Journey in Japan Part 6: Birds thrown around, bullets for hail

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The largest storm on the planet passed through Beppu last night. The storm had drifted a little south of its predicted trajectory, but we still got hit by the strong winds; they sounded like a Bullet Train as they rattled the windows and the walls. I read somewhere that three months of rainfall will fall over Japan in just two days. This morning I take a walk to the beach to see how high the sea level is. I am surprised to see so many boats on the fierce waters.

Further down the beach, I see houses with their windows boarded up. Thankfully I see very little damage to anything. Beppu has survived the Super Typhoon and everyone is safe. Life goes on as normal here. Across the road, the 24-hour Pachinko parlour is packed full of people and cigarette smoke. The light rain all but stops so I wander back to the hostel to grab a bicycle.

I cycle the ten minutes to the Rakutenchi Cable Railway Station. The train here only goes up the mountain to Rakutenchi Amusement Park. The park is closed today because of the typhoon. Oddly, the rest of the trains and buses in Beppu carry on as normal, except at Rakutenchi Cable Railway Station. With the park closed, I decide to go back to Kanawa Hells to finish what I started last week.

On my way to the Hells, I see a road sign for ‘Beppu Univercity’. I find it unbelievable that major road signs can contain such errors. At the Hells of Beppu the sun is shining; not the weather you would expect the day of a Super Typhoon. The Foreign Tourist Information Office is closed today; I am not sure if this means information about foreign tourists, or something else.

Shiraike Jigoku, White Pond Hell, is the first Hell I visit. I am pleased to find that it is open. I pay my ¥400 entry fee and admire the white pond. The water apparently is, “Transparent but as time passes it turns a blue-white colour.” I have no idea why the sign says this; the pond water is clearly green. Also at White Pond Hell, there is a really old aquarium with just three fish.

Opposite Shiraike Jigoku is a closed red door. The sign next to the door says Hinryu Jigoku, Golden Dragon Hell. Inside this Hell is a “Dragon statue with steam coming through its mouth that seems to be flying when water spouts out at sunrise.” This is actually the 9th Hell of Beppu; I’m not sure if it’s still open to the public as it’s not on any map. Anyway, I mention it only because I really enjoy the impressive description on the sign:

The next two Hells I plan to visit today are halfway down the mountain and about ten minutes away. I get back on my bicycle and take a very fun bike ride down the winding mountain path, through the many forests and tunnels carved into the mountainside.

Chinoike Jigoku translates to the amusing, ‘Bloody Hell’. Here there is a massive pool of red-hot mud estimated to have been here for over 1300 years. This is Japan’s oldest natural hot spring. It takes its name from the image of hell found in Buddhism. There is also a nice waterfall here. Some colourful Koi Carp fish swim in the pool below.

Carnival Cutouts are found everywhere in Japan. These wooden life-size cutouts you can put your face through are found at every tourist attraction and randomly placed on the streets for seemingly no reason. I can cycle around Beppu for ten minutes with my camera and will easily find ten Carnival Cutouts. Everywhere. After Bloody Hell, I head next door to Tatsumaki Jigoku. It is closed today. I see a sign saying Beppu Station 7.5 kilometres and decide to head back to the hostel for my new favourite food, Nattō.

Back at the hostel enjoying my Nattō, a member of staff finds it hilarious that I wrap my fermented soybeans around potato chips. Whatever. After food, I head to Beppu Tower. It is one minute from my hostel and I still haven’t been. Beppu Tower was probably once a marvel, but now it is used as an advertising billboard for the brewery Asahi. There are eight neon Asahi signs on the Tower; four in Japanese and four in English. The Tower stands at a Herculean 100 meters tall.

I pay my ¥200 and ride the silent lift to the seventeenth floor. It is one of those lifts that doesn’t display the current floor number and doesn’t really feel like it is moving. After about thirty seconds the doors open to the 17th floor. I am greeted by a Japanese lady at a desk. I hand her my ticket and begin to wander around.

Inside the Tower, there are black and white photographs of crowds of people standing not too far from where I am standing right now. There are photographs of Japanese celebrities. There are pictures of the Tower through the ages. It used to look quite nice when it was first constructed in 1957. Today though, far from the bustling crowds, I am the only person here.

The view from the Tower is good. A full 360-degree panoramic view. The only problem is that the glass in some of the windows is cracked and broken. Other windows are filthy on the outside and are in desperate need of a clean. Some of the photographs I take just don’t turn out at all; my camera unable to penetrate the thick layers of dirt.

Back at the hostel, I book a ¥2100 bus ticket to my next stop, Fukuoka. Just when Beppu was starting to grow on me too. I speak to a Korean guy (and fellow avid bicycle enthusiast), he tells me about something amazing that he saw today. It’s only 6 pm so I decide to check it out before the sunset. As I cycle down the ocean, I quite like the look of the sky.

My destination is beyond the Monkey Park, some 5.7 kilometres each way. I finally reach my destination; an old landlocked boat converted into a play park. There are slides, tunnels, ladders, and a climbing frame. There is also a weird rope ladder that leads into the hull below. I am very tempted to go on the slide, but there is a couple on the ship too, seemingly on a romantic date.

After exploring the abandoned ship, I abandon ship and cycle back to the hostel for the last time. At the hostel the excitement in Beppu never ends; Justin (a staff member here) has found a crab in the male Onsen. Everyone is going crazy about this crab. They finally catch it take it back to the ocean, to where it belongs.

Read the next part of my Journey in Japan, where I finally arrive in Fukuoka by clicking here.

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