OITA – A welcoming city

OCTOBER 3rd 2019 :  I had never heard of Oita when starting to plan this trip.  It is located on the southern island of Kyushu and was around three and a half hours by train from Hiroshima.  Again we took the Shinkansen but to Kokura station where we changed to a smaller train which travelled over the bridge linking the two islands.  This area is known for numerous hot springs and onsen and the town of Beppu – around 45 minutes from Oita – is famous for onsen.  Our time here was limited but had we known what a delightful place this is, we would have planned a different itinerary!

The city of Oita was chosen for our World Cup rugby match against Uruguay.  On arrival at Oita station we had no doubt we were in the right city!

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This huge statue (made of a sort of paper mache) greeted everyone exiting the station and there were numerous flags and advertising throughout the city.  The community was obviously very proud to have been chosen as a venue for several games.  My favourite is this one below

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This cat heralded everyone on the main street and was on our walk from the station to the hotel.  I love the look on his face!

Unlike other major cities in Japan, this one has a relaxed feel about it and is modern and unhurried.  Many of the streets have cobbled paving stones and some of the buildings are historical and have been restored and are used for galleries, a museum, and coffee shops.

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On our first evening we wandered from the hotel to look for a place for dinner and came across a pedestrian area where there was clearly a celebration of sorts happening. TV camera were in action and reporters were wandering around.  We were “dragged” into the midst of this and found ourselves in a street party.  There was a jazz musician, a dancer and several pavement bars and food outlets.  They were delighted we had come across this event – I think to publicise the game and the fact that tourists were coming to the city – and we were invited to sit and enjoy the party with the hosts! What a night it was!

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Language was no problem – with my very few phrases, sign language and the help of a phrase book, we found new friends and had a wonderful evening with excellent restaurant recommendations from the locals.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore far from the city as the following day we had to get to the stadium for the game – this was some way out of the city and involved a bus ride which was interesting as it gave us more insight to this place and the organisation was exceptional.

On arrival at the Stadium the noise was deafening – the Taiko Drummers were in action.  If there is one thing I love about Japanese music, it is the Taiko.  Here in this enormous space the atmosphere was electrifying.

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As in other venues, there was a sea of green and gold and there was uplifting music and cheering – especially when Australia won against Uruguay.  I have to admit I don’t know that much about rugby but have become an expert on the crowd behaviour after three World Cups over twelve years!

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Walking to the Fanzone later that evening we had more traditional food stalls and very welcoming locals.

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Sadly it all came to an end too soon and we had to farewell Oita but with a determination to return and explore more of this southern island of Kyushu.

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