Let's take a trip back in TIME to Tuesday. Mary had to go into school and it was raining pretty hard, which kind of ruled out sightseeing (plus, I didn't particularly feel like getting excessively lost), so I mostly just hung around Mary's place, did some tax stuff, did some paperwork for Fulbright, read a little...it wasn't all that exciting. BUT that afternoon Tatara-san picked me up so I could go talk to this guy she knows who "knows a lot about Shinto." As it turned out...he wasn't actually a priest, but rather a guy who wanted to be a priest but instead became a martial artist and masseuse for reasons that aren't incredibly clear to me? But he was interesting to talk to, and had some...unusual opinions. I doubt I'll be able to use any of it in my research paper for the end of Fulbright, but it was still interesting and gave me more opportunities to practice my poker face.
Tuesday night Mary and I went to Gyoza Kaikan, which is a restaurant that sells gyoza (potstickers, for anyone who doesn't know the Japanese term), rice, and ramen. And nobody in their right mind orders the ramen, because their potstickers are SO DELICIOUS OM NOM NOM. I might have eaten there three times already. It brings a whole new level of hole-in-the-wall to hole-in-the-wall, though. Also, the lower level of the restaurant smells very strongly of...sweat-soaked dudes (the primary clientele), I guess. It's kind of gross, but the food is great, so I don't really care.
Wednesday I woke up Way Too Early to hop on a train to Fukuoka where I was supposed to take a bus with Sara and Alyssa and some of their friends to Beppu. (You can see Sara's post as well as some other pictures of Beppu here.) Unfortunately, it snowed a microscopic amount the previous night, which meant that the entire city of Fukuoka ground to a halt in dread and all the buses out of the city stopped running. ALL THE BUSES. I'd like to point out that IT WASN'T EVEN SNOWING ANYMORE.
So instead we had to take a train, which was slightly more expensive but took less time, so all's well that ends pretty okay, I guess.
We met Alex in Beppu, where, stepping outside of the station, we got our first taste of the thing Beppu is famous for:
Yep, Beppu is home to some of Japan's most famous onsen! Which was basically why we were there.
Also outside of the station was this:
...I...I have no words.
Take a moment to drink in this sight.
...I...what. WHAT. SHINY UNCLE????
Oh, yay, there are two demon children hanging off his cloak.
Oh, and they're naked. And apparently boys.
I don't even know whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.
So then we went and got lunch at this restaurant with weirdly shaped spoons, but Shiny Uncle still haunted our thoughts.
So theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen we caught a shuttle bus up the mountain to the hotel we were staying at!
It was potentially the classiest hotel I have ever set foot in, not even kidding. There were four of us staying in one room, but our room could have easily fit 6-8 people. Also, the view:
We also got yukata to change into in our rooms.
Look at me, failing at pictures whoooo.
So then we went to...THE ONSEN.
The onsen was CRAZY INTENSE. There were gender-segregated onsen and a gender-neutral onsen that you had to wear a swimsuit into, so we went into the gender-segregated one first. It was sooooo niiiiice and also HUGE. It was also an actual factual onsen, which meant that it smelled vaguely of sulfur, so I now understand what rotten eggs smell like. Anyway, there were a bunch of different pools of varying hotness, and also a cold pool for when you felt like freezing all your skin off before burning it all off again. There were also a bunch of little old ladies who were SUPER INTERESTED in us, but especially Sara because she is WHITE. They were all petting her skin, which, I dunno, I'd definitely find that pretty uncomfortable, but Sara handled it very classily.
I have no idea what the boys were doing at the time, but it probably looked like this:
Continuing my glorious tradition of referencing Gurren Lagann every time I go to an onsen!
We also wound up hopping into the gender-neutral onsen later, although the gender-segregated one turned out to be nicer. It was nice being able to hang out with the guys, but wearing a swimsuit in an onsen just feels really weird to me. It would be like bathing with a swimsuit on. I don't think I'd mind a gender-neutral actual onsen (with nudity whooo) as long as nobody got weird at me (or weirder than usual, 'cause people are usually kind of weird at me in onsen). I guess swimsuit onsen are pretty okay if you're uncomfortable with being naked around other people, though. Although then I'd have to wonder why you're bothering going to an onsen and not a heated pool, but WHATEVER.
Our dinner was a Crazy Intense Buffet at the hotel, which had everything you could ever possibly dream of eating in your life. I ate SO MUCH FRUIT. And it was all delicious.
The hotel, by the way, had potentially the weirdest floor layout I have ever seen in my life. You would walk and walk and walk for what seemed like miles, up escalators and down escalators and through twisting passageways and past that weird arcade and by that weird cow statue and EVENTUALLY you would get to the entrance to the onsen at which point you would take an elevator up a floor and then walk up more stairs and down more stairs and through more twisting passageways and EVENTUALLY you would get to the changing room. It was preeeeeeetty weird. I have no idea how they had all that space. It took us an insanely long time to get to dinner, because we had to walk and walk and walk and walk.
So after dinner we played Apples to Apples and I was terribly slaughtered but it was still fun, so oh well. And then we went for one last dip in the onsen before bed. The funny thing about onsen is that they are EXHAUSTING. We were laughing because it was 10:30 at night and everyone was exhausted and all we had done all day was ride a train, sit in the onsen, and eat. Well, and walk through the hotel, I guess.
The next morning!
Sara found the smallest possible cereal spoon.
Also, she makes great faces at 8 a.m.
Alyssa and Bruce squared off against each other at That Taiko Game!
Beppu was really foggy!
I had a really long ride to Osaka, so I bid everyone else goodbye at around 11 and headed to the station.
And then I did this:
...just kidding, I actually went to Osaka, but that will have to wait until next time!