free so I shouldn't complain. It was very popular with the locals, but we had to leave cuz Jude wanted to run and it was slippery in there.
Also, there was no stamp for our spaport... I wonder if someone absconded with it. I took a photo with my cell phone but it ended up all blurry.
Next time I won't be so cheap...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Chanko Yoshiba(チャンコ吉葉)

This was a hotel/restaurant/onsen in one. It was founded by a former Oseki (that's 3rd after Yokozuna and something else)sumo wresteler whose name I could not decipher. The restaurant serves "chanko," the food of sumo wrestlers. It is basically a hodge-podge of anything and everything from veggies to seafood. I've never actually had it because t is full of things I can't eat, namely shrimp. But in any case, that's how sumo get fat. It's not McDonalds and steaks. Just lots of shrimp and rice.

Ok enough backround. The bath was on the fourth floor overlooking the ocean. Would've been beautiful in the daytime I reckon. the water was not too hot, borderline lukewarm. Good for Jude. We came in as a couple people went out so we had the whole bath to ourselves. Had to stop jude from drinking the water and spitting it out. "We only do that at home, Jude" Probably never should've started that game at home...

It is right on Route 10. Easy access if you are travelling south, buy you'll need to do a U-turn somewhere or pray that you can cross 3 lanes of traffic to get in. Plenty of parking. Y300. Very reasonable.

They had the "Onsen Karute" or the diagnostic chart designed by the Tourism Bureau up on the wall. I'd like to get a shot of one of these to put on the website. Gives detailed info on where the spring originates, temperature, if they add water to the original spring and why etc. In Japan, you only need one drop of natural spring water to call it a "hot spring," so this system aims to clarify the contents of the bath and give the user the "real deal" as opposed to bunch of hot water from the tap.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Takenoi Hotel (竹ノ井ホテル)

Grandma U. was up from Kagoshima and Jude was so psyched. We did lunch and went a got some mountain spring water (My fave place around here, will blog more in detail with pix later). After some heavy-duty playing at the house, we went downtown to the hotel district and used a 100 yen off coupon to get in.
The clerk said all are rooms are full so the bath is bound to be busy. It was on the 8th floor. Jude went in with grandma and they had spectacular views of Beppu Bay. I went it by myself for the first time in a long time. After teh 2 guys in there left, it was the whole bath to myself. Everyone must've been at dinner. Good timing. The indoor bath was a comfy 40 degrees C, the "outdor" bath was actually enclosed with an open window. 2 baths, one very shallow. the other deep. U got nice views of the city along Route 10 with the misty mountains in the back. The view out the other windwow was of tokiwa department store and other hotels. Not too great. But the sound of traffic while I bathed was a different experience, and not all that bad.
They had a cooler of ice cold "mugi-cha," wheat tea outside which really hit the spot.
Tonite was a good bath. And a different experience from all the local historic joints we've been hitting. All things in moderation, I suppose. St. Paul was wise.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Jude's Thoughts


Horita Onsen(堀田温泉) Again

I went here because Jude couldnt make it last time. It has been bothering me actually. I went to the bath and he ended up waking up crying for Daddy.
this time around we got to go in the other bath (they rotate the men's and the women's baths). It is a mirror image, but feels like you've come to a whole new onsen. I like places that rotate their baths.
Jude thought the inside bath was a wee bit hot, but he loved the outside bath. Hard to keep him from splashing about!
After the bath we tried to catch some fireflies at Mugen no Sato, but there wern't many out. They say the typhoons ruined this year's "crop."
Now our spaports are literally on the same page. We have both made it thru 17 onsens. Wow. that's 2 levels already. after 24 baths we move into the next color level, "green."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Nagaishi Onsen(永石温泉)

Got lost trying to find the onsen furthest away from the house. Tried to be adventuresome... But found a nice old fashioned wooden bathhouse. Brazenly parked illegally in front of the onsen and got an earful from the lady working the counter when we got out of the bath. Needless to say, there is no parking. But it was a nice "historic" bath. 100 yen.
Then onsens on the other side of town are cheap. Watch out for more "adventures"

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Nabeyama -yu(銅山湯)

Secret Hot Spring Volume 1
When we first started this onsen tour, I began looking for the cheap onsens. I came across 3 that were listed as free and 24 hrs. Upon closer inspection, I came to find out why: these were "secret onsens." Not all that secret, but off the beaten path, I guess a better term would be "all-natural." It just sounded so intriguing.

