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Monday, April 14, 2014

Japan - Day 3: Yufuin


We left the hotel in Fukuoka before 7 a.m. with our luggage and went to the Hakata Station to catch an early train to our next destination, Yufuin. This route was included in our Northern Kyushu Area Pass. It took a bit more than two hours and we fortunately got seats without reservation. Actually we never reserved a seat in the trains in Japan, as we saw that we always got a seat without reservation in the non-reserved wagons, that every train has. When we arrived in Yufuin at around 10 a.m. it was still too early to check-in in our hotel so we dropped off our luggage right at the luggage storage office just opposite the station, after we realized that the train station´s luggage storage was already full. Afterwards, we went to check out the bakery opposite the train station and to our delight found some exquisite bread rolls we never knew existed. Especially the ones with orange were great. We walked through the tourist street which has a lot of cake and cookie shops, restaurants and finally entered a cafe where we got fried rice and coffee.


Yufuin was our destination for the next two nights, and on this day, we didn't plan anything beside sightseeing in Yufuin. We chose it because it is beautifully located surrounded by mountains, has a lot of onsen and we wanted to stay in a smaller town with more nature for a few days. There were already a lot of tourists in town and even a Japanese camera team we saw at the station and around town (Funny enough, we accidentally saw their reportage shortly after on TV). We walked around and then went to the Yufuin Trick Art Meikyukan Museum which was a lot of fun. They have a lot of optical illusions there and the visitors can have their photograph taken.


Then we walked along the river, enjoying a beautiful and sunny day and continued to the Lake Kinrinko, which has a small shrine. The lake wasn´t exactly like the Plitvice Lakes we had seen in Croatia, but it was nice. We went looking for the Kanzaki Shrine but didn´t find it and decided to go to our first onsen. You can also climb the Mount Yufudake nearby Yufuin, which sounded interesting, but it seemed to be too much stress, as we didn´t know the right bus or the bus station to exit the bus and it seems to be quite a climb. So we opted for relaxing in an onsen instead.


While Yufuin has a lot of onsen, we chose the Shoya no Yakata, which seemed to be a walk in the mountains away, but looked great online. With the help of our printed google maps we tried to find it, but after a while we were pretty sure we went wrong somewhere. When we were at the gate of some house that we thought would be the onsen, there came someone in a car. We then asked the young Japanese man and he called someone (probably to ask for the location) and then even offered to take us there with his car. We of course accepted and we're at the onsen in no time. We just had been gone right one street too early, so it was really nearby. We thanked the young man and entered the onsen


We had read about onsen etiquette, so we knew we needed a little towel, which you use to wash yourself and which you can also use to cover your private parts. After all, you have to enter an onsen completely naked. So we bought a small towel there and went to the changing room, where they have lockers for the valuables. We heard that the Japanese really expect you to wash thoroughly before you go inside the hot water, which means we had to sit on a little plastic stool outside and shower and wash ourselves while sitting there (you don´t shower there standing). After that we finally entered the hot blue spring water, which was outside, surrounded by greens. It was really, really hot and it felt like it would cook my balls (forgive the pun) right there and then. Fortunately it was not too crowded or else it would have been embarrassing for me trying literally to save my skin. There were just a few Japanese men and some highschool boys I supposed, as it is like most onsen we encountered in Japan, a gender separated bath. After some relaxing in the hot pool we exited and bought a gift there, a lotion that, the woman ensured us, is healthy and refreshing. At least I guess she said something like this, because we don´t understand any Japanese.


So we walked back down to the city along some fields enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the area and after a short stop at a supermarket, where we bought some supplies, went back to the Yufuin Train Station to get our luggage. We already had seen that it is a bit of a walk to our hotel, so we opted for a cab, that didn´t cost much. We had printed out the name of the hotel in Japanese and we showed that the cab driver, so it was no problem.


When we arrived at the hotel they told us, we get a free upgrade to a room with both western style beds and a Japanese style tatami area, which of course was great! The whole hotel, we had booked the Yawaragi no sato Hotel, was a dream. When we arrived they already asked if we wanted to book their private onsen for free and we of course did and entered it after a short rest in our room. They have some private onsen, all located outside and those that we saw had each two hot pools. We relaxed there even more. After that I first relaxed my feet on their free foot massage machine and later we used their free massage chairs...They have another joint onsen inside, but we were relaxed enough.


It was dark already, but we went out along the river to look for a restaurant and the Kozen-in temple. Unfortunately, we didn´t find it and most of the restaurants were already closed. So we just took some takeaway food from some local food chain and ate at the hotel in our kimonos, that the hotel provided in the rooms.

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