Okay, so when I last left off, we were just arriving in Beppu. Beppu is basically one big hill from the mountain all the way down to the ocean. It was gorgeous. The IC (interstate) cut its way through the mountains, so we could see all the way down to the coast. On our way down into Beppu proper, it was basically one long coast downhill. On the way out of Beppu, though, our cars were hating us.
Luckily, our love hotel was right off the IC, and we had no problem finding it. I’m not sure that I have described what a love hotel is or why we drove all the way for this one. Love hotels are EXTREMELY popular in Japan. They are pay-by-the hour hotels that people go to to do the dirty. Since most people live with their parents until they are married (or even after that in a lot of cases), love hotels are a place to take your boyfriend/girlfriend to have sex. I know that sounds sleazy and not a place that you want to go to, but everyone does in Japan. They are SUPER secretive and SUPER clean. In fact, they are so secretive, that there are individual covered parking spaces that come with a little flap that you can put over your license plate. The entire time we were there, we never saw one hotel worker. There’s not exactly a front desk or friendly maid pushing a cart down the hallway. Most of us hadn’t experienced this aspect of Japanese culture, so we decided that what’s more romantic than taking your loved one to a pay-by-the-hour love hotel for Valentine’s weekend? Sometimes, love hotels are themed. We saw a Christmas one in Osaka, and I’ve heard of some crazy ones in Kumamoto, but the appeal of this one was that it was JURASSIC PARK THEMED!!!!
When we pulled up to the hotel, there were all kinds of dinosaur statues, jeeps, and netting on the outside. We were honestly like kids in a candy store. “Look at that!” “Wow, that’s so cool!” “You guys, come SEE this!” Since these love hotels are so common and secretive, Japanese people don’t really understand our infatuation with cool ones. Mary basically had to twist Hiro’s arm to come, and as us giddy foreigners climbed up on the dinosaurs to take pictures, we could tell that Hiro and Ikumi were shying away from the camera. When we went inside, we were able to choose our rooms via a computer. There was a huge flat screen that had images of each themed room. When you chose what you wanted, you simply clicked on it. Then, the dinosaur statue started growling, lights flashed, and the elevator door opened. Ian and I called dibs on the “Jurassic” room. It was actually a REALLY nice hotel room. The bed was actually soft, (For some reason, every Japanese bed/futon I’ve been on is stiff and hard.) there was a huge Jacuzzi tub, and lots of free things like a hair brush, tooth brush, etc. The room was decorated kind of jungle themed, and (bonus!) the lights would flicker, and there were growling dinosaur noises when we pushed a button.
When our time was over, we weren’t exactly sure how to pay. We got our things together and tried to leave……except the door was locked from the outside….as in we couldn’t get out. As if she had a camera on us, Mary called and asked if we knew how to pay. Of course we said no. Ian had to call a hotel worker on the phone and say something like “Okay, we’re finished.” You know those little vacuum suction tube things they have at the bank drive-thru? They had one of those in the room, so we put our money in it. It went to wherever, and after the person on the other end received payment, the door was unlocked. Ian and I met back up with our friends and drove down into Beppu for an early dinner.
We had to leave around 4PM so that we could get back to Kumamoto in time for the charity auction with other ALTs that night. The way back was…..special. We didn’t go the same way we came. Our original way was definitely better roads, but it took us the roundabout way. On the way back, we took more direct country roads. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t concern me that we were on tiny little mountain roads with it snowing. The snow only stuck in places, but it was a little scary. It ended up taking up a lot longer to get back than what we thought, so we were very late to the auction. Mary and I decided not to go in since there was a 2,500 yen cover charge. That’s about $31, and it got you all-you-can drink and snacks. Since neither of us drink and are cheap, we decided to wander around the city for the next hour and a half and gab about any and every thing.
After the auction, we piled into our cars for the last leg of our trip….returning to Hitoyoshi. I drove that leg. It was weird to be on the IC without cruise control, (Most Japanese cars don’t have this feature.) and I didn’t realize how difficult it is to maintain a speed without the help of cruise! When we drive around here, it’s no big deal to not have it because here it’s all stop-and-go traffic or mountain roads that you really don’t want to use cruise on. I slept like a rock that night. We finally made it back to Hitoyoshi a little after midnight, and thank God we decided to stay with Mary instead of going the extra fifty minutes back to Yunomae. We were all pretty exhausted.
…….and that was our whirlwind trip to Beppu! I wouldn’t mind going back there because it was really pretty, and I feel like there is a lot more to see there than just a love hotel. Someday, Beppu, someday!