Monday, October 12, 2009

Beppu-on-Sea - Onsen country!

On a recommendation we spent a day and a couple of nights in the, to me, odd seaside town of Beppu. Famous throughout Japan for its multitude of onsen (Japanese hot bath – the spa concept has been hot here for millenia) it reminded me of Blackpool. On the face of it, a place that has clearly seen better days. A beautiful bit of coast has been destroyed by 1960's development, much of which is rather dilapidated, and heavy industry in the distance. On the one hand, the town is full of “Pachinko Slot” places (a countrywide obsession akin to slot machines with balls and scantily clad mermaids) and adult entertainment.

On the other, it has very friendly people and numerous onsen and “hells” (geizers) stretching up into scenic hills.

What made the place for us was the Ryokan we stayed in (Japanese inn), complete with tatami matted rooms and private onsen. A time for some serious relaxation and self-cooking. Three onsen in a day was clearly my limit, jabbering like a semi-conscious idiot on leaving the hottest one.

The Ryokan was just around the corner from a proper old-stylie onsen called Takegawara. This place is well-known for its hot-sand bath and I indulged being slowly baked in a sand-pit covered from head to toe with the black-beige stuff. This was followed by a good soak in a bath that was so hot that I left in short-lived blotches. Clearly I am not an “onsen master” - they exist, they really do!

An odd place, but it proved its purpose along with giving us an intriguing insight into a different side of Japan. As I am not one to love (or really in any way like) the Blackpool's and Skegness's of England, this is not a place to which I am likely to return.
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