The main attraction for today was the onsen town of Beppu, which wasn’t far from where we spent the night. Risa got on the task of trying to find the best onsens to visit. The first two that took Risa’s interest were now inaccessible, with warning/notification signs blocking the roads.
As we were driving from secret onsen to secret onsen, we passed through a semi-developed tourist area, selling all manner of things sourced from onsen, including onsen-tamago (eggs cooked in hot-spring water/steam) and onsen-purin (crème-caramel cooked using thermal steam), both of which retained hints of sulphuric taste.
We tried our luck at one more natural (free) onsen that was on the way in to the centre of town. We had to drive though a rather large cemetery to a small area to park our large car. The little cul-de-sac was full of notices about not parking there, but since we had no choice but to park there, we did. There were also lots of police notices about a lady that was attacked/disappeared here a little while back. Just the thing to relax your body/mind…
It was a short walk along a grassy path following a steaming stream before we found the baths and changing rooms at the top of the stream. It was rudimentary bath/change room, but that was enough for us. We go undressed/changed and hopped in. Risa decided to stay in her bathers, which is understandable.
The water was very, very hot and full of sediment that turned the water cloudy as we disturbed it on entry. It was a small reminder of the differences between these free and natural onsen and the maintained and enclosed ones. We didn’t stay too long, while it wasn’t painful or unenjoyable, it wasn’t that relaxing.
We drove in to the centre of town where there was a famous old onsen called Takegawara Onsen, a fantastic old bathhouse. Struggled with parking (as we always did with the Delica), and eventually left it in a nearby department store and walked back. We paid our entry fees, and went to our separate baths. It was very old and basic inside, but it had character. It might have had character, but it didn’t have any showers or stools, so I had to squat down next to the bath and scoop water out with a bowl to pour over my body. No big deal when the water is nice and hot and the room is full of steam. The water was very hot, and it took a while to accustom to the heat of it. It was mid-morning on a Thursday, so it wasn’t busy or crowded, just a few small groups that quickly came and left.
We hadn’t really made any plans for after Beppu, just to continue heading north. We quickly scoured our guidebook, looking for something interesting along the way. Not finding anything that really caught our attention (I’m sure we missed out on something) we tried to do some serious travelling.
In no time at all we were back trying to cross the bridge that spans between Kyushu and Honshu. It started getting dark not long after we arrived in Yamaguchi, and with no real plan where to go, we just kept driving until we stopped at a michi-no-eki in Hagi, where we set up camp and passed out from yet another busy day.