Beppu City is located in the Oita Prefecture in Japan's southernmost island of Kyushu. Because of the volcanic activity deep below the city, it has an abundance of hot springs, hot sand baths and mud pools. It was my first time to Beppu City, and also my first time to Kyushu -- and I was super excited! I couldn't wait to have my fill of Japanese food, enjoy the beautiful spring weather (I was visiting in April), and of course, soak in all the onsen!
Beppu City was the first city on my list of all the cities I was to visit on Kyushu island -- and here's how I spent my time in the city!
We departed from Kuala Lumpur to Fukuoka (the capital and gateway to Kyushu Island) via Air Asia, and arrived in the city in the late morning. From the airport, we hopped on a tour bus that took us straight to Beppu. However, if you are traveling independently around Kyushu island -- from Fukuoka Airport, you can get to Beppu via the Highway Bus (from the international termina), or take a train (from the domestic termnal) to Fukuoka’s Hakata Station and board the Sonic Express to Beppu. The trip from Fukuoka to Beppu takes about 2 hours or so.
I have to say I absolutely love Beppu -- and at the end of my tour to Kyushu, it's one of my favourite cities to visit. I think it's amazing that the entire city is covered in steam (because of the hot springs underneath the ground) -- and it's just something that you rarely find any where else. And also, it is the one city in the world with the most bathing springs! How awesome is that, especially for onsen lovers!
I arrived in Beppu City just in time for a late lunch! Lunch was at the Chinetsu Kanko Labo Enma restaurant that serves Beppu's most popular local cuisine -- the Jigoku-mushi, which when translated means "hell steaming". It's named so because all the food here are steamed in the city's natural abundant mineral-laden steam! This is a must try when you visit Beppu because for centuries, the Beppu locals have been cooking their food this way.
The most fun part about dining in the restaurand was the onsen foot bath just below our dining table -- which means we get to enjoy our food while dipping our feet in a hot spring. Also, we got to cook our own food in the steam chambers, where we had to put on thick gloves and place our food into the steaming chambers ourselves (and then take it our when the timer goes off). The food was pretty yummy (and of course, healthy, because everything is steamed) -- and it ranges from seafood and meat, to dumplings, and even pizza!
After lunch, it was time to learn some age-old Japanese crafts. We dropped by the Beppu Bamboo Crafts Center that exhibits bamboo works, and showcases the hundreds-of-years-old Takeizaiku ancient craft of weaving bamboo into functional everyday objects.
While here, we got to try our hands on some bamboo weaving! The center conducts workshops for locals to come and learn the art of bamboo making -- but for visitors, we get just a little taste of it by either learning to weave a flower basket, or a coaster. In the workshop/classroom on the second floor, our crafts teacher for the day provided us with some bamboo materials, and then showed us step by step how to weave it into a flower basket. It was pretty easy -- and I think my handiwork was pretty good!
And then it was time for onsen -- that happened to also be in our hotel for the night. The Suginoi Onsen Hotel is one of the most popular onsen hotels in Beppu. It's also located on slighter higher ground, so we get beautiful views of the city and the bay. After checking-in and taking a short rest, we headed down for a buffet dinner at the hotel's restaurants, Seeds. It was one of the most extravagant dinners I've ever had because we had all sorts of variety of food -- steak, king crab, sushi/sashimi, seafood, foie gras and Haagen Daz ice-cream. I was a very happy girl!
After dinner, we visited the hotel's famed Tanayu Onsen. The main onsen is located in a different building from the hotel, but there is a private bus that takes guests to and fro from the hotel to the onsen. The onsen is open-air, divided into men and women, and is spread over five tiers overlooking the city and Beppu Bay. The onsen provides various baths -- aroma bath, barrel bath, massage bath, foot bath, and even a bath where you can lie-down on a sunken lounge bed. And it's got the most beautiful night view too! It really was the best way to end my first night in Kyushu.
The second day started with a huge breakfast at The Suginoi Onsen Hotel early in the morning. And of course, in a hot springs town like Beppu -- the very first activity of the day was yet another pampering session for the body. We were headed for a hot sand bath!
The Shoningahama Beach in Beppu is famous for its hot sand -- and its one of the best place to lliterally get buried in hot steaming black sand! Upon entry, we were provided with a yukata to change into before making our way to the sand pit. The ladies in charge of our sand burial made a small dent in the sand for us to lie on, and then began shoveling the sand onto our bodies and burying us in the heat! The sand was pretty heavy on top of my body and I found it a little hard to breathe -- so I chose to release myself from the sand after about 15 minutes. The recommended time is about 20-30 minutes, but it really is up to you how long you want to be buried for. After that, I took a warm shower to clean up all the remaining black sand from my body; and there's also a steam bath in the bathroom if you want another dip after the session.
The beach sand bath is believed to help muscle and joint stiffness, reduce high blood pressure, and even asthma; and helps relieve stress and fatigue, and aids blood circulation. It is also said to be good for the skin.
Other than the onsen, most people come to Beppu to see the hot springs on the Jigoku Meguri trail. There are a total of eight hot springs on the trail; which translates to "hell springs". They come in a variety of colors, consistensies, temperature and uses. The 8 hot springs are:- Yama Jigoku, the steamy springs; Oniishibozu Jigoku, the mud springs; Umi Jigoku, the sea blue springs; Kamado Jigoku, the springs with animals; Shiraike Jigoku, the white springs; Oniyama Jigoku, the springs with crocodiles; Chinoike Jigoku, the red springs; and the Tatsumaki Jigoku geyser.
If you have time, it is recommended to visit all the 8 hot springs in Beppu to truly understand what the city's springs are all about. I was a little short of time, so I only visited the Chinoike Jigoku and the Tatsumaki Jigoku (which happens to be next to each other).
The Chinoike Jigoku is known as the Bloody Hell Pond because it is 78°C and a deep reddish color. This is due to its rich content of iron oxide; and the mud from this pond is now sold as skin ointments to treat medical conditions like eczema and burns. The hot springs s smelly, smoky, boiling and in such a nightmarish color — exactly like how its name describes. The Tatsumaki Jigoku next to it has got to be one of the geysers with the shortest resting times in the world — it erupts approximately every 30 minutes, and lasts for about 10 minutes each time. So the wait to see it isn't too long!
We left the city after the visit on our short Jigoku Meguri tour. I had a great time in this extremely steamy city; and with so many new experiences and sights too. It's a definite must-include in any Kyushu itinerary -- and make sure you spend at least a couple of days to soak up all those hot springs!