Beppu is a city located in Oita prefecture on the island of Kyushu, known for its many unique hot springs. When you arrive at Beppu station, the statue of the “Shiny Uncle” welcomes you heartily. It is the statue of Kumahachi Aburaya, a Meiji Era entrepreneur famous for his contribution to the increase in tourism in Beppu and all over Japan. He is also known for his love of children. The concept of the “Eight Hells of Beppu”, which are eight hot springs in Beppu for viewing, rather than bathing, is attributed to him. He was greatly inspired by his trip to North America and implemented many new ideas upon his return to Japan. Why not visit Japan and get inspired too with a trip to Beppu?
Right next to Kumahachi Aburaya’s statue, you will spot the first sign that you are in the land of hot springs, a free hand bath. There are real benefits of bathing in hot springs for the skin and for general health, and anyone who has been in Japan long enough will notice how good Japanese people’s skin is. Beppu is a “paradise” for hot-spring lovers – it is said that there are more than 2,500 onsens here, so there’s no excuse not to try one out!
In Beppu, there are plenty of hot springs you can enjoy. Many hotels have their own onsens too, so make sure you research your hotel’s facilities. Famous hotels with hot springs are Takegawara, Hyotan, Myoban, Onsen Hoyo Land, Tanayu, Ebisuya, and Beppu Beach Sand Bath. They offer a variety of different kinds of onsens, such as ones containing sulfuric powder, mud baths, steam baths, sand baths, and aroma baths, which can satisfy even the pickiest bath-lovers.
Yufuin is located in close proximity to Beppu. It is a small and traditional hot spring town. Hot springs here are of great quality, so prices may be higher than others, but the relaxing experience is well worth it.
Eight hells of Beppu (Jigoku meguri – a tour around hells)
It is said that for over a thousand years, this area was disliked due to the steam and gas, thermal mud and bubbling hot water coming from its land. It was given the nickname – “jigoku” – meaning “hell”, because of the steam rising from the ground. In fact the hot water gushes out at temperatures over 150 C. It is hard not to be fascinated by the bright red, milky white, cobalt blue and all the other distinct colors of thermal mud that emerges from the earth. Each of the Eight Hells provides you with a unique experience, from one you can see geyser, intermittent spurts of water shooting from the ground at 20 m high, and from another you can watch crocodiles bathing. They are all fascinating and all so different, so it is definitely worth visiting all of them if you can.
Spout Hell – geyser (Tatsumaki Jigoku) and Blood Pond Hell (Chinoike Jigoku) are located next to each other. Spout Hell is the hottest of all at the Eight Hells at 150 C and Blood Pond Hell is the oldest and coolest at 78 C and its clay is filled with iron and magnesium, which makes its color a brilliant red. Skin ointments are also made from the clay here and can be bought on site.
The remaining six hells are located very close to each other. White Pond Hell (Shiraike Jigoku) has a creamy white water with a Japanese garden and Sea Hell (Umi Jigoku) features a flower garden (with water lilies, azalea), plus a foot spa. There is also a greenhouse that uses steamed gas coming from the earth. It is said to have emerged 1200 years ago after the eruption of a volcano. You can try an egg boiled in the hot water here too. Shaven Monk’s Head Hell (Oniishibozu Jigoku) gets its name from the shapes of the bubbles that resemble the shaved head of a monk. One of the ponds is said to resemble the snoring sound of Oni – a Japanese demon from folklore. It also has a foot bath with Japanese citrus fruits in it. There is a public bath with a variety of pools next to this hell. Cooking-pot hell (Kamado Jigoku) features boiling ponds and a demon statue (Aka-oni) as a symbolical cook. Here you can find a hand bath and hot water from the spring is served in cups, so you get a chance to taste the spring water. Monster Mountain Hell (Oniyama Jigoku) features crocodiles, as it is said that this spring has the perfect conditions for breeding crocodiles. The signpost says the pressure from the steam is strong enough to power a steam train for half an hour. Mountain Hell (Yama Jigoku) has small ponds of steaming hot water and a small zoo. Animals here have adapted to live in the hot conditions caused by the spring’s water. You can see hippos, peacocks, monkeys, flamingos, black swans, rabbits and other animals here too.
The price of entrance tickets to all eight hells is 2100 yen for adults, 1350 yen for high-school students, 1000 for middle-school students and 900 yen for elementary school children. You can also purchase tickets separately; just for the springs you are most interested in visiting. Location-wise, almost all of them but two are located within walking distance of each other, but if you want to visit all of them, we recommend you plan ahead and check the bus schedules, or book a taxi to take you around.
Transportation: from JR Beppu station West exit, take the Kamenoi bus No 2, 5, 41, 32. It’s about a 20-minute journey to get to the area where six of the hells are located. If you want to go to the other two hells first, take bus No 26. It’s about a 40-minute journey.
Here is the Eight Hells Leaflet in English: http://www.beppu-jigoku.com/images/English0.pdf
Rakutenchi is an amusement park in Beppu. It has various attractions and a zoo. You can also find a foot bath and a cafeteria. It is located on a mountain, so the view across Beppu Bay is truly spectacular. At the entrance to this leisure park, you need to ride a cable car in to the park, which is where all the fun starts.
You can also visit Mt. Takasaki National Park, which contains over 1200 Japanese monkeys. For those who love sea critters, we also recommend Umitamago (literally meaning the “the egg of sea”) aquarium. Here, you can watch performances from dolphins and walrus, making it a great option for a family trip. African Safari is another activity offered here.
Another interesting thing about Beppu is that it the University has one of the top number of international students in Japan. Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University’s ratio of foreign students is almost 50 % and it is located at the top of the mountain, so don’t be surprised if you see many young international students around the city.
How to get to Beppu: 50 minutes by bus from Oita Airport (1500 yen), 15 minutes from Oita railway station (280 yen)
Transportation within the city is easiest by bus.