Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day 13 – Monkey Park in Beppu

Sorry for the lack of updates, folks. I’m on the final leg of the trip now, and not much going on for the past week, in terms of touristy things we’ve done… so I’ve been slacking… still playing catch-up. It’s actually the start of Day 19 here, but the next few days are going to be chill, so I’ll be posting more than one a day…

We woke up relatively fitfully today – those futon beds were surprisingly comfortable, for sleeping on the floor… and we got ready for our true Japanese breakfast. Carey said I had to try it at least once…. although she had a smirk and a twinkle in her eye when she said that.

We got dressed and went down to the dining floor, and were surprised that all the other people were still in their yukatas while they ate breaky. Oops, we did a dame (dah-may: bad thing). We sat down and were served by an old cute mama-san and enjoyed our J-P breakfast… complete with fish we roasted ourselves with a table candle thing, and a flamed hotpot of cubes of soft tofu!

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It was actually pretty good. Most of the tastes were salty with mild rice/tofu to balance it, so something I’m not used to right in the morning… but it was tasty! Even the roasty fish thing! Not pictured here is a bowl of steamed rice.

It seems that a great deal of the veggies in traditional J-P meals are pickled, and this was no exception. The foods were all tiny, many no more than a single bite. Hehe, we also noticed that the mama-san gave us a hard-boiled egg, but for the other two tables (the people seated there were japanese), she served raw eggs. I guess they get a lot of foreigners at that hotel, and play it safe…. but I would have done (and have done before) the tamago-gohan. It’s actually tasty, it’s a nice saucey rice, almost like an undercooked risotto, and the hot rice cooks it slightly, so it’s thick and slightly sweet… and I’m a lazy cook, so it works!

After breakfast, we took a bus outside of town (missed our stop at first, and ended up in west Oita, oops) to Mt. Takasaki, a reserve park for my favourite kind of monkey, the Japanese Macaque!

DSC01863 DSC01932 Most of Japan is covered in mountains… we’re in the rainy season, so they’re all misty-topped… all the train and bus rides through the country had amazing views. This set of mountains out of town held over 1,200 monkeys as part of a natural reserve park.

There’s a couple colonies of monkeys on the mountain, and they come down to the base of the mountain every day to be fed by the keepers. On the walk-up, we saw some warning signs telling us NOT TO LOOK INTO THE MONKEYS EYES and other stuff like that, so we started to get a little freaked out.


At first we saw one or two monkeys walking around with their big swollen red butts hanging out, and thought it was cool… then we made it up to the main ridge at the base of the mountain and there were hundreds of monkeys everywhere! All over the building roofs, on the ground, on a little play park, on the ground, walking between your legs, etc.

There was the main part above that had a small fence, where they were fed by the keepers… but that was to keep the humans out, not the monkeys in… when all the food was ate up (you can see how crazy they go), they start walking out through the fence, between your legs, and just start sprawling over the entire area… like they own the place, jeez!

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There were many, many photos; you can walk right up to them… in some cases, I was less than 2 feet away from them. Even so, “No touching!” We stayed away from the Big Boss monkeys, because they were intimidating and gruff.

They were all over the place, sitting on posts and mainly just cleaning and hanging out.

The younger ones were the fun ones though, they were small and cute and liked to play.

They had this weird game that a few of the younger ones played…. they gathered up little pebbles and stones in their cute little hands, then squished them on the ground and rubbed their hands back and forth on them… and then they started all over again, gathering up the rocks so they could squish them down and rub them. They looked like little monkey DJs!

After about an hour and a half of adorable cute monkeys, we headed back into. We had a ramen lunch at a random shop, not bad… a little salty. No pictures, it was just us in the tiny bar-sit-only shop, so I felt weird taking a pic… after that – back to the ryokan for more onsen!

DSC01936 DSC01935 This one was actually in a building next door, so we had to run across the small alley-type street in our sandals and yukatas. This one was a ceramic mosiac tile, it didn’t hold the heat in the room itself as much as last night’s wood room onsen… but the water itself seemed hotter.

If I ever come back to Japan, onsen is definitely at the top of the list of things to do. It was so relaxing.

After some onsen and relaxing, we walked around the town looking for something to eat/do. The town was pretty dead, so we ended up at a small izakaya and had some drinks and little foods… had more omurice, some fried stuffs, etc.

DSC01939 DSC01940 Oh yeah, I also did some salted raw squid! Not bad… too salty, though… so far the wasabi-tako at the 270 has been the best squid/calamari type of stuff that I’ve had here. Oh yeah, and of course… I had more hoppy!

We walked around some more, but all the fun-looking bars we passed by during the day remained closed at night…. must be off season. People come here to play pachinko and onsen, it seems…. and not much else. Replace pachinko with bingo and onsen with the beach/cottaging, and it may as well have been Port Elgin during the winter. *shiver* So we went back to the hotel and hit the sack early.

Beppu was great… If I come back, it’ll be a stop on the trip… more onsen, want more onsen! Next time I’d like to see the town in the summer, when the place is really hopping.

Finally! I finally found a vendy that serves alcohol! It was in our ryokan, and it was a gouger (500 yen for a tallboy)!

Stay tuned for more updates as I head back to Fukuoka and see the downtown!