The Eight Hells Of Beppu, Japan (Plus Bonus Hell)

The Eight Hells Of Beppu: there isn’t a much more evocative name than that, is there?

The Eight Hells are in fact a series of heated lakes (onsen) in the area around the seaside spa city of Beppu in Japan. The area sits on a huge amount of geothermal water: it’s the second largest area of heated water in the world and Beppu itself is a city of hot springs with around 80 public bathhouses.

The internet seems to disagree on whether there are in fact eight or nine hells, so since I’ve found nine of them, I’m just going to list them all.

The Buddhist concept of the tortures and torments of hell, and the pools’ association with the fiery underworld, meant that the Japanese avoided the area for years. But these days the lakes of sulphurous mud, minerals and weirdly tinted water are quite a tourist attraction, so be prepared for a little tackiness and some crowds. Animals are kept in a couple of them as well, most likely not in five star conditions.

Here they are, and remember to watch out for the fabulous bonus hell!

Umi Jigoku

Umi Jigoku (Sea Hell)

Umi Jigoku (Sea Hell) Flickr

Sea, Ocean or Aquamarine Hell, the name of course refers to this pond’s pale turquoise hue. Eggs boiled in the waters are sold in a stall beside the pond.

Oniishibozu Jigoku

Oniishibozu Jigoku (Spout Hell)

Oniishibozu Jigoku (Shaven Monk’s Head Hell)

The shapes formed by the boiling mud bubbles have given this pool its name, Shaven Monk’s Head Hell. You can kinda see why, and you wouldn’t really want to fall in there. There’s also a foot bath in this area and a public bath with multiple pools.

Shiraike Jigoku

Shiraike Jigoku (White Pond Hell)

Shiraike Jigoku (White Pond Hell)

White Pond Hell is named after the milky appearance of the water. Not unlike the water at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, the minerals present in the hot pool is what makes the mud white. Also on site is a small aquarium with tropical fish like piranha. Again, none of the heat from the pool is wasted – the aquarium is heated by it.

Kamado Jigoku

Kamado Jigoku (Cooking Pot Hell)

Kamado Jigoku (Cooking Pot Hell) Pic Nicoles Japan Adventure

Cooking Pot Hell consists of a number of small pools and this little demon fellow is resident cook. Hot and cold spring water  is available to drink, and you can dip your hands or feet  in the slightly cooler pools. Food is cooked in the water and steam and sold around these pools.

Oniyama Jigoku

Oniyama Jigoku (Monster Mountain Hell)

Oniyama Jigoku (Monster Mountain Hell)

Crocodiles and alligators have been bred on this site since the 12th year of the Taisho period (less interestingly, 1923) and today there are over 80 types of them in the pools. I can’t imagine they have enough room.

Yama Jigoku

Yama Jigoku (Mountain Hell)

Yama Jigoku (Mountain Hell) Pic Flickr

20 breeds of animal including Shoehei-Kun the hippopotamus live at Mountain Hell. Monkeys, flamingos and elephants are some of the others in the zoo at this lake. The conditions they’re living in are apparently abysmal. I’ve certainly seen a photo of an elephant with very little room to roam around.

Bonus Hell! Kinryu Jigoku


Dragon hell

Kinryu Jigoku (Dragon Hell) Pic

Ok, don’t get too excited. Golden Dragon Hell features a dragon statue with steam issuing from its mouth. I’m told the light at sunset makes it look as if the dragon is flying.

Chinoike Jigoku

Chinoike Jigoku (Blood Pond Hell)

Chinoike Jigoku (Blood Pond Hell) Wikimedia

Very much resembling Batchelors Beef & Tomato Cup A Soup, the fierce temperatures in this pool were perhaps put to terrible use: torturing and boiling people to death. If anyone knows who this happened to, or when, I’d love to know as I haven’t been able to find out if it’s true or not.  There’s a large souvenir stall on site.

