Friday, December 29, 2006

One More Time

The NHK documentary that we "starred" in this summer is being re-broadcast by popular demand. If you missed it, don't miss it!

12/31/2006 5:10 AM
NHK Sogo TV
"Furusato Hatsu"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Joel's WORLDWIDE Debut

My worldwide debut is now available for all to see in 6 different languages. If this link gives you trouble, try accessing from the front page here.

This was produced by NHK International for the Japanese Foreign Ministry, who have distributed this to hundreds of Japanese embassies worldwide, in addition to providing the streaming link online.

How cool is that?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

TV Tokyo Clips on YouTube

JapanProbe has kindly posted some clips of my latest TV appearance doing guide work for the stars! Check out the YouTube clips!

thanks James!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Best Free Onsen

Kakujusen takes the cake. It was clean and the water, full of sulphur and what have you, felt great on the skin(if not so nice to the eyes).

The "secret onsen" up in the mountains are also pretty cool so I will give them an Honorable Mention here.


UPDATE: Access to these hot springs was suspended after a woman was murdered in one of them
(Click here for story)

Least Favorite Onsen

Even though some of the nicest people you will meet run these places, some pools of hot water are better left alone...

1.Tani no yu
Ancient cement structure with a spooky Amida Buddha statue and more mosquitos than you could shake a stick at.

2.Sesseki Onsen
Crusty bath inside a Shinto temple. This was probably the worst case of "floaties" that I can recall.

3. Netsu-no-yu Onsen
Free onsen, so I should have expected worse. Slimy, slippery and full of guys who I think were homeless.

4. Ichi-no-hara Onsen
This was one of the most bare bones onsen we went to. A cement hole in a dark wooden shack.

5. Rakuraku-en
This was the first one we did. Run down and dark, and fat gangsters in the tub.

Best Onsen Overall

Okay, I am going to start my rankings as they come to me. Nothing scientific or quantifiable here, just what I like (or don't). Some will be best 3, some best 5 and maybe some will be only one.

1. Kannawa-en Inn
The traditional gardens and the rare color-changing outdoor bath pretty much sealed this for me. I went last fall, but nothing topped it since.
UPDATE (2011): I am sad to hear that this place closed. It was truly legendary and I can only hope they don't turn it into a parking lot or something made of concrete.


2. Suginoi Palace
It costs a lot, but it is really worth it. Great view, incredibly clean and the variety of the baths make it a top ranking onsen. The only drawback other than price would be the faint smell of chlorine in the baths.


3. Mugen no Sato
A rustic outdoor bath that came highly recommended. I enjoyed the scenery and the location next to the river. The only problem is that so did the moths.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Beppu Hot Spring Masters 852 and 853

Today we took our Spaports, worn and torn Spaports that they are, down to the tourism bureau to become deemed Hot Spring Masters. (Onsen Meijin, in Japanese).



After paying the fee (1500 yen per person, up from 500 yen last year. Should've done this faster...), we received the coveted Master's black and gold towel. Maybe I can take this to a Steelers game when we go home next.


Here is's Jude's Master Certificate


Here is's Joel's Master Certificate


Now I want to say thank you very much to Jude. It has been a very fun 1 year and 3 months. In that time, we had fun --in clean baths and dirty ones -- and I got to watch you grow into a cool and funny young dude. Thanks to Mom and Baby Bro for coming along a couple times, and providing the support that 2 intrepid hot spring hoppers need. We love you.
Thank also, to everyone who has followed us in our quest. We have met our goal. Now to use up our remaining free tickets!
I will continue to post Joel's Hot Spring Rankings up on the blog so don't delete us from your Favorites just yet. And if you happen to live in or be coming through Beppu, I hope you will tune in here to get some onsen info.

Thanks everyone!
Hot Spring Master #852
Joel D.

Monday, July 24, 2006

#88: Suginoi Palace

WE decided to go out in style. I had been saving this onsen for last. It is the most expensive one on the tour at 2000 yen. The fact is, you can do 20 100-yen onsen for the same price, but I wanted 88 to be special. besides, Shiho won't come if I don't go somewhere nice.



Dad drives with skill and speed to Suginoi Palace (and damn that flash. Thought is was a cop car!) I took the back way, which I discovered getting lost going to a different onsen. You see, this tour has so many benefits.

They won't let you take pictures inside this onsen. It is on a cliff overlooking the city. It was fabulous. They call it "Tanayu," or terrace onsen, because there a several baths in terrace form. The variety is great. It really is fun. Check out their website.

Jude just loved running from bath to bath. I loved the view and the green tiled bath with jets in it. It was really the perfect way to cap off our tour.




