Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Day 12 - Three Hells and a Heavenly Dinner

The reason for our short stay in Beppu were the jigaki. While onsen is a hot bath with a water temperature around 40 degrees, something that every Japanese wants to use on a regular basis, jigaki (or hell onsen) are hot springs that are 80 or more degrees hot - its about watching (and smelling) and not about bathing. In addition to the jigaki, Beppu also has hundreds of onsen and is therefore extremely popular with Japanese tourists. You don't see many non-Japanese tourists here. Beside the onsen and jigaki, enjoying a singing traffic light and playing pachinko, there is not much to do here. When we tried to go to the beach after buying some food items in the 7-11, we first walked along a big wall until we found some stairs, but only to discover that there was another dam so that we couldn't see the sea at all. As mentioned earlier: If you are after a beach vacation, Japan is the wrong place to go.

On our way in the cab to the jigoku we already saw many steam clouds coming out of the ground. After some beautiful water lily pools with black-blue dragonflies and monstrous bees (3-4cm long), we came to see this turqoise steaming water. I really was surprised to see some food cooking in there, because the colour seems like poison, but it's said to be over 80 degrees hot. Even the steam smelled like sulphur, like addled eggs.

In the cage on the bamboo stick, something is being cooked
Even in red-brown
Okay, so that's a proof for the existence of hell

Not far from the water hells, there are these mud hells. Sometimes it seems like if grey bald-headed men (Voldemort) came out of the ground. What the bursting bubbles leave behind looks like an abstract painting.

After we've now been to the sulphur hell and the mud hell, we visited a third  one - the pachinko hell. Pachinko is really a Japanese favorite with slot machines where you play with small metal pellets. If you wonder why you don't see any smoking Japanese on the street - they're all sitting in one of the many pachinko halls, blowing their eardrums away in this unbearable noise.

After having eaten a Pizza for the first time in Japan (gosh this was amazing), we took the Trans-Kyushu Limited Express. Since the train starts its journey in Beppu and we were early at the platform, we had a chance to grab seats in the first row of the first car. The trip from Beppu to Miyaji took almost 2 hours, during which we could watch the train driving through a wonderful scenery from a engineers perspective. I did not know before, that engineers have to point on every signal they see to stay alert (and show others that they are alert). And there's another useful system: Since Japanese hate to ride trains in a backward direction, all train seats can be turned. If the train turns, the staff will turn around every single seat so that every passenger sits in the direction of travel. 

As one can see there doesn't exist any bus stop number 9.
That's because the syllable ku reminds people of the verb
kurushimu (>to suffer) whereas 4 is sometimes skipped like
13 in the western countries, due to tetraphobia. 24, 42, 43,
but especially 49 (sounds similar to >to suffer until death)
are very unlucky numbers.

Our ryokan in Miyaji (its name is "Aso no Shiki") is simply perfect. Even though we're still sleeping on the ground (on futons), there don't exist any curtains to dim the daylight in the morning, and we're the only non-Japanese guests here, the service is incredible: First we were picked up at the railway station and greeted with green tea and rice cake. Before and after the multi-course dinner we took a bath (naked of course) in one of the four private onsen. The water is 40 degrees hot and under free air in a Japanese garden. All over the house you can find beautiful ikebanas. I've never seen a more buoyant person than the junior innkeeper.

In the photograph you can see:
  • a grill in the middle of the table with two fish on top
  • a sashimi plate in the front
  • to the left a rice ball
  • more left some onion, corn, tofu, pepperoni and a white ball (ingredients unknown)
  • in the background some Kobe meat and chicken
  • on the right some salad
  • wasabi, soja sauce, other sauces, a potty for sake and a coke
What came in addition during the meal was:
  • a miso soup (that you have to slurp of course)
  • a vegetable plate
  • three pieces of tempura
  • sake (rice wine)
  • a wonderful dessert (gelati, green tea mochi with jelly and some vanilla cake)
I thought I would burst into a thousand pieces.

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