Welcome to Hell or Heaven
Trip Start Dec 25, 2006
10Trip End Ongoing
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Beppu the Hells of Japan.
As our cramped. Made for Japanese, stopping for three hours so everyone can get a, little rest, overnight bus from Hiroshima to the island of Kyushu approached Beppu...You could see it. You could see the hills rising from the sea and steam rising into the air creating this mystical curtain over where we where going. With a little Japanese lesson and our lonely planet map we depart the bus into the hills above the city of Beppu. With a little help from our map and our instincts we set off down the street bags in hand. As we stop at the street corner plumes of steam rise from under our feet. The manholes puff and puff with steam from the boiling water flowing under the streets and buildings of Beppu. As everyone knows Japan is a volcanic place and the hills of Beppu are no exception
As I told you. I would get around to explaining these fantastic things called onsens.
Onsens. Most of us are familiar with hot springs. These are similar. Just with a few more rules. Men and women do not and cannot bath together. Unless a private smaller one pool onsen is booked weeks in advance. There are separate baths for each gender. The baths are small to large with varying degrees of heat and can be inside or outside. There are many codes of conduct as all things in Japan, but especially the onsens. Before entering the change rooms shoes must be left behind and a fee paid. Towels, soaps and all amenities can be purchased through a vending machine
Back at the inn we are presents with a traditional Japanese meal to feed an army. The table is full of a multiple of small dishes ranching from delicious soups, sushi, meats, vegetables and many things foreign to me
On a run for beer and snacks you can watch people running around the streets of Beppu in there traditional Japanese robes after a day of soaking and relaxing. Not a usual site in Japan.
The next day and the next onsen present us with a communal sand bath. Not knowing exactly what this entailed we headed in. Communal? Very strange at first. How does this work. Well it turns out that you have to rent a robe that is kept on as you enter the sand baths. Picture the sand baths as long sand horse shoe pits. Each one is as about 6ft wide and 20ft long of varying temperatures. All heated by the steam underground off course. As we settled into the only space available and because we can't read kanji the hottest spot in the arena. People started to comment. It seems that these two spots are open because they are very very hot. I like the heat and stay, Hessen moves to a cooler location. You then proceed to dig yourself a pit in which to lie then use farming like tools to move and scoop the sand on top of your body. The deeper you scoop the hotter it does get. You rest your head on a small wood block and let the heat and weight of the sand relax you. As a young couple where leaving they told us that we needed much more sand and proceeded to shovel large amounts of sand on to us and burning there feet at the same time. OUCH! It was hot and I did suffer a very mild burn to my hip. It's not long before you are taken over by the sand and probably fall asleep.
Next, ladies and gents go there separate ways and enjoy another scrub down and hot soak in the beautiful seemingly natural hot pools.
I would say, that yes the pools and sand are hotter than hel,l but it feels like heaven.