So there, we did it! 88 onsen clear! We are heading off to get "dubbed" tomorrow.

Kannawa Tour on TV

For those of you in Japan, you can still catch re-runs of the NHK documentary that I was on in Hi Vision.
BS Hi-Vision TV
Monday, July 24 15:00 - 15:49
Wednesday, July 26 00:00 - 00:49 (in other words, late Tuesday)

The regular NHK broadcast has been postponed until
Sept. 3 (SUN) 10:00 -

Please tune in!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

86: Hotel Sansenkaku & 87: Hotel Seifu

It was a busy day today. We went down to Oita today to be on the radio again. This time my harmonica jam with the radio announcer was broadcast all over Oita Prefecture, well, at least to whoever was listening to AM radio between 11:00 and 11:50. It was fun. Then I took the family to lunch at a famous Beppu restaurant. It is famous for it's hibachi grills (the smoke from which fills the entire place so its like having a nice leisurely meal in a burning building).

So after lunch I took Jude out to do 2 onsen.

Hotel Sansenkaku
After several attempts at timing our trips to meet the 2 hour window for bath-only patrons, we finally got to use our free ticket for Sansenkaku.
The bath is up on the 9th floor so you can see all of Beppu's main drag, Route 10. The showers are right next to the windows so you can experience hot water and vertigo at the same time.
Jude enjoyed the showers and the bath was nice, to boot.

Hotel Seifu
We next made our way to Hotel Seifu. This hotel is famous for its staff that can do magic (I knew I'd forget to ask them!) We went into the outdoor bath today on the roof (8th floor). It had started to rain pretty hard today so we got to sit in the tub and get pounded with rain while staring at the ocean. Pretty cool. Jude got into a (hot) water pistol fight with another boy and they were having a good old time.


Oita is now gettin the mad rain that Kagoshima got yesterday. Kagoshima recorded over 1200 ml of rain in 4 days. Landslides and all kinds of mess. Everyone we know is OK, but I hope this passes. Rainy season doesn't want to end this year.

Tomorrow night, we will splurge on the biggest onsen water park in Beppu, Suginoi Palace, to mark out ascent to hot spring mastery. We might even get in the newspaper thanks to my hotel owner friend.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

#85: Beppu Nogami Honkan

This is an old ryokan (Japanese style inn) that dates way back to Beppu's heyday many, many years ago. The old dude at teh front desk was one of the most sincerely nice hotel guys I have met in a long time.
The bath is nice, but not too hot with a giant stone where the onsen drips down. It is covered in onsen minerals from over the years. I guess it is famous.
Jude had a good time in the bath playing with the showers. Jeff enjoyed a nice bath with mom.
This is the first time I 've been to the main entertainment district at night in a LONG time. Just smelling the alcohol and hearing the karaoke made me tired. I am getting old, but I don't mind.



This is me making sure we get all our stamps. 85 down. 3 to go

84: Yamada Besso



We had an appointment at 11:30 and the whole family decided to catch an onsen before that.
Yamada Besso was the only hotel open from 10:00 so that's where we went. The buidling is over 80 years old, which in Japan is pretty old considering the war and its aftermath. It was the coolest buidling I've been in in a long time. There was a western style sitting room with a giant Japanese tatami room. The woodwork was all original. Cool old hard-wood floors.
The area with the bath was an addition, but the bath itself was in an old half-basement . Old blue tiles. It looked like Brett's old house on Shady Ave in Pgh (If you happen to know Brett).
The onsen was very nice and they even lent us a baby bath for Jeff. The whole place was full of cool old antiques. The ancient scales in the bath still worked (Yup, I am still officially fat).
This is 500 for adults. Kids are free. I would highly recommend this place if you want to step back in time. If we move away, I think I would like to stay here whenever we come back to Beppu.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

82: Kurume Ramen's Minato Onsen / 83 Kitahama Onsen




Beppu is great because since it is the onsen capital of Japan, there are quite a few places that offer "X plus onsen." I have been to cafes with onsen and BBQ restaurants with onsen and candy stores with onsen.
Tonight was ramen and onsen. We noticed this place right after we moved here and it always struck us as funny. Well, last night depsite the puring rain, we all went out (Dad's treat). Jude ate a whole bowl of ramen, then he and I hopped in the onsen. It was small and rustic, basically a cememnt tub in a plywood shack, but it was well kept and cleaner than I had imagined.
It was nice and hot and the tube bringing in the hot water bubbled and burbled.

