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!

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