Things to See in Oita City 大分
Though it is the capital of Oita Prefecture, Oita city is not so well known as a tourist destination, most people preferring the nearby hot spring resorts of Beppu or Yufuin, however if you are in the area or passing through, there are many things worth seeing.
Originally called Funai, in the 16th century Oita was a major point of contact between Japan and the west. The local lord Otomo Sorin engaged in trade with the Portuguese and eventually became a Christian himself.
Little remains of this cosmopolitan period in Oita's history: a replica of a Portuguese galleon in a shopping arcade, a statue of Frances Xavier who visited here, a memorial park to local Christians martyred after the prohibition of Christianity in the Edo Period, but the ruins of Funai Castle are still standing and the castle is a popular spot especially in the cherry blossom season.
Oita Art Plaza
Not far from Funai Castle is the first commission of world-renowned Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. Isozaki was born in Oita and he studied under the great Kenzo Tange.
His first independent project after leaving Tange's firm was a public library in his home town. Opened in 1964, the library moved to new premises in 1996 and the former library was refurbished and renovated, with Isozaki's assistance, into an arts center, the second floor of which is devoted to the works of Isozake himself. As well as drawing and plans there are many scale models of many of his more famous projects.
Oita City, Oita 870 0046
Tel: 097 538 5000
Oita is home to several other earlier and less known buildings by Isozaki. The local tourist information office located in the JR Oita Station building can supply you with a map to a downtown Art Walk that highlights them.
Oita Prefectural Art Museum
Not designed by Isozaki, rather by Shigeru Ban, a Japanese architect with a reputation for his work designing temporary structures for disaster areas, OPAM, the Oita Prefectural Art Museum, is a brand new building just across from a new Culture Center.
Unusual for an art museum, the OPAM has many walls of glass allowing those outside to see in. Housing a permanent collection of works by artists associated with Oita, the museum also hosts a wide variety of exhibitions of Japanese and international artists.
There is a courtyard gallery and a rooftop garden gallery and at times the road between the museum and the culture center will be closed off to traffic to allow the whole area to host large public festivals.
Tel: 0975 33 4500.
Admission is free to many parts of the museum, and 300 yen for adults for the main collection. Open every day from 10am to 7pm and to 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Closed Mondays.
About 30 minutes walk south of Oita Station is a hilly area that was the heart of the original town, Ueno Motomachi. The Motomachi Historical Walk starts at the Motomachi Sekibutsu, a group of Buddhist relief carvings in the rock wall, the biggest being a three meter tall carving of Yakushi, the "Medicine Buddha", sculptured in the Heian Period.
Nearby are the Iwayaji Sekibutsu, a collection of smaller rock carvings. The route meanders through a quiet residential area and visits a couple of historical temples, Enjuji and Kongo Hokaiji, but the real surprise is at the top at Yasaka Shrine. Set among tall trees, the vermillion painted main gate is covered with dozens of carved relief panels. They are not as sophisticated as the ones found at Yusuhara Hachimangu, but they are brightly painted and depict a wide variety of scenes and characters. Though not part of the Historical Walk, the City Museum of Art is less than a kilometer away in a large park. It has a large collection of modern and contemporary art and features a variety of temporary exhibitions. A map of the Historical Walk can be found at the Oita Tourist Information Office.
In the surrounding area are several notable attractions. In the mountains to the west is the most important shrine in the region, Yusuhara Hachimangu with some excellent carvings on its main gate, accessible by bus from Oita Station.
Also in the west is the Mount Takasaki Wild Monkey Park where up to 1,500 wild monkeys live and can be observed at fairly close quarters. Very nearby is the Oita Marine Palace Aquarium, Umitamago.
The main feature at Umitamago are Giant Walruses which perform shows as well as the ubiquitous dolphin show. The monkey park and aquarium are located about halfway between Oita and Beppu on the main coast road, and are easily accessible from either place. Though not as well known as other hot springs in the area like Beppu and Yufuin, within the city of Oita are numerous traditional hots springs without the crowds.
There are the full variety of accommodation options in Oita city from small guest houses to luxury hotels offering various budget options. Many will have hots springs.
The Tourist Information Office at the station offers help and information in several foreign languages and can help with booking rooms and with maps.
Oita Tourist Information Center
1-1 Kanamemachi, Oita (JR Oita Station).
Tel: 0975 32 0723.
With at least a week's notice they can arrange a free, English speaking volunteer tour guide.
Access To Oita/Beppu/Eastern Kyushu
Oita is on the main JR Nippo Line which connects south to Miyazaki, or north through Beppu and Nakatsu to Kokura. The Hohi Line connects to Aso and Kumamoto. The Kyudai line runs to Yufuin and on to Kurume.
Oita Airport is about an hour north of the city by car or limousine bus.
Ferry to Kobe (11 hours 20 mins) or Osaka (12 hours).
Kansai Kisen Ferry Reservations (0120-56-3268):
Osaka (tel 06-6572-5181), Beppu (tel 0977-22-2181)
www.ferry-sunflower.co.jp (Japanese & English, online reservations)
Daily, 7090 yen.
Regular overnight ferry services run between between Oita and Kansai. Cars and bicycles carried. Accommodation is either in large shared tatami rooms or in private cabins of various classes. There is a restaurant, shop and public bath on board.
Train to Fukuoka/Hakata Station 2 hours, 5560 yen from Oita.
Connects with the Shinkansen bullet train for Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Yokohama and Tokyo.
From Fukuoka (Hakata Station): 2 hours (Ltd. Express Sonic)
From Kokura: 1 hour 20 mins (Ltd. Express Sonic)
For up to date train timetables and fare information for Kyushu click here
There are air connections to Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Kagoshima, Seoul and Okinawa from Oita Airport.
Regular buses run to and from Oita Airport depart from Oita Station, the Tokiwa Department Store in Beppu and the bus station in Yufuin.
Media Cafe Popeye
Across from Oita Station, a little down the Centporta shopping arcade that starts right next to the WING Ekimae Pachinko & Slot.
Hotel Accommodation in Beppu & Oita
Oita city and Beppu have a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets ranging from traditional Japanese tatami-floored ryokan and minshuku with futon beds to western style resort hotels with en suite bathrooms and full facilities.
Chances are that wherever you stay in Beppu and Oita your accommodation will have its own onsen hot spring spa. For an authentic Japanese style onsen ryokan try Yamada Besso or the Kappo Ryokan Sennari.
Other recommended places to stay in the Oita and Beppu area include the Rembrandt Hotel Oita, the Oita Regal Hotel, the Hotel New Tsuruta in Beppu and the four-star Motoyu-no-yado Kurodaya also in Beppu. See here for a full listing of hotel accommodation in Beppu and Oita.