Tatsumaki Jigoku

Tatsumaki Jigoku (Spout Hell)
Tatsumaki Jigoku (Spout Hell) Pic Wikimedia

Japan has its very own spouting geyser at Spout Hell. It erupts every 30-40 minutes for a period of  6-10 minutes at a time. There’s a metal plate above it to stop it reaching its full height. It has a temperature of 105 degrees Celsius.

Visiting the Eight Hells of Beppu & Bonus Hell

The first six plus Bonus Hell! are within walking distance of each other in the Kannawa district. The other two are slightly further out in the Shibaseki district and all of them have free parking facilities. Details on bus times can be found here

Christie’s: An Out of the Ordinary Exhibition

Buffalo horn hat from "Out of the Ordinary" sale at Christies


Christie’s in South Kensington, London will be holding a one-off sale of unusual items in their “Out of the Ordinary” auction on September 5th 2013. As the items are open to the public to view,  I went along yesterday to take a few snaps.

There’s a lot of great stuff in the salesrooms, and here a few of the photos that worked out:

Two-headed calf at Christie's

Two-headed calf

This very Fortean stuffed two-headed calf dates from the second half of the twentieth century and was made to demonstrate polycephaly (having more than one head).


Titanic bell

Titanic bell

Well, it isn’t actually from the real Titanic. This is a copy used in the 1958 film “A Night to Remember”, starring Kenneth More.


Chaise Madame chair - Denis Cospen

Chaise Madame chair

Denis Copen-designed anthropomorphic chair.


Chaise monsieur chair - Denis Copen

Chaise monsieur chair

And here’s the bloke version!


Cygan robot

Cygan robot

Cygan is an Italian humanoid robot made in 1957 by aeromodeller Dr Ing Fiorito from Turin. He made an appearance at the Windmill Theatre in London in 1958 and opened the British Food Fair of that year. In the 1970s he was sold to a Ford car dealership who named him “Moto” and after that stint found his way into a private collection. He used to be able to walk and turn around, but doesn’t have the facility to do that any more.


Bearded Lady painting Helene Detroyat

Bearded Lady painting

Hélène Detroyat painted this intriguing image of a bearded lady.


Vivienne Westwood hats

Vivienne Westwood hats

The incomparable British designer Vivienne Westwood created the buffalo diamante-horned and bicorne hats pictured above, as well as two cowboy hats that are also being auctioned.


Silvered bronze skeleton

Silvered bronze skeleton

Derek the skeleton (that’s what I’ve called him, anyway) probably comes from Germany and was made in the second half of the twentieth century.


Hiroshi Furuyoshi painting

Hiroshi Furuyoshi painting

This extremely realistic and ever so slightly disturbing was painted by Furuyoshi in 2012.


Cave bear skelton

Cave bear skelton

The cave bear died out 27,500 years ago but fortunately we have really well preserved skeletons like this one, simply because the creatures liked to hide out in caves.


Map of Paris, 1739

Map of Paris, 1739

This enormous birds-eye map of Paris shows buildings such as the Tuileries palace and Bastille prison that no longer exist.


Stuffed peacock

Stuffed peacock

The image doesn’t do justice to the colours of this magnificent peacock.


Marijuana poster

Marijuana poster

America’s drug problem in the 1940s was apparently all down to the nazis, according to the film that this poster advertised (Devil’s Harvest). Doh! to that incorrectly placed apostrophe.

There’s a lot more to see at Christie’s saleroom in South Kensington, so get yourself along before September 5th.

Review: The Forge and Foundry in Camden Town

Camden Town is either a dump, an exciting and vibrant area, a madhouse or a great location, depending on who you speak to.

What it is not is quiet and laid back.

Which is why I’m very pleased to tell you there’s a music venue and restaurant in this inner city area of London where you find peace and quiet, excellent music (and the odd comedy gig or two), if you need it. It’s called The Forge and Foundry.

Just off the main drag that is Camden High Street, The Forge is an arts venue that was opened in 2009 by musicians Adam and Charlotte Caird. It’s an environmentally friendly place designed by Camden architects Burd Haward specifically designed for “small ensemble playing” according to their website. The centre specialises in jazz and classical music.

