Steam coils its way to the sky above Beppu and throughout the city, hot water drips from pipes and traces its way down hills. It’s no surprise that the small city is famous for its hot springs.
Beppu, in Oita Prefecture on the island of Kyushu, boasts eight geothermal hot spots, yielding an extraordinary number of extra toasty hot springs. The city hosts a multitude of onsen and offers unique baths using sand or mud warmed from the local springs.
Each onsen is different, making a day or two of onsen hopping a venture that won’t get old and will leave you feeling relaxed and tranquil. Because of the high amount of geothermal activity in the area, Beppu also offers several hot springs for viewing rather than bathing, known as the Hells of Beppu. Though slightly kitschy, their intense heat creates extra thick steam that’s unlike your typical hot spring.
Though there are more onsens available then most visitors will have time to see, here are some of the don’t-miss bathing locations within Beppu:
This traditional onsen dates back to 1879, and though the original building has undergone some maintenance, the integrity of the original building is still intact. For ¥100, you can bathe in the high-ceiling onsen and get a feel for public baths of centuries past. The onsen also offers add-on item such as shampoo or other beauty products. For more information, opening hours and directions, visit their website.
Among the most unique hot springs experiences, Beppu-kaihin Sunayu offers beachside sand baths with a view of the coastline. Guests wear a yukata for this bath and are taken outside, where a staff of workers use shovels to cover them in sand that’s warmed by the geothermal activity.
Lying beneath the sand, it feels as though you’ve been covered with a warm, heavy blanket. Guests stay in their baths for 10 to 15 minutes, and during that time, the heat escalates and envelops you. Exiting the bath leaves guests covered in sand, which acts as an exfoliant as it’s washed away in the warm showers.
Men and women bathe together in the sand baths, but Beppu-kaihin Sunayu also has traditional onsen baths, where guests can relax after finishing their baths. The traditional baths are segregated by gender. A sand bath costs ¥1030 and also includes the traditional style onsen. Towels are not provided, so be sure to bring your own.
The sand bath is a five-minute walk from Beppu Daigaku Station and is open from 9:00 to 17:00. For more information visit their website.
On your way back to the station, stop at Dig Coffee for a drink made with a high-quality roast of beans and cat-themed espresso art. The café also has a varieties of cakes and sweets.
Nestled atop a large hill, this onsen features a view of the city and Beppu Bay. Its special, sapphire-blue water complements the view of sky and sea, and as the onsen is a bit off the main tourist path, it feels secluded and remote. The onsen features a large, traditional style Japanese restaurant with a similar view, and for ¥1500, you get a bath and a meal (a bath alone costs ¥1000).
The onsen is open from 11:00 until 17:00 and is a 10 minute drive or cab ride from Beppu Station. For more information visit this website.
This activity was found on Nippon Quest, a website that curates unique, off-beat Japanese experiences around the country and allows foreigners and locals alike to rate them. To learn more about activities like this in Japan, visit their website.
By plane: Fly to Oita Airport and take an Oita-Airport Limousine Bus to Beppukitahama-Cosmopia-Mae. The bus stop is just a few minutes on foot to Beppu Station, the hub of the small city.
By train: From Tokyo Station, take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Kokura Station, and then transfer at Kokura Station to the Sonic-Nichirin toward Oita. Get off at Beppu Station. Overall, the trip takes about five and a half hours.