Saturday, April 12, 2008

Japan Trip April 12 (Day 12): Hell Pools, Beppu, Onsen and Ferry

Linda: “Only those who have been through hell and lived to recount the experience, are worthy to be called real human beings.” This is the sales pitch of the Hell Pools tour I took this morning. I (Linda) got up early (ish) (at 9:30 am) and made it for the 2.5 hour tour which was all done in Japanese. Fortunately, the one other person on the tour, Yamamoto, a chemical engineer student at Kyoto University, spoke excellent English. He translated most of the spiel for me.

So, me (Linda) being the camera whore and stamp otaku that I am, eagerly went around for the perfect photo and ink stamps to add to my book. The stamp collecting was a joint effort between me and Yamamoto. We managed to find at least one for each hell.

I was prepared for much tourist tackiness at the hells. It was a mixed bag - some of that (demon characters, crocodiles, and exotic animals and fish exhibits) but several just had lovely gardens and the pre-requisite souvenir shops.

The first hell, or Jigoku, was the Sea Hell, which was aquamarine blue and about 200m deep. It was my favourite. With a very hot temperature, around 100 degrees Celcius, eggs boil in about 4 minutes when placed into the pool in a basket by a long pole. You can buy them and eat them if you want. I passed.

The second was the Mud Hell which are volcanic pools where the hot water and local earth mix to make stalagmites of mud growing out of the ground..
Then we went on to the Grey Hell otherwise known as Shaven Head Hell because the bubbles coming up look like the shaven heads of monks. There were several tiny ponds each not much larger than a Jacuzzi
The Demon Hell had more murky, sulphuric pools. Apparently the warmth from the pools is attractive to some exotic animals. That’s what they say, but me being a cynic think it was just an excuse to bring in monkeys, flamingos, a hippopotamus and an elephant to draw in more crowds (because I can’t believe a Hippo wandered to Beppu just because it had warm pools; nor a SOUTH AFRICAN elephant). Ditto with another hell which said the pool was great for breeding crocodiles and proceeded to show about 50 different crocodiles (who eat horse and chicken meat, by the way). Not sure what crocodiles have to do with Japan… (tourists! – Welcome to Beppu where Nevada and Niagara Falls meet)

At the White Pond Hell, the colourless water mysteriously turns creamy white. It definitely looked unusual. Not much else to be said for it.
My second favourite pool was the Blood Pool Hell, which wasn’t quite as red as I anticipated. It is the oldest recorded natural Jigoku (hell) recorded in Japan – also one of the coolest at 78 degrees Celcius. Apparently they make great skin cream from the pool, but I was a bit dubious about smelling like rotten eggs while wearing it. So, in the end, I decided to skip the souvenirs in the shop and bought instead the perfect washcloth for Beth – a Hello Kitty dressed in her Yukata (kimono) carrying her bucket and cloth ready to go to the Onsen.

There was also another hell, which between getting on and off the buses so much, I totally forget which hell it was (mabye I am not worthy to be a real human being?), it was blue also,
but not quite as blue and pretty as the Blue Hell, so here is the picture anyway. If you want to find out which one I missed talked about, now YOU have to go to Bepppu and find out!

Beth again: “Wait a minute this is the first I heard of it being MY washcloth, when YOU used it last night!”

I got up and did some prep planning and tried again 10 different ways to get blogger to accept pictures. No go. Then, since my online manga place I order from in the US had a big sale going on…..I bought manga on-line while sitting in Japan. That’s kind of odd isn’t it.

I also got the last of the addresses for postcards and we packed up a box we are going to send home. Linda arrived back and we both finished up packing to leave. Then we found out that the post office is closed on Saturday and Sunday so now this box that was to lighten our load is instead being hauled around for two days. Blah!

We checked our baggage and then decided to head to the JR station after a bite to eat because Linda had found MORE Punakuri machines there (we have now done it in Kobe, Miyajima, Tokyo and Beppu). The day before we had seen our first person in a power chair who wore alligator skin boots and gave us a card to a “Barrier free” club where we could have Karaoke, drinks…..and pot. It actually says cannabis on the card. We were advised by tourist info not to go (party poopers). Then we tried for about an hour to get extra strength muscle relaxants. We packed enough for 1 or 2 a day but with all the hills of Kobe, Miyajima, Himeji, etc, I was in considerable pain and my right shoulder had not only pulled my spine out of alignment but had made my right arm not fully functional. Well, this was a case of western medicine meets eastern as they did not have a pill to reduce swelling, but they offered me these pills that would help my back, shoulders and EYES. I had never heard of a muscle relaxant for eyes before and after swallowing them became a bit paranoid about the “relaxant” being translated and did I just swallow a bunch of laxatives?

