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Beppu is a famous onsen (hot spring) town located between the mountains and the sea on Kyushu, Japan's southern island. Hot spring baths, conducive to relaxing the body and mind, are an integral part of Japanese culture. Each of Beppu's eight hot spring areas has a unique setting: some are up in the hills and others are right on the beach.
Kannawa Hot Spring dates back to the 13th century when a Buddhist monk opened it for therapeutic purposes. Steam rising throughout the Kannawa area gives it an otherworldly atmosphere. Kankaiji, located on top of a hill, has become a luxurious modernized hot spring. Bathers at Kankaiji have Tsurumi Peak in the background and a view of the city of Beppu below. The sulfur hot springs of Myoban are in the northern hills of Beppu, from where Beppu Myoban Bridge, the largest arched bridge in Asia, can be seen. The thatched huts in Myoban are used to make bath salts from crystals found in the surrounding springs. Those seeking a more peaceful experience will appreciate the waterfall baths of Shibaseki Onsen on the beautiful and quiet banks of a mountain stream. The most famous hot spring bath in the Beppu Hot Spring area is Takegawara Spa, a traditional bath house which first opened in 1879 and features hot spring and sand baths. At Onsen Hoyo Land you can have a mineral mud bath, and Hyotan Onsen has steam and sand baths as well as water baths with 'waterfalls' built in to massage the shoulders of bathers.
Not all hot springs are suitable for bathing, but have qualities which make them popular to visit. Beppu has several of these unusual hot springs. Known as the jigoku (hells) of Beppu, they are worth seeing. One of the most beautiful is Umi Jigoku, or “sea hell,” a pool of steaming hot blue water. Oniishibozu Jigoku is a boiling pool of mud from which mud bubbles emerge; and the red water of Chinoike Jigoku gets its color from iron oxide.
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.
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.
Just outside of Beppu the Takasakiyama Monkey Park is home to more than 1500 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. Near the monkey park Umitamago Aquarium has fish, seals, otters, dolphins and penguins.
Beppu is an easy day trip or overnight from Mount Aso.