Mar 272008

When I awoke in my Miyazaki hotel room I was still feeling sick from the previous week’s lack of sleep, but the job for Dean was finished so I pulled out my trusty Lonely Planet and started considering where to head next. My first priority was a 5-peak climb of Kirishima, a climb that I’d actually intended to complete the last time I came to Miyazaki a GPR survey but backed out of on account of snowy weather. I backed down again, this time on account of my health. So I headed up to Usuki instead – because of the beautiful weather I thought it would be nice to take a train up the coast and watch the ocean fly by. Plus Usuki was just an hour from Beppu where I already knew of a place I could stay. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep my eyes opened and ended up dozing for the duration of the ride. Damn my immune system.

When I arrived at Usuki Station I approached the JR attendant. “I heard there’s somewhere you can rent bikes near the station?”

His response: he handed me a key. No ID, no cash, he didn’t even ask my name. Just a free bike to use for the day.

Sometimes I really love Japan.

You actually see places like this surprisingly often, even in bigger cities. For example, in Kyoto there’s several unmanned vegetable stands that just have vegetables laying out with prices and a box for the money. All someone would have to do is pick up a vegetable and walk away – or worse, the box. But apparently it’s not a problem.

Why can’t we figure this out back in the America’s – only take what’s yours? Bah.

A brisk ride through Usuki and I’d soon arrived at the site of the Stone Buddhas:

About 5km from Usuki is a collection of some superb 10th to 13th century Buddha images. More than 60 images lie in a series of niches in a ravine…Serene and spectacular, a must-see well worth making a special detour for.

Here I pulled out my Nikon D40 for the first time in probably 6 months. I’d almost forgotten how the damn thing works.

After shooting photos for a good hour I turned to head back, stopping at an electronics store to pick up a pair of replacement headphones for the ones I broke on the train here. I also stopped at the ruins of Usuki Castle, which was exceptionally nice because unlike most Japanese tourist attractions it had no ropes or “don’t go here” signs – you could climb right up the castle wall without anyone bothering you.

Then I proceeded to Beppu. But as it was still early and I’d stayed here once before, I decided to avoid my previous lodging and try someplace new. So I plotted out a route to Beppu Youth Hostel and started walking. It was quite far from the station, considering that you could see the trains from the window of the little ryokan I’d stayed at last time. And when I arrived, all I saw was a sign – Beppu Youth Hostel, 3,000 yen – and an empty lot. An inquiry with a passing neighbor confirmed that the place had indeed gone out of business and been knocked down.

But attempt #2 yielded some more fruitful results – a small onsen near the station that offers single ryokan-style rooms for 2,500 yen a night. It was very pleasant, except that I could hear the loud creaking of wooden floors and the loud chattering of little old ladies all hours of the night.

Good thing I picked up those headphones!

Before hitting the sack I popped out for a quick taste of Fugu (aka blowfish). I knew it would be expensive, but it’s famous in this part of Japan, and something I’d never experienced during my whole 2+ years on the islands. I went to a little specialty restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet. The cheapest thing – Fugu Sashimi, small portion – was $30. The pieces were sliced so thin that I could literally see right through them. And it tasted like nothing.

Oh well, now I’ve tried it. I bought a hamburger at a little meal truck by the station and went to sleep 🙂

  4 Responses to “Japan Notes 3 – Usuki Stone Buddhas”

  1. Those pics came out nice

  2. In America the phrase “take only what is yours” is interpreted by some to mean everything not nailed down

    Fugu has no taste – so eating it is just a macho thing in Japanese culture?

  3. Andy: Thanks 🙂

    Dave: I really have no idea – although in my experience, delicacies in many cultures aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. People swear they’re delicious but I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s just some sort of historical/tradition thing…

  4. Justin, the culinary aspects gain of any other existing cultural theme in your blog! You like to eat!

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