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!

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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.