Friday, May 15, 2015

Going to Hell: Spring Break 2015 Day 1

For Spring Break (Usually the first full week in April for DODEA schools... luckily this is a week later than the Japanese spring break) my friend, Cortney, and I decided it would be a good idea to take our children, sans spouses, on a five-day road trip around the northern part of Kyushu Island. Kyushu has a lot to offer, some of which I have posted about previously. Both Fukuoka and Nagasaki are on this island. For reference, Iwakuni is near Hiroshima.

For those of you who would like to replicate this trip, below is the exact info I gave to the spouses remaining behind, in case we went missing. Trust me, this is totally possible thanks to some of the roads Google Maps sends you on during your Japanese road trips. But that's another post.

Spring Break 2015



1) Kintetsu Beppu Ropeway: Yubinbango 874-0000 Beppu, Oita Prefecture Oaza Minamitateishi character SamuHara 10-7 tel.0977-22-2278 fax.0977-22-0571 1,600 yen/adult, 800 yen/child


Beppu and Kuju
Beppu Jigoku (Hells): 559-1 Kannawa, Beppu, Oita Prefecture 874-0000

Kuju Winery and Italian Restaurant 0974-76-1002

Kuju Kogen Flower Park and Cottage


Bio Park, Nagasaki: (10 percent discount with military ID)  1,700 yen/adult, 1,100 yen/junior high, 800 yen/child

Navy Lodge Sasebo: 0956-24-0322 


Huis Ten Bosch: 6,200 yen/adult, 5,200 yen/junior high, 3,900 yen/child

Navy Lodge Sasebo: 0956-24-0322 


IKEA Fukuoka and whatever random trouble we can get in to. ;)

So, almost immediately after leaving the base Monday morning, we had to change our plans. It was cloudy and misty, so going up the Beppu Ropeway to see one of the 31 most beautiful places in Japan (No. 6 on the list) was not going to work out. So, we decided to go to the Hells of Beppu instead. 

For additional fun for everyone, I gave my children permission to say the words "hell" and "damn" for the day. After all, we are on vacation and we're going to hell(s). Fun for the whole family, I say. And my 9-year-old's comedic timing is impeccable:

Me: "OK, my boys (there were three girls that did not belong to me in the vehicle. I was not going to speak for their mother on their ability to curse), you can say the words "hell" and "damn" while we are here today. So, enjoy it now."

Xan, with fist pump: "Hell, yeah!"

And so began our hellish day.

I had been to some of the hells before, but rushed through them, as they were part of a 37-hour girls' road trip last fall.

In total, there are eight hells, which are simply hot springs, most of which are full of boiling water. The first one we visited was the Sea Hell, named as such because of its turquoise blue water. It seems calm and serene enough at first.

But then you reach the steamy blue water with a suspended basket of eggs boiling in it (behind Xan's shoulder in the photo below) to show how hot it is, and you realize that falling in wouldn't be a great Jacuzzi experience.

Next door to the Sea Hell is my favorite hell, the Mud Hell, or Shaven Head Hell. Water and air bubble up in grey muddy water, creating cool concentric circle formations.

Next up, Kitchen Hell (not to be confused with Hell's Kitchen), where villagers used to go to cook their meals. Somehow there is actual green moss growing in the pool.

I made the kids eat a boiled egg that had been cooked in the hot springs. I believe in a complete sensory experience and we were already smelling sulfur, feeling the heat, hearing the chatty people around us and seeing the steam.

So, the only thing left was taste...

They were more impressed with the taste of the "marble soda."

The next hell was Crocodile Hell. Seriously. The brochure claims that these crocodiles are happy and that the steam pressure is perfect for crocodile breeding, but it looked more like a crocodile super max prison.

One of the inmates had apparently been executed.

Once we were depressed enough, it was time for the next hell, the White Pond Hell, which was as interesting as it sounds.

This Japanese lantern was about two stories high.

Then there was the Mountain Hell, which was at the bottom of a cliff... and oddly had a petting zoo around it. But do not feed the miniature horses. You get yelled at if you feed the miniature horses.

The last two hells were not within walking distance of the others, so we hopped back in the van to go check out Bloody Hell, which has reddish brown mud...

And interesting snacks in the gift shop...

The final hell was Geyser Hell...

They built a building next to the geyser, so, I suppose, to protect the building, the Japanese built a stone overhang over the geyser so that it wouldn't go too high. We were confused by this. Isn't the whole point of a going to see a geyser to see how high it goes? Why would you stop it? Why not build your building further away? Oh, well, they still got our money, so I guess it's not hurting business any.

The Hells took about 2.5 hours to get through, and then it was time to check in to the hotel. We stayed at the famous Suginoi Hotel and resort in Beppu, and it was a great time. We got the "online English" deal so the cost of the room for an adult and two kids, dinner buffet, breakfast buffet and hot spring pool and onsen access, was 26,956 yen, or about $210. Our room was considered a Western/Japanese hybrid room, and it had a city/ocean view.

The dinner buffet was huge, even by American standards. It had steak, crabs legs, a dessert bar, sushi... it was well worth the price of admission. Service here was excellent.

And they come around and take the group's photo... which you can buy the next day. (Thank you for the gift, Cortney!)

Once dinner was over, it was time to onsen. The kids had zero interest in traditional onsening, but we made them dress in yukatas, anyway. Part of the fun of this trip is telling your kids that they have to wear the funny clothes... even when they don't really have to. But the photo opps are priceless! See?

Xan figured they were still looking for the huge flower needed to fill the vase on display in the hotel.

Of course it was still raining, but while the kids swam, the Suginoi played its famous light show poolside. For those not swimming, they offered umbrellas.

Once the kids got bored with swimming, it was time to head back to the rooms for adult time. The Suginoi provides paper cups for the ice dispensing machines on each floor... which we used as margarita glasses.

Then it was time for Cortney and I to go and onsen, which I have learned to love. Of course, I don't have any photos because cameras and phones are not allowed, but if you read this post about my first onsen experience, I am sure you'll get the idea. We got back to the room much more relaxed and found the kids conked out from their "hellish" day. Xan was incredibly excited to sleep like a Japanese person. Will was just excited that he didn't have to share his bed with his brother yet again.

On to Day 2!

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