Finally to Kyushu
During my 2 years in Japan I never quite made it to Kyushu. So this time round I was determined to get there, even if it was just to visit one city. I had bought myself a Japan Rail Pass so I made sure I was going to use it as much as I could.
I didn't really have a plan. I just knew I wanted to go to Beppu and visit as many onsens as I could. Luckily for me Lisa hooked me up with her host family in Beppu over our okonomiyaki dinner and voila - I had a lovely host family to stay with and show me around their hometown. Thanks so much Lisa - I owe you big time!
Bullets trains are so convenient and before I knew it I was in Beppu - 'the Las Vegas of spa resort towns, a place where bad taste is almost a requisite.' - Lonely Planet.
I arrived at the station and made a call to Michiko who said her son, Roman would meet me at the station. Not knowing what he looked like and him not knowing what I looked like was our small dilemma but fortunately I didn't have to go around asking random strangers and we eventually found each other.
He took me to a nearby hotel for a delicious Japanese bento style lunch followed by a nice soak in the hotel's own onsen. Being in the middle of the day I had the whole hotel onsen to myself (the womens' one). It was massive with lots of different pools and a spacious outdoor one surround by beautifully manicured gardens. It was the perfect way to relax after the train ride.
We then met Michiko at the Beppu Art Museum to pick her up after work and headed to the local grocery store to get ingredients for dinner - homemade gyoza. After being introduced to the family and settling in, I helped Michiko and Obachan prepare dinner. As I rolled out the gyoza skin and made the little dumplings with my hands and face dusted with flour, I understood why homestay is the best way to experience a new culture - the homecooked food, the dynamics between family members, the little touches that make a house into a home in another country.
Michiko's daughter was also visiting from Tokyo so it was a bit of a family reunion. After dinner we headed out to another local onsen and then called it a night.