The more you travel in Japan, the more you realise how much this country has to offer, and Kyushu has a lot to offer. Japan does tourism in its own way; lots of omiyage souvenir shops, clearly marked photo opportunities and a cute character yuru-kyara for just about everything. Every town, island and prefecture has a unique food speciality and a top ‘100’ thing to do or place to see. Japanese people don’t get much time to travel at all, most people don’t use their nenkyu holiday days, so when they are free on the 15 national holidays a year, everywhere is busy, and so many people choose not to brave the crowds and stay at home. I find this consequence from the work-culture frustratingly sad. In fact, travel-keen ALTs who live and travel in Japan for two years will probably see more of Japan, than their Japanese co-workers will ever see. That’s why, after every trip I do a fun slideshow of where I’ve been and tell Japanese students about their own country, a little ironic, hey! My father and I were definitely doing tourism our own way. From Khaosan Spa Hostel, we rode our bikes up to see the pools of ‘hell’. You know you’re getting close to the hot springs when you see steam rising from drain pipes and chimneys coming from allotment plots! Beppu Jigoku ‘hells’ the most popular thing to see in Beppu, and there are eight of them. We only saw Umi Jigoku, the turquoise coloured ‘sea hell’ that have been bubbling away for thousands of years. We skipped seeing the other hells, but cycled down the road of hot springs and tried some jigoku-mushi steamed food and a public foot bath.
After cycling up the hill to the hells, we were both glad we changed our plan to cycle up to Mt. Aso. Instead we boarded the Trans-Kyushu Limited Express, a rustic two-carriage red train that chugs its way up to the volcanic crater in the centre of Kyushu through wooden valleys and over raging rivers. As we climbed higher and higher, and the rain got heavier and heavier. Until there were no views, and it was raining sideways but the time we reached Aso Station. The weather was a good excuse to relax, something the pair of us aren’t very good at. Dad experienced a sento bath for the first time, and came out glowing and without any complaints (of nudity, not knowing what to do or being spoken to by random Japanese men). I’d say he passed the ‘culture shock’ test right then and there. Feeling refreshed, we enjoyed some beers and good company at Aso Base Hostel, one of the cleanest, most well-equipped, beautifully decorated hostels I’ve ever been to. Seriously, they have a coffee maker, sell craft beers and have a kotatsu! Win, win, win.