So it was nice Saturday afternoon, not too hot , not too cold, not too sunny and not too windy. I took Jude and we were off! After inspecting the map, I found that the onsen weren't that far off the actual road, and the road there was nicely gravelled. (I have been on worse driveways back in the US). Jude and parked on the side of the road and started hoofing it. Met some nice ladies who were picking berries and fern frawns.
The road wound up the valley with Mt Ogiyama across the way (this photo)

A little further up and the road ended at a big-ass boulder. Remind me not to come here when the weather is bad. This was the entrance.Got a pic of Jude there for posterity.DSC02432

From here you follow a sulfur orange stream up the hill to where the onsen is. It is called Nabeyama-yu, or "pot(i.e. pots and pans)-mountain spring." The landscape stars looking like Mars (see below) and it smells of rotten eggs, but in a good way...

The actual bath is well kept. Got some good people in Beppu. There is a tube of water too for those who like their baths lukewarm. Our original plan was "feet only," but Jude soon got himself all wet so I let him in all the way.

And he is well self-censored to boot.
Since there are no stamps here, a photo will suffice as proof that you were here for the 88 onsen rally. I think this photo will work nicely.
There is also a natural mud bath here. I took a photo only, but would like to come back someday and try it out. It seemed popular with all the old dudes who were there. DSC02437

So we had a good day. We were gonna try to get to another "secret" onsen , but were quite tucked out after our hike. next time I'm gonna take the car rigtht up as close as we can get. May not be the most environmental of options, but it sure beats carrying a tired wet kid out of the woods.
I must say this place was great. Good for all you motocyclist types. Tear up in your dirt bike, get naked, have a mud bath, tear home.
I was overwhelmed by the "green-ness" of Mt. Ogiyama. This is the mountain they burn every spring in a ritual festival. Got a snap of the car barely visible in the sea of green. DSC02439
Today's adventure was "excellent!" I can't wait to go back and find the other 2 "secret" onsens on the list.

Friday, June 03, 2005


Another HOT Kamegawa onsen. This one is right across the road from Shiho's fave Japanese sweets store. I park in their lot when I'm in this area and always buy something for Mommy on the way home.
Nice people in the tub tonite. A very local joint. tonite really made me realize that before tourism, Beppu's onsen are really a local resource. you can tell these people come here every day. It's that kind of place. A good vibe.
And cheap: Y100, 50 for Jude. And the old lady at the window gave us candy on the way out.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Status Report-May 2005

Onsens Entered:
Joel 14
Jude 13
Onsens Left:
Joel 74
Jude 75

Best 3: Mugen no Sato, Takegawara Onsen, Shinoyu Onsen
(But I might change my mind)

Ekimae Koto Onsen(駅前高等温泉)

Literally translated this is the "in front of the station high quality hot spring." It is, as you may have guessed, right down the road from Beppu station. It is old and historic. All the parades go down this street, and a lot of Beppu walking events start here (and perhaps end here with a nice bath).

The changing room was a little room, then a steep flight of stairs led down to the bath. There was a hot bath which was rather hot. Jude said "ouch!" and kind of hidden under the staircase was a second warm bath. It was perfect for Jude! He got in and splashed away.

When we got in there tonight we were the only ones in there so I got a pic of the actual bath.

I liked this bath. This was the first onsen I passed when I came up here for my interview and the old style architecture caught my eye.I've been wanting to check it out for a while. I enjoyed the atmosphere. They actually have rooms upstairs for short stays.

