(See page 2 or the German version)
After a stressful start into the new year with a lot of overtime working, in March I spontaneously booked flights tickets to Kyushu, in order to escape my work life in Tokyo, if only for a short while. Fellow travel companions were quickly found, and we decided to go to Oita, where nature and Onsen were supposed to reduce my high stress level a little bit.
Oita prefecture is mostly famous for the ‚hell‘ – onsen in Beppu, but as, like any other typical tourist, I had been there already, we decided to take a different travel route this time. Our first destination was Mt. Takasaki (高崎山), with its monkey park. For an entrance fee of 510 yen you can really see many many wild monkeys there (about 1200-1500 animals are living in and around the park), who are running around, playing and climbing around in the trees, fighting and reconciling again, or steeling food and drinks from park visitors that are not careful enough. We arrived right at feeding time, and the park staff told us to stand in a row near the feeding place, with legs wide apart, as it supposedly would bring good luck, if the monkeys passed through one`s legs (I got as many as five monkeys, which is a good number I suppose;)). It was quite spectacular to see hundreds of monkeys rushing from all sides to the feeding place, and you quickly realized who the groups` bosses were, as they were the ones to eat at the best feeding spots. But even after the rush was over, I had a lot of fun taking pictures of and watching the many monkeys – especially the very young ones. I was also surprised that, like humans, they all had very different facial features. Although the brownish-green landscape was not quite as impressive as the snowy landscape in Nagano, where I visited the snow monkeys, the Oita monkeys seemed to be more relaxed, and also the number of tourists was of course much lower.
To do some exercise, too, we decided to hike to the top of Mt. Takasaki afterwards. The elderly very talkative taxi driver that brought us near the entrance of the hiking trail, was quite surprised when he heard where we wanted to go (‘In my 20 years as a taxi driver here, I have never driven this route!’ was what he said.). He also told us that we might meet Benz, the legendary old monkey boss, who had left his group in the monkey park some time ago to die alone in the forests of the mountain. Unfortunately we did not meet the lost monkey celebrity, and thankfully no other wild monkeys either, although there were a few signs along the way warning us against them. Instead, we just walked a simple little trail up to the top of the mountain. Supposedly, in earlier times a castle must have stood there on the top, as its remains had been found in that area.
After enjoying the view from the top, we wanted to visit a really nice onsen at the end of our day trip (…even though Beppu is rather famous for its old traditional bath houses). After doing some research, the spa area at Suginoi Hotel seemed to be the best place to go. Admission is about 2000 yen, which is a bit pricey, but I was immediately sold on the baths. There is a mixed area where you can swim around in bathing suits in a few onsen pools, and an area that is separated for men and women; there you can soak and relax in the hot water of the various onsen baths, – while enjoying a splendid view over Beppu, as the onsen are on the rooftop of the hotel! Unfortunately, this also means that in the early evening it gets quite packed, but since we already arrived around noon there, we were able to escape the crowds.
Have you ever been in Oita? What are your recommendations there?