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Beppu is located in Oita Prefecture on the island of Kyushu. Like many cities in Japan it is sandwiched between the sea and mountains. It is best known for its onsen (hot springs) and in fact produces more natural hot water than any other resort in Japan. Beppu boasts more than 2,900 hot spring vents within the city limits which produce more than 130,000 tons of hot water everyday.
Prior to and throughout the Edo Period (1603-1868) Beppu was considered inhospitable due to the large plumes of steam and fumes created by the hot springs. The plumes of steam can also be credited for giving Beppu its nickname, Jigoku Onsen or Hell Hot Springs. It was not until the early years of the Showa Era (1925-1989) that Mr. Kumahachi Aburaya created the Jigokumeguri, or Hell Pilgrimage, which brought locals to Beppu. Mr. Kumahachi Aburaya is considered the father of Beppu and is the reason why we can now enjoy these amazing hot springs.
Hot spring baths or onsen are believed to help numerous aliments, and are a great way to relax after a long day of sightseeing. There are a variety of hot spring “baths” available in Beppu including hot water baths, sand baths, steam baths and mud baths.
The hot springs of Beppu are divided into 8 different areas called Beppu Hatto. The areas are Beppu, Kannawa, Kankaiji, Myoban, Kamegawa, Shibaseki, Horita, and Hamawaki. Each has its own unique character and place in the hearts of the locals who take hot spring baths daily. While in Beppu you can purchase a hot spring guide book called Onsen Bon for about 300 yen. It has many nice photos and a free bathing ticket which you can use in Beppu. You can find Onsen Bon at most book stores and it will make a nice souvenir.
Beppu locals often take hot spring baths daily and will visit one of the 200 community bath houses. These are not nearly as nice as the bath houses built for tourists but they are less expensive. If you wish to truly connect with the people of Beppu then take a chance with a community bath house. They are all over so you should not have a problem finding one.
Beppu is also famous for blow-fish cuisine, hot spring flowers (bathing salts), shiitake mushrooms, hot spring steamed food, bamboo crafts and rantai shikki lacquer ware.
Sightseeing in Beppu can be broken down into two main activities: hot spring bathing and hot spring viewing. Of course there are small shops and museums for those interested in going but hot springs are the main attraction.
These are the 8 main bathing hot spring areas for tourists. There are also community hot spring bath houses that the locals use daily. These do not have the amenities and are not as nice as the bath houses for tourists but will give you a chance to experience how the locals live. They are also much cheaper.
The 8 main hot spring areas are called Beppu Hatto. If you truly love bathing then you might want to visit all of them but if bathing only once or twice a day is enough then that is good too. A short introduction of the of these are below:
This is one of the original hot springs of Beppu. Its name means “beach spring” as hot water springs from the beach. Hamawaki is located in southern Beppu and is recognizable by the large arch in front of its modern structure.
There are 2 bathhouses in this area:
Takegawara Hot Spring
The current structure was built in 1879. Takegawara has maintained much of its charm and is the most famous hot spring bath in Beppu. They have water baths and sand baths. It is located about 10 minutes on foot from Beppu Station.
Kitahama Hot Spring
This bathhouse, also known as Termas, is located along Route 10 and offers beautiful ocean views. Kitahama is one of the few hot spring baths where bathing suits are allowed. It is 5 minutes by taxi from Beppu Station.
This area has been famous for it bath supplements since the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Steam rises from the thatched roofs of Yu-no-Hanagoya (hot spring flower huts) and the sulfurous air saturates the land, giving it a therapeutic atmosphere. This is located 5 minutes on foot from the Myoban Bus stop.
This area has numerous plumes of steam gushing from the hot springs. There are many charming shops tucked along narrow alleyways. It is also known for its steam baths and steam cooking.
Located in the hills of the southwest urban area this hot spring gives visitors a chance to enjoy the splendor of nature while bathing.
Horita, also known as Mugen-no-Sato, is a more simple hot spring area. It is located west of Kankaiji Hot Spring, about 20 minutes on foot from Suginoi Palace Bus Stop.
