I traveled to 九州 (KYUSHU) for TOUJI during a big holidays in Japan “Golden Week”.
I started from 大分県 (OITA Prefecture), where has a nickname of “ONSEN Prefecture” as a sacred place of ONSEN. I flew to 別府 (BEPPU) where has the biggest yield of natural ONSEN in Japan.
The itinerary of my trip this time is as below.
DAY 1: 別府温泉 (BEPPU ONSEN), OITA Prefecture
DAY 2: 別府温泉 (BEPPU ONSEN), OITA Prefecture
DAY 3: 別府温泉 (BEPPU ONSEN), OITA Prefecture
DAY 4: 湯布院温泉 (YUFUIN ONSEN), OITA Prefecture
DAY 5: 黒川温泉 (KUROKAWA ONSEN) ~ 三愛高原 (SAN’AI KOUGEN) ~ 阿蘇 (ASO), KUMAMOTO Prefecture
DAY 6: 高千穂温泉 (TAKACHIHO ONSEN), MIYAZAKI Prefecture
DAY 7: 嬉野温泉 (URESHINO ONSEN), SAGA Prefecture
Introduction of this trip: My nomad-style TOUJI trip to KYUSHU
What is 湯治 (TOUJI)?: Your first experience of TOUJI – Enjoy different way of ONSEN trip
Arrived at OITA Airport!
Japan has 47 prefectures and some of them have their own nickname to appeal their characteristics and attractiveness. The nickname of OITA Prefecture is “ONSEN Prefecture”. 別府 (BEPPU) City in OITA Prefecture is one of the most famous places for ONSEN in Japan.
The airport of this ONSEN Prefecture has so many decorations related to ONSEN. I couldn’t stop feeling like bathing in ONSEN. My desire for ONSEN had started flowing out just like ONSEN flowing out. Now, the limousine bus takes me to BEPPU and it’s just 50 minutes to reach there.
During this 50 minutes in the bus, I searched for the local specialty foods in BEPPU on the internet. Then I found that 冷麺 (REIMEN / Cold Noodle) is one of the most popular local specialty foods in BEPPU. BEPPU is the place where was fortunately not attacked during the World War 2, and after the war, people who had evacuated to China came back to this place. At that time, some Chinese and Korean culture also came into this place and this “Korean style cold noodle” was also one of them. Later, this food has been re-arranged to Japanese style to be suited to Japanese palate, and that is 別府冷麺 (BEPPU REIMEN / BEPPU Cold Noodle). Obviously there is no reason I don’t try this!
After arriving at BEPPU Station, I walked around the station. Then I found a very old local noodle restaurant. I love this kind of restaurant which has super-local, old, and historical appearance. Although it looks old, that means this restaurant has been loved by local people.
大陸ラーメン (TAIRIKU RAMEN)
1-10-21, Kitahama, Beppu, Oita Prefecture
After enjoying this signature cold noodle, I found the statue of 油谷熊八 (KUMAHACHI ABURAYA) in front of the station. Who is this?
According to the internet search, KUMAHACHI ABURAYA is called the father of BEPPU sightseeing, and thanks for his effort BEPPU ONSEN became famous to nationwide. He assigned 吉田初三郎 (HATSUSABURO YOSHIDA), a famous birds-eye view painter, and created the ONSEN logo, a famous catchphrase “Mountain is FUJI, Sea is SETOUCHI, ONSEN is BEPPU” to appeal the ONSEN of BEPPU. In addition, in 1928 he started the operation of tour bus for 別府地獄めぐり (BEPPU JIGOKU MEGURI / BEPPU Hell Tour) with the 1st female tour guide in Japan, and this tour became very popular. This tour is operated even today.
I see, he was a very creative guy and contributed to the local society. I respect him. Though he is forced to cosplay like this now… His cosplay is changed in each season and at some events. Please let me know when you see his new costume.
Now, let’s go to 別府八湯 (BEPPU HATTO / BEPPU 8 Springs)!
BEPPU is where 8 ONSEN places gather. Among them, I headed to 浜脇温泉 (HAMAWAKI ONSEN) first. Let’s try to visit all 8 ONSEN places!
浜脇温泉 (HAMAWAKI ONSEN) is located within walking distance from BEPPU Station. My recommendation at this HAMAWAKI ONSEN is 湯都ぴあ (Utopia), which is the major and representing public bath house at this HAMAWAKI ONSEN. Some ONSEN lovers would go to other small sized public bath houses, but if you visit here for the first time, definitely this Utopia is the place you must visit first.
This Utopia is like “Kurhaus” (Cure-house). The ONSEN menu differs depending on the objective. I selected “stress relieving” and did 10 minutes in laying spring (bed bath), 3 minutes in steam bath, and 5 minutes in bubble bath.
The spring quality here is simple spring. Entry fee is only 510 yen. How reasonable!
I spent 1 hour here. I thought ONSEN is just to bathe in, but it was interesting that this facility offers this kind of programs for our health improvement.
竹瓦温泉 (TAKEGAWARA ONSEN)
Next I headed to 竹瓦温泉 (TAKEGAWARA ONSEN), where is the symbol of BEPPU ONSEN. It started operation in 1879. Its name “竹瓦 (TAKEGAWARA)” comes from the roof of its building. When it started operation, the roof was made of 竹 (TAKE / bamboo), but later when it was renovated, the roof became made of 瓦 (KAWARA / roofing tile), and this is why people call it 竹瓦温泉 (TAKEGAWARA ONSEN). The current building was built in 1938 and it has a beautiful 唐破風 (KARAHAFU) style roof in the front. 唐破風 (KARAHAFU) is one of the styles (shapes) of the roof, and this beautifully decorated roof can be seen at Japanese castles, shrines, 神輿 (MIKOSHI / Portable shrine for festival), Buddhist altar, and so on.
Having this traditional building right in front of me, there was an aura of divinity. This building has been here for more than 100 years and natural ONSEN which is blessings of nature has kept flowing here.
The spring quality here is sodium / calcium / magnesium / hydrogen carbonate spring. The water temperature at the source is 53.8°C. pH7.3. Hypotonic spring. Surprisingly, the entry fee is only 100 yen! This is a municipal ONSEN facility managed by BEPPU City and opens from very early morning. (6:30 – 22:30)
Related articles to learn more about the spring quality:
Its high-ceilinged lobby has a nostalgic feeling of SHOWA Period and it is the place where people can take a rest after bathing in ONSEN.
This TAKEGAWARA ONSEN is also famous for 砂湯 (SUNAYU / Sand bath). You lie down on the sand bath with your 浴衣 (YUKATA / casual cotton KIMONO wear) on and the staff put hot sands warmed by ONSEN on you. This SUNAYU opens from 8:00 in the morning till 22:30 in the evening (reception closes at 21:30). The entry fee is 1030 yen.
“ONSEN Festival” is held in April every year around this area which all the local people gather. Those who bathe in more than 88 ONSENs in BEPPU and collected series of stamps at more than 88 ONSENs will become “名人 (MEIJIN / Expert)” and these MEIJIN are inducted into a hall of fame at this TAKEGAWARA ONSEN.
とり天 (TORITEN / Chicken TEMPURA) and beer!
とり天 (TORITEN / Chicken TEMPURA) is one of the most famous local specialty foods in OITA Prefecture. It’s not fried chicken but TEMPURA! This really matches with beer! I heard that a local restaurant in BEPPU City started serving this TORITEN in TAISHO Period. I also had 肉うどん (NIKU UDON / Meat noodles) to call it a night, though NIKU UDON is not a specialty food here…
Next article: My nomad-style TOUJI trip to KYUSHU – DAY 2