Got a shot of Jude after the bath outside. I read in the paper that some APU students are running a cafe in front of the onsen on weekends to raise funds for the onsen. It's part of their marketing class. Community interaction is always good.

There is a trickle of hot spring water coming put of that rock formation. The sign on top of it list all the ailments the hot water is supposed to be good for. It was an extensive list inclduing: neurological disorders, diabetes, and mild burns.

hey, it made me feel better. try it!

Monday, May 30, 2005

Beppu-Wan Royal Hotel(別府湾ロイヤルホテル)

Shiho was here earlier in the day to hear a speech my a fitness guru named Duke something. Here is a pic of Jude by the pool.

Later that night we used tickets Shiho's friend gave us to experience the bath. Like many big hotels, the indoor bath was a bath (not a natural spring). It was and very clean, if perhaps a bit chlorine stinky. If you are really into clean, then this is the joint for you. Imagine a very hot swimming pool (except shallow). The onsen outside was nice too. As with most hotels, you get access to massage chairs and video games in the bath lobby. Jude loved the Anpanman ride, until we put money in it and it actually started moving...

A nice change, but not as "real" as the rinky dink family owned type onsens.

On Hiatus

Not sure if it is onsen related, but Jude caught a little cold and we are on onsen hiatus. It's Monday and I'm off to work and I must say my throat is scratchy and I think I got what Jude had.
In any case, we have achieved our quota for May (11 onsens). I have set our goal for December of this year.

Friday, May 27, 2005


Jude and I went to Yama-no-Yu last night. It was not as sulfur-y and stinky, or as hot, as I thought it may be. But is was nice. We were the only ones there. I guess everyone else hit the hotels for 260 yen baths.
It was rustic, log cabin type of place with a balcony and a gorgeous view of the city. It was a bit chilly up on the hill, but hey, that doesn't really matter when you're in a tub full of hot water.
After the bath, Jude and I drove up to the Jumonjibaru lookout to catch a better view of Beppu. It was dark out and the city lights on the bay were great. You get a good view of APU from there too. So Jude and I practiced saying "APU." He can't get it in one go, but if you do it one letter at a time he can say it. Very cute.

Hope to get some photos in here soon. Hang on a bit, please.
I have started working on the Japanese version of this site. I can assure you I don't ramble so much in a foreign language.

My Impressions of Myoban

Last night was Furo-no-hi, that is to say it was the 26th day of the month. By reading the characters differently, i.e., furo, it has the same pronunciation as the word for, get this "bath."
AS such, a group of hotels in Beppu got together to do a Furo-no-hi campaign. On the 26th day of every month, you can enter the baths at a variety of hotels for a mere 260 yen ($2.50). The lower average price is about 500 yen, so it's a good deal.
So I called the most expensive hotel in town to see if they were doing cheap baths and they weren't, so I gave up. Yes, I know I give up too quickly, but in any case I will take advantage of the bathing day, maybe next month.

So Jude and I went to the Myoban Hot Springs area way up on the hill. The onsens their are strong sulfur stinking ones. When you drive up the hill there are signs that say "No gawking." I can't think of a better translation. It's a warning sign that tells you not to stare at the scenery while you drive. And it's a winding road and if you did do that (No I never have : o )you might wreck. There is also a yellow road sign with a picture of steam on it. Warning; Hot Spring Steam. Because when that stuff is really belching out, it can be thick. Maybe not so hard to see the road, but you get easily ditracted. Plus it's really hot and stinky and if you stopped off to check it out you might get burned.

There are also som little thatched cottage looking things up here where they harvest sulfur crust from the hot vapor vents. They package these into bathing powders so you can have a stinky sulfur bath in the comfort of your own home. I love sulfur!

Somewhere around here are some "secret baths (秘湯)." They aren't all that secret but they are naturally occuring hot springs. Not like the local bathhouse. These are in the woods, on the river. I've been to a place like this in Kagoshima. It is very cool to wade in a warm river. You have to be careful of hot spots and gas vents tho. I actually remember crawling over the barricade that said "Danger: Poisonous Gases" to get into the one in Kagoshima. I'm still alive. I want to go here. And the cool thing is since you cannout get your Spaport stamped in the middle of the woods, you have to take a photo to prove you were there. Then the tourism bureau will "OK" your bath and give you a stamp at the office.