This hot spring is located in the quiet mountains away from the city lights and is a chance to bathe with nature.
This hot spring is located in the northern most tip of Beppu city and is famous for its sand baths. Kamegawa is located 5 minutes on foot from Kannawa bus stop
Onsen and hot spring mean the same thing - geothermally heated groundwater. But Japanese also use these words to mean bathhouses. A single bathhouse might have access to a number of different hot spring water sources known as gensen. Generally the bathhouses will have these waters in separate bathtubs with signs letting you know what kind of water is in the bath. So it is possible to have 2 hot springs in 1 hot spring bathhouse. It is kind of confusing but if you just relax and forget about the technical stuff it will be more enjoyable.
The water in a hot spring bath comes directly from its source but many times the temperatures need to be adjusted either warmer or cooler. Japanese like their baths hot so please do not just jump in. First put one foot in followed by the other foot. It might take a few minutes for you to get used to it so enter the bath slowly. Baths are generally kept between 104°F (40°C) and may go as high as 118°F (48°C). If you see a thermometer remember that Japan uses Celsius, not Fahrenheit.
Bathing in Japan is very different than bathing in other countries. Before entering a hot spring bath it is very important to first clean your body and to completely rinse off all soap. Since you need to wash everywhere on your body you are generally not allowed to wear a bathing suit. Remember that you are all sharing the same bath water so let's keep it clean. For more information about bathing in Japan please see:
These are the multicolor hot springs for viewing known as Jigoku or hells. After being in Japan for some time you might assume that all hot springs are for bathing, but when you consider that the average temperature in these pits range from 120 to 210 °F (50 to 99°C) you will understand why not even Japanese can bathe in these hot springs. Though too hot for bathing they are awe inspiring to behold, causing one to ponder the power of Mother Nature. You can find more information about Jigoku Meguri at: http://www.kyushu-tourist.com/jigokumeguri.html
Umi Jigoku - “Sea Hell” and its beautiful blue water
Oniishibozu Jigoku - the mud bubbles up in the shape of “Shaven Monk's Head Hell”
Shiraike Jigoku - “White Pond Hell”
Chinoike Jigoku - “Blood Pond Hell” is not a pretty name but this is one of the most photographed hells
Yama Jigoku - “Mountain Hell” with small ponds of steaming water
Kamado Jigoku - “Cooking Hell” with a brightly painted demon as your chef
Oniyama Jigoku - “Demon Mountain Hell” where crocodiles are bred and kept
Tatsumaki Jigoku - “Geyser Hell” which erupts every 25 to 30 minutes
The above are included in the combination ticket that you can purchase at the Foreign Tourist Information Office in Beppu Station. The other two are:
Honbouzu Jigoku - “Mud Hell”
Kinryu Jigoku - “Golden Dragon Hell” which features a steam-breathing dragon
There are many “Jigoku Hells” and some are more interesting than others. We highly recommend you visit Umi Jigoku, Oniishibozu Jigoku, Shiraike Jigoku and Chinoike Jigoku.
As the popularity of its hot springs grew, the demand for Beppu's bamboo basketry increased until it became a local industry. A basketry training center opened in 1903, laying the foundation for the beautiful products made and sold throughout the area. Utility baskets include kitchen items such as food holders, sieves and strainers. Fish traps, silkworm trays, seed holders and other baskets are made for farm use. Some basketry artists make one-of-a-kind decorative baskets, handbags and basketry sculptures.
About ten kilometers (6.2 miles) inland from Beppu is Yufuin, a smaller hot spring resort known as the “town of morning mist.” Many are drawn to Yufuin for its boutiques, cafes and art museums. Located in a rural area and surrounded by mountains, Yufuin's shopping district is near rice paddies and farm houses.
and Umitamago Aquarium
Just outside of Beppu the Takasakiyama Monkey Park is home to more than 1,500 wild Japanese monkeys. The park is on a heavily wooded mountain, and in order to keep the monkeys from wandering into neighboring areas they are regularly fed. Not far from the monkey park the Umitamago Aquarium has fish, seals, otters, dolphins and penguins.