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.
ekimae-1

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.
ekimae-2


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.
Jude-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

Yama-no-Yu(山の湯)

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. ; )

Yumetamatebako(夢たまてばこ)

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.
Yumenotamatebako

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!


macchioralph302hopt
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 up....to 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

Sujiyu(筋湯)

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

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

Rakurakuen(らくらくえん)

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.
Spaports

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
STOP

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).