After this onsen, I promised to take Mommy and Jeff to a "nicer" onsen. We plunked down 500 yen each to get into Kitahama Onsen, otherwise know as Termas. It is a newish city-run joint. We showed up at 9:00 right before the cut-off entry time. As such, the public servant behind the counter gave a bad attitude. That was a turn off. Maybe I should call city hall and tell them she was mean. I can take my money elsewhere...
In any case, the onsen was big with several different types of bath. Like an onsen playground. There is even an outdoor onsen pool, but you need swimsuits to use that. We checked out the mist sauna, the outdoor bath, and the "squall shower" which was basically a bucket of hot water suspended from the wall and you pull a chain to let it dump on you like some old comedy routine.
A good time was had by all and we managed to score 2 stamps tonight... yay!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

#81: Kanawa-so

With the amazing momentum of our 3-day weekend, we took to the streets of Kannawa once again. This time I actually plunked down more than 100 yen for an onsen (500 actually) and got a nice treat.
Kanawa-so is tucked down a little side-street, so little that I didn't even realize it was a street. This is the 4th time I have tried to find it. 4th time's a charm. It was a Tuesday night so not very hopping. There were a few old ladies over on the women's side, but the men's baths were all to us. There was an indoor bath, a sand bath, an outdoor bath and a "mist sauna." This was quite a complex. Funny I never noticed it before, but that is the beauty of Kannawa.
We stuck with the outdoor bath, enjoying the iron-y waters with the fallen leaves. There was a nice breeze out tonight, perfect for being naked in.
Jude claimed he had to poop so we made a scramble, but in the end it was a false alarm. Our foray into Level 11 ended with a nice soda flavored popsicle.
Tomorrow, we might just go down to the ramen joint that has a free onsen for paying customers. Nothing like some noodles in the nude. Will report again soon....

Monday, July 17, 2006

80: Beppu Community Center

It was our goal to hit 10 onsen this 3 day weekend and tonight's visit to the Beppu Community Center was the clincher.
This a is a newish facility where the tourism bureau is. There is also some sort of martial arts dojo here. Very nice, by the looks of it.
The wooden iterior of building was very relaxing. The onsen was nice and new with a view ofa Japanese sand/rock garden. C'est chic!
The onsen smelled faintly of sulfur, much like the Horita area. I wonder if they pump their water in because most onsen in the Beppu area are clear.
Jude met a little boy who was like 18 months old and they had fun splashing around. I enjoyed the waterfall bath, which is a nice stream of water you let pound you back and shoulders.
Now I can sleep like a baby.
Only 8 more onsen left, folks!

#77, 78, 79: Kaimonji Onsen, Kotobuki Onsen, Furosen


Kaimonji Onsen is next to a temple called, you guessed it, Kaimonji Temple just down the street from Beppu Station. I tried to go here once but got "busted" for illegal parking by the pachinko parlor parking lot attendant.
This is a 100-yen city-run onsen. In fact, the lady at the counter recognized us from Saturday night (She was working at Tanoyu Onsen then).
It is very retro with the old school design of dressing room on a loft and stairs down one level to the onsen. It has seen better days, but would be cool if they redid it. That all depends on grant money I suppose.

Jude and I then walked through the downtown arcades to Umezono Onsen, but it wasn't open yet. At least we figured out where it was. We walked over to Kotobuki Onsen instead. Another 100 yen jobby. This onsen is famous for people who can't have babies taking a dip and later having a baby. Kotobuki is a another word for "congratulations." It's full od iron an very rusty smelling.

Our last stop before heading off to a lunch of jigoku-mushi steamed goodies was Furosen. Another 100-yen city-run job that was probably the hottest onsen I have ever been in! We only stayed long enough to get our stamps.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

#76: Hotel Seikaisoh

Well, the plan today was to do at least 4 onsen in the Kannawa area. But since it was a Sunday we got turned down at 3 different places. So I got wise and started calling . Got a couple noes but then Hotel Seikaisoh downtown said "come on in"
So we did. I had to pump "We Will Rock You" to keep Jude awake (Yes, I am a terrible father but he will thank me when he gets older)
They staff here was very nice. So far, this may be the friendliest hotel I have been to in this area.
The bath was on the 6th floor overlooking the bay. Very nice if you looked far out into the bay and not at the garbage floating near the breakwater. Jude saw a boat come in from Ehime.
Oh yeah, this bath room had tatami mats in it! I thought the picture in the book looked like tatami and then I though, who the hell would put tatami in a bath? Well, they did and it was kind of neat, if a bit humid. I guess it is something neat to do with old tatami from the guest rooms.
In any case, I recommend this hotel.

