Beppu – The Onsen Capital of Japan | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

Beppu – The Onsen Capital of Japan

By Tony Tao Jun 24, 2020

Updated February 2021

Onsen (温泉) – a familiar name to Japanese visitors. For newcomers, onsen are Japanese traditional hot springs, and Beppu is full of them. Japan is a country where volcanoes existed everywhere, creating a remarkable density of lava streams from the ground that heats the springs. Onsen and Sento are the two major types, which are often confused as one another. Onsen is a natural heat-water outdoor hot spring, while Sento is an indoor hot spring filled with steamed tap water, also known as a public bath. Mostly, they’re all public places, but there’s a handful of private onsen as well.

Onsen – Japan’s Most Popular Tradition

Onsen in Japan is not only a beautiful place for relaxation and entertainment but also a place to improve health. Since ancient times, the Japanese soon found that the Onsen water has tons of benefits to the human body. They started to consider Onsen as a medical alternative. In the research “Onsen (hot springs) in Japan—Transforming terrain into healing landscapes,” Mihaela Serbulea – Ph.D. at Todai University improves that Onsen is believed to ease neuralgia, alleviate muscle pain and the symptoms of chronic skin disease depending on different ingredients in the water. However, Onsen also has negative effects on people with heart disease, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, so please be aware. To grab essential information and tips, please read our previous post about Onsen in Japan!

Hokkaido snow monkeys enjoy the winter in the Onsen!

Beppu – the Onsen Capital of Japan

“During Golden Week, Beppu welcomes about 60,000 visitors staying at the hot spring resort!” said a guide who is a Beppu local resident. So what makes Onsen in Beppu so specially unique???

Beppu is a coastal city located in the East of Oita island, Kyushu prefecture. In contrast to the hustle-bustle life can be found in Tokyo, the small town of Beppu seems so peaceful with the greenery of trees, the fresh air, the scent of the sea, the warmth surrounded by Onsen steam and the gentle lifestyle of the local people. This beautiful small city is proud to have the highest amount of hot springs for a region in Japan, ranked second place in the world (the first place is Yellowstone National Park in the USA). Moreover, there are 11 types of water generally in our planet, Beppu has 10 out of 11! To Beppu local people, Onsen has become so sacredly special. According to our investigation, Beppu is home to more than 2,300 onsens with various styles and sizes. The city is blessed by as many as eight main hot springs areas  

  • Beppu Onsen
  • Kankaiji
  • Kamegawa
  • Shibaseki
  • Kannawa
  • Myoban
  • Horita
  • Hamawaki

In Beppu, each area featuring public baths (also called Sento, there are more than 100 public baths at a low price, under 100 yen) and ryokan ((旅館 – traditional Japanese hostel) with bathing facilities. What distinguishes Beppu from other onsen resorts is not just its abundance of thermal waters, but the wide range of styles of baths that can be enjoyed there. Aside from traditional hot water baths, Beppu provides sand baths where bathers can immerse in naturally heated sand, hot spring steam-heated steam baths, and hot muddy water baths.

Mixed mud bath Onsen in Beppu

On the other hand, if the “hot springs” to “dip the body into” may sound familiar to you and you are looking for something else fresher, Beppu is the place you need! That is nine spectacular hot springs landscapes – Jikoku-meguri (9 geothermal hotspots, the so-called “nine hells of Beppu”) allowing the visitors an opportunity to marvel at the spectacular beauty of God’s creations. The must-go list includes Umi Jigoku Hot Spring and the cobalt blue Kamado Jigoku Hot Spring, the Chinoike Jigoku – the Hell Hot Springs with the red of blood water due to its high content of iron, Oniishi Bozu Jigoku Hot Spring with boiling mud, the spectacular Tatsumaki Jigoku hot spring sprayed up from the ground. Also, the Oniyama Jigoku, known as the “Crocodile Hell” with about 80 alligators, is a must-see spot when you can see crocodiles crawling on the cloudy water. The vapor pressure here is strong enough to pull a subway car, as well as create an ideal crocodile breeding site.

Not enough for you? Have you ever heard about Onsen Cuisine? Come to Beppu, you can experience the amazing taste of flan cakes and boiled eggs cooked by hot air rising from the hot springs. Moreover, there is a Jigoku steam room in the Kannawa Onsen area where you can cook the food you bring along with the onsen’s heat!

Talking about Beppu’s cuisine, It is such a big miss-out if you forgot to mention Reimen – Beppu Cold noodles. The chewy noodles mixed with the traditional Japanese broth soup in a bowl of Reimen make it becomes such a bowl of irresistibly delicious noodles. Other attractive local dishes such as Ryukyu, sashimi fish combined with sweet soy sauce, sprinkled with a bit of onion and sesame, all of which is enough to captivate the diners.

Boiled eggs cooked by hot springs – Food from heaven.

Ways to Get to Beppu?

Beppu station is about an hour away from the big city of Fukuoka by train.

From Tokyo, you can take a shinkansen or train to Kokura Station and then transfer to the Sonic limited express train for Beppu. Tokyo to Beppu is quite a long trip. For the value-for-money way to get there by airplane, we recommend you take a Jetstar Japan flight – a low-cost carrier (cheaper than JAL or All Nippon), operates flights from Narita to Oita [the airport that services Beppu]. The nearest airport to Beppu is Oita Airport, which is only 40 minutes by bus away from the city. 

From Osaka, one of the most economical ways to travel to the beautiful Kyushu island is to take the special ferry trip named Dangan Ferry of Sunflower brand, which costs only 10,000 yen for a two-way trip. (5000 yen for children). On the other hand, the Shinkansen from Osaka to Beppu is about 16,000 yen for a one-way trip.

Travel Methods in Beppu

Beppu city is quite steep, so traveling by bus or car would be the most convenient way. One-day-price bus tickets are available, you can look for them at the Tourism Association at Beppu Station.

Ready to Travel to Beppu For Traditional Japanese Onsen?

Beppu is a magical place, the haven of onsen and relaxation. We would love to hear about your travel experiences in Beppu, let us know in the comments!