Region
Kyushu
Island
Kyushu
Largest City
Oita
Population
1,221,128

Oita

Highway to hell

Bathe in hell (in a good way) in onsen-filled Oita.

For a serious onsen (hot spring bath) experience there’s no place like Oita, made up of town after town of steaming pools giving the impression that much of the prefecture is constantly on fire. Despite its hellish properties, Oita’s volcanic landscape is extremely beautiful to look at. It’s also fun to explore, offering great hiking, ancient monuments, shrines, temples and more for some rewarding entertainment in between baths.

Beppu is the onsen capital of Kyushu, if not the whole of Japan, boasting the highest number of hot spring sources and hundreds of baths across a dedicated spa town that is something between a rural haven and an onsen theme park. There are hot spring baths, mud baths, sand baths, milky baths, blood baths and steam baths spread out across the area. Some are said to cure ailments from backache to gastroenteritis, while others increase beauty or restore youth. Tattoos in onsen are a traditional taboo, but ahead of the 2020 Olympics and 2019 Rugby World Cup Games, Beppu is one of the leading charges for things to change and to start accepting tattooed foreigners in onsen.

The Sea Hell, one of the eight hells (Jigoku), multi-colored volcanic pool of boiling water in Kannawa district in Beppu, Japan.

Visit the eight hells of Beppu, multi-colored volcanic pools of boiling water.

Most are for bathing but there are eight that are definitely not – these are the jigoku or ‘hells’, touted as Beppu’s tourist highlight. You can take a tour of the eight spots including ‘sea hell’, ‘blood pond’ and ‘tornado hell’, and try the various steamed foods made with the hot water there.

Leave the onsen gimmicks behind by heading to Yufuin, another hot spring resort town along the foot of Mount Yufu-dake, which has a slightly more refined, traditional atmosphere. Traditional inns, boutique restaurants, cafes and stores line the main streets leading towards picturesque Lake Kinrin-ko. There’s some fantastic hiking in the area around the Aso-Kuju National Park which extends all the way from Mount Aso in Kumamoto.

Oita, Japan - November 29, 2014: The main shopping street of Yufuin in Oita, Japan.

Explore the scenic streets of Yufuin.

It’s worth heading back over towards the southeastern side of the prefecture to visit the coastal Oita city and try some of the fugu (pufferfish) or ‘fuku’ (luck) as it’s called locally – the notoriously poisonous delicacy that only trained chefs are allowed to prepare. Further on is Usuki, a quaint castle town known for its awe-inspiring cliffside Buddha carvings.

Places to visit

The Sea Hell, one of the eight hells (Jigoku), multi-colored volcanic pool of boiling water in Kannawa district in Beppu, Japan.

Hells of Beppu

Go to hell.

Oita, Japan - November 29, 2014: The main shopping street of Yufuin in Oita, Japan.

Yufuin

Close to Beppu, this rural hot spring town is as scenic as they come.


The view of Beppu and Oita city with beautiful Beppu Bay

Mount Tsurumi

A mountain with a view.

Beppu Safari

A little bit of Africa in Japan at this safari park.


Ohara Chaya, oita

Ohara Chaya Restaurant

Hidden in a bamboo grove, your Japanese basket of goodies awaits.

Ekimae Koto Onsen.

Ekimae Koto Onsen

We're in love with this tattoo-friendly onsen with roasting temperatures.


Kabeyu Hot Spring

Oita’s secret mixed-gender onsen in a cave!

Beppu's Takegawara Onsen.

Takegawara Onsen

Get buried in warm black sand in this Meiji-era onsen — that's tattoo friendly!

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Dazaifu shrine in Fukuoka prefecture

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Kagoshima, Japan with Sakurajima Volcano.

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Mountain Pass in Kumamoto Prefecture Japan

Kumamoto

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Takachiho gorge in Miyazaki Prefecture

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View over Mount Unzen Hot Spring - Shimabara, Nagasaki Prefecture Japan

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Ishigaki island lagoon in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan

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Rice fields looking out to sea in Saga Prefecture, Japan

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