We survived the night in the freezing van. The cold was not something we’d expected (nor prepared for).
We arrived late last night at Takachiho, and were too tired to explore. We had a quick look around this morning at Takachiho Temple, which is a popular place for newly wed couples to visit to give them luck in their marriage. While we weren’t married yet, it was still a nice gesture that surely couldn’t hurt. There was a ritual that involves walking around a pair of giant trees several times as a couple, not too hard/demanding, so we did it.
The town was also famous for a beautiful gorge. We drove down and had a quick look, but didn’t stay long as parking and entrance were going to strain what was left of our money.
We kept driving towards Aso-zan, the giant volcano in the middle of Kyushu. As always, when we saw signs for free spring water, we made a detour to restock. This particular spring was interesting because they hit it while making a tunnel. There was so much water flowing that they had to abandon the tunnel. There was a pseudo-museum, but we filled up our water and kept travelling. Oh, and the water was delicious. Best we’d had in a while!
Aso-zan is huge area, so large in fact that there are several towns within the crater. The central core is what we wanted to see. We wanted to see the steaming action! But, due to strong gas activity, we weren’t able to go very close to the crater, even if we paid to enter. Outside it was freezing, the wind where we were tore straight through us and since we didn’t have much warm clothing, we got back into the car pretty quickly.
There were a few more vantage points along the way, most of them charging you money to enter. It felt like a rip off, so we kept driving, then found one that was in a better location, and free! It was a beautiful sight, but due to the frigid winds, we didn’t enjoy it for too long.
Next stop was a small onsen town called Kurokawa, a few hours drive away on the other side of the crater. While driving we saw this amazing old volcanic cone that is now just a gentle grassy hill. The only thing giving its volcanic past away is the crater on the top. I wanted to climb it, but not that much.
We also drove past a souvenir shop with dozens of amazing tree sculptures, though when we looked a little bit closer we realised that who ever was the sculptor was a serious pervert! Most of the animals had some potatoes and carrots for genitals! There were also a few sad looking deer in cage, with food for sale. I don’t know if they make the cage intentionally sad looking to make you want to buy food for them.
Kurokawa Onsen area was beautiful, and certainly worth the small detour that we took to get here. There were dozens of beautiful onsens in the town, and you could actually buy a ¥1200 ticket that lets you visit any three. We didn’t have the time, so we had to try and chose just one. The one that we chose was Bijinyu (beautiful person onsen). Suited us perfectly. Risa chose this one because it had a bath that you could stand up in (complete with arm rests so that you could relax). Turned out that it was only in the womens bath. There wasn’t a men’s only bath, so I had to settle for a mixed bath. Not that women tend to go to the mixed bath anyway… The shower area was outdoors too, and trying to wash/shave was an exercise in tolerance. It was freezing, and all I wanted to do was jump into the beautiful warm water in front of me, but I had to wash first. Thinking about it still makes me cold.
Once inside the bath, it was deliciously warm and all the suffering had been forgotten. It was a nice setting too, very natural feeling. Very relaxing.
It was starting to get late in the afternoon, so when Risa finally came out from her onsen we started heading to tonight’s michi-no-eki in Yufuin, still a few hours drive away.
Pasta dinner and Dexter was all that was left of the evening.
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