You might have heard from your friends that if you are going to Japan it is worthwhile to visit an onsen (hot spring) because it is one of the truly local experiences. Your friends might also have said that the experience may be quite quirky from a foreigner’s perspective, since in Japan – unlike in many other countries with hot springs – people will be naked while bathing in public onsen. In any case, if you decide on going to an onsen, there are multiple locations to choose from. Where exactly should you go?
If you plan on spending a substantial amount of time on the onsen experience, Oita is definitely one of the places you would want to consider. An hour and a half flight from Tokyo, Oita prefecture is located in the northeastern part of Kyushu, one of Japan’s four main islands. According to Oita prefectural government’s website, as of March 2015, the prefecture has 4,381 onsen sources and yields 278,934 liters of onsen per minute, which ranks top among all prefectures in Japan. The prefecture is considered “the onsen prefecture” and the airport even has an ashiyu (onsen spot for your legs and feet) inside the airport! Isn’t this perfect when you have some time to kill before your upcoming flight or when you would like to give your legs and feet some break before you head out to the city?
Although Oita has more to offer than just onsen (e.g., castles, shrines and landscapes), in this blog post we will focus on some of the most popular onsen locations / attractions in the prefecture.
Beppu – the city ranks first within Oita in terms of number of onsen sources (2,291) and liters of onsen generated per minute (87,360). The city has a great view of the ocean and offers a number of traditional scenery, including Takegawara Onsen.
Takegawara Onsen’s first and the current building were constructed in 1879 and 1938 respectively, a testament to the point that the place represents the very tradition of onsen in Beppu. Note that Takegawara Onsen is a public bath facility, so you don’t have to stay there; you can simply take a bath there for an admission fee of 100 yen. In addition to standard public bathing, Takegawara Onsen also offers sand baths for 1,030 yen.
Beppu is easily accessible by various forms of public transportation. From the airport, it will be approximately a one-hour ride on the Oita Airport Limousine Bus.
Beppu has more to offer than the standard bathing experience. The “Hells of Beppu Tours” or (Beppu Jigoku Meguri in Japanese, meguri meaning tours) is a perfect place to go to if you are interested in the most peculiar onsen sceneries. Due to the fumes, hot mud and boiling water of the area where the “Hells of Beppu” was located, the area was historically feared by the people in the area (hence the name “hell”). Fortunately, the fumes, hot mud and boiling water contributed to the creation of the most peculiar onsen sceneries, including Sea Hell (Umi Jigoku), Blood Pond Hell (Chinoike Jigoku), Spout Hell (Tatsumaki Jigoku) and White Pond Hell (Shiraike Jigoku), which have been selected as National Scenic Beauties of Japan for their aesthetics. Note that because of the extreme high temperature, you will not be able to bathe in the “Hells of Beppu,” except for the ashiyus that are located in some of the “hells.”
The Hells of Beppu is accessible by bus from Beppu Station / Beppukitahama Bus Stop in thirty minutes. We advise you to allocate at least three hours for the tour if you intend on visiting all seven of “hells” that can be visited with the common ticket; all of the “hells” are within walking distance from one another except for Blood Pond Hell and Spout Hell (for these two “hells” we advise you take a local bus after visiting the other five). For more information, you can also visit their official website or see their PDF pamphlet.
Yufuin – Ranking second after Beppu in terms of number of onsen sources (941) and third in terms of liters of onsen generated per minute (48,446), Yufuin is a lovely and relaxing onsen-resort town situated west of Beppu. The town is full of onsen ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) and you will definitely enjoy walking around if you like staying in a country side.
In addition to the abundance of onsen locations in Yufuin, the beautiful scenery is also what attracts many visitors to the town. The town itself is very retro-style, and the surrounding area also looks great; from the town the beautiful Mount Yufu and Lake Kinrinko are easily accessible.
Yufuin is easily accessible by the JR (Japan Railway) train from stations such as Oita or Beppu, or by buses (some buses directly go to Yufuin station from Oita Airport). One plan might be to stay one night either in Beppu or Yufuin, and then travel to the other location on the day after.
In addition, if you are interested in the retro-train experience, JR Yufuin no Mori might be a good idea. The train was specifically designed as a resort train; the splendid view, the retro-style cabin interior and the customer service will surely enrich your travel experience to Yufuin.
The Ninjaya.com team travels extensively throughout Japan because our mission is to find unique Japanese products and list them on our e-commerce marketplace for our customers outside Japan. (Actually, this blog post has been written based on our experience visiting Oita!) We hope our travel experience will help you in planning your trip to Japan and we are excited to share more of our experiences in the future; we will certainly write more about Oita. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions (about your upcoming travel to Oita or anything else) please leave them in the comments below or send us via email.
Related information: One of our suppliers, Saravio Cosmetics, is a company based in Oita. The company makes skincare and haircare products from algae that resides specifically in the hot springs located in the area, with the goal of recreating the health benefits of Japanese hot springs in various skincare and haircare products for people who do not have regular access to hot springs. Check out this award-winning company's products on this page.