After the long hikes of Ebino-kogen, it was time for some serious relaxation. So we headed further south, past Kagoshima and into the Satsuma peninsula, to a town called Ibusuki. The scenery became well, really nice. Tall palm trees have a way of making the world a happy place, wouldn't you say?
Ibusuki is actually kind of a dumpy place, although its coastal location helps it a bit. It's starting to slowly build up, but the town has yet to... come into its own, shall we say...? It is popular for one reason and only one reason: its hot sand "baths". This sand is heated naturally from the earth. Sorry, Nathan and others, but that's as good an explanation as you're gonna get!
You go into the "sand bath center," pay your fees, and receive a yukata, which is a light cotton robe. You go into your changeroom, men and women separate, of course, take off everything, and put on your yukata. Then you go outside, lie down in the sand, and have the attendants shovel hot sand on you. You sweat it out for 15 minutes, and you're done. Then you go in, shower off the sand, and get into the hot spring bath. (men and women again separate). It's a very nice experience really. But overall, I think the sand is overrated. I prefer just the hot spring baths.
Before leaving the Satsuma peninsula, we also drove around Lake Ikeda, known for its giant eels. The eels grow up to 2 metres long! (Yes, eel is a popular dish in Japan). As we drove past the lake, we saw a group of people getting ready to go out wakeboarding. Not so sure I'd wanna be doing that in a lake full of massive eels...
Finally, just past Lake Ikeda, we could see the perfect cone of Kaimon dake, also known as "the Mount Fuji of the South." We happened upon an "old car festival" while there, but I'll let Jeff tell you about that!