At the east coast of the island of Kyushu in Japan you can find the city of Beppu. The city with its mere 125.000 residents is a place still too seldom visited by international tourists. The city is home to its colorful 8 Hells of Beppu but has much more to offer.
When you will look for more information about the 8 Hells of Beppu one of the first words that will appear is that these hells are a nationally designated place of scenic beauty. The people living in Beppu are proud of that and not without reason. The Hells of Beppu are a collection of hot springs of which many are displaying surrealistic colors. These hot springs that have temperatures reaching up to a 100 degrees Celcius or more than 200 Fahrenheit are not for splashing around. But they will be more then enjoyable for your eyes.
This hot spring is marked as the oldest one of the country at has been around for at least 1300 years. The color of the hot spring gave this one his name Chinoike Jigoku what means the Bloody Hell Pond. When you arrive at this place you first will need to pass a shop with the Japanese foody treasures like all kinds of cakes, cookies and souvenirs before you enter the garden on the back. But when you enter the garden you will see a more than 1000 m2 or 1300 square yards lake that looks to be filled with steaming blood. In fact the water entering the pond just is normal water but the compound of the dirt having many times of oxides like magnesium and aluminum turns it bloody red. A composition of this also is sold in the store which supposed to be a treatment for all kind of skin diseases. The place also has a foot spa where you can sit and put your foot in the hot water to relax.
Situated next door to the Bloody Hell Pond is the Tatsumaki Jigoku, translated as spouting hell. This place isn’t a pond but houses one of the few geysers that are home to Japan. On very regular base the powerful geyser sprays forcefully the water out from the earth. In fact of all geysers in the world this one has one of the shortest interval periods with an interval period of just between 30 and 40 minutes. The time of the eruption lasts between the 6 and 10 minutes. Unfortunately above the geyser a stone plate is placed to prevent the geyser to reach its full height that could be up to 50 meters or 160 feet. There are benches made to enjoy the spectacle. Also before entering this place you will be passing the souvenir store which you can visit while waiting to the geyser to be giving his show. Another option is to saunter through the small but beautiful garden that has plenty of flowers during spring time.
The White Pond Hell has its name from the color of the water that when the light reflects on a good way on it almost looks like steamy hot milk but most of the time will be more blueish-white. In the center of the pond there are some rocks and the pond is surrounded by a small but beautiful garden. Unfortunately the buildings around the pond are filled with worn-down bad maintained aquaria containing several kinds of fish like piranha. Would have been much better if this space was used to explain more detailed information about the Hell itself. Though the pond is beautiful and earned his name as a national site of scenic beauty.
The name Oniyama Jigoku in Japanese can be best translated in Crocodile Hell. As the intention of the name is to say there is a hot spring and they have crocodiles it more justifies the name as that this place is a hell to the crocodiles living there. From the 8 Hells of Beppu this one is the only one that is horrible and is even better to be skipped. When entering the place you will see a pond of boiling clear water that releases a lot of steam. Behind it a high stone devil statue and the rest of the place exists out of concrete and steel cages that houses around 100 crocodiles in different sizes and a building containing some information about this reptiles. Unfortunately a disappointment.
The Kamado Jigoku, what refers to the Cooking Pot Hell has a diversity of ponds. Before entering the area with the ponds you’ll be passing through another souvenir store. Be ready for passing through the big stash of cookies, cakes and other commodities like towels that turn a dressed woman in kimono into a nude woman while the towel get wet. A man working in the store will be very happy to show it to you. Once passed through this place you enter the real attraction, the ponds. You will find a cobalt blue one, a bloody red one as well as boiling mud. You will be able to take a foot bath to relax your feet in the foot onsen. A big red angry looking devil is overlooking the place while resting on a big rice spoon to prove it is the cooking pot hell. Oh… and don’t forget the foods from Hell. For example... you can order some eggs boiled in Hell. Great and diverse place to visit.
Oniishi Bozu Jigoke
Probably this hot spring has its most interesting name. Oniishi Bozu Jigoku means the Shaven Monk’s Head Hell. This hell is home to boiling grey mud pots that will show bubbles in the mud that have similarities to that of ha smooth shaved head of a monk. In fact the relaxing bubbling sound and the fascinating figures and textures that are produced by the mud pots makes this place great to visit. The mud pots are spread out over the small terrain which also have a small field of rocks that shows escaping steam. Also this place gives you the possibility to relax your feet in a foot onsen. Oh... and cookies and cakes of course.