#75: Kamioka Onsen


This is an ancient little mom and pop store that is barely big enough for you and mom (or pop). They also happen to run an onsen/mud onsen. I was not prepared to bathe Jude in mud, then wash him off so I chose the bath instead. The corridor stunk of cats and the bath itself looked like it hadn't been remodeled since 1942. In fact there was a big plaque stating that the onsen was most effective on "after-effects of the atomic bomb."
Must be good. Aside from the cat smell, it was not as bad as some.

#74: Hozan-so

A very nice inn and hot spring facility up on Route 11 just past where Route 500 turns.
There is a big steaming pipe behind here. The hot spring was quite nice. very clear and a comfortable temperature. The front desk people were not very friendly, however. People don't like the cheapskate bath-only patrons on a 3-day weekend I guess.


Jude liked this frog in the lobby



While we were bathing I looked out the window (In fact the windows here were perfect for peeping Toms) and saw our next destination.

#73: Irefune-so



This is actually the second most expensive hot spring on the 88 tour because you have to pay to rent out the bath per hour. I know the owner, Ms. Goto from our walking tours. She is also the owner of the pork dumpling store on our tour. Luckily, I had a free ticket and Jude and took a dip in the nice little bath. It was not to hot and not too lukewarm, just right with a hint of iron (?) Just my guess. But we did not dally, for we were on a mission.
We got the car from Mommy and headed off for a day of onsen hopping.
Waiting for Mom

Saturday, July 15, 2006

71 & 72: Tanoyu Onsen & Noguchi Onsen

Well, I made a promise somewhere on this blog to have 88 onsen done by Jude's birthday. Well, his bday is coming up very soon and I have a 3 day biz trip to Kyoto before that so these next 2 weekends are key in knocking off the remaining onsen.

Saturday night, after dinner we hit the town. The Community Center was closed, so using my photographic memory of Beppu I quickly changed course for one of the little local baths. I talked the drug store clerk into letting me use their parking lot and we hit Tanoyu. This is one of those city-run jobbies. Very nice and very hot. We just splashed ourselves clean mixing the hot water with the cold from the tap, then raced on to the next hot spring. It 's actually kind of fun to do it this way, isntead of saoking until you are totally wrinkly and exhausted.
We aimed for the Youth hostel but Jude said "no" so I swung arond to Noguchi, another little local joint. I expected something rather dumpy foir 150 yen but it was one of the cleanest little joints I have seen. We already washed so we just soaked in the tub here. The other patrons probably thought we were dirty unknowing foreigners, but hey, we are on a mission here.
We have ane extended weekend with Marine Day on Monday so Jude and I are aiming for 10 onsen by Monday. 2 down.
With tonight's hot spring hop, our total has risen to 72. = Level 9 complete. We are down to the final page in our spaports.
Rock and roll!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Kuniten Onsen

Well, Jude and I set out to use one of our free hotel passes, but the hotel turned us away from the parking lot because it was Saturday and they expected a lot full of guests. C'est la vie. Freeloaders get no respect.
I quickly changed to Plan B, which was a 100 yen community bath next to which was a dirt lot that I knew I could park in with no fear of retribution.
The hot spring was hot. You should've seen Jude's face when he slid into the tub!! The locals were very friendly and even turned the cold water on full blast for us. This is a true sign of hospitality when you know how much the old dudes like their hot springs hot!




After our bath, we posted my thank you card to the American Consulate-Osaka (more on that later...)

*Photos courtesy ofthis blog

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Suginoi Hotel

This is the grandaddy of all hotels in Beppu. There is a big water park and like 3 different hotel buidlings. Quite a complex, all overlooking Beppu from its mountainside peak. This is where I met Mr. Kai (walking guide mentor) at a swank party for Beppu's congressman, Mr Iwaya.
Anyway, the whole family went out for lunch, then we dropped mom and Jeff at home. Jude and I went to the spring in Yamaga to get some water then we drove clear across town (2 towns) again to hit the onsen at Hotel Suginoi.
There is a nice view from the outdoor bath and Jude liked the bath shaped like a big wooden barrel.There happened to be a bunch of little kids in there so Jude was splashing and playing and having a ball. He was also the loudest one(sigh).Typical Dechant.
I am lucky we had our free ticket. This one was 500 yen until this year when the price magically doubled. Shiho was peeved that I didn't take her. She doesn't care for the rustic local onsen (i.e. the nasty, crusty ones) but if I say "hotel" she is in the car and waiting. Sorry honey, I will take you some other time.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Hotel Seikai