Maybe I can go find one this weekend.

I was on the official "Way of the Hot Springs" website today. The campaign started in 2001 and the first "master" did 88 hot springs in 4 days! Is that nuts or what. Every year they have a festival and during that festival a number of people see if they can do 88 in a week. I guess it gets addicitive.

Don't worry, I can quit anytime.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

No Gangstas Allowed!

For those of you who aren't familiar with Japan, you often find signs like these at nicer baths.

No Gangsters
Literal translation(for the 'funny' effect): "People with tattoos, very drunk persons, and gang members may cause an inconvenience to the other customers and shall be refused entry."

Traditional organized crime in Japan is called the yakuza. They often have full back tattoos that easily set them apart from the rest of society. You can also pinpoint them if they are missing joints of their pinky finger.

Although Jude may seem "very drunk," I can promise you he isn't. ; )


Tonight Jude and I aimed for Hotel Fugetsu because it is near the house and I know the owner. Met him at a shindig for a local politician. But when we showed up, the staff said "If you don't have a ticket, please use the hot spring next door." Same owners but aimed toward the onsen-only crowd. So we went.

And it was quite nice. The bath was spacious with several options: jet bath, vibra bath (like extra jet bath), cypress bath (tub made of cypress with a wonderful smell), and a nice outdoor bath with the massaging waterfalls (These are called "utaseyu," or beating hot water). and lest we forget the water bath (ice cold), the sauna, and the electric bath (yes , you heard me right). There are outlets on the inside of the tub to provide a mild electric tingly sensation while you bath. If you ever licked a 9 volt battery as a kid, think of that feeling all over your body.

Anyway, this was a very nice and clean bath. I saw staff actively cleaning the changing room and checkin the temperture of the water. My only "complaint" would be that the baths had hot spots in them, so you had to be careful where you sat.

One last thing, there was a TV in the bath! I have never seen this before. And the bath right in front of the TV has a nice slanted wooden side for you to lounge on as you watch TV.

This bath is open until 2 am, and 24 hrs before Saturdays and holidays. That is unusually late, and nice to remember the next time I need a midnight bath.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Kanpo no Yado - Kainanso (かんぽの宿ー海南荘)

May 24

The Kanpo no Yado's are a national chain of quasi-governmental inns. They were built with public pensions money and as such, they offer a wide array of services for very reasonable prices.
The bath had an indoor onsen, and outdoor onesen and an indoor jet bath. Jude loved that one . He kept announceing "Bubbles!" loudly. He likes bubbles.
I enjoyed the push-button waterfall massage outside, but Jude did not care for it.
This place is close and cheap (Y300). A nice time was had by all.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

First Level Achieved! 一段達成!

Originally uploaded by L Wrong Hubbard.
Having bathed at 8 onsens, Jude and I have now earned the opportunity to get our "white towel," the first level on the Way of the Onsen. Now to stop by the tourism bureau to authorize our level. And we don't have to break boards or bricks or anything!

Only 80 more baths to go.
Until we become "Hot Spring Masters"

Who knew gettin clean could be so fun?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Jude, After Bath (May 23-Shinoyu Onsen Park)

Jude, After Bath
Originally uploaded by L Wrong Hubbard.
Jude says, "Ah, this juice sure hits the spot after bathing, then falling in the bath and crying, and then calming down after promises of popsicles."

Shinoyu Onsen (四の湯温泉)

I had this joint scouted out for over a week now. We had company on the weekend so Jude and I bathed at home for a few days. Now back to the 88 challenge!
This a nice local joint in the Kamegawa area. The building is old, but not run down. Makes for a historic feel. The other bathers were nice, too. Personally, I liked the blue tiles in the tub. Makes it feel a lot like, well, a bath. And at 100 yen, the price is nice. Poor guy at the window got a handful of 5 and 1 yens from my stingy ass. Saving my big coins!