A mixed feeling will probably come to you when visiting the Steamy Hell. At the back of this place there truly is a beautiful scenic spot where big amounts of steam escape the earth. At a swallow pond hot water escapes from the earth between the rocks leaving big clouds of steam. The hot water of this onsen is also used for the exhibits of this animals at the small zoo that this place shows. While looking down in a pond you might be surprised by a big open beak of a hippopotamus that actually is begging for the 3 small pieces of carrot that you can boy for 100 Yen to throw inside him. The monkeys are looking bored in their too small concrete cages. There are some flamingos and capybara and some other mammals. The place is absolutely worth visiting for the steamy pond. But for the animals unfortunately it again is a big no.
Best translated in the Ocean Hell for the oceanic or cobalt blue color of the big pond. Probably the most impressive hot spring of all the 8 Hells. After the entrance booth you enter a beautiful garden with a big pond at the right side. A smaller pond at the left side has many beautiful water lilies which they also cultivate in a greenhouse. In the garden you will find another relaxing onsen for your feet which after visiting the 8 Hells can be a great relaxing experience. You also will find a bloody colored pond at this place. But after passing through the souvenir shop with its cakes and cookies you will get at the biggest highlight of this place.
After the souvenir shop you will see the magical colored hot sping. This cobalt blue pond releases loads of steam, has a basket for boiling onsen eggs that can be purchased at the store. Another delicacy here is the Jigoku pudding produced with the steam from the onsen. This place actually was the first of the hot springs that is designated as a national site of scenic beauty. Also at moments between the steam you can see another geyser spouting its water up against a stone. This place is a must visit.
How to go to Hell
Visiting hell actually best should be done on a sunny day. This makes the colors of the hot springs even more beautiful. If you don’t have transportation of your own it is best to use one of the bus lines leaving from Beppu station. 6 Of the Hells are located close to each other. The geyser and the bloody hell pond are located at another more distinct spot. To go to this two you just take bus line 16 or 16a that brings you to them. After visiting this two spots continue on the same bus line which will bring you to the location close to the other 6 hells in the Kannawa area. If you want to Kannawa first just take line 5, 7 or 9 nine which will go there faster than the 16 line. Going by car is easy as well. And parking at all these spots is for free.
Before going to Hell it is better to visit the tourist information at Beppu station first. Ask for a ticket for the entrance fees of the 8 hells combined with a day pass for the bus. It will be cheaper than buying tickets for the bus and pay all entrances separate.
Other things to do in Beppu
Like mentioned before Beppu offers much more than the 8 Hells of Beppu. The city is home to many onsen that are used for leisure. The Myoban Onsen, Horita Onsen, Kankaiji Onsen, Kannawa Onsen, Shibaseki Onsen, Kamegawa Onsen, Beppu Onsen and the Hamawaki Onsen are the most famous ones. All offer public hot water baths where people can relax.
The onsen actually dates back to times when regular houses in Japan didn’t feature a bathtub. So in places where hot springs where available neighborhoods build public washing rooms where people could go for cleaning themselves and afterwards relax in a hot tub while socializing with their neighbors.
Most of the onsen have separate tubs for woman and separate for man, though mixed ones also do exist. Swimming suits aren’t allowed at the onsen, only few exceptions do exist. Onsen are available at small local ones to big pools with water in different temperatures mixed with spas and health centers.
Also several hotels offer an onsen which can be used for free while staying there or can be used by paying a fee. Just inform at the local tourist information at Beppu station for the type of Onsen that suits you. Some onsen also have great views over the city of Beppu.
At the Beach of Shonin, Shoningahama, you can experience the real Beppu Beach Sand Bath. The temperature of the sand at this beach is high so the staff of this place will but you underneath it. Not to worry too much, your head will stay above it so you will survive the experience. This treatment is very relaxing for your muscles and will costs you around the 1000 Yen. A roof will cover the place when it is raining. The place provides you with a yukata, a kind of robe people also where at home and in bed, so no need to worry about sand inside your clothes. This will take about 15 minutes where after you can take a shower and finally relax a while in a traditional onsen or just take a footbath afterwards.
Oita Marine Palace Aquarium “Umitamago”
When it is a rainy day, not uncommon in Japan, a nice place to visit is the aquarium. This aquarium is situated at the sea side at the road between Beppu and Oita opposite to the Takasakiyama Natural Zoo. The aquarium is renovated en reopened in 2004 and has modern looks and beautiful aquaria and an very interesting collection of animals.