The Foundry Restaurant, Camden

The Foundry Restaurant

The restaurant is a separate entity in the same building, and it’s called The Foundry – tables can be reserved to watch the events in the adjoining Forge with food supplied by The Foundry.

We visited on a Friday night, when most of Camden’s pubs are filled to bursting with punks, hipsters, tourists and 14 year olds and were pleased to find a little cool haven of tranquility (it was a stiflingly hot day outside).

It’s a beautiful space with wood-clad walls and photos of jazz cats that I’m afraid I didn’t recognise, with very listenable-to jazz being played (not that improvisational stuff that drives a person insane after five minutes listening to it.)

We went for the four small plates menu (four for a tenner) and had healthy tid-bits like chicken goujons, feta and watermelon and crab salad (too much cold potato in it for me, but that’s just me and cold potato). Normal sized main courses are available, too. The food was very good and washed down nicely with a very good pint of Meteor white beer.

The Forge Music Venue, Camden

The Forge Music Venue

The event we were here to see was the Kirsty McGee Trio, part of a summer female artists festival, so we moved on into the music venue part of the building (past the only indoor living wall – 6.5 metres high – in the UK, apparently).

Kirsty’s mix of blues, jazz and folk (all written by herself) was beautiful and atmospheric. In fact, she’s such a good song writer than Danny Boyle has featured one of her tunes has featured in his recent film, Trance. (And my husband has now bought two of her CDs!)

It was a quiet audience to suit the venue but we were appreciative, and speaking for my husband and I anyway, we had a great, chilled out evening after a long work week. The cocktails we had after the beer might have helped …

(Disclosure – we were given tickets to the gig, but paid for our own food and drink. And we’ll definitely be back on our own expense account!)

Have you any chilled-out Camden places you can recommend? I’d love to hear about them below.








5 Bonkers Scarecrow Festivals


What do a chicken, a bridal party, Boris Johnson hanging from a washing line waving the Union Jack and The Simpsons have in common?


Scarecrow bridal party - Kettlewell Scarecrow festival

Scarecrows of course…

They’re just some of the many carefully crafted bugaboos that have made their appearance in some of the scarecrow festivals held in the UK over the past few years.

I’ve been disappointed to find out that there’s no folk history aspect to all of this scarecrowing (all the festivals have come into being relatively recently) but they all do a power of good for their local communities, raising money, morale and no doubt some deadly competitive instincts.

Kettlewell Cork Man

Kettlewell Cork Man (

Kettlewell scarecrow festival

This year’s festival runs from 10th – 18th August and festivities include following a trail of scarecrows round the village; identifying them and finding clues; enjoying tea and buns in the village hall and daily prize-giving for the lucky trail winners.

It’s an event that’s growing in popularity every year, attracting thousands to the small village of Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales. Let’s hope it’s not rained off this year, as was Britain’s other scarecrow festival last year – the Muston Scarecrow Festival…

Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival Website

Muston Scarecrow Festival

Muston Scarecrow Festival - The Simpsons

The Simpsons at the Muston Scarecrow Festival (Flickr)

This too is a Yorkshire event and it’s on at the moment (running until 4th August), so there’s still a little time to get there.

It’s so popular after recent coverage on the BBC that their website isn’t working as I write, but presumably that won’t have an affect on the number of visitors.

Muston Scarecrow Festival Website

Wray Village Fair and Scarecrow Festival

Giant Scarecrow Parade - Wray

Giant Scarecrow Parade – Wray (

Scarecrows are just a small part of the annual festival that has been taking place in Wray in Lancashire since 1894.  A giant scarecrow parade, car boot sale, classic bike and car gatherings and a vintage market are just some of the events that take place over the May Day weekend.

