For one thing, the first thing that greeted us outside Beppu train station was this bizarre statue:
The words engraved on it in English say "The man called 'Shiny Uncle' who loved children." And there's a baby demon riding his coattails. Creeeeeepy! Yet delightfully absurd! This is apparently the way the people of Beppu have chosen to immortalize the founder of their great city.
Another cool thing about Beppu? This dude.
This is actually a portable shrine that can be carried through the streets. Wikipedia informs me this guy is considered a tengu, a class of supernatural creatures found in Japanese folklore, and also one of the best known monster-spirits. For a long time they were seen as disruptive demons and harbingers of war, but over time their image has softened and they are now seen as protective spirits of the mountains and forests.
So this guy with the long red nose made random appearances around town. There'd be little images of him posted in various places along the street, above shops or whatever.
Another thing I enjoyed about Beppu was a very wabi-sabi traditional old street market that we had to walk through between the train station and our hotel each day. It was basically a lot of gray-haired Japanese with modest stalls selling clothes, fruit, fish and various Japanese foods. The fish in this place was so fresh that some of the fish laying on ice were still gasping for air (including these).
Later on in the trip in Kumamoto, we stumbled across a couple of places that made for a good chuckle along the city's main shopping arcade, the first one being this Thai restaurant:
We're used to seeing some pretty unfortunate Engrish in Japan, but this was just way out there. Could something really be mistranslated this horribly?
Turns out no. In sharing the photo on Facebook, a friend more in-the-know than us informed us that this is a restaurant chain that funds sexual health and family planning clinics in Thailand. Free condoms with every meal. Their slogan? "Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy." Oo, my mouth's watering. Tempting, but we skipped it to eat raw horse instead.
Further up the street one of the shops had a display out on the street with various weight loss supplements, including...
Jesus Body. Jesus Body! Now who wouldn't want a Jesus Body, lean, rippling muscles, six pack! Oooh boy! Too bad we can't reverse this on the Japanese and advertise Buddha Body supplements back home... guess we don't need any help achieving that, huh.
Slick Jesus Body package designers woo us with this message:
New discovery to be kept secret from others.This discovery is a secret.I can lay it down because I am correct.We will not make you sorry.Pleasure to have the real thing.I really longed for this.
Japanese Engrish is so cute. Who could make Jesus into something cute? The Japanese.