While the hot springs of Beppu create far more water than any other onsen in Japan, the variety of springs available is what makes this location so famous.
Home to 8 different hot springs, known as Beppu Hatto, each site contains an array of different bathing styles. Whether you are looking for a unique sand bath or prefer to just soak and unwind, Beppu has something for everyone.
The Beppu Hot Springs has been considered a site of healing and tourism since the 8th century. Legend says that the gods Sukunabikona and Ōkuninushi were visiting a nearby prefecture when Sukunabikona was struck with illness. Ōkuninushi forged a pipe from the deep sea to Beppu to allow Sukunabikona to soak in therapeutic waters, eventually healing him.
Later, during the Kamakura Period, Beppu became a site for samurai hurt fighting the Mongolian Army to come to soak and heal. Eventually, as the site gained more renowned, there was a drilling boom to find more hot springs in the area.
The Eight Hot Springs of Beppu
Each of the eight onsens located in Beppu has its own unique characteristics making every site worth the visit. For those with limited time, this city is a great choice for hoping from one hot spring to the next.
Beppu has a variety of hotels and inns for overnight guests, many of which allow day visitors to bathe for a small fee. It is an easy location to position yourself, as it is right near Beppu Station. Additionally, the Beppu Hot Spring Festival takes place in this area every April and attracts tourists from all over.
If you are looking for a scenic onsen, Kankaiji is a great choice. You will also have an amazing view of the steam clouds rolling over Beppu.
While filling the sky with plumes of white cloud vapors, which Beppu is known for, Kannawa gives visitors a unique experience of “Kannawa Steam Baths”. This style was originated by the monk Ippen Shonin. Once you lay down on the Acorus, a medicinal herb, you will feel the steam from the springs surround you.
Your body will be cleansed from impurities and stress making this onsen is a must-see!
Myoban sulfur springs are located in the hills above Beppu. It is here that you can take mud baths which help to soften and beautify your skin. You can also visit the traditional straw huts where the locals harvest yu-no-haha which are flower-like crystals from the hot springs made of iron and aluminum.
You may need to travel a bit further to reach Horita, but it is believed that the journey is part of the healing. The outdoor hot springs are a wonderful way to rest your body and soul.
This spring is believed to be one of the oldest areas in Beppu. There are many traditional and rustic buildings that make you feel like you have stepped back in time. The name Hamawaki Onsen indicates that these springs were given life from the sea, just as the legend mentioned.
Once visited by emperors for healing treatments, these open-air springs surround you with lush nature. There are also many trails for you to walk after your bath so that you can still your mind in the beauty of creation.
If you are looking for a one of a kind experience, look no further than Kamegawa. With a plethora of hot springs on the coast, you can experience a “sand bath”, the preferred method of healing by locals. As you lay down in the sand and have your body buried, you will feel rejuvenated and relieved.
Where To Bathe
With so many hot springs to choose from, having the names of specific locations will help make your journey a bit easier. Here are a few of some noteworthy places to bathe.
Beppu Onsen Hoyo Land
While this hotel may not be easy on the eyes, due to its rundown appearance, Beppu Onsen Hoyo Land is certainly a hot spring favorite! Here you can soak in the rare mud and steam baths, or as some locals call it, the shampoo (mud) and rinse (steam) for your skin. Additionally, overnight stays at this hotel include two meals!
This is the most famous spa and bathhouse in Beppu. Takegawara is nestled in the red light district, but don’t let that deter you from visiting. Their sand baths are well worth the visit! Make sure to check their schedule for which days sand baths are available.
Found in the natural setting of the Myoban hot springs, Ebiyusa Onsen should be on your list. Here you can find many styles of bathing such as aroma, jacuzzi, traditional, and steam boxes. It is a great option for a day trip.
If luxury is the goal of your trip, then look no further than Tanayu at the Suginoni Hotel. This high-class hot spring hotel is a great location to stay and provides overnight guests with exclusive access to the Midori-yu hot spring.
This expansive ryokan also has an outdoor rooftop pool with amazing views of the city as well as an Aqua Garden hot spring next door which has mixed-gender usage with swimsuits.
You cannot ask for more from a public bathhouse than what you find at Hyotan Onsen. You can have a waterfall massage on your shoulders or take a sand and steam bath all at one location! Additionally, you can ask for a private bath and purchase traditional Japanese meals.
Other Things To Do
A Tour of Hell
This is by far one of the most interesting and must-do activities to do in Beppu. In the ancient records of Japan, it is noted that Beppu had boiling waters and steam, many of which were red.
This detailed information matched what the Japanese believed to be hell, where sinners would be boiled and tortured in lakes of hot blood. Therefore, these boiling springs, are called “jigoku” meaning hell.
It’s not often that you can take a quick trip to hell, so while visiting Beppu, take a tour of these devilish springs, called a “Jigoku Meguri.” You will see chinoike jigoku, or ponds of blood, which have a reddish tint due to the iron found in the mud. Four of the seven Jigoku in Beppu are national landmarks and each is a different color.
Make sure you get your “I’ve been to hell and back” t-shirt before you leave!
Aso Kuju National Park
Aso Kuju National Park is a beautiful place for a hike to see volcanoes, a few of which are active. If you visit Mount Aso, you will be given the chance to look inside an active crater! Furthermore, there are a variety of trails you can take through the Kuji Mountains to enjoy a peaceful, nature-filled walk.
After a long day of hikes, taking a soak in the hot springs of Beppu will be exactly what your body will crave!
If you are an animal lover, this underwater world is for you! You can see dolphins perform, pet a walrus, and observe fish playing in the large, spacious tanks. The awe and wonder of watching these sea creatures will never get old at Beppu’s Aquarium Umitamago.
Beppu City Traditional Bamboo Crafts Center
Steeped in tradition and culture, Beppu bamboo crafts are part of its long history and are bought as souvenirs by many visitors. In fact, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry designated this bamboo art as Traditional Arts and Crafts, the only crafts in the Oita Prefecture.
You can take lessons and try out this ancient process for yourself, just make sure you make reservations in advance.
Kijima Kojen Park
After relaxing in the hot springs, you’ll be ready to take on this amusement park. Kijima Kojen Park boasts of a large wooden roller coaster called Jupiter as well as 37 other rides for visitors to enjoy.
For the smaller tourists in your family, they have plenty of rides for the youngsters including carousels, mini-golf, and child-friendly rides. There is even a large pool to beat the heat of the summer, which is conversely turned into an ice skating rink in winter!
What To Eat: Steam Cooking
While visiting these steamy hot springs of hell, why not also enjoy Jigoku Mushi (which literally means hell steamed). This ancient method of cooking is healthy and additive-free. Ingredients are steamed in a broth with vapors from the hot springs.
You can try Jigoku Mushi at Hell Steaming Workshop Kannawa and Chinetsu Kanko Labo Enma.
Jigoku mushi pudding is another food that is steamed from “hell”. This sweet dessert, also cooked in steam from the springs, is a must eat. You can find it near Myoban onsen at Okamotoya.
If you want to steam your own meals, visit the Jigokumushi Kobo Steam Cooking Center. You can buy a variety of prepared plates of food to cook in one of the public rows of steam chambers (available to rent). Don’t worry, a volunteer will help you get your food ready and set a timer.
How To Get There
From Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya:
After a flight to Oita airport, Beppu is a 45-minute bus ride. You can also take the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo in about seven hours, from Shin-Osaka in around four hours, and from Hakata in about two hours.