Japan City Guides: Oita
Beppu 別府 & Oita 大分
Ranging from the tacky to the traditional, the hot spring baths of Oita should be high on any visitors list of things to do.
Beppu is famous for a number of jigoku or "hells", a term often given to places where geothermally heated water bubbles up to the surface as steamy ponds or sulphurous gloop. These hells are given the full tourist treatment so be prepared for tack.
The Hells - see boiling, steaming coloured ponds such as Blood Pond Hell and Oniyama Hell.
Beppu is also well know for its seedy side as a walk around the downtown area or a visit to the Hihokan Sex Museum will show you.
Of course, a trip to Beppu would not be complete without a soak in a few of the innumerable onsen dotted around town. The adventurous might want to try a mud bath or shell out to be buried in hot sand. The popular seaside Beppu Kaihinsunayu (sand bath) (Tel: 0977 66 5737) is a short walk east of the ferry terminal. Other onsens well-worth a visit are Shibaseki onsen (Tel: 0977 67 4100) near the historic Kifune Castle, Horita Onsen (Tel: 0977 24 9418) and Hyotan onsen (Tel: 0977 66 0527) near the Hells.
Other attractions in the Oita-Beppu area include a soak in the historic Meiji-era Takegawara Onsen (tel: 0977 23 1587), which also includes a hot sand bath, and visits to the nearby Umitamago (Sea Egg) Aquarium complex (Tel: 097 100% 1010) on the seafront west of Beppu and the adjacent Takasaki Monkey Park (Tel: 097 532 5010).
Yufuin is a quite different onsen town more geared towards gentle strolls and arts and crafts. There are pleasant walks to be had around Kinrin-ko, a warm(ish) pond at the foot of Mt. Yufu. and the mountain itself is a not too strenuous 2 hour climb. Baths are in plentiful supply and traditional ryokan accommodation is of a very high standard, if a little expensive.
Foreign Tourist Information Centre (9am-5pm; tel 23-1119) in Kita-Meitengai Department store in north-east corner of JR Beppu Station.
Outdoor Beppu / Oita
The Yamanami Highway heading out of Beppu leads, via Yufuin, to the mountains and rolling plateaus of the Aso caldera, the world's largest volcanic crater. The area offers numerous trails and scalable peaks for hiking enthusiasts as well as log houses and campsites. The area is still very much alive as the steaming crater of Mt. Aso testifies and many visitors take the ropeway (cable car) to the top to peer into it - sulphurous gas emissions permitting.
Onsen are also in abundance. Kyushu's highest peaks are however to be found in the Kuju range, also volcanic but significantly less active than Aso. Animal lovers should visit Mt. Takasaki (15 mins south of Beppu) where hundreds of wild monkeys can be seen. The monkeys form distinct "tribes" which take turns to feed at the foot of the mountain.
Much farther afield off the south-west coast of Kyushu the natural island of Yakushima is a hiker's dream.
It is speculated that it was in Oita that Buddhism first gained a foothold in Japan over 1300 years ago. Evidence of this can be seen in the form of numerous stone Buddha statues carved into cliffs and rock faces all over the prefecture. Over 80% of all the stone Buddhas in Japan can be found here. Most famous of all are the statues at Usuki. Obviously once a site of some importance, there are 60 well-preserved 12th century carvings here in an atmospheric rural setting.
More carvings can be found on the Kunisaki Peninsula, where modern Japan seems a million miles away and the sleepy farming villages are almost eerily quiet. Countless temples and shrines dot the rugged landscape including Fuku-ji, where you can see the oldest wooden building in Kyushu and one of Oita's grandest temples, Futago-ji.
The Usa-jingu shrine is the most important of all Japan's Hachiman-gu shrines dedicated to the God of War. Usa Jingu Shrine is in the city of Usa, adjacent to the Kunisaki Peninsula.
Rakanji Temple in Takatsu
Rakan-ji Temple is another of Oita's grandest temples. Rakanji dates from the 13th century, is built into a towering cliff, and incorporates several caves. Rakanji Temple is home to over 3,700 stone buddhas. A chairlift (or stone stairs for the hale and hearty) takes you up to Rakanji itself, and then on to the top of the mountain for a panoramic view of the the surrounding peaks and valleys. Read more about Rakanji Temple
The historical onsen town of Hita often called "Kyoto in Kyushu" makes for a pleasant excursion by train or hire-car from Beppu, Oita or Fukuoka. The hot-springs are located near to the river, where you can also see cormorant-fishing from May-October, and the Mametamachi area behind the station contains a number of preserved wooden buildings including a sake factory still in use today.
Oita was put on the international map by the 2002 World Cup. The purpose built "Big Eye" stadium, somewhat reminiscent of a giant titanium turtle, was designed by the celebrated Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa (who also designed Toyota stadium, the Wakayama Museum of Modern Art, Kuala Lumpur Airport and the New Wing of the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam). It can be reached via shuttle bus from Oita Station.
Regular ferry services run between between Oita and Kansai via Matsuyama. Overnight ferries also available. Cars and bicycles carried.
Train to Fukuoka/Hakata 2.5 hours, 5750 yen. Connects with the Shinkansen bullet train for Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Yokohama and Tokyo.
There are air connections to Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Kagoshima, Seoul and Okinawa.
Media Cafe Popeye
NTT Oita branch, Funai-cho 3-9-11, Oita.
Book Accommodation in Beppu/Oita Here
Find Bars, Restaurants and Clubs in Oita Here