Had the day off which means Jude and I could hit one of the hotels that close early.
Seikai is right next to the ocean, I mean, right next to it. The outdoor bath is right above the cement breakwater! It isn't the best stretch of ocean to stare at, but it was still nice, especially since I was off work. (Technically, I was off cuz Jeff has the runs and I had to go to the hospital, but he seems perfectly fine, except for the runs...)
Usually 700 yen. Right on Route 10 so hard to right turn into from the other lane. You might want to do a U-Turn in Kamegawa so you can slide easily into the parking lot.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Daikoku-ya (大黒屋)

Daikokuya is the jigoku-mushi joint we always stop by on my walking tour. This is where we took mom to enjoy an excellent lunch of hot spring-steamed goodies.
I had never been in the onsen here, so I figured I should make an effort to stop by here. To top it off, NHK was here with cameras so my bare ass will be broadcast all over Japan next month! I brought my buddy Tres from APU along with me to spread the love, so to speak. Hey, when you have the chance to be bare naked on national TV, why not bring your friends?

The onsen was HOT! It's this time of year when the going gets tought for us wannabe masters. 21 onsen left... We are aiming for July 27 as the cut off, but it's gonna be a sweat-fest more than anything else. Tres only has 6 stamps but he says he will beat us to 88. I accept your challenge!

So about NHK, well, they are doing a show about how international Beppu has become. The show is called "Nippon Saihakken" or "Rediscovering Japan." It will be broadcast on hi-vision satellite TV first. That means the iamge quality will be so good you'll be able to tell if I missed a spot shaving or not. After that, we will be on regulat national TV for the whole (Japanese) world to see.

BS Hi-Vision TV
Saturday, July 22 18:00 - 18:49
Monday, July 24 15:00 - 15:49
Wednesday, July 26 00:00 - 00:49 (in other words, late Tuesday)

Regular NHK
Sunday, July 23 10:05 - 10:54 TBA
* Nothing like some naked men after your breakfast

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Hotel Kouraku (ホテル好楽)


We used our free tickets and hit the downtown hotel area. Every time I go there I realize how ugly it is. Must've been something back in the day, though.
Went to Kouraku. I know the owner. The lobby is drab but it looks like they recently redid the onsen. It was hot so Jude chose to play beside it and not it in. There was no one there so we enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Hotel Pastoral and Nishitetsu Resort Inn Beppu

Trying to make up for lost time Jude and I hit 2 onsen today.
The first was Hotel Pastoral, a nice new-ish hotel whose mainstay, it seems, is weddings. Their were people in the lobby al dressed up and some other couples getting an explanations about the wedding procedures (I think). It 's a big business when you consider that the average Japanese couple will spend upwards of $20,000 on a wedding!!


The indoor bath was spacious and the outdoor bath was gorgeous with a nice Japanese garden feel. It felt great in the middle of the day!!

Jude and I instended to do 3 onsen today. We headed into town and 2 hotels turned us down. One claimed that it's bath was under construction so that bath-only customers couldn7t come in. OK, what about your guests then?? Whatever. The next hotel. Sorry onsen-only is a no go. So we wheeled back out onto the main drag and pulled into
our next stop.

Nishitetsu Resort Inn is not really a resort, it's actually a budget hotel. But it is very new and clean and much nicer than the other crappy hotels in the area. It wasn't on my free ticket list so I shelled out 300 yen. Not bad. The bath was gorgeous with a big glass window separating the indoor and outdoor baths. The outdoor bath had a "rock" garden with those decorative white stones. Jude was washing the stones in the tub. Had to put a stop to that...

We got our stamp and heade toward Suginoi Hotel, one of the most famous hotels in Beppu but Jude fell alseep so I took him home. Only for him to immediately wake up and demand a popsicle (sigh)

It's 5 PM, we might just hit one more tonight :P

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Hotel Arthur(ホテルアーサー)

I had promised Jude a train ride so we hopped on at Beppu Daigaku Station and did the one-stop jaunt into Beppu. He LOVES trains. We met a Buddha in the train station.



Using our handy-dandy free tickets, we stopped in a Hotel Arthur. As you know Japanese can't pronounce r or th, so this hotel is pronounced "Aah-saah." and they even had a full suit of aah-maah in the robby. ( I 'll stop being mean now)


Jude thought it was scary...


The onsen here is quite nice. I was expecting run of the mill slightly run-down hotel stlye hot springs but this one wasn't so. A bit small but nice and replete with cypress smelling soap!?!? It is fun to see that soaps and shampoos each hotel has. But I think the charcoal shampooo salesman is doing the best job. That stuff is everywhere!

Jude and I had intended to do another onsen while we were in town but I couldn't find the one were were looking for with my tiny map. next time I will getmy super detailed street map and map out a course. This was onsen 63. 25 to go. But if we aim to become masters by Jude's bday that means we have to do a lot od hot spring hopping in the hottest months of the year.

