Yama, shiro, faamu and gift shoppu!

Field trip Japanese style! 3 destinations, 12 hours and closer to dozen gift shops – despite being behind schedule for a while, we made it back to Ap House in time, happy and tired.

The first stop (after the 10 minute bus pit stop) on our trip was Aso volcano, about 2 hours away from Beppu.

Crater, not an onsen, though both look pretty similar

The terrain on Asosan was rather rocky and rough. Since the volcano is located over 1500m above sea level, it was rather chilly, too. There was several warning signs for people with asthma, heart disease etc., since the fumes contained something not too healthy to breathe.

Pray to gods the volcano won’t erupt

After looking at the craters, we were supposed to walk down the mountain to the bus. Me and my friend too initiative and rode the cable car back down: we had plenty of time at the gift shop, and avoided freezing outside.

Cable car ride to Asosan, Mountain Aso volcano crater

Next stop was next to Asosan, a bowl shaped meadow Kusasenri, which actually was just a visit to a gift shop to hawk on all the free samples of the regional omiyage. (No pictures of the pond.) Next stop, my definitely most favorite part of the trip: lunch in Aso farmland.

Shrooms! And many different kinds…I would have needed a tour guide

The mushrooms pictured above were just a small part of the most likely best buffet I have ever had on an organized trip. The restaurant was called “Viking” for some reason, but the food was mainly Asian, luckily with many different salad and mushroom options. Unfortunately we did not have nearly enough time in Aso Farmland, so I did not even get to understand what the place was all about. There were some exercise domes, farm animals and funky activities for kids, spa, shops selling beauty and health products as well as loads of omiyage and other food, milk factory, mushroom cultivation and I can’t even imagine what else. I would have definitely liked to spend the whole day (or weekend) there! After rushing to the bus, we were off to the tourist highlight: The Kumamoto castle.

Part of the Kumamoto castle, and not even the best part

After few hours bus ride, we had an hour to explore the Kumamoto castle. After rushing through the main castle, me and my friend got to the best part: shopping area. Unfortunately, once again time was against us.

Time is money, so I saved my money here by not having time to shop!

3 hours on the bus with a sugar rush, I learned few new Japanese words. The trip was an overall success, and the price was ridiculous as well: 3000yen (30e) wouldn’t normally have even covered the entrance fees, let alone transportation and the magnificent lunch! I wish I had 2 or 3 days trip, but this was definitely worth going as it was. Now I just need to find out, if there are any similar places to Aso farm land!

Ps. The Kumamon bear started off as being cute and nice, but seriously: how many products can you make with it? It is everywhere! If you don’t know which bear I am talking about, google it and see if it looks familiar. If not, you should definitely visit Kumamoto – the castle is nice, too! And the city, even brom inside the bus, seemed so alive after Beppu.

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Secret paradises

Some more traditional Japan!

Fields like in the middle of Europe

Rough bare stone terrain, traditional bamboo forest, pine tree forest, fields and various different vegetation was passed during a hike to the secret onsen. After hiking in the sun for almost an hour, the reward was tremendous.

 

Steaming hot mineral water

 

Beppu is known for its’ hot springs, onsen. There are several onsens around the city, most of which are spa-like and run by entrepreneurs. My first onsen experience here was different – these onsens were in the mountains, completely in the natural state, and free of charge.

We decided to pretend we don’t understand the several warning signs

A girl was killed in the onsen where we went a year ago, thus there was several sign warning about going to the onsens a)alone, b)with only women and c)during night time. In addition to that, there was another sign regarding proper code of conduct.

 

Beware of suspicious man and car!

 

After the first two onsens (one pictured above, plus a mud onsen next to it) we continued to a third one even higher up the mountain. The last onsen we went to was apparently rather popular among Japanese men, so as to respect their privacy (and private parts), I don’t have many pictures.

Steaming hot water, next to streaming cold water

The onsens would be perfect during night time, to watch the stars. Also in the winter I can imagine that sitting in the hot bath would be spectacular – getting out would not be so pleasant. The road to the onsens was very poor, so in the winter time it might be tricky to drive there by car. Walking in the dark would definitely not be an option, either. We had a chance to boil some eggs in a hole that had boiling water – next time we were thinking about having a picnic with more food to boil and steam. What a better way to spend a day, than hiking, and then chilling in the hot bath and eating food prepared in the nature.

 

Nature at its’ best