Travel Japan: Beppu, Oita, Kyushu

Beppu is located on the coast of Beppu Bay. This is the place for onsens – natural water and steam comes out of the ground all over the city, and the water is full of natural minerals.

I visited two onsen while in Beppu and recommend a visit to both of them. The first was Sugoino Palace Onsen; I think it may be one of the most beautiful onsens I have ever been to. The washing areas were outside and so were most of the onsens. What made this onsen special were the endless pools that looked out over Beppu Bay with no fences to block the view.

I also experienced Dr Fish at Suginoi Palace onsen. I have always wanted to try this; you place your feet in a pool filled with little fish, and they nibble on your feet to remove any dead skin. It was definitely a weird experience, especially when you change to pools where some fish have sharper teeth or are quite large. Although it didn’t seem to do anything to my feet, it was an interesting experience!

The other onsen I visited was Hyotan Onsen. The main reason I visited this onsen was because I wanted to experience a sand bath. Sand baths are heated with onsen steam, but are dry. Here you can do a ‘self serve’ sand bath where you wear a yukata and bury yourself in the sand. After having a sand bath you then wash before entering the other onsen. There is a beautiful outdoor onsen and a waterfall onsen. Hyotan also has a reasonably priced restaurant where you can try dagojiro, the local specialty soup, and also many foods that have been cooked in the onsen.

One of the main sightseeing attractions in Beppu is the array of jigoku, or ‘hells’. They are natural boiling pools which have special colours. They can be accessed from Beppu station by bus, and most are within walking distance of each other, with two ‘hells’ being a five minute bus ride away.

Umi Jigoku “sea hell” features a pond of hot, blue water.

Oniishibozu Jigoku is named after the mud bubbles which look like the shaven heads of monks.

Shiraike Jigoku “white pond hell” features a pond of hot, milky, white water. There is also a weird and slightly creepy sex museum nearby!

Yama Jigoku “mountain hell” features small ponds of steaming hot water and a small zoo.

Kamado Jigoku “cooking pot hell” features several boiling ponds and a demon statue as a cook, as it was once used for cooking.

Oniyama Jigoku “monster mountain hell” has crocodiles that are bred and kept on the grounds.

These two ‘hells’ are a little further away from the other hells:

Chinoike Jigoku “blood pond hell” is a pond of hot, red water.

Tatsumaki Jigoku “spout hell” has a boiling hot geyser, which erupts every 25-30 minutes.

How to get there –

I think taking a ferry to Kyushu is convenient, inexpensive and an interesting way to travel. There are various types of accommodation on the ferry ranging from tatami rooms shared with 20 people to private rooms. The trip takes 12 hours. If you book online you will get a 20% discount, however you may need some help as it is all in Japanese.

To get to the ferry at Kobe port you need to catch a train to Sannomiya, change to a local train and get off at Sumiyoshi station. Here you can catch a bus directly to the ferry.

However, finding the bus stop is a little difficult. When you exit the ticket gate, turn left and go down the ramp. A 7-Eleven should be on your left. There is a small side street and you should go down this street to end up on the street behind the 7-Eleven. Turn right on the main road and the bus stop is right there. Ferry (フェリー) is written in katakana. The bus takes about 20 minutes, but make sure you leave extra time in case of traffic. Here is the link to the ferry –


Trains also run often from Oita to Kokura and then you can take a shinkansen. It is a lot more expensive than the ferry, but it only takes about 4 hours from Oita to Himeji.

Where to stay –

There are many ryokans and small hotels conveniently located in Beppu and Oita. I chose to stay at the Toyoko Inn Oita Ekimae which was a five minute walk to the JR Oita station, and from there it costs 270 yen to get to JR Beppu station. A single room is only 4950 yen, and if you have a members’ card, you will receive discounts for staying on Sundays or national holidays. Here is the link to the Toyoko Inn –


Places and costs –

Private single room on the ferry from Kobe to Oita about 14,000 yen

  • train from Oita to Himeji about 15,000 yen
  • Suginoi Onsen entry 1,000 – 2,000 yen, depending on the season and course. Take a bus from JR Beppu station.

Dr Fish – 15 minutes 1,000 yen

  • Hyotan Onsen entry 700 yen, 200 yen yukata rental for the sand bath, 100 yen bath towel rental. Take a bus from JR Beppu station
  • ‘Hells’ multi-ticket pack 2,000 yen for tickets to all 8 ‘Hells’

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One Comment

  1. Beppu is my highlight in Oita Prefecture!
    Yufuin is nice, but very quiet and if you’re all about onsen, then Beppu is definitely the place to go.
    If you love castles, I recommend Nakatsu City which is not too far from Beppu.

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