Sorry for the week-long absence of a post. Since my last post back in Aoshima, I was in Beppu for 4 days, where I met up with a friend who studies there. It was fun going out at night since Beppu is a very multicultural town by Japanese standards because of the international university there.
Afterwards, I spent 1 night in Yufuin, a small, traditional tourist town about 1 hour south of Beppu. I stayed in a traditional Japanese inn there (called ryokan), which was a really interesting experience. The service is amazing – at dinner, which was very traditional Japanese cuisine, they basically hover around and know exactly when to pour more green tea, or mix your rice, or bring the next course. I also of course took full advantage of the 24-hour onsen about 10 steps from my room. Again, the hot spring waters (derived from the volcano nearby) are extremely relaxing, and it’s all the better in the dead of night when you can peacefully look up at the starry sky.
I then went to Fukuoka, the entrance and largest city in Kyushu (the southernmost main island), for 1 night, yesterday. It’s an extremely friendly and vibrant city, with a very modern shopping mall, neon-filled streets, and also a giant, circular park.
By far the best part of Fukuoka were the people at my hostel. After my short sightseeing trip mentioned above, I returned to my hostel. There, a Japanese guy and girl, also guests at the hostel, approached me in the common area and asked if I wanted to join them for some light drinking just inside the hostel. I said of course, and we went to the nearby supermarket to buy drinks and snacks. Eventually, we roped in 6 other people, including a staff member of the hostel, and had our own little party for several hours. It was a blast – we tried our hands at Jenga, shared stories about our travels, and just chatted in general. Out of the 9 people, 6 were Japanese, so I went ahead and spoke to them in Japanese to take advantage of the opportunity.
This is why traveling is so much fun, and why staying in hostels is the best way to meet and interact with people who are there for the same reason you are – to have a good time.
Anyway, I left Kyushu today after about 2 weeks, and I have to say they were some of the best parts of my trip so far. I’m back in central Japan now, where I arrived in Kyoto earlier today. Once the capital of Japan a thousand years ago, Kyoto was largely spared from major bombings in WWII because of its cultural significance. As a result, you probably can’t find more shrines and temples cloistered in one area anywhere else in Japan. Almost everyone I’ve met traveling in Japan has said Kyoto is in a world of its own regarding picturesque shrines and traditional districts.
Still, commercialism and modernization are abound here, and there are many, many streets here lined with malls, restaurants, Starbucks, arcades, and the like.
I’m in Kyoto for about 11 days total (with some side-trips in between), which may seem like a lot but there is so much to see that I’m positive every day will be busy (and that’s how I like it!).
Thanks for reading. As always, here are some more pics: