Beppu is a famous onsen city located in the South of Japan. What is it like to live in Beppu?
In this Expat Interview, Lissie shares her expat life in Beppu Oita. You will know the cost of living in Beppu, the good and bad things about Beppu, how to prepare for moving to Beppu, and more.
Beppu is a small coastal city located on the southern island of Kyushu, Japan.
The city is renowned for its abundance of hot springs, known in Japanese as onsen, and prides itself on the existence of different types of baths and hot spring experiences.
The city is also the site for a university housing a large international student population.
All in all, except for a high rate of hot springs and international students who have settled in the city to study, it’s a typical Japanese town, with vending machines around the corners and traditional buildings mixed in with newer apartment complexes.
Firstly, let’s get to know a bit about Lissie.
My name is Lissie, and I’m currently a senior student at a university in Japan.
My favorite past times include taking two-hour-long naps and treating myself to some delicious dark chocolate. And not to forget, randomly exploring new places and vegetarian food restaurants.
1. Why did you choose to live in Beppu?
I moved to Japan, and to be more exact, Beppu, about three years ago.
I went through the standard procedures for a student visa to Japan. I subsequently found myself sitting in my university dormitory room about a year after I first decided to study in Japan.
The main reason I live in Beppu is that Beppu is where my university is located. I guess you can say I choose the university, but not the city.
You will see the statue of Kumahachi Aburaya when you first arrive at Beppu
Well, as I quickly realized that because of my limited (read non-existent) experience of Japanese society, it would be impossible for me ever to be totally prepared for the move.
So, I mainly focused on sorting out my belongings at home and deciding on what to pack (as in finding out what I could not easily buy in Japan).
I also fill my suitcase with those kinds of things while trying to teach myself some of the Japanese writing systems and reading up on university guidelines for getting to the dormitory.
3. How to deal with culture shock in Japan?
The one thing that has shocked me the most is several different types of packaging and plastic wraps and bags that Japanese people tend to use, or in my personal opinion, waste daily.
As far as possible, I’ve tried to limit my usage by telling shop clerks that the small plastic bag for the tofu isn’t necessary, or ‘no, I don’t need an extra plastic bag for the omiyage I just bought.’
4. What are the challenges of living in Japan?
The most challenging part of living in Japan has been the language barrier.
I still remember one of the first days in Beppu, when I was going downtown alone and couldn’t understand a word of what was being said in the loudspeakers of the bus or how to read the characters for the stops.
That day, because I didn’t have a phone, I solved it by randomly getting off at a location that seemed suitable.
Later on, I learned to use different apps to make not only traveling but also daily life, in general, a bit smoother.
5. Have you experienced any discrimination in Japan?
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced direct discrimination or hostility.
Most Japanese have made an effort to accommodate me, especially if I’ve also have been trying to communicate in Japanese.
However, small things keep reminding me about being a ‘scary’ foreigner, such as the excessive spaces left on the train or a lack of eye contact or recognition of me being there, especially when I’m with a Japanese acquaintance.
6. What do you like about Beppu?
Beppu is a hot spring town, and I’m an onsen lover, so being able to go to the local 100yen host spring whenever I feel like it is a wonderful advantage that comes with living here.
On one of my first days in Beppu, I was invited by some floormates to go out with them for dinner.
We ended up at 鳴門うどん – which is a popular udon restaurant among students in the area. It was my first time eating udon.
While I was slightly concerned about my chopstick skills, I shrugged it off as unnecessary worrying. It was just noodles we were going to eat after all.
How wrong I was.
Upon seeing the menu, I realized that the noodles would arrive at our table served in a huge bowl – swimming in broth.
In other words, I could not just mind my own business eating liquid-free noodles from a separate bowl, but I would first have to fish the noodles out of the larger bowl and transfer them to my own.
Now, I don’t believe this would have posed much of a problem if the chopsticks hadn’t been of the ultra-smooth, plastic kind, which allows just about anything to slip through if you haven’t got your chopstick skills down to perfection.
I ended up spending the majority of the meal delicately gripping the noodles with my chopsticks to have them slip back into the broth seconds later. Splat, splat, and splat.
13. Did you change your perspective after living here for a while?
At first, I found Beppu to be a bit small and dull. However, after living here for a while, I’ve found that it has an abundance of charm to share if you give it a chance.
It might seem like you’ve seen it all after staying here for a year, but there’s always something new around the corner if you allow yourself the time to look for it.
14. Can you share tips & advice for living in Beppu?
Consider whether or not you are a person who enjoys a bit more of countryside life, or if you prefer a regular dose of urban adventures.
If you fall into the latter category, Beppu might not be the optimal place to settle in.
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The opinions expressed here by Expatolife columnists are their own, not those of Expatolife.