Takasakiyama Mountain Monkeys!

Monkey parks are always good fun especially a monkey park with scheduled feedings that cause all the monkeys to congregate in one spot. Lets get this straight I’ve been to a bunch of monkey parks so I guess you can call me somewhat of a monkey mountain connoisseur. I’ve been to a monkey temples in Bali and the Swanbu temple in Nepal and several others in Thailand. Both of the other ones were free to enter and allowed you to feed and interact with the monkeys. Takasakiyama has a six dollar entrance fee and you can pay two dollars extra for a cable car ride that takes you up the mountain. You can easily convert dollars to yen by adding two 0’s after the figure for example 6 dollars is 600 yen. Once you go up the mountain there are literally monkeys everywhere. As usual when around monkeys WATCH YOUR VALUABLES. Those little rascals like to grab whatever they can with their adorably evil little demonic foothands and handfeet. The other monkey temples I’ve been to were more cultural and less of an actual zoo (keyword temple). In Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries it’s easy to purchase bananas and feed the monkeys but the zookeepers don’t allow that at Takasakiyama. The closest you will get to a monkey is one passing between your legs which is supposedly “goodluck”. Due to the zookeepers mindfulness and overall cleanliness this place is great for 1st time monkey mountain viewers. It’s also a must do when in Beppu, Oita along with the Umi Tamago (water egg) Aquarium and Tsurumidake Ropeway. There are tons of cute baby monkey that slide down little swing sets along with a grizzly looking alpha male who never gets up from a particular stump. The zookeepers are happy to inform guests about the dynamics of the monkey group however they only speak Japanese. It was a great and memorable experience and I plan on going back next year.

One more tip monkeys are pretty unpredictable we saw a monkey suddenly screech and lunge at a woman who got a little to close when taking a picture. I also have a friend from High School who was bit by a monkey while we were running a cross country race in New Dehli, India. The race attendants told us not to make eye contact with the monkeys as it causes them to feel threatened. Charlie now has a mouth shaped scar on his back shoulder which is sorta badass.

Note: The monkeys have currently disappeared into the forest. This was an update I saw on the local Oita news. Locals are pretty nervous because it is a pretty big tourist attraction around here. Many monkey experts speculate the monkey will return in the winter season once food in the forest becomes less scarce.

 

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I found it so satisfying when the monkey posed for me as a monkey!

 

As you can see the le alpha mountain monkey on le alpha mountain monkey tree stump.

 

 

Trip to Mt. Tsurumidake(つるみだけ) Beppu Ropeway

My new home, Beppu has created an entire industry based on onsens produced from geothermic energy. These onsens are filled with sulfur and other minerals that keep people’s skin young and fresh looking. I was able to see the source of the volcanic energy first hand when I took a small bus ride from Beppu station up to the Beppu Ropeway situated at the base of Mount Tsurumidake. We bought our tickets and huddled aboard the cramped yet well ventilated cable car. I was the only gaijin there and smiled at the novelty of it all. Yuki and I peered out the window at the vista of the entire Beppu cityscape to our right and another mountain called Mt.Yufuin to our left. We also happened to take this ride in the middle of November right when the leaves are becoming the perfect shades of yellows, reds, and browns. Japanese have hundreds of Haikus about the fall (秋) season and this particular leaf changing phenomenon. Honestly I don’t know much about Haikus, but what I do know is that the colors were stunning. The cable cars go fast and I was surprised by how quickly the returning cable car sped past us on their way down. I also remarked to Yuki that I would definitely need a change of underwear if a earthquake was to suddenly start while were were dangling in the air.

Once we arrived at the top of the mountain we were greeted with great views of the Kojima Kogen theme park and Lake Shidako. We took some great photographs and moved onto the next phase of our adventure…. A great picnic lunch bento that Yuki had prepared for us chicken karage and rice. Gosh she is a great cook! After we were done eating we discovered a pilgrims trail on-top of the mountain. Yuki told me that Japanese Shinto gods can be compared to greek gods and there are patron deities of almost everything. There is a god of fisherman, lovers, students, fire and so much more that I can’t keep track.

We visited the Shrine to the first god and did the traditional three bows, two claps and bow again prayer. There is also a little donation box where it is customary to leave five yen (5 cents) to the gods. Yuki told me not to worry about it but I’m pretty superstitious and figured I could use all the help I can get to learn Japanese, so I plunked my five yen in the box and we continued on the pilgrims path. We got great views of Beppu city and Oita. We could even see the Iyo peninsula jutting off of Shikoku in the deep blue waters of Beppu Bay. Unfortunately dust storms occasionally blow in from China’s Gobe desert but we visited on a relatively clear day. One of the more notable shrines was situated next to a pile of pebbles Yuki explained to me that it’s the god of love and marriage. In Beppu since ancient times it was customary for newly married couples to place a pebble on the pile to symbolize there union and wish the deity for good luck. Did I mention these couples also had to climb the mountain without the cable car, maybe it was a good way to bond? Me and Yuki aren’t married but we placed a pebble on the pile just for good luck. Next we saw a very old woman and her family praying to the god of longevity I hope he continues to serve her well! After walking to each of the twelve shrines we used our return cable car ticket to descend the mountain. At the base of the mountain there is a lovely little park and a liquor shop for tourists. We had to wait awhile for our bus so Yuki and I decided to purchase some sake and enjoy it in the park. Yuki got Nihonchu a rice sake and I got a delicious jelly sake shot. I’m still not quite sure what it had in it but it tasted good and it was strong! We chilled in the park looked at the pretty fall colors and reflected on the great fun we had.

Beppu Ropeway is a fantastic attraction if you find yourself in Oita. The mountain also has a great view of other active volcano calderas and the nearby Self Defense Force military base which often has landing helicopters and an active firing range. Beppu is certainly an interesting area with alot going on. Don’t worry about he firing range I was assured it was all very safe (and I’m used to it since I hear the gunshots often while I’m in class). I highly recommend a visit to this memorable and interesting site!

Views from the top! The closer city is Beppu the outer city in the distance is Oita City

Top right: Yufuin Mountain

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Me and Yuki at the Base of Tsurumidake see the cable car behind us

 

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One of the many gods with an offering box

 

 

Who’s Mitch?

Well to start off I’m 20, I’m bald and I’ve been around the world. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas but my life changed when my father got a job in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I exchanged my love of Tex-Mex for a love of hummus and lamb kabab. My parents are colorful character’s my mother is an ex Broadway dancer and my father is a scuba instructor turned oilfield salesman. Thanks to them I’ve been to around 40 countries (give or take) and counting! After living for five years in Dubai and attending high school I have some interesting stories about my time there. I knew I wanted to continue my time abroad and live and work in challenging environments.

I returned to Texas after university because I found a fantastic program at a small liberal arts school in Austin Texas called St. Edwards University. In this special and new program called the dual degree program I was given the opportunity to stay in Texas for two years get my undergrad in International relations, then travel to Japan for two years and get another undergrad in Asian Studies. I figured it was a great two for one deal.

My goals:  I speak a fair amount of Japanese and am trying to become fluent. I’ve also been experimenting with ideas surrounding Buddhism and intend to delve into this further. I want to work on my writing and get feedback. I also want to understand the complex historical, geographic and cultural traits that define our current world.

My Experiences: So far I’ve been a bartender on a riverboat, hotel cook, Emirates Airline security intern, Scuba Diving Instructor and lifeguard (because what American teenager hasn’t been a lifeguard?)

I’m young and I’m trying to figure out what I want to be. I want to talk about my experiences, explain my perspectives and learn as much as I can! I will be discussing History, Culture and Travel mostly. However, I also enjoy video games, international relations and martial arts. If you’ve read this far thank you! I invite you to come along for the ride and see some of the world with me!

 

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”                   – Gustav Flaubert.

“A writer should have this little voice inside of you saying, Tell the truth. Reveal a few secrets here.” -Quentin Tarantino