Jude met a little girl who was 2 yrs old. I had a nice chat with the dad.
Jude fell down and hurt his bottom. Dad needs to be more vigilant. Sorry little buddy: (

I had a hard time finding parking so I parked at the hospital. Excuse my brash disregard for harmony in Japanese society.

Shinoyu Sign

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Mugen no Sato(夢幻の里)

So we went back to that tiny road after confirming that yes that was the right road (Damn! I shoulda kept driving last night), and drove down and it widened out nicely and around the bend, tucked away in the valley was Mugen no Sato.

The building was nice. Good first impression. And the lady charged us less than what I expected. Bonus. We had to check our soap and shampoo at the door, though. The place is famous for its fireflies and you can only use the eco-soap provided so as not to kill the firefly larvae in the river. Ok, no biggie.

The onsen was an outdoor bath. right in the forest. You could hear the river. It was nice, slightly sulphuric, very relaxing. We must've went on a good day cuz it was just us for most of the duration. Jude enjoyed dumping water from basin to basin. Some flowers had fallen in to the bath to add to the ambiance. A nice time was had by all.

When we got out we asked about the fireflies but they don't seem to be in season yet. I will have to go back and check it out. Now that I know how to get there : )

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Hotel Oishi(ホテル大石)

So after falling in love with Horita, I decided to head back that way and look for the elusive Mugen no Sato (Friends recommended it as the "best onsen in Beppu). I got up off the main road and followed my map and was in the exact right spot, but I swear the road in front of me could not hold a bicycle, let alone my car. It was dark and I doubted my map-reading skills.
So Jude and I headed homeward. On the way, we stopped at Hotel Oishi.
After paying at the front desk, you go back outside and head next door. There you follow a yellow painted line under the building. It's like a fallout shelter, but with cute grade school kids' drawings on the wall. When you finally emerge a few hundred feet later, you're in a weird late 60s style series of outdoor baths that look like the set from Planet of the Apes. Lots of cement boondoggles here: man-made caves. And they call them cave spas. It was neat until I got in too far and found old leaves and mosquitoes in the corner. So we got out and went into another bath. It was slippery (the signs claim that it was from the mnerals in the water, but I doubt that) and there were pipes and valves in the tub. Had to be careful not to stub your toes. Jude liked running around and getting into one bath and out and into another. And the water was a nice temperature. The hotelman was a nice guy that led us thru the bunker into the Planet of the Apes caves but I must say I don't recommend this place.
Better try to find Mugen no Sato tomorrow

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Horita Onsen(堀田温泉)

SO today I loaded Jude in the car and decided to go to Kanpo no Yado, a nice little multipurose complex built using public pension funds. (hmmm, I though pensions were for our future). But when we arrived, Jude had passed out because he hadn' t had his nap.
SO I tried to wake him no avail. I took him home and Mommy came to get him and I decided to go a little farther afield: Horita.
Horita has the subtle smell of sulphur that I just dig. And the place (another city-run job) is brand new and gorgeous. Barrier free and oh so clean. I really enjoyed the outdoor bath.
It turns out however, that Jude woke up and he was mad that I left him at home. Sorry little dude : (
We'll continue this quest together from now on.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Hamada Onsen(浜田温泉)

This was 100 -yen onsen but clean and well kept. It is run by the city and it's on a little back alley across the main drag from Kamegawa Station. Jude and I liked this one. Nicely hot ( but not too hot) and a friendly lady at the counter.
Tonight I started bringing juice. Got to replenish them fluids right away. Mom had popsicles waiting for us, too. Now Jude has tasted how good good can be.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


