May 122002

I’m starting to notice lots more World Cup material around the place. The city about 15 minutes south of here, Oita (which is so dull it doesn’t even get a mention in the Lonely Planet) has I two games there. I think. It’s a bit hard to tell from the Japanese signs. But they are getting really geared up for it. From what I understand, and have spoken to others about, the police here are really panicing about the potential for hooligans.

Today I went to buy some boardies, because I wanted to return to the sauna room. It took sometime to try and work out when they are called here. I haven’t seen any surf shops (or surf.) When I found a place that sold them in Oita. Oddly enough, when I was trying to choose between a few, Kylie’s “I Should Be So Lucky” came over the shop sound system, and so I decided to try the Australian brand Quiksilver (but made in China) pair of boardies. I went into the change room to try them on. I took three pairs in. In Japan, they don’t use electronic tags for clothing. Neither did they check how many pairs I took into the change room. I also took my bag into the change room. It would have been very simple to come out with two pairs of swimmers, and left a third coat hanger in the change room. I didn’t, but I could have.

There are lots of globalised companies here. I had a coffee and chocolate thing in a Mr Donut today. Although these places are almost identical around the world, regional and local variations have to be taken into account. I would assume it would be based on what product is available to sell, what the local taste requires and other factors related factors such as any legal requirements. But they’d probably try and do the minimum amount of customisation, otherwise it just wouldn’t be the same shopping experience for the customer. Personally I wouldn’t order noodles from a Mr Donut shop, or some of the other Japanese food they were selling. Mind you, the coffee was pretty bad as well. At least the chocolate thing was okay.

Instead of doing the sauna again today, I went for a hot sand bath. Now, normally one doesn’t allow oneself to be burried up to the neck in black, steaming sand wearing only a yukata (Japanese dressing gown.) But it, like the sauna yesterday, was pretty cool. I think I fell alseep in it, which probably wasn’t the best thing to do, but it was very relaxing. At the end, one of the women doing the shovelling said to me “Good Morning.” I think it was one of the few phrases she knew, considering it was 4:30pm, it did shock me awake enough to get out, so I guess it did the job. I now have bits of black sand in places the sun doesn’t shine, and I will be washing them out for the next week.

I went to a Japanese Pub last night with two English girls I had met in Hiroshima, that I bumped into in the afternoon. It’s interesting getting a different perspective on Australian culture. One thing they talked about was how we put an ‘o’ (letter oh) at the end of lots of words. Confused, I asked for an example. “Servo, bottlo, smoko.” Ah, those words. Also, they mentioned that a curry has almost become the national dish of England. At least Black Pudding doesn’t have a fighting chance anymore. Japanese pubs, Izakaya, aren’t anything like Australian Pubs. They’re more like resturants. You’d go to a bar to meet people. After the izakaya, we went looking for one the Lonely Planet mentions, but it didn’t seem to be open. Well, the dorr wasn’t locked but no one was inside. I don’t think the door even had a lock on it. So instead, we took a punt on one called “no, name” which was bear by, and seemed okay. But it was a Saturday night, and we were the only ones in there at 11pm. It was small place, perhaps holding about 15 people at most. In the building that it was in, there might have been 15 others bars like this one. And in the area it was in, there might be been a few hundred others bars, mostly the same. I’ve no idea how these places survive, but by charging 600yen for a beer they might be able to do it.

I’ve been catching the bus around Beppu because there’s no other transport really. There are 4 bus companies here, of which some do the same routes as others. From the signs I’ve seen, it’s only this year they’ve managed to get a co-ordinated ticketing system happening. I still don’t understand how these companies manage.

Paying for the bus ride, at the end of the trip, the thing that’s really odd, is you’d put the money into the chute for the machine to count it, but you’d also throw the bit of paper to say what stop you got on at, in as well. Usually one would think that would jam up the system, but not here. In Osaka, the discount card for the subway had a similar unsual thing. At the Fare Adjustment machine (if you’d bought the wrong ticket) you would put your ticket in, and it would let you know how much more you needed to pay. Sam (the loud Candaian) had a discount card, and a ticket. So he’d try putting the card in first and then the ticket, and the other way around and both wouldn’t work. He found out that you put the ticket on top of the card, and put them in together (but only on some machines). Normally, one would think that this would jam the system, same as with the bit of paper on the bus. But no, not here.

Tomorrow, am off to the Mt Aso volcano. Will stay for a day or two because if it’s too dangerous to go up, I’ll have to wait. Although in a few days I’ll activate my rail pass, I can always come back. The express trains here look really cool. I think I might just live on them for a week, and go around the island constantly. Unfortunately there is only a small section of Shinkansen down here, so I’ll probably do that 3 or 4 times in one day, just to get the effect of going a long way.

I won’t miss the constant smell of fart though. But I fear at Mt Aso, it’ll be worse.