Situated between the Beppu Bay and volcanic mountains, Beppu is a city on the Kyushu island of Japan. It is most famous for its 100+ hot springs. In fact, it has the second-largest concentration of hot springs in the world! However, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Continuing our virtual travel series inspired by the ‘36 Hours’ column of The New York Times, this week we take you to Beppu in Japan!
36 Hours in Beppu
8:00 AM: Bird’s Eye View
Start your excursion with a bird’s eye view of Beppu. Head up to the Jumonjibaru Observation Deck (approx. 9km from the city) to enjoy an early morning view of the mountains, sea, and neighboring islands. This is also considered as one of Japan’s top 100 night-view spots, so you can always come back at night to view the magic of the city lights.
9:30 AM: Visit Sea Hell
Next, visit Umi Jigoku, which means ‘sea hell’, and is one of the famous hot springs in Beppu. It features a stunning pond of cyan-blue boiling water and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and several smaller orange-colored ‘hells’ or ponds (fee to visit all the ‘hells’ is approx. 1800 JPY).
10.30 AM: Mud Bubbles
Merely 350m from Umi Jigoku is Onishii Bozu Jigoku, named after “the mud bubbles that emerge from boiling mud pools and look like the shaven heads of monks”.
Adjacent to this, are several smaller pools where you can enjoy a quick swim.
12:00 PM: Tryst With the God of Death
Make your way to Yama Jijoku (120m away), where the God of Death (after which it is named) is spewing steam through the mountains. You can also spot a range of animals here, including hippopotamuses, peacocks, European flamingoes, monkeys, and horses!
In the same area are three other Jijokus. Kamado Jigoku or the ‘Cooking Pot Hell’ is “named after an ancient myth in which steamed rice was cooked with the fumarolic gas discharged at 90 degrees Celsius as an offering to the Ujigami”.
The Oniyama Jigoku is famous for its facility for breeding crocodiles — and you can feed them on weekends (from 10:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.) and Wednesdays (from 10:00 a.m.).
Finally, the Shiraike Jigoku, or ‘White Pool Hell’ contains clear water that spouts from the ground and turns a bluish-white due to the temperature and pressure drop when it combines with the pond water.
2:30 PM: Eat ‘Hell Rice’
Try some ‘Jigoku Mushi’, or ‘hell-steamed rice’ for lunch! Several restaurants nearby use this age-old method of harnessing the naturally hot steam for cooking food.
3:30 PM: Kifune Castle
Post lunch, make your way to Kifune Castle to view objects from Japan’s medieval times. From paintings and folding screens to religious art, it’s sure to be an interesting experience.
4:30 PM: Witness A Geyser Eruption
Head to Tatsumaki Jigoku (means ‘Tornado’) to witness a geyser eruption (takes place every 30–40 minutes and lasts 6–10 minutes).
5:30 PM: Take A Sand Bath
Unwind with a sand bath at Beppu beach. The sand helps open up pores and has other health benefits as well. Catch the sunset while lying down is steaming hot sand and enjoying the sound of the waves.
8:00 PM: Local Dinner
Call it a night with some scrumptious dinner from one of the local joints! Look out for the Toriten with Bungo beef, and enjoy some sake meat with a glass of wine.
8.00 AM: Morning Views
Kickstart the morning with more mountain views. Head to Mt. Tsurumi which is accessible by the Beppu Ropeway to get glorious morning views of Mount Yufu and the city below.
10.00 AM: Adrenaline Rush
If you’re an amusement park junkie, Kijima Kogen Park is not to be missed! The 25-hectare amusement park boasts of numerous thrilling rides that are sure to give you an adrenaline rush. Don’t forget to ride Jupiter, Poseidon, and Birdman!
1.00 PM: Ramen Time
When in Japan, eat Ramen! This is best had at one of the local joints, so just look around and head into whichever restaurant boasts of good Ramen (baked noodles with Octopus dice and vegetables). End the meal on a sweet note- try the Ryukyudon for dessert.
2.00 PM: Afternoon Walk by the Lake
Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Kirin Lake. Relax by the banks after an adventurous morning, and pick up some souvenirs from the shops before heading to the next destination.
3.30 PM: Yufuin Floral Village
Next, visit the picturesque Yufuin Floral Village, where almost every building is decorated with flowers, bushes, and lamps. With low roofs and tiny alleys, get transported back in time. Fun trivia: a few scenes from the famous ‘Harry Potter’ series were shot here.
5.30 PM: Oita Marine Palace Aquarium
Open till 9 PM on weekends (but only till 6 PM on weekdays), the Oita Marine Palace Aquarium has some of the biggest water tanks in the region. We highly recommend watching the dolphin show to get transported to the sea!
7.00 PM: Jog at Beppu Park
Finally, wind down at Beppu Park. Located in the city center with numerous flower gardens and 100-year old pine trees, it is a great place for a jog, stroll, or to simply enjoy the beauty around.
How to get there
You can take a Shinkansen (high-speed railway lines in Japan) from Kumamoto (the capital city of Kumamoto Prefecture on the island of Kyushu) to Kokura, which is 1 hour away. From there, you can transfer to a limited express train to Beppu, which is another 75 minutes away. Kumamoto city can be reached by flight or bullet train from either Tokyo or Osaka.
Where to stay
There are numerous options to stay in Beppu for all budget categories and needs. ANA InterContinental Beppu Resort & Spa is a gorgeous property with stunning views, while Morinoyu Resort offers relaxing hot springs on its property. Budget travelers can opt for a private Bnb.
When to go
The best time to visit Beppu is from April to August.
Foreign visitors require a valid Japanese visa to visit Beppu, while nationals can stay in Beppu for a maximum of 90 days visa-free and are assigned a Temporary Visitor status.
Public transport is fairly good in Beppu and visitors can take the train or bus to go around. Private taxis can also be hired.
Japanese Yen (JPY) is the only accepted currency in Beppu. However, do note that several ATMs in Japan do not accept foreign credit, debit, and ATM cards. At ATMs in post offices, you can withdraw Japanese cash using the following cards: VISA, Visa Electron, Plus, Mastercard, Maestro, Cirrus, American Express, JCB, China Unionpay, etc.
Japanese is the primary spoken language in Beppu.
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