A continuous surprise during our tour in Japan was just how good the riding is. I went to South Korea expecting great riding and found great food. I went to Japan expecting great food and found great riding.
The start of our convoluted route through Oita Prefecture was downhill through rice paddies to the pottery village of Onta.
We spent that night at a park in Hita, happy to have shelter from the rain. Hita is one of many towns in Japan known as a “Little Kyoto”. Indeed the downtown Mameda-machi Historic District has some well-preserved buildings and picturesque store fronts.
We used the rain as an excuse to spend our second night in Hita at a ryokan, certainly one of the highlights of our five weeks in Kyushu. The woman in the center of this photo was our personal guide for our time at Satsuki Inn.
She showed us around, explained how everything worked, and served us dinner and breakfast.
Dinner was a multi-course feast, the highlight of the highlight.
Breakfast wasn’t bad either.
Just as we lucked out with the fantastic riding between Soeda and Hita, we stumbled upon the Maple Yaba Cycling Road for our descent into Nakatsu via Yabakei. It’s an old railroad grade.
In Nakatsu we made a beeline for the castle and ended up spending the day with Takazaki.
Takazaki is a volunteer (?) tour guide, giving English-speaking tourists free tours of Nakatsu. The first thing he did for two hungry cyclists was treat us to our first sushi in Japan, a kaiten sushi lunch. That’s where the sushi comes around on a conveyor belt, and you take the plates you want.
In addition to its castle and temple district:
Nakatsu is famous for being the birthplace of Yukichi Fukuzawa, a prominent figure who helped usher in the Meiji Restoration, essentially the start of modern Japan. Of course everyone knows what Yukichi Fukuzawa looks like because he’s on the 10,000 yen note.
At a nearby cafe we tasted cookies made in the shape of Yukichi Fukuzawa’s childhood home.
Thank you, Takazaki (aka Monkey) for a great day in Nakatsu.
We hadn’t even been riding five minutes from Takazaki and Nakatsu’s castle when we came across this street parade/performance:
It certainly helped to be flexible in Japan so we could enjoy unexpected fun experiences like our day in Nakatsu.
The following day on our way to Usa we came across these three old women who were excited to see foreign cyclists in their village. We couldn’t leave before they gave us the gourd that Ferda’s holding in this photo.
What a strange gift, we thought, but then we came across the same gourds at the Usa Jingu Shrine, the main reason tourists come to Usa.
Like a week earlier in Dazaifu it was Sunday when we visited Usa Jingu. We enjoyed seeing the Japanese out making wishes and celebrating their children.
Of course one shouldn’t visit Usa without seeing the Statue of Liberty.
Ferda’s favorite temple in all of Japan was peaceful Fujiki Temple on the Kunisaki Peninsula.
Nearby is some good scenery (Tashibunoshou Osaki Important Cultural Landscape) and ~1000 year old carved stone Buddhas (Kumano Magaibutsu).
At the temple adjacent to the stone Buddhas a happy, young, chicken-kebab-loving nun used some prayer books to help Ferda wish for good luck.
At first it didn’t seem to work as the campground we were aiming for that evening turned out to be closed. However, quite nearby we found this great park, a comfortable place to spend the night.
The next day we were very excited to get to Beppu, Oita’s biggest tourist draw. It’s an onsen (hot springs) resort city. We climbed about 850m (over 18km) through pretty scenery to get to our first hot springs, Tsukahara, only to learn that you can’t use soap or shampoo there because they don’t want to contaminate the water. We bailed, and thankfully it was almost all downhill to Yunosato Onsen, one of Beppu’s more famous hot springs.
They use the steam from the hot springs to cook eggs and corn.
We ate quite a few eggs after our soak since the onsite restaurant closed at 3:30, not opened at 3:30 as we originally understood. Communication difficulties were definitely common in Japan.
Tourists come to Beppu to soak and see the steam rising up through the old part of the city. It’s about as exciting as this:
The most exciting thing we did in Beppu was soak in a foot bath with these very enthusiastic young women. They played some music, and we did some exercises together with our feet in the hot water.
We worked up an appetite cycling to Oita’s eponymous prefectural capital city, hoping to find a kaiten sushi place. What luck! With the help of a Japanese woman who lives in the UK we found Sushi Meijin where all-you-can-eat lunch cost 1100 yen/person, the best food bargain during our five weeks in Kyushu. In 70 minutes (that’s the time limit) we ate bowls of noodles with vegetables, two orders of shabu shabu pork, one order of thicker pork, 6 plates of sushi with 4 orders on each plate (2 pieces per order), an order of fried chicken (three pieces), and ice cream. Yikes, we rolled ourselves out of Oita.