Sunday, May 30, 2010

Beppu, Japan



First thing I did when I arrived in Beppu was to seek out this hidden, free, mixed-sex onsen on the side of Nabeyama. A few km up a dirt road, I was the only one there.

If you live in Japan, have transportation, and like remote onsen, then you should check out this site, Secret Japan.


So that onsen was rad, the next... not so much. Beppu is one of the most "famous" onsen cities in Japan. People come from around Japan, and apparently Korea, to check out the hot water. The most famous spot is the 8 Levels of Hell Onsen. Holy shit, sounds bad ass!


There are 8 different onsen areas to check out. Each one is special, some more special than special. I mean some are fucking retarded. Anyways, a 2000 yen combo ticket gets you into them all.

The first one I went to was the Ocean Hell. It was blue. Next!


If this is your first time to Japan, which might have been the case for all the Korean tourists, then there is some shrine looking stuff to see.


Ok, the next one was kind of rad. At Bald Dude Hell, the muddy bubbles are supposed to look like bald monk's heads. What do you think?


Next up is Mountain Hell, which is hell for me, cause I wasted my money, and hell for the animals stuck in cages.


Seriously, this poor hippo was the same size as the pool he was in. And the elephant can't be enjoying this life.


Next is... Cooking Pot Hell. For reals, the pamphlet you can pick up in town makes it all seem amazing. Here, you can enjoy...


... huffing some onsen air! This one is downhill from the zoo, so you're probably breathing in hippo pee steam. Just sayin. You can also eat an egg.


Monster Mountain Hell is just an alligator farm.


Random sex museum!


Ok, the Blood Pool Hell is a nice color. I read they make old person medicine out of the water there. Whatever.


Last up is Spout Hell. It's a geyser. I waited like 30 minutes for this crap. But there was a bonus! The fat kid in this shot totally had a tantrum!


Who am I kidding, you'll probably go here if you ever go to Beppu. If I was with anyone, it would have been cool to see who could put their hand in the 100 degree Celsius water for the longest, or some other drunk antics.

Next: The are just outside Beppu is epic.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Japan Bash!

It's Octoberfest in Hibiya Park!


Anyways, this space is now JapanBash, formerly GaijinBash. If you had the old site bookmarked, it should still take you here. If not, then you won't read this and it doesn't matter.

About 4 years ago I registered with some free host. 4 years later, and they tried to start charging me for it. I ain't down with the bait and switch, Microsoft. Also I didn't really like the name. So welcome to JapanBash.

Bash - Informal. a thoroughly enjoyable, lively party.


Bash - to hurl harsh verbal abuse at

I love this country very much, and would never bash Japan. Though I'll talk shit about things that warrant the shit to be talked. Like overpriced tourism spots and fucked up red tape that I have to cut through to do stuff.

So welcome to Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fukuoka, Japan



Whoa, surprise festival. Rad!


I arrived in Fukuoka, specifically the Tenjin district, and promptly checked into a capsule hotel. 3000 yen a night, and right in the middle of the seedy part of town.




That's more like it. Downtown Fukuoka is one of Japan's most famous hotbeds of the sex industry. Tons of hostess bars, love hotels, and men's "saunas".


But the thing that makes this area stand out from other red light districts is that you can walk a couple blocks away and totally be out of it, chilling with some cheap food and beer. They even have actual benches along the rivers, so you can just hang out and watch the people.


This nice stranger took me out with his colleagues for some ramen. Kick ass! Homeboy didn't realize it, but he was like a goodwill ambassador for this town, and now it's my 2nd favorite city in Japan.


The whole "everything is super close" thing was solidified when I rode my motorcycle about 30 minutes out to Shikanoshima, where you can chill on the sand (it's clean!), watch surfers, and eat some good food.


This is the Shikanoshima bowl, with local seafood. Warning, the shrimp was still alive.

Back in town that evening, more ramen, and early to bed for the next day's ride out of town. A theme on this trip is that I didn't really drink much. Early to rise and all that shit, I guess.

Next: Beppu. Finally, I can talk shit about another place in Japan

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Yakushima, Japan


Don't worry, if the high speed ferry breaks down, you can totally just do like this nice family and chiiiiiiiiilllllllll.


I still remember going to some art house cinema in San Francisco, back in 1997, to see Princess Mononoke. Although I can count the number of times I've seen Japanese animation in a theater on one and a half hands, this was the first. Miyazaki's beautiful creation, a land on the border of man and nature, is stunning to say the least.

Yakushima is the island that inspired this movie. It has always been somewhere that I aspired to go.

With my Hiking in Japan guidebook as my... guide, I set out for a 3 day trip to the island.

Before I continue, let me talk shit about this book!

These hikes are WAAAAY tough. I've gotten used to Japan, where if a hike is listed at 4 hours on the trail markers, it will take me 2.


