Friday, December 31, 2010

Usuki Stone Buddhas

After all the relaxation in Beppu, I decided to go to Usuki the next day to see some of the finest stone Buddha carvings in Japan, if not the world (now that the ones in Afghanistan have been destroyed). First, however, I had to try the onsen in my hotel, where I watched the sun come up through the windows (the outdoor onsen didn't open until the afternoon, unfortunately, and it was also very cold outside). Earlier, while it was just becoming light out, I had watched from my room's window as a pod of dolphins (at least I think they were dolphins, they were too far away to tell exactly) swam across the bay. Later, I had a tasty buffet breakfast (similar to Toyoko's, but with way more options). Held on the 12th floor of the hotel, there was a great view of the harbour on one side and the city on the other.

Usuki is about 40 minutes from Beppu on the local train, and then you need to take a bus for about 30 minutes to reach the Buddhas. I spent about an hour there admiring the carvings and taking in their surroundings, which are serene. The park is set in the Japanese countryside, among farms, fields, and a forest mixed with deciduous trees and bamboo stands. Getting back to Usuki is a bit of a pain though, as it was difficult to understand the bus schedule and there's no other way to get back (short of an expensive taxi). Finally a bus arrived which didn't quite go to Usuki Station but got me close enough. It just goes to show how much more awesome trains are than buses.

I also took a stroll through the 'old road' of Usuki, which apparently once housed samurai. I didn't have a lot of time but it was very atmospheric. Unfortunately, however, a vicious storm started just as I started my walk, and I got pretty soaked! It started to clear up just as I reached the station. :(

After my walk it was time to head back to Hakata. I really wish I could have spent more time in Oita prefecture, since it was such a relaxing place and I had such a great time there. There are many small towns like Usuki, in addition to the obvious choices like Beppu, to keep tourists occupied no matter what their interests are!

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