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Bathing and bopping in Beppu

Once-famous Japanese hot springs resort is making a comeback

Late-night bathing at the Oniyama Hotel in Beppu, Oita prefecture. (Courtesy of the Oniyama Hotel)

BEPPU, Japan -- Ichiro is the big boss around here. Brought up in the hot springs mecca of Beppu, on the Japanese island of Kyushu, he has never left his hometown. He has his pick of the local females and at mealtimes his favorite food is brought to him without fail.

Right now, he is gazing at me with a 1,000-meter stare, his mouth hanging slightly open in a cynical grin. "Who the hell you do you think you are?" he seems to be saying. I fix him with my hardest, most Clint Eastwood-like squint but, not being a 5-meter Asian crocodile, I quickly lose the staring contest.

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