Wray Village Fair And Scarecrow Festival Website

Urchfont Scarecrow Festival

Crocodile Dundee scarecrow

Crocodile Dundee scarecrow

The Urchfont festival in Wiltshire, in common with all of events mentioned on this page, use the scarecrow trail idea as a way of raising funds for local amenities. This one, held annually in May, originally began as a way to raise money for a new village hall, and this year (2013) they raised a massive £37K+ for various causes.

Urchfont Scarecrow Festival Website

Harpole Village Scarecrow Festival

Harpole Scarecrow Festival

This enterprising lot in Harpole Village, Northampton, have an open top double decker bus touring the town, and this year they’re featuring a geocaching route too. Games and stalls galore and a novelty scarecrow themed bicycle ride around town are planned for this September’s festival.

Harpole Village Scarecrow Website

Have you visited any of these, or any other scarecrow festivals in the UK? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments box below.




Is it art or an eyesore? The Abode of Chaos

Demeure de Chaos/Abode of Chaos aerial shot

Demeure de Chaos

The Demeure du Chaos (abode of chaos) is situated in a little village in the Rhône region of France – Romain-au-Mont-d’Or. It’s an artists’ collective that, according to report I read in French magazine “L’Oeil” back in 2010 was attracting the ire of the mayor and local residents.

It seems, according to this report, that it’s still a bit of a battle ground, even though a legal move to close the place failed. What some may see as valid anti-establishment art, others have taken against because it’s s a bit of an eyesore, a noise polluter (with all the sawing and hammering) and a negative influence on nearby property prices.

Thierry Ehrmann, millionaire founder of and artist has turned this 17th century residence into what some might say is a work of art, but others do not agree, and the dispute could end up going as far as the court of Human Rights where Ehrmann is seeking to define what exactly art is, in France anyway. His opinion is that artistic expression has been a “national and universal right since the beginning of time” (my translation).

Julian Assange at the Abode of Chaos

Julian Assange at the Abode of Chaos

This contemporary art museum is the product of the work of dozens of artists, with 2500 works and counting.

The art includes lots and lots of graffiti, a giant skull, concrete formed into weird shapes, painted and twisted vehicles, empty diesel containers, a swimming pool dyed red a downed helicopter and a representation of the twin towers. Steve Jobs, Julian Assange, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and Albert Einstein all decorate the walls. All this is meant to represent the chaos and disorder of human existence.

Helicopter at Abode of Chaos

Pic credit

And of course, Edward Snowden has made an appearance:

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

The museum is open on weekends and it’s free, attracting thousands to this little town, and for those who don’t see it in quite the same way as Ehrmann it must be a bit of a trial.

Their latest exhibition has a rather arresting image to advertise it. Trans-mutation represents “A bridge between traditional techniques and possible futures” and it runs to October 2013.

Trans-mutation at the Abode of Chaos

Trans-mutation at the Abode of Chaos

Is it art or is it a blight on the landscape? Judge for yourselves by paying the Demeure du Chaos in the Rhône region  a visit.



Driving directions to St Romain au Mont D’Or from Paris

Alexandra Park and Palace: 150 Years and Still Going Strong


16 days and 120,000 visitors after it opened in 1873, Alexandra Palace in North London burned down.

The newly rebuilt Palace opened again 2 years later. The Palace along with its gardens perched on a hill high above London was an enormous public recreation ground and the place where the first public television transmissions took place.

And then large parts were ruined by fire again in 1980.

The Palace re-opened in 1988 and Alexandra Park and Palace is now a major music and corporate event venue. It also hosts a weekly farmer’s market, it’s home to a very popular ice-rink, has a great pond for duck-watching, and has one of the best views in London. And it’s a wonderful building.

Ally Pally is celebrating its 150th anniversary on Sunday, and I for one will be popping along to see what’s happenin’ Here are the details

Here are some gorgeous photos of this historic but really unlucky building if you can’t make it on Sunday:

Ally Pally from the air

Ally Pally from the air (Wikipedia)

The view from Alexandra Palace

The view from the Palace (

White Stripes at Alexandra Palace

The White Stripes were there! (Flickr)

Happy 150th Ally Pally!