So, like I said in my last post, I took a trip with my brother and we had such a good time. We hardly ever get to catch up, what with being on different sides of the globe and all, and Skype not really being the same, so even just hanging out and chatting was really cool. Sadly, my sister-in-law had to work, so she couldn't join us, but that didn't stop us having fun.
First, we spent a few days in Matsuyama, looking at the outside of the hot spring (none of my family want to take public baths, but the outside of Dogo hot spring is very beautiful, plus there's a brewery, Dogo brewery, next to it that does MASSIVE lunch sets, so it's a to-do thing), looking at the castle and going to an old countryside town nearby called Uchiko. Uchiko is pretty cool because there's a historical street where the house owners can't change the look of their house, they have to keep the traditional style. I think my brother was interested because it was so different to the last time he came, and he visited Tokyo and Kyoto. We got smiled at by lots of old people, and got to see the inside of a restored kabuki theatre. The Uchiko-za was restored using donations from local people, and, I have to say, they've done a wonderful job. I don't know much about old buildings, but this one looked really authentic to me. On the day we went, there was a high school concert, so we had the added joy of totally freaking some high school kids with our presence.
Then on to Kyushu, and the town of Beppu. There's not much in Beppu, especially if you're not into hot spring baths, but it is still a worthwhile stop to check out the "jigoku" (hells), where you can drink hot spring water, and eat eggs and pudding boiled/steamed by natural hot spring steam. One of them had a random little zoo (sorry, can't remember which one, they all blend into one after a while). My brother was surprisingly chuffed at feeding the hippo, despite the rain, but less impressed by the llamas.Who knew my brother was a hippo person? I certainly didn't.
From Beppu, we went to Usuki, which was recommended in the Rough Guide. It's about 40minutes by train South of Beppu, but you have to get a bus from the station to the main attraction, so it can actually be quite a lengthy trip. Usuki is famous for the stone buddhas carved into the mountains, that have been there for thousands of years. A lot of work has gone into preserving them, and it was really worth the trip. As we went later in the day, and off season, it was so quiet, with just us and a strange looking man we christened "El Sketchador", yeah we're witty. If I'd have been alone, I would have been a bit weirded out by him, especially as the shop closed while we waited for the bus. As it was, I was with my big brother, and he was probably not sketchy at all.
After Beppu and Usuki, it was on to one of the main points of the trip, Mount Aso, a still active volcano with a name that sounds a bit rude in English. But, I've written enough, it's late and I need all the beauty sleep I can get. So, I'll tell you all about our volcano adventures another day.