Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Japan: Kyushu 30: Onsen Here We Come!

Japan is made of many volcanic arcs (curved belt of volcanoes). Therefore, onsens (hot springs) are a plenty and is the common past time of the Japanese. The waters are natural, hot and full of minerals which are supposed to be great for the skin and relaxing. Some of the ladies from the Women's Club invited me to go on a Japanese tour bus down to Kyushu (southern prefecture of Japan) to a very well known Onsen in Kirishima. Since it is winter and the tour is meant for Japanese people, we only paid about $300 for 3 days, 2 nights at a hotel, all meals, and transportation.

The trip from Hiroshima to our destination is a 10 hour bus ride, including rest stops every 2 hours. Our tour director is a woman at the front of the bus, who despite her tiny size, as a voice that is piercing. People warned me that tour directors will talk non-stop the whole ride. I had a headache after 3 hrs. Ipod rescued me for the duration. Lunches are at a "mess hall" like place where set lunches are already put out for people on tours. Rest stops are rather clean and there is always 1 or 2 Western toilets available. Otherwise you're stuck using Japanese toilets.

We traveled thru very mountainous terrain and finally arrived at the Kirishima Kokusai Hotel: It is built on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. You see stacks of smoke arise from hills beyond and pipes everywhere channeling the hot spring water into all the buildings. The hotel was large and for the cheap price we paid, we slept 4 to a room on tatami.

View from our balcony: