Yufuin and Beppu were our last stops in the large island known as Kyushu. We were very loathe to leave Kyushu, as it had been such a fascinating place with natural attractions we had never seen before. However, our time (and money) being limited, we knew we had to move on back to Honshu and towards Shikoku, our next main destination.
Unfortunately, this move back to Honshu also provided us with our absolutely WORST hostel/town experience of the entire trip. It was such a horrid letdown that we actually considered just calling off the rest of our travels. I’m glad we didn’t.
In the Lonely Planet, it advises people to make a day trip out of a visit to the Akiyoshidai caves, as the town doesn’t have much to offer. People, HEED this advice!!! It is a grave understatement. Weary from a long day of travel, we arrived at the youth hostel only to find a huge, ugly, smelly, institutional-looking ramshackle of a mess. It was cold; everything, including our “clean” sheets, smelled of cigarette smoke and mildew. Judging by the furniture, carpet, posters, peeling paint, and ETC, it looked as though no one had stayed there since the 70s. And yes, we were the only ones there. After our bath in the skuzzy bathroom that permanently soiled our towels, we spent the rest of the night ferociously planning our escape the next day.
We woke early and got to the caves as soon as possible. It quickly became apparent that the caves are the only sustenance of the town. The road to the caves is lined with dilapidated souvenir stores selling tacky outdated items that would suit the atmosphere of the youth hostel quite well.
ANYHOO… the caves really were fantastic. They are the largest limestone caves in Japan. A river actually runs through part of the cave and there are all kinds of funky rock formations… that being said, I’m not sure I’d do it again.
After the caves, we decided to try our best to make it to Shikoku that night. We hit the road, stopping only once, at Iwakuni. This was a much more worthwhile destination. Iwakuni is famous for its old samurai quarter and mainly for its five-sash bridge. The bridge is beautiful, really beautiful. At one time, only samurai could cross the bridge. Regular folk had to cross the river by boat. I highly recommend the town for a pleasant afternoon of strolling with “soft cream” in hand.
After enjoying a few hours in Iwakuni, we made the trip to Shikoku. Thought you might enjoy seeing the Mazda truck we saw at a convenience store stop.