I pass this onsen on my way to work everyday.
And I always noticed the historical marker sign.
So I went. Had to buy some cakes at the cake store to use their parking lot, but then Jude and I walked over. The price for the onsen is "some odd change," so I put in 200 yen and walked in.
The place is old, like historic, ancient old, and so were the men bathing there. There is barely enough room to get undressed. The bath itself is about 2 tatami mats wide (2m x3 m). A very local bath. And hot! This was the hottest yet. Jude just had to get in, but he didnt last long. The old guys were leery at first, but they warmed up to us. And vice versa. Jude sat and splashed on the sidelines for most of our stay. too hot.
After every onsen, I ask jude "How was it?" Good ?" And he'll either say "unn" or "yes" or he won't respond. I take that as a no. Tonight he said "ouch."
It 's no place for little ones, but stop by to get some history. I actually didn't stop to read the historic marker. I guess I was more amazed at the entrance/altar (with little buddhas)/money box. It's pay what you want.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Mikaeri Onsen(みかゑり温泉)

tonight's spa was a little closer to home. I had passed the sign so many times that is was a logical choice to help kick off the onsen tour.
The onsen actually consists of 2 indoor baths an 4 or 5 outdoor baths. I think you have to pay the family price to check out the other baths. There is a nice courtyard where you can relax and there's even a seesaw and sliding board for the kids. Too bad Jude noticed that AFTER bathing. Will have to come back and let him play first. There are also lots of fish in little fish tanks in the reception area. Jude liked that.
I think I would like to take guests here. Local atmosphere, clean, good for kids, and reasonably priced at Y300.

(Going down the Kannawa-sen route 218 toward central Beppu, turn right up the hill right before Cosmos drug store. There is plenty of parking)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Takegawara Onsen (竹瓦温泉)

Takegawara Onsen
This is the grand-daddy of all Beppu's onsens. It is old, it is charming and it is right in the heart of the red-light district. But other than that, it is downright cool. The staff are friendly and this place has been around for ages. You can feel the history.
Now the water was quite hot so Jude had a tough time getting comfy, but there is a big lobby and he really enjoyed running around in there.
We bought a Gatorade there. Gotta love globalization.

Monday, May 09, 2005

1 down, 87 to go

Jude and I in post-initial-onsen celebration.
A Well Deserved Popsicle


Our first onsen on our Beppu challenge was Rakurakuen.
Located in the heart of Kannawa, it took me 3 tries to find it. It happens to be right behind the Everyone convenience store on the Kannawa-sen road.
It was rustic to say the least, but I (I think Jude was too) was ready to do Beppu's onsens, or at least 88 of them.
Ok, this place was crusty. To top it off 2 tattooed yakuza came in and it was slightly uncomfortable. The outdoor bath was a nice temperature and Jude seemed to enjoy it. There was a nice old man there too.
There was a 蒸し湯 sauna too, but I didn't try it.
Better luck next time.

And we're off!

This is Jude and I with our Spaports ready to tackle Beppu one hot spring at a time.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Way of the Onsen(温泉道)

I have been living in the hot spring capital of Japan, Beppu, Oita Prefecture now for 8 months. I work at a local university turning Japanese into English everyday.
I had been mulling over my options. Should I go to B School? Should I get a job in Tokyo? Should I just give up and become and English teacher for life? Should I go back to the U.S.A. and start paying taxes again (I am officially expempt, mind you).
Oh decisions, decisions. I just didn't know what to do.
So I decided to

I realized I needed to slow things down, and more than that, I needed to spend more quality time with my son, Jude.

And then it came to me in the form of a $3 book.

The Way of The Hot Springs.

Get your "spaport" and make the rounds. Every 8 hot springs, you level up. It's like karate, except you just have to sit naked in hot water and relax. Go to 88 hot springs and you become an Hot Springs Master. Get a special black and gold towel and get your photo taken. You get to participate in the annual parade. And I can take Jude along and he'll have something tangible to prove that when he was a kid, he used to live in Beppu and that he is, indeed, a Hot Springs Master.

Herein, I shall detail my "hot springing" on a semi-daily basis. And I shall also provide resources on hot springs and the Beppu area. I also will provide access to information on the Kirishima Hot Springs (Makizono Town)in Kagoshima Prefecture (Where I used to live, and where I met my wife).