onsen

A Day in Beppu

It’s about 6:30 in the morning as we wearily board the ferry that will transport us from Yawatahama Port on the island of Shikoku to Beppu on the island of Kyushu. Three hours to contemplate the walking journey we are leaving behind. Three hours to plan for our upcoming city tours: Beppu, Nagasaki, Fukuoka, Hiroshima and nearby Miyajima and finally Tokyo.

The conditions could not be better for our crossing. The waters of the Bungo Channel are glassy smooth. The sun rises over the hills of Shikoku, revealing a cloudless, deep blue sky. Small islands, tiny fishing boats, large cargo freighters come and go. Eventually, the Beppu skyline appears on the horizon.

Today’s journey has one goal: to get us to Nagasaki on the other side of Kyushu. Happily and conveniently, Beppu lies along that path. Beppu is most notable for its geothermal hot spots. Eight of them to be exact, colloquially known as the eight hells of Beppu. Far from hellish, the town is very resort-oriented, sporting many hot baths, sand baths and onsens.  (more…)

Shikoku: A Walk to the Spa

April 9, 2017

Today’s walk starts with great promise. After a fine Japanese breakfast, our obliging hostess at Minshuku Micchan loads us into her diminutive car and drives us up the steep winding road to its junction with Highway 47. We don our backpacks and say our goodbyes in a halting mishmash of English, Japanese and hand gestures.

The road is still shrouded in mist, the remnants of yesterday’s rain showers. But the fog soon lifts, revealing a deep blue sky and outstanding views over the Pacific Ocean. It’s not long before we strip down to T-shirts on this hot, humid and now sunny stretch of pavement. It’s a beautiful day for a 30-kilometre walk.  (more…)

Shikoku: The Walk Continues

April 7, 2017

Kochi was hard to leave behind on this wet, dreary day as we make our way past Temple 31 – Chikurinji – on our way out of town. Just two days ago, we climbed treed slopes to this temple under a blazing sun. Today, the restaurant and overlook at its crest are mired in a grey mist, barely visible. Further on, the equally grey concrete structure of an under-construction highway imposes itself on the quiet landscape of low-hung hills, reflecting its menacing bulk in the glassy surfaces of age-old rice paddies.

As gloomy as the trek may seem, it is brought to life by vivid, saturated colours accented by mysterious clouds of mist rising from the forested hills. Cherry blossoms are now at their best, in full bloom, bright and cheery as we pass under their bows. (more…)