After Hiroshima, we went to Fukuoka (where I found out my friend Jody was born!), which unfortunately was a bit of a letdown. It was just another Japanese big city with regular big city things.We did have a very nice afternoon in the park though.
After Fukuoka, was Beppu, which is known for its hot springs. We stayed at a hostel called Khaosan Beppu, if you ever get to Beppu, stay with them! First, their rooms were very nice and clean; second, they have a hot spring coming into their hostel and the bath is available 22/7 (closed for cleaning in the afternoon); third, they offer a free, natural hot springs tour once a week! For the hot spring tour, they drove us out to the hills to some free public hot springs in the woods. One was by a cold creek with fresh, clear hot water, another was at the top of a valley where we could watch the fog roll in and out from the tub, and another was near it but had natural mud at the bottom.
The hot springs thing is really interesting: for sex-segregated springs, you are just completely naked and don’t cover yourself (or you cover just the front with a hand towel). These were coed, so you cover yourself with a towel completely until you’re in the water. It’s like no one knows you’re naked under the water. 🙂
After hot springs, the guy took us to a sushi boat (well, conveyor) and we ate lots and lots of good, cheap sushi. The perfect end to a lovely day.
The only other thing we did in Beppu that was of note was that we went to see a macaque monkey colony. They were kinda cute and kinda ugly, but mostly it felt like a zoo even though it’s officially a reserve. Here’s a monkey baby that looks like a spider:
After Beppu, we decided to go to the island of Shikoku which is mosstly known for its 88 temples, a pilgrim’s tour. I couldn’t decide which town, so we went with Matsuyama because of Dogo Onsen, the oldest hot spring in all of Japan (3000 years!).
We stayed at a funny little youth hostel which was not entirely clean, had not-entirely-English-speaking staff, and was not completely a youth hostel. They had (I think) a restaurant operating out of the kitchen and dining room and they offer new-age classes. By far, my least favorite place we’ve stayed in Japan.
Besides the hostel, the town was amazing. Jacob went for a nice hike up a mountain, I went to every temple and shrine in town, and we went to Dogo Onsen. The castle in town was immense and beautiful, with sweeping views of the city and intricate architecture. As with most castles in Japan, it has been burned down and rebuilt many times, but they stick to the original plans and building techniques.
It was right around this time that we found out our friend Mike Estee was coming to visit, so we made our plans to go to Kyoto and then back to Tokyo to meet him.