Price: 500 yen
Parking: plenty underneath the hotel

Friday, June 02, 2006

Kunisaki-so(国東荘)

This is a new addition to the pack. Not necessarily a new onsen, but they started let ting us wannabe masters come and soak. The inn itself looked a little old and rather simple. I handed over our free ticket and the lad said,"I'll show you to the annex."
This was the onsen. Built just last year (out of cypress). It smelled wonderful! There was a nice big tub and no one there so Jude and I had a swim




They also had what is called a "mushi-yu" or steam bath, basically a sauna. You crawl into a crawl space and the floor is covered with a grass called Sweet Flag. It has a unique smell and they say it's good for your throat. I just peeked inside. It's like 70 plus Celcius so VERY hot. The most famous steam bath is run by the city and they are currently rebuilding it. It has been around for oh, 700 years or so. But this place is the only privately run steam bath.



This onsen usually costs 600 yen, which I would usually be too cheap to pay. But this place is the hidden gem of Kannawa. Seriously, it was gorgeous and down a little back street so maybe not so well known. I can definitely say that it ranks near the top of my list now.

There is parking for 3 cars, if your car is small enought to fit down the narrow street in the first place...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Waylayed

Well, looks like Dad got another ear infection. No hot springs for the time being.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Hotel New Tsuruta(ホテルニューツルタ)

6th floor hotel onsen with a view of the yacht harbor (okay, the definition of yacht in Japanese is more like plain old sailboat). WE had the hot spring all to ourselves. Jude likes the hotels because he can play with the shower heads. There is also a sauna here. Better than most mid-line hotels, I would say

Friday, May 12, 2006

Yume Hotel Kakusui-an(夢ホテルかくすい苑)

Using our free hotel tickets, the whole damn family went downtown to the onsen today. This is one of the many old hotels squished in the Kitahama area. The theme of the hotel is "art" and their are antique statues and scrolls and such all over the place. It makes for a cool atmosphere.
The bath was also themed with little trinkets and things tucked away in the corners. These frogs greeted us as we entered.


The outdoor bath looked like I nicely decorated patio with nice flagstones and a faux marble tub. The cool thing is that it was on the roof and you could check out the bay and the city, and if the angle was right, I bet the folks up in Beppu Tower could have seen us in all our grand glory in the cool night air (not much to see, perhaps).
So far, this is the best downtown onsen I have been too. More reports to follow as we continue our quest (60 down, 28 to go).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Beppu Fuji-Kan Hotel(別府富士観ホテル)

So after a few days of a cold, I decided that I was healed and took Jude out so we could start using our free onsen tickets. We went to Fujikan Hotel which is right on the bay overlooking a not too scenic cement breakwater. The guys at the front desk were very friendly, but the onsen was full of non-Japanese Asians who were not the most well-mannered folks. We entered to see 5 guys just kind of laying spread eagle on the floor. As much as the onsen may feel good, you are typically supposed to maintain a certain level of decency... And then the cacophony of cackling girls from the womens' side of the bath echoing off the vaulted roof was too much.
The onsen itself was quite hot, typical of the downtown Beppu area. Jude liked the lion-shaped faucet on the tub.
I guess this is a fair-to-midland example of a hotel bath. Most of these hotels had their heydey like 20 or 30 years ago so if you really want to experience a Beppu hot spring, I would recommend finding a nicer onsen-only facility.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

One Year and Counting

Today marks one year since Jude and I began our onsen odyssey.
We have cleared 58 hot springs and just got some free tickets which will put us within striking distance of our goal.
Watch out, Beppu! 2 new masters will soon be crowned!

See our first post here

Friday, May 05, 2006

Yu-Ya Ebisu (湯屋 えびす)

Today, we all went to an old-school amusement park called Rakutenchi. It reminded me of Conneaut Lake with the old 60s and 70s styled buidlings and faded paint. There was a lot more than I expected. Shiho had to ride with Jude though, cuz I can't handle spiny things.
After our naps, Jude, Jeff, Grandma and I went to the onsen. We tried to go to Kamegawa but the onsen was closed. Today is a holiday, childrens' day! Everywhere you go there are giant carp kites (koinobori) flying around.
So we went on to Plan B, took the back road up to APU and rocked over to the stinky Myoban area.
Yuya Ebisu was remodled last year and it is gorgeous. Jude especuially liked the "Relaxation Cave," a room with a jet bath inside. I liked the milky white sulfur-stinky baths. In fact we all still smell of sulfur.
Jeff got his first stamp in his Spaport... will he become a Master , too? Only time will tell. Depends on when I get a job offer...