My book's recommended route was to hike from Onoaida in the south to the base of the mountains in 1 day (12km), hike over the mountains on the 2nd day (13km), and then leisurly descend on day 3 (14km). I added 12 and 13, and figured I could easily do 25km in one day. I was traveling light, and an early start would give me ample time.


I didn't pass a single person on the start of this hike. Surprising, since this is the Golden Week holiday, the weather was clear (a rarity for this island), and the ferries were running at capacity.


Beautiful and lush, that's for sure, but this trail is poorly maintained. I got lost countless times looking for the next trail marker; a piece of pink ribbon tied to a branch.


I'm reminded of the first hike I took with this book, back in 2006. We went to Mt. Tateyama, and it was a horrible experience for anyone who didn't have a history with the Boy Scouts.


Enough complaining. Just take my advice, if you aren't fairly confident with your hiking abilities. Do what the Japanese people do, stay on the most popular trail, hire a guide, spend thousands of dollars on top quality hiking gear for your once a year hiking vacation.

My recommended hiking route would be to start from the Yodogo-iriguchi trailhead (you can take a bus from Ando, or just hitch it), climb the mountains, stay at the hut, then head back to the port the next day.


This tiny island is also the tallest mountain in Kyushu. You'll pass through numerous climate zones.


Sometimes hiking, sometimes climbing.


I reached the end of the first leg at about 2pm. The next leg was described as "now it get's tough!", so I changed up the plan. Circumnavigate the mountain peak by way of hitchhiking, get to the main trail hub, and power walk to the hut where I could spend the night.


That plan totally worked, and I was at the Arakawa Dam trailhead at just after 3.


This is one of the most popular trails for hikers. Buses frequent this spot, and if you catch the early one, you can hike to the famous trees and back in about 10 hours. 6 hours up, 4 down. It gets dark in 3. But, according to the Japanese model, I can do a 6 hour hike in just that amount of time.


Oh, this is gonna be easy.


You hike along a railroad.


I passed at least a thousand people on their way down. As usual, I like to take a simple situation and make problems out of it. I sort of ran out of food. Oops, my bad.


Just as twilight set in, I reached my goal.


Oh snap, it's some people I met on the ferry ride over. They had been there since the afternoon, and were just making dinner. Score!


It's ramen adventure time!


The guy who treated me to this feast spoke great English, and talked about how he had cycled all over the world. He said to search for "Fumy on bike". The only one I found was Fumy Beppu, a Japanese racer who has competed in the Tour de France. It can't be... can it?


The most visited place on this island is by far Jomon Sugi, an ancient cedar tree that is somewhere between 2000 and 7000 years old. If it's toward the later, then this is the oldest living thing on earth. (insert a yo mama! joke here)


Along the trail, you can see many more of these ancient trees. Or in this case a stump. Wilson's Stump is named after 1800s plant collector Ernest Henry Wilson. Thanks wikipedia!


Back down the railway tracks.


I got way lucky with the weather. Yakushima is the wettest place in Japan, and every guidebook says that the locals say that it rains 35 days a month here. Which is stupid. Because there aren't 35 days in a month.


Homeboy was doing Japanese tea ceremony on the top of a mountain. How awesome is that!


Down through the Mononoke forest, the descent is easy going.


Oh, yeah, I was still out of food this whole time.


Next: Fukuoka. "It's all the kick ass sleaze of Kabukicho, but with a nice river and benches to chill on." - Me

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ibusuki, Japan


I was about to head to the campsite to meet the rest of the riders, when this rad old dude starts staring at me.


I exchanged some pleasantries, then he just busts out, in Japanese, "There's a bunch of big, red koi fish in the river!" Awesome. So we chatted about fish for the next 5 minutes, until a woman, maybe his daughter, came out of a nearby house. She yelled at him to come back inside, "He doesn't understand you!" Then looked at me, realized I can speak enough Japanese, pointed at her head and did the universal symbol for crazy. It was kind of a dick move on her part, as rad old dude just wanted to tell me about the fish.


Speaking of fish...


I ate some for lunch.


This was a locally famous somen nagashi restaurant. What's somen nagashi?


Noodles that are perpetually moving downriver, waiting for you to grab them with your chopsticks. The logistics of actually having a ton of noodles flowing down a river is an easy fix, just build a round aquarium and hook up some water pumps.


But Ibusuki is most known for one thing, the hot sand baths.


Lie down, and a friendly fella will bury you alive. The steam from down below turns your sandy tomb into a sauna. Fresh!


As always, a group of a dozen Westerners will gravitate towards the barbecue. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be continuing on with the group. One of my interests in Kyushu was visiting Yakushima, an interest no one else shared with me.

So the next morning, I said goodbye to the group, and headed 60km north to Kagoshima port.


Great roads, with views of some massive fossil fuel tank area.


Dropped the bike off at a tire shop. Think I need a new one?


Paid way too much for a tire, and way to much for a 2 hour ferry, and set off into the sunset.


Which had a nice color due to the exploding volcano behind.

Up Next: The land that inspired Princess Mononoke.