Travel: Japan Trip #4 2016 (Day 8 & 9 – Beppu, Fukuoka, Nagasaki)

See: Travel: Japan Trip #4 2016 itinerary and intro

Day 8: January 25

In the morning, we checked out of the ryokan. We would be spending the day visiting the Beppu Jigoku/Hells and then returning the car. A brief introduction about the Beppu Hells taken from here:

Thermal mud and hot springs have been gushing tremendously from the ground for over 1,000 years. There are 8 jigokus in total at Beppu consisting of the cobalt blue ocean hell, ‘Umijigoku’, deep-red blood pond hell ‘Chi-no Ike Jigoku’ as well as ‘Oniishi Bozu Jigoku’ (Onishi Shaven Head Hell), ‘Yama Jigoku’ (Mountain Hell), ‘Kamado Jigoku’(Boiling Hell), ‘Oniyama Jigoku’ (Demon Mountain Hell), ‘Shiraike Hell’ (White Pond Hell) and ‘Tatsumaki Jigoku’ (Geyser Hell) . Its onsen eggs (eggs boiled in the hot spring) and ‘Jigoku Mushiyaki Pudding’ (Pudding steamed in the Hell) are popular for visitors.

We drove and did our own Jigoku Meguri/Tour of the Hells. We first drove to the Kannawa district, where the first six hells are all within walking distance of each other.

I think I need a cactus font!

For lunch, we did the novelty steam cooking. The experience was disappointing. The food goes in, you get a timer, and you return to collect. It’s also quite overpriced – you pay for the ingredients and also the time you want to steam. At some point we also tried the iconic steam-cooked purin (Japanese pudding), which tasted just like every other purin, so I can’t say I’m sold on all the steam cooking in Beppu. It’s mostly just a novelty.

After lunch, we visited the last two hells in the Shibaseki district.

At this point it was only early afternoon. The Beppu Hells are definitely easy to fit in to half a day or less. We filled up the car’s petrol and returned it (conveniently to Beppu station, and I did complain about the windscreen wiper). From Beppu station, we took the shinkansen two hours to Hakata station (Fukuoka), our last pit stop in Kyushu. Current-day Fukuoka is a fusion of Hakata and Fukuoka, hence a lot of things in Fukuoka have retained the Hakata name. We checked in to our hotel, Hakata Green Hotel No. 1, which was perfectly fine and nothing special.

We left in search of the yatai (food stalls) along the river on Nakasu Island in the city centre. Yatai are considered the symbol of Fukuoka, and of course we love Japanese street food. Sadly we were unable to find any yatai in the area though I had expected to see a scene of over twenty! It may have due to construction works or perhaps they don’t operate during cold and bad weather. We quickly had to come up with a new plan. Fukuoka is also really famous for their ramen – Hakata ramen. So of course it was important (T is a ramen aficionado) to try Hakata ramen in Hakata/Fukuoka. We decided to eat at Uma Uma. Then on the way home, T couldn’t resist trying some oden from the conbini. They were perfectly good, convenient and cheap oden.

Day 9: January 26

Where possible, I try to visit as many castles as possible (though it’s not a bucket list thing for me), so in the morning, we took a subway to Ohorikoen-mae station and walked to the Fukuoka-jou ato/Fukuoka Castle ruins. Unfortunately I hadn’t expected it to literally be just the remaining gate. There was no castle ruins besides that. It was a bit disappointing. We walked a little bit around Oohori-kouen/Ohori Park and then took the subway back to Hakata station. Since that had taken a lot less time than anticipated, I wanted to changed my reserved ticket to Nagasaki for earlier. I was told the reserved section was full though. I figured we’d just try and get a unreserved seat on an early express train.

For lunch, we ate at an Ippudo Ramen branch in the station. Since Ippudo or Hakata Ippudo originated in this city, it made sense to eat it in Fukuoka.

We managed to easily get ourselves a seat in the unreserved section of the train to Nagasaki, which took around two hours. From Nagasaki station, we took a tram to visit the Peace Memorial and Hypocenter Park. The city is set against mountainous scenery, which is really beautiful.

We walked back to Nagasaki station (we quite enjoy walking everywhere when we have time) and tried to find the bus to take us to Inasayama (Mt Inasa) to see the night view of the city. I wasn’t having much luck locating the bus so I went to ask at the tourist centre, but was told the mountain was closed that day! What terrible luck!!! So we took the train back to Hakata station, and a subway to Tenjin, the downtown area of Fukuoka. On the city streets, we stumbled across a couple of yatai, – yay! We chose one and enjoyed delicious oden and tempura. It was pretty fun with great atmosphere in such a tiny space.