Happy New Year!
Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!
It's been a busy two week break with lots of movement. I went back to Toyama to pick up my wife while staying at her house and meeting with old friends. I had a great time with her family, was super excited to meet with old friends, and had very strange feelings going back to this second home. First I rode a train for an hour from Nakatsu to Kokura (Kita Kyushu City) and then took a twelve hour midnight bus to Osaka, where I rode another bus for 6 hours to Toyama. Once I breached the Hokuriku border when entering Fukui Prefecture, the sky went dark black and snowy mountains loomed in the distance. This is my ancient home, just like northwest Washington where I was raised, and northern Europe where my ancestors came from. I might be getting a little corny, and to be honest I'm not really sure where I came from, but I feel a connection to Toyama that is a little more than mysterious. Anyway ... it was interesting to see the place after 2 months away and adopting a new home ... I love Toyama, and the mountains are absolutley unbelievable. I feel like I could move back anytime and stay a long time ... but now I live somewhere else, in a land of funny shaped cone mountains in the warmer southern island of Kyushu.
So I picked up the girl, and we got in her car and drove to Osaka. We realized when we reached the city borders because the highway walls loomed high enough to conceal our surroundings and giant trucks congested all around us.
We got through the city on time despite rush hour traffic, and boarded our overnight ferry from Osaka to Beppu Port in Oita Prefecture. This was our bed for the trip. (It went well with the giant sento bath on the ferry! A giant bath on a ferry!)
The ferry also came with a buffet that looked way better in the brochures, but it was a nice ferry.
On the ferry deck my wife and I said our great farewell to Honshu (the main island of Japan).
We arrived safely to a much warmer Kyushu, and our home of Nakatsu! Also home to a cool castle.
We had a few days together before two other friends from Toyama came to stay for a couple days. We went to Usa Shrine in the neighboring town of Nakatsu. It's certainly famous in Oita Prefecture and this area around Nakatsu, but one brochure even said it was the most important Hachiman Shrine in Japan (Hachiman is generally considered the god of war in Japan, but is also described as many other things and in much more detail).
We went on New Year's Day, and for some reason I didn't realize how many people would go to the shrine that day. I lost all confidence while we were stuck in traffic on the small country roads, but once we got there I was happy to go to such a special shrine on such an auspicious day.
The shrine was great, and on the ride home I was utterly happy with my wife and a couple of best friends in the new home of Nakatsu ... and a beer in the belly.
The next day we went to Yufuin, a place in the mountains of Oita Prefecture, famous for the single mountain of Yufuin Dake (shown below), lots of amazing onsen, and a quaint tourist town area. It's been the number one destination in my mind for a while and it didn't dissapoint.
At about 1600 meters it's certainly not the tallest mountain in Japan, but definitely worth a visit, or many.
It's a touristy town with all the touristy qualities one can expect, but it was fun.
After that we went to Beppu, the onsen mecca of Japan. We went to a really cool onsen, ate food, and went home. No pictures, but at about an hour and a half away from where I live, I know I'll be back again and again and again.
The next day we headed to Fukuoka City, the largest city in Kyushu, and one of the largest in Japan.
Getting there takes a little over an hour by express trains and about $50 round-trip. It's close enough to feel like I can go anytime, but far enough to be completely separate.
It really is one of the biggest cities in Japan, and you can feel it immediately. Lots of big fancy building and hordes of people. Very fun to visit.
I've been having small technical problems with the blog lately,
my computer keys are sticky and there is some lag with the typing,
And the amount of Tateyama Sake I'm drinking is enough to draw my attention away from this typing...