I’m on a trainset called the Hyper Saloon Inter City. Later today I’m taking the Sonic Limited Express 40. Japan has the best train names evar. Also the best trains, hands down (sorry Germany and France.) The only downside I’ve found (apart from the cost if you don’t have a Japan Railpass) is that there usually isn’t very much food available: cold lunchboxes and lousy sandwiches if you’re lucky. Oh well, I’m capable of feeding myself on trains.

My bag has a new addition:

Have umbrella, will travel

It was raining in Beppu yesterday and I was going to be wandering a bit so I finally bought an umbrella. It cost 420, which is actually expensive for a disposable-quality umbrella.

Beppu was great. It’s the hotspring (onsen) capital of Japan. Just what I needed after a few days of outdoor adventures: onsen, onsen, onsen. I put in a load of laundry and went to Ekimae Koto, a small local spa (I was alone, which was nice.) Then I went to a Kitahama Onsen Termas, a large oceanside spa with an outdoor tub offering mixed bathing (rare) with bathing suits. Ate lunch at the train station and got a hand drawn map for Tsuru-no yu, a free onsen dug and maintained by the locals. Sadly it’s either dried up or stopped for the winter. There was only 10cm of tepid water in the bottom. (Must email Lonely Planet about this…) It wasn’t a wasted trip though; I visited Onsen Hoyoland, a mud bath in the same area. Mud bathing is interesting and I’m glad I went but it’s not an experience I’d seek out again.

Back to downtown Beppu for dinner and 2 more baths: the public bath at my hotel, and a private bath (also at the hotel, by reservation.) The private bath was nice because I could do things I don’t normally get to do at an onsen like… add cold water without asking!

This morning I visited Takegawara Onsen, which is in an old Meiji-era bathhouse. It was worth the visit just to bathe in such a nice building with gorgeous wood ceilings instead of tile. They also have an artificial sandbath (Ibusuki is the only natural sandbath in the world) that I used. It’s not the same – mainly, the steam that comes through the sand isn’t hot enough. Oh well.

I’m now heading to Usuki to see some stone Buddhas. It’s still raining, so the umbrella is coming too.

Originally written February 1, 2010