Oita: Beppu Onsen Area
Beppu Onsen is the best-known and most popular of the eight hot spring districts making-up the ‘Beppu Hatto’ area of Oita Prefecture. Arguably the most famous ‘onsen’ (natural hot spring) town in Japan, Beppu is said to be blessed by almost 3000 hot spring vents – accounting for more than 10% of such known vents in Japan. It also boasts the abundant flow of natural thermal water of any area in Japan, said to be second-only in the world to Yellowstone National Park in the United States. The Kannawa and Shibaseki districts of Beppu boast one of the town’s most remarkable sights – the seven ‘Jigoku’ Hell Pools. These pools dramatically demonstrate the primordial character of Beppu’s hot springs, each different and suitably named.
The ‘Shiraike Jigoku’ or ‘White Pond Hell’ is so-named for its milky water while ‘Umi Jigoku’ or the ‘Sea Hell’ is known as such because of the intense blue of its boiling water. The bubbling mud bath of ‘Oniishibozu Jigoku’ takes its name for the shape of the burb mud, which reminds some of the shaven heads of monks while the red water of ‘Chinoike Jigoku’ or ‘Blood Pond Hell’ is perhaps the most striking of the ponds.
Beppu Onsen is the most central of the eight areas and easily accessible from Beppu Station. With immediate access of the station, you’ll find plenty of mid-sized hotels with a mix of Japanese and Western-style rooms and amenities. Accommodation is often wall-to-wall in this part of the city with the areas closest to the coast featuring large hotels. While all of these areas are easy to reach, some of Beppu’s best accommodation including high-end ‘ryokan’ (traditional guesthouses) are located to the west of town centre, in the foothills of Mount Tsurumi – with most offering pickup and drop-off services from Beppu Station.