DISCOVERY OF KYÛSHÛ
Departure from Hiroshima on Saturday, December 5, early for a bus ride and then a ferry that will take me to the island of Kyûshû where I will spend the month of December.
Kyushu is one of Japan’s four major islands. It is the southernmost of the islands and is considered to be the birthplace of Japanese civilization. The island is mountainous with many volcanoes, including Mount Aso which rises to 1592m above sea level and is considered to be the largest active volcano in Japan. The last eruption was on September 14, 2015.
The journey to reach Kyûshû is not very long but the ferry ride causes some protests from my stomach due to a small swell. In the space of four days, I took the ferry more than in ten years.
The arrival on Kyûshû is peaceful. The bus runs through the countryside, in small villages in the middle of the mountains. I arrive in Beppu around 4pm. Located on the Northeast coast, the city is famous for its many onsens (hot springs of volcanic origin). There are more than 3,000 different, offering visitors more or less hot baths (some very hot), water of different colors or even geysers.
QUIET WEEKEND TO BEPPU
I spend a quiet weekend in Beppu taking advantage to rest. Apart from the onsens there is not much to do or see. For gambling lovers, the city is filled with Pachinko (a cross between a pinball machine and a slot machine) which Japan is particularly fond of. Large halls with bright signs are filled with these machines where the Japanese devote themselves to their hobby in a sound atmosphere at the limit of the bearable (in any case for me: mix of j-pop and noise of slot machines ). It’s like Los Angeles at times. I go around the city center where I come across a gigantic head of tengu (yôkais recognizable by their long nose) standing proudly in the covered shopping alley. The nose is really massive. Stroll through a large shopping center to buy food (this is an opportunity to enjoy the sight of different types of dango) (mochi dumplings)), and I quietly return to my inn.
DEPARTURE FOR YUFUIN AND BEGINNING OF WOOFING
On Monday, December 7th, after a short train ride through the mountainous countryside, I arrived at Yufuin, a small town at the foot of the Yufudake volcano. The village is famous for its onsens, its lake and its shopping alley lined with souvenir shops selling local specialties.
For two weeks I will be doing my first woofing here at the Youth Hostel Country Road, located a little outside the village on the heights. The woofing consists of working for free in exchange for the lodging and food. The owners come to pick me up at Yufuin Station in the afternoon, so I have a few hours to walk around the village.
The place is absolutely gorgeous. The landscape is really beautiful, the village has a quiet and endearing atmosphere bathed in the smoke of the onsen, the shopping alley offers among other culinary specialties of the area, the orange tree-lined lake is home to the Marc Chagall museum and then cherry on top, one of the stores offers a multitude of products derived from the films of the studio Ghibli. Full of stuffed Totoro, tons of self-made puzzles, cooking utensils, jewelry, chopsticks, key chains, postcards, beautiful little and big figures, etc. A paradise for anyone who is passionate about Ghibli studio films. Of course I will go back there before leaving Yufuin.
The beginning of the woofing is going well. The couple (Tomomi and Ryo) who run the hostel are young, energetic and friendly. They speak a little English which facilitates exchanges. My job is to prepare meals, set the table for guests staying at the inn and serve the dishes, dive, clean and maintain the inn. The work is not very complicated but it’s still a little tiring. A lot of activities are planned during the weekend and Ryo-san offered me to climb the Yufudake. Another young woofer coming from Taiwan is also present. The hostel is very nice and overlooks the valley and the village of Yufuin. Guest rooms are traditional (tatamis and futons). At night, in calm weather, we can see the smoke of the onsen rise in the valley in large immobile masses.
See you at the end of the week for the impressions of my first week of woofing and for more photos of the hostel!