I love onsen and onsen towns so naturally I had heard about Beppu Onsen Town in Kyushu Prefecture. In the last year or so a friend happened to get a job in Beppu, conveniently giving me the best excuse to go.
(statue of Kumahachi Aburaya, the “father of Beppu tourism” outside the station seen “playing” with children)
How Far is Beppu (from Tokyo)?
Well, I broke down the time, transportation routes and the price of how I got there. Maybe you’d get a better idea just looking at that.
House to Narita (302 yen train fare, 900 yen bus to Narita from Tokyo): 1.5 hrs
Time at airport: 50 minutes
Flight time (Tokyo to Oita on Jetstar, one way 7,000 yen): 2 hrs
Bus to Beppu (buy a ticket at the airport, 1,500 yen): 1 hr
Time spent one-way from Tokyo: 5.5 hrs
Cost to go one-way from Tokyo to Beppu: 9,702 yen
Anyway, that is quite a lot for a weekend trip. I admit, I splurged. I did the trip over the weekend, but I would not necessarily recommend that.
What can I see/do in Beppu?
Well, the obvious answer to this would be onsen, naturally occurring hot springs. If you do not like onsen, maybe the next answer would be hiking around. If you don’t like nature or onsen, then I would not really recommend Beppu.
If you are going to do anything in Beppu, I suggest you FIRST stop in a Beppu convenience store and purchase the Beppu Onsen Book. ↓↓
This is a Beppu tourist’s best friend, the Beppu Hatto Onsenbon (available at convenience stores in Beppu). In my 2013-2014 edition book there are:
-11 places that will give you free entrance
-one “free entrance” ticket that will grant you one place listed
-several 100 yen off coupons that work at any listed hot spring
-discounts on local attractions like the ropeway, the safari park, the hells of Beppu and more
This is for 500 yen! One entrance fee to ONE HOT SPRING is about the same cost. Please, do yourself a favor and buy this book.
I used my free entry coupon at a place in Kannawa called, Yumoto Kanawaso.
I was the only one in the area, so I took pics of the rotemburo (outdoor bath) and one indoor bath.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TAKE PHOTOS UNLESS YOU ARE TRULY ALONE! Technically it is forbidden because this is a spot for people to feel relaxed while they are completely naked with strangers. If people see a camera out, that might also make them uncomfortable.
There are 88 major hot springs of Beppu, so please use the book and the corresponding map to find them all. If you want to go to all 88, you should get the Onsen Passport (or “spaport,” get it?), with it you have a chance at getting a certificate to verify that you went to all 88 and are now a Beppu Onsen master.
HELLS IN BEPPU
The biggest attraction in Beppu are the “Hells of Beppu” (“Jigoku Meguri”). They are different hot springs that have bubbled up out of the ground in different ways. Even thought this is a bit touristy, it is actually worth it to see them.
There are 8 “hells” in total. 6 are in the tourist area of Kannawa and the remaining 2 are about a 20 minute walk away. It is about 400 yen to get into each hell and 2,100 yen for entry to all 8. If you have the onsen book, there is a coupon that lowers that price down to 1,800 yen.
Shiraike Jigoku “White Pond Hell” – a large pale blue pool of boiling water occupies the enter of this garden. There is a really old aquarium exhibit with Amazonian fish displayed.
Oniyama Jigoku “Oni Mountain Hell”- they use the naturally warm waters and steam as a big breeding ground for crocodiles. Probably the scariest hell because there are a lot of pretty big crocodiles…
Kamado Jigoku “Cooking Pot Hell” - there are several smaller springs, a large footbath area and an area where you can get steamed goodies, steamed with the power of the hot springs!
Yama Jigoku “Mountain Hell” - This one is located near a hill and for some reason has a bunch of animals as well. You can buy feed to give them.
Umi Jigoku “Ocean Hell” - There is a pretty big lotus pond at the entrance of this “hell.” There are also leaf patties big enough to support the weight of a small child.
The “hell” is a pretty blue like the ocean. They put eggs over the spring to cook them naturally and sell them to tourists.
There is a greenhouse also fueled by the geothermal energy where they have a variety of flowers.
Another pool, this time it is tinged a red/orange.
Oniishibozu Jigoku “Oni Rock Monk Hell” - Not sure why the name is the way it is, but this hell has silky looking clay circles with hot water bubbling out from it. There is also a shallow foot bath and an area where you can pay extra to go take an actual bath.
The last 2 hells are located about a 20 minute walk from the Kannawa bus stop (you can also ride the bus over for about 7 minutes).
Chinoike Jigoku “Lake of Blood Hell” - Got a pretty bad-ass name, but is just as described, a large pool of boiling hot orange/red liquid. Wild guess as to where the blood comes in!
Tatsumaki Jigoku “Waterspout Hell” - Have to say I was a bit underwhelmed by this one. I think it was the fact that there is only one spout, you never know when it will go off, and there is an outdated amphitheater surrounding it. You sit and wait for the earth to decide it wants to start going. It is pretty regular though.
View from my hotel, Koraku, near Kitahama. Beppu tower…and a fire escape ladder.
Most of the hotels that offer free admission for holders of the Onsenbon are in this area around the Beppu Tower.
You can’t leave Oita prefecture without sampling some of their famous chicken tempura, toriten. You’d think that the rest of Japan would have thought of making chicken tempura, but you would be wrong.
It is a delicious other way of frying up chicken!
Onsen fans, please come here. This is a quiet town and a great place to go to relax. As my friend so aptly described it, “It is stuck in Showa (the 50s, 60s).”
Yes, many things do seem old about the area and some of the hotels, but I think that nostalgia also adds something quaint.