During the past few days we visited a number of geologically rich locations during our time in Beppu and Kumamoto. We boarded a bus from our hotel in Matsuyama to travel to the ferry which we would take to a southern island, Kyushu. From the port we bused to the 8 Hells. This location is known for its mud pots, geysers, and steaming pools. Much of this activity reminded me of my family vacation to Yellowstone a number of years back. The paths were clearly marked to gather around boiling ponds and a few pools to soak your sore feet. Pools ranged in colors from light misty blues to muddy red-browns. The various colors are due to differences in underlying sediments and the bacteria living in the waters. The most disturbing part of the 8 hells was the abundance of caged animals forced to live in the area, breathing in the sulfur rich air in such small cages. Hippos, flamingos, elephants, alligators, and llamas were part of the 8 hell spectacle. While I did enjoy the geology exposure, I was pretty beat after traveling all morning so I was ready to check into the hotel ASAP.
Our living arrangements for Beppu was in a hostel, so the conditions were much less comfortable than the previous locations we stayed in. We had to make our own beds and rent towels for 100 yen (~$1.00). We arrived fairly late, so Alexis and I hurried out into the city to find a place to eat. We stumbled upon a delicious restaurant where I got some gyoza, a chinese dumpling, and a rice dish. The hotel was close to the beach, so after dinner we strolled by the water. It was too dark to make anything out, but there was lots of garbage and the threat of poisonous jellies in the water.
|View from hostel room.|
In the morning we took a bus to Mount Aso. Finally some hardcore geology! I was so excited to go. We came from the north and dropped down into the giant crater. The crater itself is divided in half by a ridge and the last time that Mt. Aso erupted was in 1979. Before arriving at Mt. Aso we stopped at the Aso Volcano Museum to watch a cheesy 1960s informational video that frankly made me quite dizzy. The restaurants around the museum were pleased when we all flooded their shops for lunch near a beautiful overlook of Eboshidake, one of the steaming vents. After everyone had eaten their fill, we took a cramped ropeway ride to the the top of Mt. Aso. I’ve come to realize how frustrating and difficult it is to travel with 80 students, but it just makes me all the more grateful for times when we can go explore in groups smaller than 6. At the top of Mt. Aso the view was breathtaking. There were rocks EVERYWHERE...including my bag :). We traversed the paths, examined rocks along the sides, marveled at the folds and faults on the outer edge of the caldera. I don’t think we spent enough time at that location, especially since a large portion of the group is taking a geology course focued on this specific topic. Regardless I enjoyed my time in the great outdoors looking at rocks...in Japan.
Mount Aso is just outside the city of Kumamoto which was our next stop. We stayed at a ritzy four star hotel in the business district where we all got our own single rooms. A group of us met up in the lobby to go exploring the streets and find a dinner spot. You could tell that this was a higher end area catering to the businessmen who stayed in nearby hotels. The mall street was sub par compared to those in Kyoto and Matsuyama, but contained many of the common clothing stores, karaoke bars, and restaurants. That was the first night I had a bad dinner so far in Japan. I had a curry dish that just didn't sit well with my stomach so I took the rest of the evening easy and watched a classic anime movie called Spirited Away, which I highly recommend.
The following day was our only day to explore the city of Kumamoto and we made the most of it. We started off early with a required trip to visit the homes of two authors we were reading in our Japanese Literature class, Hearn and Soseki. The traditional japanese home is beautiful, simple, and open. I have definitely decided that if I am ever able to build my own home I will take aspects of these homes, such as well kept gardens and versitile space, and apply them to mine. From these homes we walked to a handicraft store, where locals come to weave baskets and sell homemade goods.
A must see while in Kumamoto are the gardens just east of the center of town. A large group of us hoped on a tram to visit these sacred grounds. After a lunch of BBQ pork ramen, we entered the peaceful gardens with Koi swiming in the ponds and prayer bells quietly chiming in the distance. All of the trees and shrubs were pristinly trimmed and structures that housed stages for Noh theatre were within the park. A tunnel of Tori gates was the perfect frame for a few photos.
After a chill evening the night before a number of us found a pretty american restaurant to eat at where they served hamberg and a baked potato. It was glorious! I guess you could say I’m starting to miss food from home a little bit. Brian and Adam put on bibs and made the rest of us laugh until we were crying. We grabbed some ice cream and beers from the convenience store and played some great card games and took hilarious pictures.
Our next stop is the largest city in the world, Tokyo Japan. Here goes nothing!______________________________________________
Thanks for reading Be sure to check the photos for Spot and see where I've been adventuring!