大分:More than just an onsen paradise

 

This past weekend was a three-day weekend, so of course I left Shibushi almost as soon as possible. A friend in Miyazaki suggested we visit Oita Prefecture, because it’s relatively close to our part of the country and is apparently amazing. After much deliberation, we decided to drive. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I’ll just reiterate: Kyushu is not that big, but OMG does it take forever to get anywhere on this island. Seriously, driving to Oita took about six hours from Shibushi, but it wasn’t all that bad really.

Anyway, we stayed at a wonderful guesthouse in Beppu called Khaosan, which is a chain and can be found all over Japan. I highly recommend it. As Beppu is a onsen resort town, this particular Khaosan featured onsen!

The first night we were there, we ate at a chain “Italian food” restaurant called Jolly Pasta. I think I might be the easiest person to please when it comes to food, because this place was far from gourmet, but so so good. Even the 500 yen carafe of wine was tasty. After that we accidentally walked through Beppu’s red light district in search of a bar. The funny thing about Japan is it’s sometimes hard to tell what is a normal bar and what is a massage parlor or a place where you can touch women’s boobs for money. Yes, those exist. I talked to a guy in the street who was working for one. It really is a shame, because he was super fine. But that’s beside the point. So we hurriedly walked through a few groups of creepy men and eventually found the bar that all the APU students hang out at, aka foreigner central. It was a really cool bar though, and the bartender, who was Indonesian, gave us three drinks for 1000 yen! What a steal. After that we got conbini food (of course) and then headed back to the hostel for a bath. Very few things beat a soak in an onsen at 2:00 am. Especially when you meet a really cool older expat who also enjoys night bathing. Being naked with strangers brings you instantly close, I think.

温泉

Unless of course that stranger is an scary old Japanese lady. The next day we decided to check out an actual onsen, so we walked to one close by that only cost 100 yen. Traditional onsen usually do not have showering stations, and instead you must cleanse yourself with the onsen water using a bucket before you get in. I live in Japan, and I was with a national, I know about this. But once we got in and were walking down the stairs to the bath, this troll of a woman starting yelling at us in Japanese about cleaning all our “parts” before we get in because we are clearly dirty. Maybe I’m exaggerating the yelling, but she definitely wasn’t being nice. So everyone stops and just stares at this lady because she is rude and maybe racist. I guess this looks like complete confusion to the old lady, because she proceeds to ask my Japanese friend if she understands. REALLY?! She’s Japanese, she lives in Japan, she understands what you are saying. We’re just all shocked that you think we’re stupid enough to cannon ball into this bath with out rinsing off. I don’t even do that at public pools.

Thankfully, not everyone there was as ignorant and rude, because some kind women at the top kindly translated the old lady’s screaming into polite Japanese. I think she wanted to tell the old lady off, but this is Japan. She showed her disapproval by being nice. Needless to say, the rest of the bath was super awkward. The old lady kept saying how most tourist just get in and don’t rinse, and she even came back for another round when she was leaving and told the other foreigner in English to stay and wash “inside.”

I can now safely say I have experienced discrimination in Japan.

I think Beppu is where we spent most of our time, but we didn’t actual

ly do that much onsening (making that a word, by the way) after that incident. After we escaped onsen hell, we went to a little town called Yufuin (湯布院) about 40 minutes away from Beppu. The drive was magical, and we stopped along the way for some pictures! Yufuin itself was really nice as well. If you’ve ever been to the Galveston Strand, you can probably imagine this place, only it was surrounded by mountains, not ocean. There we a few streets lined with restaurants and little shops, and for such a small place, there were so many people. We didn’t stay for very long, but the weather was nice and I bought some pretty tasty looking omiyage!

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After that we went to Harmony Land. That’s about all I’m going to say, because it honestly wasn’t that much fun. The gift shops weren’t even that good! Unless you have small children who MUST see Hello Kitty in person, don’t go. Seriously, don’t.

Harmony Land blossoms

We went back to Beppu after that and ate at a kaiten sushi place that honestly wasn’t that good either. But it was in a mall, so what do you expect? Round two of Beppu nightlife began shortly after that. I had read online that a place called Roots was a fun place to shake your booty, so we decided to check it out. It was completely dead (it was a Sunday), but we felt a little bad so we had a few drinks with the bartender. He was super cool and didn’t tell me to shut up when we told him I was a Chinese girl born to two black parents. People here are so nice. After a while, we decided to head back to the bar from the night before, though, so we parted ways. This night, the foreigner bar was bumping. I met people from Uzbekistan. Crazy. The best part though was when some New Zealander ditched his hot wife to talk to us and buy us drinks. I sort of hate him. He kept saying, “My wife is so cool. She let’s me talk to pretty young girls.” I’m really sorry, I don’t care if your wife is cool, that’s rude. If you’re married, and you and your spouse go out together, you shouldn’t flirt with other people. MMK?