Adults: 1000 yen
Kids under 3 free
Plenty of parking, but watch out for the traffic on the curves. There are actually yellow raod signs that warn you of the hot spring steam and say "No Gawking"

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Oni-Ishi-no-Yu(鬼石の湯)

It's Golden Week in Japan, and boy were the roads packed! It took us 20 minutes to get to the onsen when it should only take 5 at most.
Shiho's mom is in town and Jude and I took her out to Oni-Ishi, a gorgeous onsen run by the folks who run the Oni-Ishi Bozu Hell (bubbling mud hell).
The tub had giant citrus fruits floating in it. Nice touch.



There was a "look-out" bath upstairs and I actually saw some nice birds, as opposed to the ubiquitous garbage-pecking ravens.

Downstairs, I hit the outdoor bath and lounged butt-naked on the lounge chair. It was a beautiful warm day, and there were no other patrons there so it was wonderful!


Jude and Grandma bathed in the womens' bath and I hear Jude had a blast playing with the big fruits.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Bouchou Onsen(望潮温泉)



This is probably the onsen closest to our house, a few neighborhoods away...except of course for the onsen on the apartment grounds, but that doesn't count towards our quest for the 88.

Anyway, we scoped this place out a while back. On a real narrow backstreet and OLD! The owner, in fact, proudly informed us that it was the 2nd oldest onsen in Beppu.
The inside was run-down and kind of gross in the corners, but the tub was clean and clear and nice and hot! There were some rules for kids on the wall since the elementary school is so close by.Typical Japanese stuff like:
We promise to go home before curfew
We promise not to bother the other patrons

After our bath the old owener talked my leg off. Cool old guy. I promised him some souvenirs from PA and he was stoked. I will drop em off after work someday next week.

Adults: 100 yen
kids: 50 yen
Parking: 2 cars (if you squeeze)




Wth this onsen we have reached 56. In other words LEVEL 7 CLEAR
Now, if we go to the Tourism Bureau and get certified, we get a bunch of free onsen tickets for the hotels! Ahh, the last 32 will be in style, baby!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Tani no Yu(谷の湯)

I'd rather not talk about this one...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Velodrome Hot Spring

Today is very exciting because I get to use the word "velodrome." Yes, Beppu has its very own Velodrome and the velodrome even has a hot spring on the grounds. Gotta love Beppu.
Jude and I had tried to go to another onsen in the Kamegawa area that was listed as open till 7 PM. The price was listed as "spare change." These places usually prove pretty rustic and this was no exception. It is on the grounds of a temple and it appears that the monk there pulled the plug out of the tub early. We arrived at 6:50 to an empty tub in a shack tht was big enough for maybe 2 people.
So, I quickly revereted to Plan B: The Velodrome. I thought it would be a crusty onsen but actually it was really nice. Only 100 yen and the water was the nice "soft" kind that you encounter in these parts. If you want some scietific proof of what's inside, well I don't know. But there were some nice, friendly old dudes in here and Jude had a ball splashing around with his green elephant watering can (Ooh, that sounds like a band name...).
If you go watch a race in the Velodrome, the hot spring is free. I recommend it because not only is it nice, you can tell all your friends that you went to the Velodrome and you can feel the word drip off your tongue with sibilant zing.
Say it out loud!

VELODROME

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Tsukahara Onsen & Teru-yu

Tsukahara Onsen

Since today was Sunday and since Jude woke up from his nap early (3:30PM) we decided to go on an extended onsen adventure. I scanned for hot springs that close at 4PM and called one in the area but they said that since it is Golden Week, that they are are not letting hot spring-only guests in. bummer. So I scanned for hot springs that close at 5 PM and found one called Tsukahara Onsen, it is in the next town Yufuin and it is the furtherst hot spring on the 88-tour.
We drove down the back roads and up and up and up the mountain. I was suprised when I realized that Tsukahara was the big smouldering caldera that I could see from the highway everytime we drove past Yufuin into Beppu. I couldn't get any pix of it so check out the website's gallery.
I did however get Jude in front of the front-end loader.


It looks like they are rebuilding their driveway, and I imagine they make enough money to do so. It was 500 yen for me and 200 yen for Jude and it was one of those "no-soap, soak-only" hot springs. It smelled like an old rusty pipe so I figure it was full of iron or something. It was definitely an experience, but I just don't feel clean unless I get to soap up and wash off. The idea behind these types of onsen is that you let the mineral soak into your skin and don't wash it off. I guess if I had gout, maybe I would but I prefer to wash my body rather than walk around smelling rusty all day.Don't get me wrong. It was cool and the landscape was stunning. I might like to come back here and do some hiking someday.