Unfortunately the housing for the marine mammals are far too small. The walruses, sea lions and dolphins are lacking sufficient space. This can be a disappointment while visiting this aquarium. There is a possibility for interacting with the dolphins though. Not by swimming with them but by playing ball with them. Also there is an ability to take a closer look at marine life like sea stars and sea cucumbers which is questionable as well to touch them.
Entrance fee is around the 2000 Yen. Though again. Visit the Tourist Information Center at the Beppu station. Here they’ll offer combination tickets for the Aquarium, the National Zoo and two tickets for the bus for a cheaper fee.
Takasakiyama Natural Zoo
Just crossing the road from the aquarium you will find this Natural Zoo which actually is better to be called a monkey park. For a more zoo like, or safari like place better visit the African Safari zoo. After entering this place you can choose to walk up the hill or take, by paying a small fee of 100 Yen, a little train to go for a short ride up the hill. If you are able to walk without issues there isn’t any use for taking this train. Once up the Hill which is like a 5 minute walk you will be entering an open space.
This open space is used as the feeding place for the monkeys living in this park. Every half an hour there will be a feeding demonstration what attracts most of the monkeys that roam free in this area. The monkey they have here is the Japanese Macaque, the monkey species to known to live most northern of all monkey species in the world. These monkeys also are known as the snow monkeys and well known for the many documentaries of these animals that relax in a hot spring during harsh winter times. These specific monkeys that do this can be found close to Yudanaka in the area of Nagano and isn’t in this park.
The total population of the monkeys living in this park is counted to be around 1500 individuals. While visiting this place you just walk between them. No fences or barriers between you and them. So as they still are wild mammals you have to make sure to stick strictly to the rules by not feeding them nor showing them you have anything with you that might be edible. You won’t feel comfortable when around a hundred monkeys put their sight on you and your food. Also they aren’t pets. So don’t try to pet them nor look them straight in the eyes.
Though it may not seems to be a real natural way to go to this place for seeing the monkeys to be fed this place also serves a purpose. The park is founded in 1952 because of the increasing population of monkeys. These monkeys in times raided the areas crop fields causing massive damage. Instead of killing or replacing the monkeys they kept them at this place by starting to feed the and made this place into a tourist attraction as well.
The entrance fee is around 500 Yen. But better to buy a combination ticket with the aquarium and for the bus at the Tourist Information Centre at the Beppu Station. This will save you some money.
Behind Beppu you can see several hills and mountain peaks. One of them is Mount Tsurumi, Tsurumidake. The mountain has an altitude of 1375 meters above sea level. This mountain is accessible by the Beppu Ropeway that leaves at an altitude of around 500 meters. The ropeway can be reached by taking bus number 33, 34, 36 or 37 leaving from Beppu Station.
The ropeway up takes about 10 minutes and brings you to a platform from where you have a majestic view over Beppu and the city of Oita in a distance. Also you have great panoramic views of the Kuju mountains in the distances. On top of the mountain there is a small park with some walking trails that brings you to some other viewing points.
Best time to visit the place is early April when the more than 2000 cherry trees, Sakura, will flower their blossom. The end of May and the beginning of June is the best period to enjoy the flowers of the rhododendrons. October as well is a great month to be up this mountain to enjoy the amazing autumn colors. And in the winter it is great to see the snow.
You can choose between a one way or a two way ticket. If you choose the one way ticket you can take a hiking trail back down from the mountain. At times the trail can be closed due to prior bad weather conditions. One way tickets won’t be sold in that case. One way is around 1000 Yen. Two way around 1600. Advisable to inform at the Tourist Information Center at Beppu Station if this place is opened because it can be closed due to weather conditions like strong winds.
Besides this Beppu still offers many other of attractions that can easily fill a week of fun for you and your family. In the African Safari you will be able to enjoy mostly african animals from out of a jungle bus or your car.
There are some theme parks around. Beppu Rakutenchi is a kind of old school amusement park combined with a hot spring and specially good for the smaller children. Kijima Kogen Park is another amusement park with roller coasters and other thrill rides. If you are into perfumes a visit to the Oita Fragrance Museum is an interesting option. Another museum for the people that are interested in modern art can go to Oita to visit the Oita Art Museum.
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