All in all, it was an amazing trip. I noticed Tuesday that I was way too tired, but I think it was worth it. I got to know some really cool people, experienced another Japanese hardship, and checked another prefecture off my list!

What do you do on three day weekends? Travel? Sleep? Tell me! To be honest, though, I don’t know if I’ll be traveling again anytime soon. It’s tiring!

Keisatsu Blues

I get shivers every time I see a police officer. Usually I’m not doing anything wrong, but I guess it’s just ingrained in me to fear the law. Imagine my shock when I got pulled over, for the first time. In Japan, of all places. Yup. The story that follows is by far one of the most embarrassing and bizarre experiences of my life.

I was on my way to the BOE from school today, and apparently I turned a corner without stopping at the stop sign. I take that street quite frequently, but I didn’t even realize I had not stopped. Shortly after not realizing my mistake, I see a police car with lights a-blazing in my rear view mirror. “Is that for me?!” Sure enough, they had a microphone and a speaker. I have no idea what they were saying, but one of the officers got out of the car and started flailing, so I decided it would be best to pull over.

She explained what I did and asked for my license and passport. A little background info: I don’t have a Japanese license (yet), but I do have an international driver’s license, which is good for one year after it’s issued. Also, I don’t carry my passport on me. I have a  residence card with my visa information on it, so it never seemed necessary.

It’s starting to get good. They needed to make copies of my documents and show them to their boss because they weren’t exactly the items they were looking for. So I followed them to the police station. I get inside and am told to sit in the lobby and wait. EVERYONE can see me here. Poor little foreign girl with her pale white face and shaky hands. かわいそう. They say some things to me, some of which I understand, and most of which I do not. Then the lady that pulled me over said we should go get my passport. From my apartment. They drove. OH. MY. GOD. I’m pretty sure students saw me riding in that police car. Whatever. I was more concerned with whether or not they would call my supervisor. So we arrived at my apartment building, and the lady officer walked me to my door. In the elevator, she kept telling me not to worry and asking if I was okay. No. You’re embarrassing me in my tiny town, and I’m probably going to get a ticket. So, no, I’m not okay.

I got my passport and went back to the police station in the squad car. Then they copied it and asked me questions about my previous international life, and what all the little stamps in my passport meant, like it mattered. They asked how long I’d been in Japan, how long I will be here, and what I’m going to do when my international license expires. So many questions. But I didn’t feel like I was being interrogated. All of them were smiling, and one even pulled out a translator and gushed over how convenient it was. Were they trying to be nice? Were they trying to make me feel comfortable?! What was happening?!

Then I went to the interrogation room and they filled out my ticket (NO!). The officer who pulled me over kept saying “Don’t worry” in English. I wanted to slap her. She was giving me a 7,000 yen ticket and telling me how to drive while asking if I’m okay. It was like being in the twilight zone. Then the most wonderful lady from my office came with another ALT to make sure I understood what was happening…like it’s difficult to understand what’s happening when your holding a ticket in a police office…I think the tall man cop called her just to embarrass me more. I was so angry.

When I was leaving, the officer who pulled me over and filled out my ticket said, “Please call me Miho.” You’re a cop, lady, I’m not calling you anything but pig. UGH! I can’t do that though. Despite the fact I was on the verge of embarrassment tears for two hours, everyone was really nice and did make me feel slightly better. No one made me feel like I was stupid or inadequate like American cops do. Besides, I’m a government employee; I have to respect law enforcement. I still don’t understand why they do everything with a smile, but I’m starting to think that’s just the Japanese way. Gas station attendants, convenience store clerks, taxi drivers–everyone seems to really enjoy their jobs and life in general. Is that the truth, or do people just put on their strong faces when they head to work? Hmm…

I learned from this experience, that I should pay more attention to stop signs, that police officer can be nice, although they will always be ridiculous, and Japan really is different than America. Americans, more than the Japanese at least, wear their emotions like a top hat. “Hey! Look how pissed I am today!” or “Look at me wrong and I will cut you.” It’s still rude as a waitress to act like that, but Americans are used to it. Japanese people, on the other hand, seem to hide everything under a brimming smile. That, or everyone here truly is happy. But that can’t be it. Anyway, other than that stupid ticket I have to pay and the loss of two otherwise good hours of the day, I’d say yesterday was a pretty educational experience. I did learn a lot, and I feel like I understand Japanese culture a little more. I’ll definitely expand on that one day! Has anyone else had law issues in a foreign country?

That’s all for today! またね!