Teru-Yu

So Jude and I continued on our quest. We actually set out with the goal of hitting 3 onsen in one day, but once we got to the next spot, Teru-Yu in the Ogura neighborhood, Jude wouldn't leave. I looked in my onsen book and it said 200 yen, famous old onsen. I figured we were in for something rustic but this place had been rebuilt recently and was absolutely gorgeous. It seemed very popular with the locals because it was really full. The tub sits almost flush with the ground with a slightly raised rim of marble or marble-esque stone. You have to sit on the floor to wash yourself which is standard at the local hot springs not geared toward tourists. The folks here were some of the friendliest I have met (as opposed to Tsukahara where people didn't even say hello). A man came in with his 3 kids and Jude was having fun playing with his (hot) water pistol with them. He walked right up to them and said "Konnichiwa, Boku ha Judo desu (Hello, my name is Jude). " That's my Boy! Takes after his old shmoozer Grandpa John.
So at about 6 PM I had to bribe Jude out of the tub with promises of soda and we went home with bellies empty to enjoy Mommy's delicious dinner.

We are picking up the pace on our tour, having done 9 hot springs in April. We aim for 20 in May. This is the last thing left "to do" in Beppu before we move on (whenever that may be). Today's jaunt brought our count to 53. Only 35 left!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Kannawa Suji-Yu AND Jigoku-baru Onsen

50th hot spring hit!!


Today was a milestone in our journey. We did hot spring # 50.

Kannawa Suji-Yu
This onsen is on the Kannawa Walking Tour I do. It is good for your tendons (suji in Japanese). So I figured I should check it out. Jude put the 100 yen coin in the box and no sooner had we heard it plunk than we turned to see a sign that said: "There is no cold water at Suji-Yu so you cannot use soap or shampoo."
Oh boy... this is gonnna be fun. We were welcomed by a few nice older chaps who told us that yes, you don't soap up at this hot spring you just soak and towel off. So, I figured what the heck and stripped down. But is was pretty damn hot. I enjoyed by hot dip but Jude chose to play on the floor. He informed me "Daddy. Too hot Jude." So after about 5 minutes we got out and decided to hit another hot spring. That is what's great about Beppu, especially the Kannawa area.

Jigoku-baru Onsen
A nice little Buddha statue welcomed us into this mostly-locals-only hot spring.


This one wasn't so hot--despite its name "Source of Hell Hot Spring" -- so Jude enjoyed splashing around and shooting his water pistol. Like his new PJs?


Monday, April 24, 2006

Taiyo no Yu (太陽の湯)

I alloted time for getting lost tonight.
And I did. But then I called and got directions.
And I wondered why a 60 yen onsen would have a phone and it turns out that it is part of a giant complex for disabled folks. Some very friendly folks helped up navigate the walkways to the hot spring, and the bath itself was quite new and modern. It didn't have the "hot spring" mineral type of feel, it was very clear onsen. It started to get crowded, though, so I coaxed Jude out with promises of juice.
He didn't mind because he was actually quite tired this evening. We scouted out our potential target for tomorrow, a real scummy looking place, and made our way home the back way thru streets so narrow my car barely fit down them.

INFO:
Name: Taiyo no Yu
District: Kamegawa
Price: 60 yen for adults, 40 yen for kids
Parking: a lot

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Shibaseki Onsen (柴石温泉)

We have driven past the entrance to this one for nearly 2 years now. It was 7 PM and this joint closes at 8 so I said to Jude "Let's do it." It's time to stop slacking and hurry up and become masters... I can't leave Beppu in good conscience before we hit 88 hot springs...
I did not realize that this was on of the real nice snazzed up city-run onsens. It is very nice and clean with "regular" and a "hot" tub inside and an outdoor bath. There is also a sauna. Jude met a kid in the outdoor bath and they had fun floating the basins in the water and shooting Jude's (hot) water pistol. He must've been about 7 or 8 and there was no parent in sight (Typical in Japan). The kid was jumping off rocks and swimming around, and Jude thought he has to do that too. I had to stop him. actually, the announcement saying the onsen was closed did the trick.
On our way home, we stopped at the look out to catch the hot steam light-up that they do on weekends. It was pretty cool.




INFO:
Name: Shibaseki Onsen
District: Shibaseki
Price: 210 yen
Parking: Yes, lots

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Mom's shirt

I figured I had to put one on here of Mom in her snazzy T shirt. It says "everyday is hell."
I must admit, I like living so close to hell.