Beppu boasts the highest spa water emission volume in Japan, so the people of the city put that water to use in many ways – not just for bathing, of course, but also in their daily lives. The city is known throughout the nation for its hot springs, and there are eight within the city limits, including the Beppu Onsen. That’s the reason for the Japanese term, Beppu Hatto.
Each spa has distinctive characteristics, such as the bamboo roof tiles on the Beppu Onsen’s wood frame buildings, the bathing huts at Myoban Onsen with their “flowers of sulfur”, and the sand baths of the Kamekawa Onsen. Even if you’re not particularly hot about hot springs, there’s a lot to enjoy in the city.
Take a stroll through town, and you’ll see steam rising from the roadside watercourses. The odor of sulfur is everywhere. The area has always had a profusion of public baths, an indication that most Beppu-ites consider the hot springs an indispensable part of their daily lives. In fact, some families have the water piped into their homes, making it available just by turning on the tap.
Beppu’s Spectacular Night Illuminations
Naturally, Beppu uses its hot springs as the theme for many events in the city throughout the year. One of these is the Beppu Hatto Yukemuri Akari no Matsuri, or the Spa Steam Festival of Lights. Every evening from 7 to 9 during the month-long festival, the steam rising from the Kannawa Spa is lit up, creating an otherworldly effect. This event provides the perfect chance to see the city up close, either through a walking tour conducted by a local guide, or a tour of two specific spas, where you can learn how the waters can beautify the skin or take off excess weight.
The festival ends on April 3, when the biggest event of the month-long bash is scheduled. The entire mountainside of Mt. Ogi, towering over the city, is set aflame, and visitors can revel in a scene unlike no other – watching an entire mountain on fire as spa steam rises from the city.
Beppu Ryokan and Hotel Association
Hihokan – Sex Museum (Must be 18 to enter)
The literal meaning of Hihokan is The House of Secret Treasures, but it’s just a euphemism for Sex Museum. There are many facilities of this type in hot springs towns, and Beppu is no exception. The Hihokan in Beppu is located in the Kannawa Hot Spring, across from Wani Jigoku.
Pink is the dominant color of the interior, and the museum features a wide range of exhibits detailing the different aspects of male-female intimacy, including sculptures, wax figures, videos, and photos. There are also fully nude female mannequins, an area featuring original adult videos, and racy ukiyo-e artwork. If you’re easily stimulated, you might want to pass this place up!
338-3 Kannawa Shibuyu, Beppu
1,000 yen, persons under 18 not admitted
9:00 ~ 10:00
Open every day
GIFTS AND SOUVENIRS
This barley shochu was conceived and is sold by the Kannawa Shochu Lovers Association of Kannawa Hot Springs. Made with only barley and rice malt, it has a unique fragrance derived from its ingredients. It makes the perfect gift because it’s sold only in Kannawa. The bottle comes in a distinctive package and has a striking label.
300 yen (pack of 5)
The egg whites have a pudding-like consistency, while the yolk is still soft-boiled. The onsen eggs of Umijigoku are an essential part of a Beppu trip. The eggs are placed into a basket and lowered into the cobalt blue waters to boil. But be warned! Try one and they may become habit-forming!
Kannawa O-aza, Beppu
8:00 ~ 17:00
Open every day
Kannawa O-aza Beppu
9:00 a.m. to 21:00
Last Sun. of the month
If you have read any guide books or articles about Beppu, you probably already know that Beppu is the onsen (hot spring) capital of Japan. But what most fail to mention is that this little town of 125,000 people has the highest foreigner-to-Japanese population ratio in the whole of Japan. Here are a few places where you might bump into a fellow foreigner, and where you can kick back and share stories or swap travel tips.
If you’re looking for a friendly face to share a drink with, Pastel Bar is a sure bet. Cosy and modern, it is a pasta restaurant during the day and a bar at night. All night-staff are bilingual, many of them international students at the Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) here in Beppu. If you sit at the bar, ask for John, an American and long-time resident. Pasta costs 630~780 yen, and get one of their popular, fruity “beauty” drinks (430 yen) with avocado or aloe that supposedly make your skin healthier. At the weekends, they stay open until the last customer leaves.
Open: Restaurant: 11:00 ~ 22:00 (L.O. 21:30), bar: 22:00 ~ 04:00 (Fri., Sat. ~ end)
Address: 1-10-9 Kitahama, Beppu
Big Eye Sports Bar
Whether you’re a sports fan or not, the Big Eye bar is the place to be on a Saturday night. Frequented by foreign tourists as well as foreigners living in Beppu, the Big Eye has a wide choice of cocktails and imported beers from all over the world.
All drinks are 500 yen except soft-drinks (300~400 yen) and imported brews (500 yen~700 yen). On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays you can enjoy two hours of nomihodai (all-you-can-drink) for 2,000 yen starting whenever you come in.
Open: 18:00 ~ 02:00
Address: 1-10-12 Kitahama, Beppu
PLACES TO STAY
Beppu Guest House
Beppu Guest House only opened in early 2006 but has already become very popular among foreign and Japanese tourists. With 1,500 yen per night in a dorm room, no wonder. Single, double and triple rooms are also available. The Beppu Guest House is only a two-minute walk from Beppu Station and bus terminals, and walking distance to numerous onsen (hot spring baths), shops, restaurants and bars. Beppu Guest House offers great value, simple accommodation.
Address: 1-12 Ekimae-machi, Beppu-shi
English homepage and online reservations:
Ekimae-machi Koto Onsen
Located close to the Beppu Guest House, Ekimae Koto Onsen is a good bet if you want to stay somewhere with in-house onsen. The first floor has two kinds of hot spring baths: one for 100 yen and the other for 300 yen. The more expensive one has different temperature baths, with soap and towel included. For accommodation, there is a shared tatami-style room for 1,500 yen, or private rooms for 2,500 yen, both with futons. You can use the baths whether you are staying the night or not.
Address: 13-14 Ekimae-machi, Beppu
About 1 hr. and 40 min. / 3,300 yen
Dazaifu Interchange – Kyushu Expressway / Oita Expressway (About 1 hr. and 40 min. / 3,300 yen) – Beppu Interchange
About 1 hr. and 50 min. / 5,500 yen
JR Hakata Station – Nippo Main Line (About 1 hr. and 50 min. / 5,500 yen) – JR Beppu Station
About 2 hr. and 15 min. / 3,100 yen
Tenjin Bus Center – Nishitetsu Bus (About 2 hr. and 15 min. / 3,100 yen) – Beppu (Kitahama)
Yes, there are rental bicycles!
From 500 yen for two hours!
9:00 ~ 17:00
Eki Rent-a-car System Co. at Beppu Stn.
Beppu Tourism and Municipal Development Office
Beppu Tourism Association
Foreign Tourist Information Office
Written by Anita Vlcek
Though originally from the Czech Republic, Anita has lived in India and Vietnam before coming to Japan in 2001. Currently a graduate student at the Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University and a freelance web designer, Anita has been living in Beppu City for the past five years.