Friday 27 January 2023
Awake at 8.22 am. In the rooftop bath by 8.30. I still haven’t got the hang of Japanese public bath etiquette and I’m not sure how to improve without observing others, which might look a bit weird and Perry between two naked strangers. But I have lovely bath, even if I am lying on my back like a giant starfish with tits, while the Japanese ladies are sitting demurely in huddled balls around the edges.
Also I don’t think I’m doing dressing/undressing right. The Japanese ladies get completely naked before removing their masks, while I’m more a mask first, knickers last kind of girl.
Jigoku Meguri (Hell Circuit)
After breakfast, we set off to visit the Hell Circuit, aka the 7 Hells of Beppu.
The hells) are seven hot springs for viewing rather than bathing, where you can see steaming pools in red, white and blue, bubbling mud pools and other hydrothermal activity. Each of them has adopted a theme.
Five of the seven hells are located in the Kannawa district (around 3 miles north of the town centre and two are the Shibaseki district (2 miles further north).
Entry costs Y400 per attraction or you can visit all 7 hells for Y2000. There is an 8th hell Yama Jigoku) isn’t included which we didn’t go to because it consists of a ‘compact petting zoo’.
Umi Jigoku (Sea Hell) is probably the biggest and the best, which is kind of unfortunate, because it sets expectations several of the other attractions can’t live up to.
Here, steam rises from a blue pool. As we arrive, the wind picks up, which sends the plumes in every direction. One minute, you can see the pool, the next you can’t see anything as the sulphurous steam swirls around you. Then it starts to snow, so we have ice and steam at the same time.
It’s set in a garden where there are a few smaller, orange coloured hells and a large pond.
There is also a steam heated greenhouse with a lily pond and banana plants.
Oni-ishibozu Jigoku (Demon Monk Hell) is so named because the bubbling pools of mud are said to resemble a monk’s shaved head.
Kamado Jigoku (Oven Hell) sells food cooked in the steam, as demonstrated by a demon cook statue at the entrance.
Visitors can drink the hot spring water, enjoy hand and foot baths, inhale the hot spring steam and try various snacks cooked in the hot spring.
There is also a man demonstrating I don’t know what with a blow torch.
Oniyama Jigoku (Devil’s Mountain Hell) has dozens of forlorn crocodiles crammed together in a tiny, concrete enclosure. Grim.
Shira-ike Jigoku (White Pond Hell) has a vaguely white pond surrounded by a garden. Inside are enormous fish in tiny tanks they can hardly move in. Also grim.
We drive up the road to the last two hells.
Chinoike Jigoku (Blood Pool Hell); when the steam subsides it reveals a pond of deep ochre.
This is one of my favourite hells and it provides plenty of props for that all important photo op.
Tamatsuki Jigoku (Tornado Hell) has a geyser which erupts roughly every half an hour. A stone arch has been erected to prevent the geyser from reaching too high, but it’s still interesting to watch the controlled mini geyser, while a recorded message boasts that the geyser erupts more regularly than Old Faithful or any geyser in Iceland.
On the way back into town, we stop at Yukemiri Observatory, which I read about on the Drive Japan website. They said it was hard to locate and they weren’t kidding. Especially with our Google Map screenshot to Japanese GPS navigation method.
A small concrete tower on the hillside provides views of the town below with steam belching forth.
As it’s our last day before a prolonged journey home (unless the expressways close again, then who knows where we’ll be?) we spend a fun afternoon in the laundrette, which has a useful reminder not to put pets in the washing machine.
Once we have walked back to the hotel through the bitterly cold Kitahama Park.
Then time for a final dip in the rooftop hot bath. After 3 weeks in Japan, today I finally convince the old man to take a public bath. He’s a bit concerned about getting naked on the roof in sub zero temperatures. I tell him he needs to be more concerned about ridiculous he looks in his yukata!
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