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January 17, 2022

Instructor Journeys: Solo Traveling in Japan: Fukuoka Yatai Food Stalls & The 7 Hells of Beppu

One of my most memorable journeys in Japan has to be my first solo trip within Japan. 6 months into teaching in Japan, I decided that it was time to embark on this little adventure. I heard about Fukuoka and Beppu from my client who had just returned from there. I fell in love immediately with the beautiful canals and quietness of Fukuoka. It was definitely a change of scenery compared to Tokyo.

In the evenings, yatai are set up along the river. A “yatai” is a small food stall that usually fits just a handful of customers and serves a few dishes. Perfect for a quick bite or chat after work. With my minimal Japanese language ability, I must have walked up and down the street a good number of times before mustering the courage to sit down in one of them. It ended up being an amazing experience and I got to meet some tourists as well as locals there.

I headed to Beppu a few days later. Beppu is said to have more onsens than anywhere else in Japan. It was February, the coldest time of the year in Japan usually, but even then, you can see steam coming out of the drains on the sides of the streets. Better yet, the city is peppered with little “hot spots” with hot running water you can use to warm your hands or even soak your tired feet! Vending machines selling little towels can be found in some locations in case you forgot yours and need to dry your feet!

The Seven Hells of Beppu was like a scavenger hunt. You can get a stamp card and collect stamps for each “hell” you visit.  It’s easy to visit all of them in one day too if you start early. All the “hells”, or hot springs, have their own unique characteristics. Some are bright red, some a beautiful blue. While not for bathing, they are spectacular sights. One of them is home to a large number of crocodiles!

This trip opened my eyes to the beauty of the country and made me realize that it is going to take me a long time to uncover and experience it all.

About the author:

Hi, I’m Mary! I’ve lived in Japan since 2016 and started my journey teaching at Gaba. Through teaching at Gaba, I learned a lot about Japanese culture and often come across great ideas for places to visit and things to see from my clients and fellow instructors. I enjoy the great outdoors, trying out local cuisines, and am always on the lookout for my next destination in Japan!

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