It turns out it was vitamin B tablets, and they also have a vitamin B drink – which is what you do if your back hurts. I am used to a more short term solution, like a pill to reduce swelling as opposed to taking vitamin B for a few weeks. Anyway, I got some free pills and a nasty tasting drink I had to swallow to make everyone happy. So seriously, brings LOTS of medicine when you come. We had seen three other wheelchairs that morning and two of them rigid and found out that Beppu is a centre for wheelchairs in Japan and even has a “Famous” wheelchair race in October. This brought up another discussion which was the word “cancer” as I explained how I did a 5K for Breast Cancer. Puzzled looks. I explained cancer to the English speaking woman and the crowd around and pantomimed smoking and then lung cancer. They understood that. Then I look at the woman and say, “Breast cancer” and hold my breast (any reason will do!). They got that and I said, raise money for treatment that seemed the strangest notion to everyone. I guess the government decides what ailments get what treatment and raising money would be rude or the like.

We then wandered through an arcade which had some pretty dubious places like “Drunker Bar” and two places that charge up to 6,000-8,000 yen for 80 minutes. So I said to Linda, “Is that a conversation bar, because $80 is a lot of money for talking?” Anyway, it was all slightly dodgy and the one store we wanted something, no one was around so we left. We went instead to the Takegawara Spa which was built in 1879 and is the most famous bath house of Beppu. We just went for the “regular bath” and paid only 100 yen each.
So off we went to the land of naked women (mostly old). We take off our clothes and Linda helps me walk to a stool/seat and these three older women who are regulars take charge and are soon pouring water all over my back and Linda’s back and soaping and rinsing me (I defended area 51, as having three women lather, soap and rinse me might seem a dream…unless they are all 70 years old). So we got in the pool where they advised. And met two younger females (mid 20’s) from Nagano who had flown there for a holiday. There was a thin shy one and a more aggressive and definite C cup girl named N (Now when N is standing up, bending over so her breasts are squeezed between her two arms as she asks, “You…..LIKE….Japan?” I had to but think, “Gosh, this really IS like an anime). Anyway, N likes Yaoi and told me some of the series she likes and she also likes Shonen (boys action) manga and anime instead of the more girly stuff – she was all excited about “Death Note!” So I asked if she liked Yuri and she said, “Lesbio?” I said that we heard it was called “Yuri” and she said that her friends called it “lesbian”. Do you….LIKE….lesbian?” she asked. I think we have a yes on that one. Particularly after when I showed her the anime cell pictures from the animate shop and the girl there saying two girls hugging in clothing (or not) are “good friends” The one where the two females are soaping each other in the bath got a big laugh since we had just BEEN in the bath (N didn’t soap me up – that would have gotten another wack to the back of the head by Linda). The two of them were office workers and here in Beppu to forget how boring being an officer worker was.

So that was a pretty pleasant hour and yes, naked, little tubs poured over you, sitting in HOT pool with other naked women, then sitting on ledge, then getting a little reprimand from one of the older women showing the picture where there is an X through sitting on the ledge. So we all (About six of us) jump back in with a laugh.

We picked up our bags and then headed to the Sun Flower (they make it two words not me), our ferry to Osaka. We had a first class cabin by the wheelchair bathroom. It was pretty quiet and had two bunk-beds (sleepover! Pillowfights!). And it had a nice restaurant as well. The down side – it was arriving at 6:30 and we needed to be AWAKE, packed and ready by the information counter because….wheelchairs have to go out the front with the semi-trucks and tractor trailers (yeah, no front caster eaters on those ramps).

We went up to the ‘observation deck’ and I played “Look at me, I’m flying!” while Linda pretended to be more mature. Then we went down and got settled in the cabin. We came out for dinner and I FINALLY convinced Linda to order a Japanese meal: rice, fried rice, pickled vegetables, Japanese omelette and…..cheesecake (hey, that’s pretty close!).
I was so excited that I took a picture of it – go Linda. Next stop is for us to try some sake before we go (There I am trying the local beer – very smooth, like a lager).

Off to an early sleep with the help of many drugs to awaken and travel three subways to Osaka JR terminal then JR to Kyoto and then…well, we will see as we have to do SOMETHING at 9:00 in Kyoto since we can’t check in until 3:00 pm. Till later….


kathz said...

Good to hear from Linda as well, and I liked the pictures of the hells. You seem to be having good meetings with Japanese people now - and I bet your Japanese is improving too. I can't tell you how much I love following your journey in the blog (I was quite worried last night when there wasn't a new post so am glad to find one this morning - and pictures too.)

saraarts said...

Oh, you two are SO cute! I am so pleased to see you both looking happy and having fun.

"Welcome to Beppu where Nevada and Niagara Falls meet"

hahahahaha -- Yeah, I can see that. :) Just throw in a little bit of Yosemite, too, and I think you've got it.

But tell me, are the crocodiles and the hippo actually kept in the near-boiling water? Aren't the hells just a tad warmer than, say, the Nile?

