North to South
Up at 5 to get to Kokura by 9 and Oita by 10ish. Good ol' budget Rentacar foolishly trusted us with their vehicle and we set off for Beppu to begin the first leg of the two week conquest of Japan's south island, Kyushu. It means 9 states, but there are only 7. Historical details. Here's our course for Day 1.
A map I stole showing Kyushu at the bottom:
First was a stop off at Takasakiyama, a mountain between Beppu and Oita that is inhabited by hundreds of Japanese monkeys. It's all very humane and nicely done - if the monkeys really wanted, the could run down onto the expressway. In fact, it's amazing that only 10 minutes walk from a major highway finds you here. For some reason people love monkeys, maybe in the same way that we find retards cute. Picture a 30-cm tall retard, and you have Kanako's dream. See for yourselves.
It didn't take long for them to accept me as one of their own.
The swarm for food was more brutal than a dole day liquor store selling half price booze.
Next we drove up to Beppu, which pretty much only exists thanks to the pools of steaming water found beneath it. We did the touristy thing and visited some of the "hells", which are hot springs coloured by the minerals in the water. After visiting the White Pond Hell, the Sea Hell, and the Blood Pool Hell, I can recommend that you skip them all unless you really have nothing to do. If you really need to see one, make it the Sea Hell. It was big, and the surronding gardens and lakes were quite beautiful in their own right.
A much better idea is checking out the onsens. There are heaps around, predictably (in fact, there is steam spouting out of pretty much every hole in the ground in Beppu), but the one we went to, Mugen no Sato (Land of Illusions) was solid gold. In the back hills, out of the way of the ridiculous themed hotels (eg Jungle Banana), but within a short drive of the main drag. All private outdoor baths, like this one. If you don't want to see me and Kana in the bath, look away now.
Thank god for those blue minerals, eh?
We were staying at the Kokage YH, which I recommend (simple, wide rooms, near the station). Dinner was at an awesome place in a nearby arcade called 和楽, which I guess is Waraku. The master's recommended course was so good - three kinds of tataki with delicious citrus sauces and yuzu pepper. Check it out if you're ever in town. And try not to look this stupid.