Japan by Motorcycle

Day 21

August 18, 1999


Volcanic Cows

Kyushu: Kumamoto and Oita Prefectures

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Sayonara to the Saita'sKyoko and Myself    Waking up in a real bed was a nice change.  Kyoko even made us breakfast.  What a sweetie!  It would have been nice to just relax there for another day but I was really running out of days in which to finish my trip.  I reluctantly bid the Saita's goodbye and set out on a rather gloomy, wet day.
    I drove through Fukuoka and headed towards Kumamoto on Route 3.  Once again I felt like I was wrapped in plastic from head to toe (because I was!).  I was reminded of my ride from Sapporo to Otaru on day 5 of my trip.  The weather was similar and I had also been riding beneath an overhead expressway trying to keep from getting wetter than I had to.  After 100km or so, I arrived in Kumamoto and headed straight for the castle.  Fortunately, the rain had let up by this time.
Kumamoto Castle Gate    Kumamoto Castle is very large and impressive despite the fact that most of the buildings were reconstructed in the 1960's.  The museum inside was very well done and -- bonus -- most of the displays were marked in English.  No question -- museums are more interesting when one understands what one is seeing!  The museum also contained pictures of virtually all the castles in Japan and I discovered that, though I had seen many, I still hadn't even seen half of them.  Besides the normal feudal Japan era historical events, Kumamoto Castle is notable for being the site of the samurai's last stand against the Meiji government in 1877.  A siege that took 55 days for the government forces to win.

Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto Castle

    I didn't have time to go towards Nagasaki or Miyazaki so I headed towards Mt. Aso in the center of Kyushu.  On the way, I stopped at a ramen shop for a taste of Kyushu-style (tonkotsu) ramen.  The soup stock consists of an almost creamy pork stock.  It hit the spot on that wet day.
    Mt. Aso and environs is the site of a huge volcanic caldera measuring 20km across in many places.  There are several volcanic cones including one that is still active (Mt. Nakadake).  Mt. AsoSupposedly it is the only place in the world where you can look into an active volcanic crater from its own rim.  At the museum halfway up the mountain one could control a little mobile camera and look around inside the volcano.  The misty/foggy weather prevented me from seeing anything on camera but the museum had a good overview of the area and its history.  I finished climbing the mountain road with its many switchbacks up to the bottom of the ropeway to find the toll road continuing to the top had been closed due to the weather.  Mt. Aso wasn't going to give me a glimpse inside on this day.  I was surprised to find a couple of cows standing idly in the parking lot so I took their picture before I made my retreat.
   The rest of the day was spent winding my way through Oita Prefecture and, finally, to Beppu which is located on the eastern coast of Kyushu.  For whatever reason I encountered several traffic jams on Routes 57 and 10 and didn't get into town until 8:00PM.  Although the rain wasn't continuous, the threat of precipitation was constant so I had made a reservation at the Beppu Youth Hostel earlier in the day.  Before going to the youth hostel, I stopped at a yaki-niku (Korean bbq) place for a dinner of bibimba (Japanese for pibim-bbap -- a Korean dish where rice is mixed with various vegetables and meat).  Beppu is a famous onsen (hot spring) resort town and the YH itself had onsen water piped in.  Since it was a highly trafficked town, the YH was fairly large and basic with guest volume a primary concern.  It wasn't as crowded as the Sapporo House had been but my room accommodated eight people in four bunk beds.  The bath itself was on the upper end for Japanese youth hostels.  I found it second only to Dochuan in Sendai.  It was too late to see any of Beppu's famous sites such as the various steaming "hells" and many types of hot springs.  The rest of the night was quickly eaten up by reading the guidebooks and making plans for the next day.

 

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Just The Stats

Day 21

Odometer

Time

Place Weather
Start: 50080 10:00 Fukuoka, Fukuoka Pref. Scattered Showers/Humid
Finish: 50380 21:00 Beppu, Oita Pref. Ptly Cloudy/Warm
 
Totals: 300km 11 hrs

Expenses

Gas: 1,650 Food: 1,900
Scenic Road: 850 Youth Hostel: 3,000
Attractions: 1,350  

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Created: Feb 22, 2001
Last Updated: Sep 16, 2001

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