And Beth, I have to tell you, the "flying" pose on the Sun Flower? Totally made me think "Sailor Moon in a wheelchair"! (Which in retrospect sounds like a fake curse, something like "Jesus Christ on a crutch!") I expect you to be spinning around with little sparklies coming out of your fingers as your outfit magically transforms to, I don't know, a Middy Blouse and Miniskirt of Power. Or something.

yanub said...

Linda! Oh boy, we got to hear from Linda! You should have bought that sulfurous face cream. That's the sort of thing that makes a great gift for that person you need to buy a gift for but you don't want to buy a gift for but you need to impress them all the same. To think, there's a boss or relative who now will not be getting stinky face cream direct from Japan. Or you could have got it for Fran. Not that she needs a gift, but sometimes the right gift to the right person is, oh, so satisfyingly confusing.

Beth, good on you making Linda finally eat some Japanese food. And she lived to tell the tale!

More spa action! That makes me so happy. And how nice that the older women grandmothered all over you! You two are lucky to have been taken in hand for the full Japanese experience, instead of just wading in and doing it all wrong without anyone saying a word. And then the fun with office girls! And the ferry! And do I have to re-read this entry, or was there indeed no hellish experience of stairs this time around? Go, Beppu! If I ever go to Japan, I will plan on spending more than one day in Beppu.

Lene Andersen said...

Wow. Those photos are just... wow. I love the msysterious nameless pool. Fantastic shot (as a fello camera whore, I'm supremely jealous).

p.s. the interior of a hippopotomus' mouth is really alarming-looking.

Tammy said...

Awesome Pictures! I would have cooked and ate the egg! LOL
The Hell Pools are amazing!! Just beyond cool.

cheryl g said...

Sailor Moon in a wheelchair, that's great!

I am still laughing over "Welcome to Beppu where Nevada and Niagara Falls meet" That is so perfect.

I am glad blogger let you get posts and all the pictures up - fabulous!

em said...

I loved hearing from Linda too. And the hell pictures? OMG, that red one was so beautiful. They all were, except possibly the homesick hippo.

Dawn Allenbach said...

Yay Linda! Japanese food is GOOD!

Turns out my friend Erika's family who are still in Japan live near Kanazawa.

saraarts -- I've heard "Christ on a crutch," but my favorite is "jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick." Blasphemous? Yeah.

FridaWrites said...

blogger's eating this comment too! I said something like:

Like Yellowstone, only better. The red pool is particularly beautiful!

Zephyr said...

Hey, don't dock cannabis as a medical treatment. I have been using it for migraines and pain and it has been working wonders. I wish it were covered so I could just take it instead of the painkillers the doctors give me, the side effects are nil and it enhances my mood!

Elizabeth McClung said...

Kathz: Yes, good for Linda to participate and have her own section, I don't know if my Japanese is improving but the charade aspects are better!

Saraarts: Thanks, We were having fun. Yeah we told the taxi drive the whole, "Beppu: Pinchinco and Onsen" and he couldn't stop saying it over and over.

Linda says the crocs and hippos are kept in heated water, so yeah.

I am okay with mini-skirt and magical powers if there is a spinning power scene with a wheelchair - maybe someone should adapt the live action stage version.

Yanub: Linda was saying about your comment regarding Fran: "Why didn't I think of that"

Yes, I was really happy that we managed to find a sort of genuine Japanese experience amongst all the fake glitter of Beppu, and it being wheelchair positive too - even our grumpy taxi driver who hated Osaka, Tokyo and all things new like the Onsens we went to.

Lene: Re Hippo - Linda says, yeah, it did kinda! And I am in envy of her pictures, perfect day, perfect colour - should she make the brochure for them - total photo whore dream.

Tammy: I am glad that the hell pools lived up the expectations and Linda had just a guide a "tour friend/interpretor" to enjoy them with - and the pics she got were amazing - made me almost want to haul my chair in and out of the bus 8 times.....ALMOST.

Cheryl: Yes, it was nice to go someplace where sitting in water relaxing WAS the planned activity! And Linda got her own adventure.

Em: Thanks, it was a great photo shoot for Linda and I know she enjoyed it and I enjoyed the time we had together as well, I will let her know all about your positive comment.

Dawn: Yeah, go Linda. And I highly recommend going to Kanazawa - highly! Our favorite city of the "big" cities we went to - like Kyoto but friendly and smaller.

Fridawrites: Thanks, I'll tell Linda, I know she likes other people enjoying her pictures - now YOU have to come see the hell.

Zephyr: Oh, I don't knock pot, since my doctor wants me on it as well and I have some (just have got around to trying it yet) - it was just the "don't try illegal drugs while on vacation in other countries which may not be as understanding as Canada" thing.

Ms. Pet said...

Nice pics and the food looks great. Having a hard time reading still, however, so please don't take it personally if I don't grasp everything. I need to get one of those reading machines once I'm settled.