Beppu Onsen Weekend
In January we decided to take one last trip to an onsen before packing up in Japan. When first introduced to onsen (thermal baths with water that seeps up from volcanic rock) I was a bit un-appetized by the thought of having to be in my birthday suite with strangers (most do have women-only/men-only baths, whew…). I passed up the opportunity a few times until I couldn’t resist how relaxing it looked to be among trees, mountains and total silence while soaking in warm waters. I’m a convert. We also later visited a few others that are private which is even more relaxing to be there alone.
My thoughtful husband planned a side trip on the way to pass through a famous pottery village, Koishiwara, so we could take home some keepsakes from Japan and always relish memories when we use them. It was pottery heaven perusing store after store of wares. And even better, it was all covered in snow with winter-wonderland-y charm.
We couldn’t have picked a dreamier ryokan (traditional onsen hotel). It was tucked away in the mountains of Oita, and when we arrived the smell of smoke from the fireplace was swirling out from the entrance chimney. Everything was made of wood and had a natural, rustic heartiness to it. The winter stillness gave it a mystical peacefulness that clung in the air. As you walk from the room to the baths, to the dining room, all you hear is a bit a trickling water. The Japanese are masters of peace (peaceful environments and public peace, that is; I would argue that many have inner turmoil where the peace from their public face flees and the real anxious feelings of private feelings arise). Our chalet had a private bath on the porch that overhung a river below. The rooms inside were warm with Japanese style heating techniques—which I have to say were a bit hard to live with most of the time, but it seemed fitting there to have the heated table and thick blanket over it to cozy-up under. It was like a deep breath before the chaos of moving.
The dinner was one of my most memorable to date. There were so many plates of different delicacies. Crispy fried fish, red peppercorn on a few things that added a huge punch of flavor (I will be experimenting more with this!), sushi that came hidden in a ball of ice, nabe (soup that cooks at the table), and a array of other pickled vegetables, cured meats, cooked meats, tofus, and salads (my mouth is watering now missing the food in Japan!).
The next day we drove toward the east coast of Kyushu to a mountain famed for it’s loose monkeys. Our little one was ready to dive right in and play with them which took a lot of harnessing in!