My new home, Beppu has created an entire industry based on onsens produced from geothermic energy. These onsens are filled with sulfur and other minerals that keep people’s skin young and fresh looking. I was able to see the source of the volcanic energy first hand when I took a small bus ride from Beppu station up to the Beppu Ropeway situated at the base of Mount Tsurumidake. We bought our tickets and huddled aboard the cramped yet well ventilated cable car. I was the only gaijin there and smiled at the novelty of it all. Yuki and I peered out the window at the vista of the entire Beppu cityscape to our right and another mountain called Mt.Yufuin to our left. We also happened to take this ride in the middle of November right when the leaves are becoming the perfect shades of yellows, reds, and browns. Japanese have hundreds of Haikus about the fall (秋) season and this particular leaf changing phenomenon. Honestly I don’t know much about Haikus, but what I do know is that the colors were stunning. The cable cars go fast and I was surprised by how quickly the returning cable car sped past us on their way down. I also remarked to Yuki that I would definitely need a change of underwear if a earthquake was to suddenly start while were were dangling in the air.
Once we arrived at the top of the mountain we were greeted with great views of the Kojima Kogen theme park and Lake Shidako. We took some great photographs and moved onto the next phase of our adventure…. A great picnic lunch bento that Yuki had prepared for us chicken karage and rice. Gosh she is a great cook! After we were done eating we discovered a pilgrims trail on-top of the mountain. Yuki told me that Japanese Shinto gods can be compared to greek gods and there are patron deities of almost everything. There is a god of fisherman, lovers, students, fire and so much more that I can’t keep track.
We visited the Shrine to the first god and did the traditional three bows, two claps and bow again prayer. There is also a little donation box where it is customary to leave five yen (5 cents) to the gods. Yuki told me not to worry about it but I’m pretty superstitious and figured I could use all the help I can get to learn Japanese, so I plunked my five yen in the box and we continued on the pilgrims path. We got great views of Beppu city and Oita. We could even see the Iyo peninsula jutting off of Shikoku in the deep blue waters of Beppu Bay. Unfortunately dust storms occasionally blow in from China’s Gobe desert but we visited on a relatively clear day. One of the more notable shrines was situated next to a pile of pebbles Yuki explained to me that it’s the god of love and marriage. In Beppu since ancient times it was customary for newly married couples to place a pebble on the pile to symbolize there union and wish the deity for good luck. Did I mention these couples also had to climb the mountain without the cable car, maybe it was a good way to bond? Next we saw a very old woman and her family praying to the god of longevity I hope he continues to serve her well! After walking to each of the twelve shrines we used our return cable car ticket to descend the mountain. At the base of the mountain there is a lovely little park and a liquor shop for tourists. We had to wait awhile for our bus so Yuki and I decided to purchase some sake and enjoy it in the park. Yuki got Nihonchu a rice sake and I got a delicious jelly sake shot. I’m still not quite sure what it had in it but it tasted good and it was strong! We chilled in the park looked at the pretty fall colors and reflected on the great fun we had.
Beppu Ropeway is a fantastic attraction if you find yourself in Oita. The mountain also has a great view of other active volcano calderas and the nearby Self Defense Force military base which often has landing helicopters and an active firing range. Beppu is certainly an interesting area with alot going on. Don’t worry about he firing range I was assured it was all very safe (and I’m used to it since I hear the gunshots often while I’m in class). I highly recommend a visit to this memorable and interesting site!
Top right: Yufuin Mountain
Me and Yuki at the Base of Tsurumidake see the cable car behind us
One of the many gods with an offering box