One experience any Japanese person will tell you to enjoy while in Japan would be a hot spring bath. If you make your way near Beppu, Oita while in Japan, you’ll find Japan’s most famous hot spring resort area known as Beppu Hatto.
Beppu Hatto offers multiple hot springs, hot spring baths, and places to stay (Ryokan), being that this cozy little town has more hot springs than any other place in Japan.
Hot springs are believed to have healing properties, and it offers a unique way to relax and replenish your energy while enjoying the breathtaking scenery.
The Origins Of Beppu Onsen Town
The healing powers of the hot springs located in Beppu can be traced back to the 8th century. One legend goes that two kamis, Sukunabikona and Okuninushi, were traveling through what is now known as the Ehime Prefecture.
When Sukunabikona passed out due to not feeling well, Okuninushi created a mechanism to bring hot spring water to the Beppu area in order to help revive Sukunabikona.
This was a successful endeavor and one that showcased the potential benefits of hot spring water to Japan.
Afterward, samurai would venture to the area to help heal their wounds after the battle. In the Meiji period of Japan, Beppu Onsen town continued to expand and many wells were erected to capture the waters.
There were some setbacks with some dwindling of the hot water supply in the 1950s, but the town persevered by finding new sources to keep their hot springs operating.
The Eight Hot Springs
The town of Beppu has a bounty of fresh hot springs that help to source the multiple onsens in the area. There are a total of eight of these hot springs, which are as follows:
- Beppu Onsen
- Kannawa Onsen
- Myoban Onsen
- Kankaiji Onsen
- Hamawaki Onsen
- Kamegawa Onsen
- Horita Onsen
- Shibaseki Onsen
Not only do these onsens help to source a variety of public and private baths, but they also help to offer private and public baths in many of the inns you might stay in.
The Kannawa district is by far one of the most magnificent sights. This is the district area where there are many tourists shops and attractions to visit.
In the Kannawa area, you can see steam flowing through the air, creating a soothing and relaxing atmosphere.
The steam emerges from the area because it was built on an active hot spring. In order to avoid the water potentially injuring dwellers, there was an intricate underground system built to help direct the water away from the populous.
Kannawa has some of the most bustling hot spring activities in Beppu. An interesting thing to note is Beppu is located so close to Mount Tsurumi, which is an active volcano.
The Seven Hells
The Seven Hells is a collection of seven different hot spring pools in the Beppu area. You can actually take a tour to see all seven areas and learn more about them, or just see them individually based on what you’re most interested in.
Each hot spring has its own unique appearance, and some even have aquatic life living in them, as well as food stations you can enjoy while gazing at the hells. One such pool’s water runs blood red, which is unsettling yet fascinating to witness.
These are not pools meant to be bathed in, as the water is way too hot and the temperature is not regulated by anyone.
Beppu Beach Sand Bath
Not only are you able to enjoy a nice hot spring bath on this scenic beach, but you can also indulge in a sand bath.
You’ll be given a spa-like experience while being able to enjoy the sound of the waves crashing and the view of sparkling beach water.
Your body gets buried in the sand from the neck down, which is said to relieve tension and pain.
This particular onsen, or hot spring, is considered to be the most well-known in Beppu that draws in tourists and visitors. Not only is there a hot spring, but there is also a sauna and the opportunity to enjoy a steam bath.
Steam baths are one of the things cited as contributing to many Japanese people having such supple, healthy skin. Essentially, you will sit in a hut-like structure and have steam wash over your body.
On the ground, medicinal herbs are sprinkled around, so the aromas and vapors travel up with the steam.
Sitting in an onsen can have physical and mental health benefits, and are enjoyed by many who live with chronic illnesses, mental health disorders, or pain disorders.
While there are no health claims made by any onsens, the Japanese have believed in their benefits for centuries.
Spending a couple of hours at the Ebisuya Onsen is like being in your own personal sanctuary. There are a variety of different baths you can indulge in, from your typical onsen to an aroma bath.
This is a public bath, so you will see other people when you’re there. Being able to speak with some of the locals enjoying their hot spring bath can teach you a lot about Japan that you won’t learn anywhere else.
Public baths are a social tradition in Japan, so you don’t have to worry about disturbing someone by starting a conversation.
If you’ve ever been intrigued by the idea of being slathered in mud, you will want to go to Onsen Hoyo Land. This is one of the best places in Japan to have a mud bath, which is very nourishing for your skin.
You can also enjoy a traditional hot spring bath or a steam bath, and choose from enjoying a bath indoors or outdoors. The onsen building may not be much to look at from the outside, but your experience will be top-notch.
If you’re planning on staying in Beppu for more than a day, it’s worth booking a room at the Tanayu ryokan, or a Japanese inn styled in traditional Japanese fashion.
This large ryokan offers some of the most beautiful views you will find in Beppu. You can soak in a rooftop pool while gazing out at the surrounding scenery.
Just beside Tanayu, there is the Aqua Bath, a hot spring bath that allows you to wear a bathing suit inside.
Most onsens don’t allow you to wear any outside clothing or bathing suits, as your body gets covered up by the water while in the nude.
The Hyotan Onsen is like an oasis, with the structure of the onsen being as beautiful as the plethora of baths.
You can enjoy a steam bath, have a waterfall cascade down your shoulders, or soak in a hot spring bath. You are also able to indulge in a unique sand bath in this onsen.
If you are looking for a more intimate experience, you are able to book yourself a private bath, and also enjoy a meal while you’re there.
While the baths at this onsen are outdoors, you feel like you get a little bit more privacy as the outdoor area is fenced in.
The expansive area offers hot spring baths containing sulfur. Sulfur can benefit your body from the inside out. Before or after your bath, you can also enjoy some of the shops located in the area.
An ashiyu is a foot bath, and there are several of them in Beppu. These are the perfect places to visit after a long day of sightseeing.
You can dip your feet into the ashiyu and enjoy the pain relief and muscle relaxation that the hot foot bath can offer.
Most of these ashiyus don’t cost anything to visit, but you are expected to bring your own towel so you can dry off your feet.
Eating In Beppu
Believe it or not, the hot spring water can actually be used to steam and cook food, and there are eateries in Beppu where you can try some of this food.
One place that comes highly recommended as being a food experience like no other is Jigokumushi Kobo Kannawa.
At this restaurant, you place an order for what foods you would like to eat, such as meat and vegetables, and you will be served a basket with those raw foods.
You can then take the food to a steam oven, where you are given gloves and a timer and are helped to place the food in the boiling hot spring water.