別府市、大分:Side trips from Tokyo: Beppu Oita

Beppu is located in Oita prefecture in the small island of Kyushu. It was an hour and 30 minute airplane ride from Tokyo. Beppu is known for its Onsen (hot springs) this is a great place to visit if you are a gaijin (foreigner) and you are a fan of onsens. It is also home to the first ever natural hot spring in Japan.

They have here what they call the 8 Jigoku (地獄) of Beppu (The 8 hells of Beppu), “Hell” because the 8 famous Onsen are so hot that they can melt your skin if you even touch the water. My Obaachan (grandmother) was saying maybe they call it “hell” because in the past they probably used to punish the bad people by dropping them into the Onsen. (Of course this is just another one of Obaachans theories)

海地獄 (Umi Jigoku) One of the most beautiful hells. Which is the only hell that was visited by the Emperor of Japan.

 

Yama Jigoku, Where you can view animals like the capybara in the Onsen.

 

We saw some capybara swimming in the Onsen too. The 8 different Onsen are all the same just different in color. Some are white, some are blue and clear. There was also a red Onsen, each coming with its own explanation. The most famous Onsen was the last one we went to which was the Umi Jigoku (海地獄) Which is famous because it is said to be the most beautiful Jigoku (hell), and the only Jigoku that the emperor visited in his stay here.

Oniishibouzu Jigoku, Because of its mud pools. You can try their mud pools here for an amount. This place is where you can try drinking their water.

Shiraike Jigoku

 

Tatsumaki Jigoku, Which is the sprout of hell. Every 40 minutes the water from underground goes over 100 degrees celsius and spouts water for 6-10 minutes from underground.

Chinoike jigoku, spout from hell. The color of the Onsen here is red. Hence the term “chinoike jigoku” Chi meaning blood.

 

How to get here from Tokyo: Take a plane from Haneda airport to Oita

How to get around Oita: We opted to rent a car, so I got my international drivers license before coming to Japan.  The rent a car people have a shuttle from the airport and they will teach you how to use the navigation machine to get around the 8 hells of Beppu.

We recommend that you work from the nearest Onsen working your way to the top. Then you can choose to stay in the famous hotel chain the famous Suginoi hotel. Where there you can relax in their famous Onsen and enjoy their food.

What is in Suginoi Hotel? 

Onsen onsen and more onsen. The food here is in buffet style with an option of Washoku and Yoshoku. (Traditional Japanese food and Western food) the place is famous for its Onsen on their 5th floor terrace which overlooks the city. People come here early in the morning to take a dip out in the terrace while watching the sunrise. Now thats one for your bucket list. 

 ✔ Watching the sunrise naked on a terrace with other naked people in weather thats about 7°C

Heres my first time driving on the left hand side of the car and side of the road.

 

 We’re off to our next destination from Beppu!

Overnight trip from Tokyo: Yatsugatake 八ヶ岳

I took a day trip this weekend together with my obaachan (grandmother) to Yatsugatake. The total trip cost ¥20,000 more or less which included our ¥2000 omiyage (gifts) for my mom and her friend. The place is good for a quick getaway and i think its more of a place for old people. Although we did take a side trip from there to Ina and we saw a lot of students taking field trips there.

DSCF6821

More sakura pictures for everyone!

The place is known for its beautiful stars, being far away from the city and everything. It is good for people who are looking for a quiet place to relax in away from Tokyo. The bus ride going there is not really so relaxing, it takes about 2 hours from Tokyo and another 30 mins from the bus stop to the hotels. On our way there we were able to see the Minami Alps (southern alps) and Mt.Fuji. My grandmother was very happy about this trip and I was happy too because of that and the food.

There was a soba place near our hotel/resort. It is best to go here a little after lunch or so, not too late because the place is known for its soba. A lot of people were eating here and they in fact run out of soba around 3pm. The rest of the day we spent swimming in Green hill Hotel and afterwards we went to the onsen and had some yatsugatake milk.

DSCF6760

The soba place late in the afternoon, inside the forest. It was very hard to find but it was worth the long walk

DSCF6758

We had some Zaru soba because this was what was most recommended on the menu ¥880

The next day we booked a tour to Ina which was 2 hours away from where we were staying. However we wanted to go see the Alps much closer and to see what was around there too. We saw a lot of flowers and all sorts of shops, related to food and vegetables. I love how the Japanese are always incorporating vegetables into everything. My grandmother always says that, vegetables are where we get our source of good nutrients so we don’t get so hungry. It was really a good place to go to. I would recommend that you come here with a friend or as a couple. It would be a good place to walk around in. Japanese provinces are very quiet and its very different from the city. At first it might be a shock but its nice immerse yourself into something different once in a while.

DSCF6858

Tulips have finally opened

黒部ダム Kurobe Dam and Tateyama Alpine route

Image

黒部ダム Kurobe dam is one of Japans biggest Dams which is found in the eastern part of Japan. It takes about 4 hours by 2 bullet trains to get there from Tokyo. To get to the dam itself you even have to take a bus, tram and walk about a few 700 steps up and this is the view that you get once you reach the very top. Breathtaking.

ImageNow before you get to the top of the mountain you must first try their train at the bottom of the mountain. This will take you to a lot of maple trees and  beautiful views of the dam and lake.

ImageThen heading up the rope-way you would see that the view outside is changing from Autum to Winter. There is more snow to be seen and the temperature drops colder than it was at the bottom of the mountain. The travel time up takes about 45 mins and be sure to check their schedule before heading up the mountain because there are a limited number of trams.

SONY DSC

VIEW FROM THE TOP. This is the view you get when you reach the end of the tram and you will also reach the only hotel which is up there in the mountain connected to the tram. It is the highest hotel in Japan according to them, and it is also an Onsen! There is even a rotenburo (Open air ofuro) for those who are brave enough to get into the cold and take a hot bath.

SONY DSC  There is a walking tour of the place around the hotel. So i would suggest for you to take that. Make sure that you have shoes that are good for snow. There are also spiked shoes  SONY DSC SONY DSCthat one can borrow at the hotel but you have to be early since everyone would want to try the hiking tour and its not always that you get to do that because the snow is pretty deep.

The picture at the bottom shows the hotel from behind us. People go up this alpine route to see the famous sunrise. An hour hike in the morning and you could see it beautifully rising. But I was not able to do this because it would have required me to wake up at 4am and the snow was too deep when we went here.

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSCHeading down the mountain would take about another bus ride and a few stops plus riding another rope-way. On the way down we took a few short side trips to the mountain view of Tateyama.

Then when we got to the bottom we took another train to Unazuki Onsen where we stayed the night. The next day we took another tram going around the place. The tram is open air which is nice except it was too cold! My sister and I were freezing. Thankfully on the way home the tram was closed. If not I would have frozen to death. The tram though has a beautiful view of more Kouyou (Red autums leaves) and more dams and lakes. The view here is breathtaking.

SONY DSC

If you ever get the chance to come here. Do not miss out on the onsen and their ramune ice cream! I personally love the different ice cream flavors that they serve in Japan because I am an ice cream lover. Taking the alpine route was a great decision although if you have a lot more time than my family and I did, take more time. We did this all in 5 days which is pretty jam packed but worth it. Another 4 hour shinkansen ride home and we were back to Tokyo. Hope that you try this alpine route out! I heard that the best time to go here is during spring when the flowers bloom and on February when there is a lot of snow.