WRITTEN ON SUNDAY
The title of this post refers both to my condition throughout most of today, and to the Nine Hells of Beppu (real name, not made up by me) which is where we spent the day.
I’m not sure how much hotter than Korea Japan really is, if at all. However, when I’m in Korea, I’m never outside throughout the day any more. I don’t have a death wish. The few times when I’ve had to venture out of my nice air-conditioned classroom to go to the bank, I’ve had to stop in the shade several times so that I don’t faint. Here, however… well, it would be a bit of a waste to come to Japan and sit hugging the air conditioner all day, so endure the heat I must.
We explored Beppu by hopping on buses from one beauty spot to the next. It really is an incredible place. One of the most geothermally active regions in the world, it looks like something from a sci-fi movie when you approach it: near-boiling water bubbles and froths and roars under the ground, surfacing in thousands of hot springs, roaring clouds of steam, and powerful geysers. The steam is everywhere, billowing across the mountains and seeping out from under the rocks and paving stones. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Beppu is best known for its Nine Hells, or ‘jigoku’, pits of bubbling, steaming water and mud. The areas around them have been carefully landscaped to form beautiful, surreal gardens. One of the ‘jigoku’ is a fiery pit of bubbling red water emitting clouds of red steam. Another is a pool of boiling, belching, squelching mud. And then of course there are the countless public baths created from the naturally hot water, which is where we finished up.
Well, Irish Friend Two did. After spending the afternoon dangerously dehydrated despite drinking what seemed like gallons of water, and having resorted to wearing a towel around my neck to soak up the private bubbling water that my skin was producing, I could think of no greater personal Hell of Beppu than getting into a steaming hot bath. Instead, I sat on at the mountaintop restaurant where we’d eaten dinner, assuring IFT that I genuinely did not mind her going for soak without me, and looked after our bags and sipped an iced coffee and typed up a blog post on my iPad like a pretentious poser, while enjoying the view. That’s much more my idea of a relaxing evening than quite literally being boiled alive.
Each to their own!