There in the distance is the Kuju Mountain Range, which is one of the biggest reasons I wanted to come to Oita Prefecture, and where I went with my wife a couple days ago.
These are the highest mountains on the mainland of Kyushu, the highest being Naka-dake at 1791 meters. When choosing a place to live in Kyushu, one of the most important factors was being as close as possible to the mountains here, and my home of Nakatsu is a good fit. It’s about a two hour drive from Nakatsu, close enough to get to easily, far enough to make it feel like a big adventure.
Upon entering the Kuju area we first saw the Yumehashi, Dream Bridge. It’s the biggest suspension bridge in japan, and placed over an incredible canyon.
From the bridge you can also see huge waterfalls dumping into the river below.
It was definitely worth the visit, but one of those things that you walk across in 10 minutes and call it good. Especially when you’re awaiting the highly acclaimed Yume Burger!
Satomi got the regular burger on the left while I got the Yume Burger on the right. It might not look like much, but that sucker filled me up far past dinner time. The flavor was pretty good, but based on size alone it’s definitely one of the most impressive burgers I’ve had in Japan. Next time I’ll have to try their inoshishi (wild boar) burger
After the giant bridge and burger combo we headed to a ranch where they had goats, horses, cows, pigs, rabbits, and one dog. Aside from the animals, I was most impressed by the landscape around the area.
It’s big, and doesn’t feel like any other Japan I’ve experienced. Wide brown fields without trees. Spanning blue skies. Volcanoes in the distance. It’s quite a sight, and something special to Kyushu I think.
I wondered what this would look like before I came to Kyushu. I wondered how it could be possible to have ranches fit in Japan, but it works, and there’s a lot around this area.
Japanese cows say Mo instead of Moo.
Next we drove for about 5 minutes to a natural reserve, for more pigs, cows, goats, horses, and dogs. And some lamas. What did you expect? If you want lions and giraffes you’ll have to go to the African Safari an hour drive away. This reserve wasn’t so impressive, especially after spending time at a ranch before, but I’m not complaining. Not at all.
We had a great time strolling around the park followed by goats searching for treats. This area around Kuju is mainly about the mountains. Around the highlighted mountains is a canyon with a bridge, ranches, and onsen. It’s all compacted in a small enough area to explore in a couple hours, or enjoy over a couple slow days. But it’s interesting enough to come back again and again, which I’m sure we will.
We continued on closer towards the mountains and passed by the main hiking entrance with gift shops and an information center. It was mostly closed when we went, but I couldn’t keep my eyes of those mountains. I know I’ll be back again soon, but next time with a pack and hiking boots. If I’m lucky, I’ll be clever enough to coax my wife to come along! She wants to try to though, so I don’t think it will be a problem.
We continued driving on and eventually passed over the Kuju mountain range and found a huge plain on the other side. It was difficult to see despite the nice weather, but we could see more mountains, and then Mt. Aso.
You can’t see it well in the picture, and honestly you couldn’t see it well in real life either, but it was there and in between was a famous onsen town called Kurokawa. Mt. Aso and Kurokawa are definitely next on the list to see.
The hills were charred black around this area. People were burning bushes on the side of the hills. I can only imagine it’s for burn control, to prevent against large fires in the hotter seasons. But then I can’t imagine forest fires being such an issue in such a humid country. Anybody know?
After a failed attempt to visit a beer brewery here (closed until April), we settled for buying bottles in a hotel shop and headed to our sleeping quarters for the night, which was the best deal I’ve ever (or actually Satomi) found in Japan.
For 2,400 yen, you get a room with tables cushions and a tv, your own bathroom, a loft and lots of futons to sleep on, and then a separate room with a couch seat. I’ve spent more on a small hostel room. Here we got our own cozy apartment.
But that’s not all. The place has it’s own onsen. It has a main one with an indoor and outdoor bath which are great on their own, but they also had five outdoor baths separated from each other that you could go in to share with your private party.
Satomi and I grabbed a couple of the beers we got earlier and enjoyed the bath to ourselves. Clear view of the full moon on this windy late winter night.
Knowing the price I really wasn’t expecting much but was totally amazed at this place. For the price, it’s an absolute steal.
It’s called Trial Onsen Village (トライアル温泉郷). Funny thing is, the company “Trial” is better known as a giant super center where you can buy anything for cheap (I guess kind of like a less trashy Wal-Mart? But to be honest I haven’t been in either much, so I don’t know really.) I guess they’ve branched out to hotels, and if you’re a member you can get the same for 1,900 yen.
I highly recommend this spot for anyone headed to Kuju on a budget, and wouldn’t be surprised if I go back again.
Aside from all of the excitement of Kuju, it is actually our official wedding day. The morning before we headed out, we went to City Hall and handed in our paperwork and it’s all done.
After I proposed and she said yes, I felt like we were married.
I suppose some would say you’re not married until you do the kiss in the chapel with everyone watching.
But since we’re in Japan and what counts most is submitting the paper, we call it here today,
we are married.
I can’t think of a better way to spend the day.
We enjoyed this bottle of wine we were saving for such a date.
Kuju is awesome! So go check it out. I can’t wait to go again.