Kokonoe-machi, in the Kuju area of Oita, is a lovely country town that, considering its small size, is packed with onsen and other sightseeing opportunities. For those looking for a quick escape from city life, Kokonoe, gifted with natural wonders thanks to nearby active volcanoes, is a great option. And though the area is 240 square kilometers, the population is sparse enough to offer relief from ordinarily-crowded Japan.
Accessible from the scenic Yamanami Highway, this town has gorgeous mountain views with autumn colors already appearing, natural hot springs, hiking trails in the Kuju mountain range, and other sights to make this a pleasant day or weekend trip. The Yume Ootsuribashi (Dream Suspension Bridge) is an impressive, walkable structure that allows visitors to get their bearings in the Oita wilderness. From the bridge, you can take in Shindo Falls, named one of Japan’s best 100 waterfalls. Quaint farms and cafes benefit from the rural location’s plentiful produce and have fresh dishes to try that taste all-natural. It’s easy to get a dose of culture by visiting onsen, ryokan, shrines, and a museum that highlights the work of a unique Japanese artist. And the Hatchobaru Power Station educates guests on its geothermal energy production, a fascinating–and completely eco-friendly–way of keeping Oita homes and businesses up and running. Though the coming weeks give visitors the best opportunity to see brightly-colored fall foliage, other seasons offer their own sights. In the spring, the area explodes with azaleas, which, due to the unique properties of the soil from volcanic activity, are considered their own species endemic to Kyushu. Summer brings the annual Kokonoe “Lavender Festa,” and the Kuju Flower Park features flower species from around the world all year long. Should you choose to visit in the winter, you can enjoy Kyushu’s largest ski resort, Kokonoe Shinrin Koen. For foreigners who may know Oita only for the bustling hot springs city of Beppu, a trip to Kokonoe is a calmer and perhaps more authentic way to experience the Kyushu countryside.
Make the Kokonoe “Yume” Ootsuribashi (“Dream” Suspension Bridge) your first stop to get your bearings in the Oita wilderness. This suspension footbridge, at 173 meters tall and 375 meters across, is the longest and highest of its kind in the world. For ¥500 to cross, visitors take in singular views of the Naruko-kawa gorge and two massive waterfalls pouring from towering cliffs. The dramatic elevation and the bridge’s slight swaying in the wind make this a thrilling walk. And of course, there are plenty of opportunities to purchase omiyage and snacks at each end. One side also features several small shrines—a quick walk brings you to Shiratori Jinja (White Bird Shrine), first built 1,500 years ago, a quiet and picturesque spot apparently overlooked by the many tourists who come for the bridge. You can also visit Shirahebi Gosanjo (White Snake Shrine), and learn about the legend of the five snake gods who tried to reach the sky—only three made it, and the remaining two turned into a waterfall and got stuck to a tree, respectively. For more information visit www.yumeooturihashi.com (Japanese only.) 0973-73-3800
Adult: ¥500 / ES student: ¥200
8:30 ~ 16:30 (Dec. ~ Jun.)
Open every day
＞ Kokonoe Drive Map (Google)
Reporter: Alanna Schubach
Alanna is orijinally from New York and is now in her second year as an English Assistant Language Teacher in Fukuoka.1208 Tano, Kokonoe-cho, Kusu-gun, Oita