In the middle of September we took a two day break to celebrate the birthday of our co-founder (my husband), Rob! The only requirements for the trip were to relax, so I figured Japan’s most famous onsen town was the perfect place to go.
Beppu is a small city located right above Oita City in Oita prefecture on the east coast of Kyushu. You can get there by plane, bus, train or car from Fukuoka or other parts of Japan. Beppu is famous for its hundreds of onsen – from 5-Star private ryokan to tiny indoor onsen and free public foot baths.
We slept in and hopped on the train at Hakata Station around lunchtime. The train made a few stops in residential Fukuoka before traveling to Kurume, and later winding through the mountains until it reached Yufuin, another famous onsen town. Afterwards the train slowly descended towards the ocean, taking us to the seaside cities of Oita and Beppu.
We explored the backstreets of Beppu Daigaku before making our way to the ryokan, which was an amazing blend of modern and traditional Japanese design. The manager was waiting out front and greeted us kindly before explaining about mealtimes and showing us how the amenities in our room worked.
Our gorgeous room included a wooden onsen bath on the balcony, overlooking the traditional Japanese garden. As soon as we saw it we had to try it out (Tip: if you don’t like scalding hot water you’ll want to add in some cold first!) The wooden bath and fresh evening air were so relaxing that we couldn't help but take a nap afterwards.
Later we put on our cotton yukata and went down to the dining hall for our amazing Japanese feast. I spoke to the chef in advance and he was kind enough to vegan-ise the entire course meal for me, while Rob enjoyed many different types of seafood. We had tofu, noodles, rice, miso, fruit and dozens of different seasonal veggies. The 10-course kaiseki meal was far beyond our expectations! The chef did an amazing job of combining different textures, colours and seasonal flavours, and we left extremely full after 2 hours of non-stop eating.
We woke up at 7 and had a very relaxing morning bath with fresh air and sleepy birds tweeting. Breakfast was at 8am and it was another traditional feast of tofu, miso, rice, fish, green tea and lots of veggies! In the soft morning light we could see how much care they’d put into creating the zen Japanese garden.
We checked out at 10 and headed to Beppu Station to store our bags, before catching a local bus headed to Kannawa Onsen. We didn’t do a lot of research beforehand, but I’d heard about the Beppu Jigoku (Onsen ‘Hells’) and wanted to see some of them. There are 8 steaming hot onsen in the area (just for sightseeing, they’re too hot to bath in!) They all have different names and themes based on their colours and temperatures. The Jigoku areas are separate and it costs ¥400 to enter each one, or you can buy a pass to save on seeing all of them.
We found the Jigoku to be a little too touristy for our liking, but they're still an interesting part of Beppu, and worthwhile if you've never seen natural hot spring water before.
My favourite was Shiraike Jigoku (White Pond); there were hardly any tourists and the milky white water was very soothing to look at.
We also popped in at Kamadojigoku and Oniyamajigoku which had varying shades of brown, blue and red. Kamadojigoku even has a free footbath you can try! This was by far the busiest Jigoku, so if you're looking for somewhere quieter, take a peek into the entrance of each area before buying your ticket.
If you get too hot wondering around the steamy Jigoku, head back down the cobblestone path to the Kannawa Onsen town area. The beautiful winding backstreets are full of vintage shops, tiny onsen and nostalgic ryokan. Try out one of the public onsen or stop at a traditional restaurant for lunch.
Beppu is also known for its hot sand baths which you can try down at the beach. If you’re looking for views, take the rope way up to Mt Tsurimi on a clear day for amazing views of the city and the coast.
Do you love onsen? Have you been to Beppu? Let us know in the comments!