First time travelling in Japan for the rugby world cup 2019
17.10.2019 - 20.10.2019 15 °C
The first time I went travelling in Japan was to go watch the Australia - England rugby world cup match in Oita, which is located in the southernmost island of Japan called Kyushu. It was one of the best traveling experiences of my life, as I haven't had many opportunities in the past to travel on my own. Because this was for an international sporting event, I met many different people who were extremely friendly and easy to talk to, so much so that some of us are still in touch. I have lots to talk about in this blog entry, so I apologise in advance if it drags out too long, but I will do my best to keep it interesting.
I left my dorm on the 17th of October to get to Haneda airport for midnight, as my flight was at 6:30am. I had to stay there overnight (which I had nerver done before), because trains in Tokyo stop at 1am and don't start again until 5am. It was quite a stressful experience, as I nearly got on the wrong train (since Tokyo has a diverse and complicated train systems), which meant I would have missed my flight. Even if I could have gotten a taxi, they are extremely expensive here. Either way, I got to the domestic terminal, where the entrance was closed and a security guard was explaining something in Japanese which I couldn't understand. Luckily, two guys who were in the same situation, knew how to speak English and told me that we had to go to the international terminal to sleep for the night. I got chatting to them, one was Italian, the other one was Japanese from Kyushu, we talked a lot during the night, they were extremely helpful and informative about Japan.
I only managed to sleep about 2 hours that night by sitting in an airport lobby chair, which was to be expected. The queue to get the 4am airport shuttle bus for the domestic terminal was huge, but we still got on the second bus and I arrived in time for my flight. I was exhausted and was craving sleep. However, for some unknown reason, I started talking to the English person next to me on the plane. We got chatting, once again about Japan, and I discovered latter that he was the father of Brad Shields, one of the official English rugby union players. He did not play in the world cup due to an injury, but I enjoyed talking to his father despite the lack of sleep.
I arrived at the airport, hopped on a bus for a few hours, enjoyed the scenery, got off the bus just before the center of Beppu, and proceeded to walk for 2 hours in the humide climate (which I did not prepare for) to go to one of the most famous onsens (bath houses). It was quite a trek, but definitely worth it. I got to experience some beautiful sceneries of Beppu, especially as I was climbing uphill. It did start raining as I was walking, but it was a pleasant feeling against the heat. I finally got to the onsen after trying to direct myself with Google maps and felt it was well deserved after a long walk. Onsens (温泉) are natural hot springs in Japan which can be public or private, mixed or gender separated and indoors or outdoors. Some don't accept people who have tattoos and some are specifically for families or couples. I had already experienced sento (セント) baths before coming to Beppu, as I have one in my dorm, but unlike onsens, they are baths filled with heated tap water. The onsen I experienced in Beppu was called Yuya Ebisu, it was quite cheap at ¥1,200 (around £8) for the day per adult, I had an amazing time there, the receptionist was patient with my poor Japanese, the baths were extremely relaxing and there were many types to chose from. I got talking to a French lady who was there at the same time as me, we chatted about the rugby world cup and she told me that her fiance was working in the tournament. I had a delicious ice cream and cold coffee before I had to departed to walk to my hostel to check in. I had spent nearly 4 hours at the onsen, mainly to regain some energy.
Next, I had to walk 2 hours downhill to arrive at the hostel called Guest House Sunline Beppu. However, when I left the onsen, the fog was extremely thick and I couldn't see what was in front of me. I was worried about the cars, so I thought about getting a bus but decided against it in the end. When I got under the fog or cloud, I once again saw some beautiful scenes of Beppu, such as steam coming from a river, more steam oozing from every manhole and chimney which resembled mini clouds in the sky. There was also an abundance of vegetation, with fruit trees bearing massive apples and plenty of rice fields.
I arrived at the hostel, it cost me ¥3,060 (around £22) for the night which included breakfast and an onsen bath (although this one was so hot that it felt like I was being boiled alive and could only stay in it for a few minutes). The receptionist was very kind and I managed to understand everything she told me in Japanese and she even understood my Japanese, which I was very proud of. I was exhausted, so I proceeded to collapse on the bed, but I was also starving, so in the end I had to force myself up and find somewhere to eat. I decided to go to the cheapest ramen shop in town after walking around a bit. The place was called ramen tei ichiban, and their cheapest bowl was at ¥300 (around £2), but I decided to go for their most expensive which was still under the average price in Tokyo (I will be talking about ramen in more detail in future blog entries).
After I got back from my meal I had a two hour long nap, but was woken up by someone dropping off their stuff in the shared room. I started talking to this person who was also a French woman, and I mixed her up with the other person I met at the onsen (probably because I was so tired). She left, someone else arrived who was a woman called Katie from Bath in the UK. We got along really well and I joined her for a smoke outside with some beers, where we both met Alex. He was from the Netherlands, married to a Japanese woman, and interestingly was the personal driver for the prime minister of the Netherlands, who is currently Mark Rutte. Alex was on a 3 month extended holiday for the rugby world cup, he said that he loved his job and that he also loved to drink. All three of us got along extremely well and talked about pretty much everything.
The next day, I woke up early to have breakfast and check out. I then walked to the Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Garden, to visit and take pictures of Japanese Macaques which are native to that area, the park was very cheap at ¥500 (around £3.50). Later, I went to take a shuttle bus to the rugby stadium and started talking to some Japanese rugby fans during the ride.
Once I got off the bus, I started drinking some Strong Zero which is a type of cheap alcoholic beverage at 9% abv based off of sochu and costs only ¥146 (around £1) for a big can. Once I got inside, I bought some food and beer, and decided to get some face paint. I was quite merry at this point and I enjoyed watching the match which had a great atmosphere. On the way back to Beppu, to watch the Ireland - New Zealand match, I met some drunk French people on the bus, who didn't realise I could understand French and started commenting about my hair and how his mate likes redheads. I found this amusing as I'm quite used to this already and they looked slightly embarrassed once they realised I knew what they were saying.
I arrived back in Beppu to join Alex and Katie in an Irish pub to watch the next rugby match. They kindly had a pint and a seat waiting for me in this overcrowded bar. I met some new people and soon realised that hardly anyone was concentrating on the game, probably because of how drunk everyone was and because Ireland was loosing. The spirits were high and everyone was singing popular English songs, strangers were buying me beer and we continued chatting and drinking throughout the night. At one point, we got to a karaoke bar and ordered nomi-hodai, which is all you can drink for a set amount of time. We got very drunk, especially me. Alex generously let me sleep at his place, even though I was planning to sleep at the karaoke bar.
The next day, very early in the morning at 7am, with hardly any sleep and still feeling very drunk and hungover at the same time, I unenthusiastically got on a bus for Oita airport. The journey back felt horrendous in every single way, I slept for most of the trip, but even with painkillers, nothing could stop this headache. Even so, I stayed up to watch the two other matches that day (Wales - France and Japan - South Africa).
Great fun overall, I would definitely do that again. I'm also planning on visiting Hokkaido (Sapporo) and Kyoto during my stay.
Next blog entry will be about my cultural experience of Japan starting off with toilets (it will be shorter than this and yes this topic will be interesting).