Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Yet another free ferry

I easily get a ride to Sukomo, on a small pickup truck driven by a fisherman who takes me on his boat to the nearby rocks. It's an old fishing boat, yet it has the latest japanese technology. It is often the case here, even old stuff has the latest technology inside.
We eat sushi together with a stunning view at the seacoast.
Eating sushi
He drops me at Sukumo but the ticket counter doesn't open until in three hours. So I go wandering around to find other boats but as I have witnessed before in this part of Asia, not many leisure boats, that's just not a thing there.
When the ticket counter opens, I set the camera to film; I want to have at least one of my boat hitches recored. I am in line after one of the normal paying customers. No one speaks english, this is a very small ferry terminal and I am lucky to have my introduction letter which usually brings the reader into a "WTF?" state.
"Wait there, " says the counter lady after a while, "we will get you on board for free. But it's a secret."
I sit on the neraby bench as she said, the security guards tell me to wait while other passengers board the ferry. There, I meet Kai and his girlfriend who are returning to Beppu, a city on Kyushu island by the same ferry. Kai tells me I can stay at his house which is convenient because it might rain through the night. He doesn't understand why I am not going on the ferry with the other passengers, I just tell him not to worry and go.
Matsumoto doing Origami

When all the passengers have gone on the ferry, one of the guards shows me that I can now go. The other secutiry guards turn away from me as I walk towards the entrance so as not to see that I am there. Soon I am aboard the ferry. Of all the ferries from Shikoku to Kyushu, this is the longest ride: 3 hours. If that one failed, there were two other ferries from other terminals, one of which was a very short ride. My last option was to transit through the main island using land bridges but that's quite a big detour.
Sunset on the ferry


We arrive at Kai's home during at night but first we go to eat sushis in a restaurant.
Sushi

Kai's father is a silent Japanese man who looks at me with amusement. He is a huge guy who inspires respect, knows it and takes no bullshit from anyone. He tries to throw me off balance by some sarcastic comments.
"I cut my hair with a samurai sword." He says, pointing at the weapon on the wall. He also points to his gun.
It's not a real one, the bullets have no primary detonation charge and the barrel is obstructed in mid-way.
I point it out to him and it makes him smile.
I get to eat a japanese version of Manti, it's pretty good. I have seen a lot of what-the-fuck pictures from Japan back when I was at home so how cool it would be if I made one of my own?
I didn't have to ask for it, Kai's father obviously thought that a photograph of me having a samurai sword with a gun to my head was a funny thing to do.
wtf picture

The next day, I help Kai's family in the garden a little bit. It is a fisherman family and they also work the fields. They are all a bit strange but kind in their heart. The relationship between Kai and his girlfriend is also a bit strange. She is now home on the other side of Beppo but I'd like to write about them a little bit more before I go on.
Kai and his girlfriend hardly touch. They talk but the conversation seldom gets deeper than any casual talk. I don't sense any connection between them but there is something holding them together and I hae no idea what it is. It's like they were not real people, as if they were too stressed out by trying to figure out what to do to actually try to feel what they want to do. I also felt that there were some strange rules in Kai's family, something that I could not understand and that Kai's girlfriend had to follow to some extent. But it is difficult to put names on it so basically I am not saying anything of value here.

After helping in the garden they ask me if I want to go to see the university.
"Lots of foreign students who speak english, you'll have people to talk to."
That's not a bad idea actually, so we go. In the university, I meet A., a japanese student in international relations who speaks good english and shows me around. I hitchhike back to Kai's house for dinner.
The very cool Beppu university

I will be heading towards Yufu and Kai has a friend there. From what I understand I can stay at his place. His friends speaks good english, he was in hungary a few years ago.
Kai gives some money to his friend, I don't understand why, is it such a burden having me over that you have to pay someone off?
His friend refuses the money which calms me down but I get a surprise again when he drives me to a hostel. Turns out the place where his friend lives doesn't accept guests and Kai's friend automatically booked me a spot at the local hostel.
He is happy to help, says there is an Onsen and leaves me there. There is a lot of friendly foreigners, we talk until quite late. Turns out this hostel is woofing based if you want; you can work there and stay for free so Kai's friend didn't really have to pay anything, I didn't mind helping a bit. Plus, all the foreigners in this hostel are here for free and working isntead.
Only japanese people are enjoying a paid and relaxing stay... and me too. In the evening I watch a movie while in the warm bath from the hot spring in the hostel basement. All hotels and hostels have an onsen which is basically a small swimming pool full of hot water with a pleasent scenary.

In the morning I get breakfast served by the foreigners who had to get up earlier to prepare it. It feels weird but the breakfast is great. I talk to one of the japanese people who says that he is going towards Kurokawa and can drop me there. Kurokawa is a place famous for its onsens - the japanese hot spring pools.
So he drops me there still before noon. It is a touristic place, not such a good spot for people without money such as me. For instance, all onsens are for a fee, that's because they are not natural pools but really beautiful spots built and maintained inside an amazing scenary.
For example there is a hot water pool underground, inside caves and another one with a stunning view on a mountain river.
I got a free onsen pass!

I am tired because I surfed too much on the internet the day before so I go take a rest in a nearby relaxing room (they have a lot of those around since the whole place is built to relax). A japanese couple with a small child goes there too and after they hear my story they give me their "onsen pass". I don't really know what that is at first but it turns out that I can go to any onsen in Kurkawa, three times per pass. They have already used one of the onsens so I just have two but it's wonderful that I can even go there given my moneyless way of travelling.
I choose the cave onsen for today and the onsen with a view on the river for the next morning.

The view from the latter one is quite stunning. However, I have to get going. There is a slight problem, food is starting to get scarce. I have eaten the crab sticks, the buiscuits and the rice cakes from Kamiyama have rotten and are unusable. I now only have my instant noodle soups left. That's still alright for a while until I have to open my finances which would still be ok because they would not be my real finances but the donation money. But still, I don't want to touch that money yet, who knows what will happen, I might recieve something. Meanwhile, instant noodle soups are a perfectly good alternative to starving.
I just ask for hot water and chopsticks and I get an mini-pizza with my soup. That's nice. I should be going now, I must get to Yakushima, the lonely mountain, volcano in the middle of the ocean and that is way south. I have one place to visit, some crater around mount aso, doesn't seem that interesting, Yongjin wasn't too impressed with it. So I'll just skip it, ride right through the place. I am now heading south.