Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Trip: Tokyo to Beppu, Kyushu

Last Monday (14th), I got up at 9am, which was actually an early start (oh dear!) and got my things together. I'd packed the previous night, and was surprised to find that I'd managed to pack very lightly for seven nights. Everything fit into my rucksack and shoulder bag.

I took the train to Tokyo station, which only takes half an hour at most including walking time, and showed both tickets to the man at the ticket barrier. With the tickets I bought you need to either put them both into the ticket machine simultaneously, or show them to the guard.

I was half an hour early for my 10.30 Nozomi Shinkansen to Hakata (博多) so I could relax and enjoy being on the Shinkansen platform. I love how it all works so well. Each train arrives at its destination within six seconds of the expected time, and they are always so clean and sleek-looking.

I got on and we were off! A five hour journey south through Japan, past Mt Fuji, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and through a tunnel to a different island. It was exciting and the view was interesting so the time passed very quickly. I bought lunch from the trolley that makes its way up and down the train.

Here's a video of Fukuyama (福山) station, with Fukuyama castle in the background.

Each carriage in the Shinkansen has 20 rows of 5 seats, and there are 15 carriages on one train, meaning that they can transport 1,500 people up and down the country. Even more amazing, they run about four times an hour!

If you hadn't guessed, I'm a fan of the Shinkansen.

I wasn't going all the way to the terminal of the Tokaido line (Tokyo to Hakata), but instead the other station in Kyushu (九州), Kokura (小倉).

Just to clear something up, Hakata is also called Fukuoka (福岡), and Kokura is also Kita-Kyushu (北九州). It really confused me, but trains usually say Hakata and Kokura, and people refer to the cities as Fukuoka and Kita-Kyushu.

So I got off at Kokura station, which is right at the top corner of Kyushu, very close to Honshu (本州), the island all the major cities are on, and I was hit by a shocking blast of heat and humidity. It was so hot. I don't know the exact temperature, but I left 10.30am Tokyo with about 27C and arrived at 3.30pm Kyushu and it must have been 33C at least.

Kyushu is further south than Tokyo, not by a huge amount, because although it is 1,000km away, it is more horizontal than vertical.

I transferred to a limited express (特急) train that was going to Beppu (別府). It was called a Sonic (ソニック), and it was very comfortable. I didn't buy a reserved ticket but I sat in a reserved seat by accident and the conductor didn't say anything when he checked my ticket.

Here's some of the countryside that flashed past on the way south to Beppu.

And here's a town we went past with a very amusing name!

Beppu is a famous onsen (温泉), or hot spring, town in Oita prefecture (大分県), north-east Kyushu. But, I didn't travel all that way to stay one night in an onsen town, as I could go to Hakone for that, but I have a penpal, who I've written letters to for five years and never met, who lives in Oita prefecture. She invited me to stay at her house for one night, so I was staying at Beppu to see some of Kyushu before meeting her.

It took about 90 minutes to get to Beppu, and then I had to walk to my hotel. That took about 40 minutes. I stayed in Hotel Sun Valley, which I booked through Japan Hotels Online (which I recommend if you want to find hotels in Japan). It was the most expensive hotel of my trip, at Y5,000 for one night, but it was very comfortable and the room was nice.

By the time I reached my hotel, the sun was going down behind the mountains. It was 34C and still very humid, but because Beppu is right on the coast, there was a fresh breeze.

Here's my hotel from the outside.

I went to a ramen (Chinese noodle) restaurant nearby and it felt strangely like America. I could see a big McDonalds next door and I was opposite an amusements arcade called Las Vegas, which was flashing like crazy. The restaurant was even playing cheesy music, including that one that goes "Sunshine, lollipops..."

After dinner, I went back to the hotel, passing a restaurant called Joyfull that looked exactly like Britain's Little Chef chain, and rang my grandparents. I wanted to call them once from Japan, and I thought that it was a good time when I was on my travels.

My hotel had a public onsen bath on the 10th floor with windows looking out over Beppu harbour so I had to try that. I was more comfortable with being naked in front of strangers, even if they did all stare to see if I had three of anything, this time because I'd been to an onsen in Hakone in February. The view was lovely, and the 50C water was very soothing on my tense muscles, but it was so hot I couldn't stay in there too long.

Afterwards, I went back to my room. You can see a video of it below.

I even found Shrek dubbed into Japanese on the TV! Yes, I was sad enough to record some of it.

I was in a traditional Japanese yukata, which is great for hot weather and very comfortable. After watching a funny programme teaching Chinese, I slept very well, although it did feel strange to be so far away from Tokyo.

1 comment:

Titichu said...

Huuu looks nice. I want to go there next time. If only it was a little less expensive..T-T