Beppu ( Beppu-shi) is a city in Oita prefecture on the island of Kyushu, Japan.
It was also once known as the Las Vegas of Japan, a reference more to its extensive sex industry than gambling. The city has been attempting to clean up its image, however. To non-Japanese tourists, the sex industry may not be obvious, or even perceivable.
Beppu is along the coast but pressed by the mountains. As a result the city, while not very large, is rather long. Most of the most well-known onsens and the tourist attractions, including most of the Jigoku or "hells", are in the Kannawa area which is almost on the opposite side of the city from the train station. Buses to and from the Hell areas come around every 30 minutes. Many of the onsen are open very late, so many tourists opt to stay in one of the onsen areas.
No, the city doesn't actually have a "spa theme park". Following a whimsical promotional video which got a million views in just a few days, the city did make some bath-themed modifications to an existing amusement park, but only for 3 days, and the rides were much more sensible and sedate than the ones in the video.
By planeOita airport is nearby, from which shuttle buses run to Beppu downtown (¥1450, 40 minutes).
The Fukuoka airport can be also used thanks to the bus service from the airport through the Oita Expressway coming to Kannawa onsen/Beppu downtown (¥2000 in case of 4-coupon ticket, 110 minutes).
The Sonic limited express train runs twice an hour from Fukuoka (Hakata Station) and Kokura, stopping at Beppu before terminating in Oita. From Fukuoka takes 2 hours, and if purchased as an individual one-way costs ¥5,570. For a roundtrip on the Sonic, it's better to buy two tickets (nimai kippu) for ¥6,000 (Fukuoka–Beppu) or ¥5,800 (Kokura–Beppu). For two travellers, it's even better to purchase four tickets (yonmai kippu) for ¥10,000 (Fukuoka–Beppu) or ¥9,800 (Kokura–Beppu).
A faster option from Fukuoka, and the obvious choice from Honshu, is to take the San'yo Shinkansen and transfer to the Sonic at Kokura station. From Kokura, you can reach Beppu in 70-80 minutes at a cost of ¥4,230 each way (free with the Japan Rail Pass). From Fukuoka, this saves 15-20 minutes over taking the Sonic the whole way.
An overnight option from Tokyo is to take the 22:00 Sunrise Izumo/Sunrise Seto to Himeji, take the San'yo Shinkansen to Kokura, then take the Sonic to Beppu (12 hours, ¥23,260, or free with JR Pass except for private compartment fees).
By carThe Oita Expressway runs from the south, passing a few miles to the west of the city. Exit at the Beppu Interchange. National Route 10 runs north-south through the city center, along the shore of Beppu Bay.
Uwajima-un'yu ferrry company operates frequent service from Yawatahama, with about 6 crossings per day, going to Beppu port.
Diamond Ferries runs a service from Kobe to reasonably nearby Oita, with no stops. It also runs a service from Osaka to Oita, stopping in Matsuyama on the way.
Kansai-kisen operates a service from Osaka;direct to Beppu.
Information officeThe Foreign Tourist Information Office has three branches in the city center. Two of them (except Beppu Station) offer free internet access.
JR Beppu Station Officephone: +81 977-21-6220address: 12-13 Ekimae-cho
Kitahama office (Plaza)phone: +81 977-23-1119address: 1-3-17 Kitahama
Kannawa officephone: +81 977-66-3855address: 5 Furomoto
On footThe town is walkable. The Hells may be a bit far for most to find it convenient. Though, walking is a possibility for those who don't mind it, and are not in a hurry.
By busThe Hells and other sites can be easily reached via the tourist-centered bus system. Departures are outside JR Beppu Station. The Foreign Tourist Information Office inside JR Beppu Station sells one-day bus passes for ¥900 (¥700 students), which is likely the best deal for most.
The office can provide the departure time and number of the next bus going to your destination (if it's the Hells - the next bus will be leaving shortly), as well as maps detailing the route. On the Hells route itself, bus schedules are clearly posted at stops. The longest intervals are ~30 minutes.
If needed, check the "See" section for more specific information on the bus system transversing the Hells area.
Hot spring hells
The eight hells are administered by
Three of the hells are next door to each other, and the others are within a few minutes walk. Take bus #2, #5, #9, #41, or #43 from JR Beppu Station to the Umijigoku-mae stop. The foreign tourist office in Beppu train station can tell you the next bus that is leaving for the area, as well as provide a map of the route.
Umi-JigokuBlue-green fuming pond
Two more hells are about 2.5 km away. Either catch a bus back to the Kannawa Onsen bus stop or walk a couple minutes down the main road or Miyuki-zaka to Kannawa Onsen street, and take a left. From the Kannawa Onsen stop, take bus #16 (6 min).
The Tatsumaki-Jigoku is a geyser that goes off every 30–40 minutes for a period of about 5 minutes. One trick in using your time efficiently for the final two hells is to first go to the Tatsumaki-Jigoku and find out when the next eruption occurs. If you just missed the last one, then go see the Chinoike-Jigoku first.
phone: +81 977-23-1072Has displays on bamboo craftsmanship and offers courses on making your own. Buses run from JR Beppu Station.
phone: +81 977-22-2278When the weather is clear this ropeway will take you 800 m up to the top of Mt. Tsurumi (1375 m) which has a full view of the city and Beppu Bay. Hours vary by season but mostly closes around dusk. Evening views are only available during Golden Week and August. From the upper station there is a ten-minute uphill walk to the top, with several small temples and shrines along the way.
phone: +81 977-26-7111An observatory 100 m up in Beppu City that gives a full 360 degree view of the city. It's part of the Beppu International Convention Plaza (B-Con Plaza) and about 15 minutes on foot from the west exit of Beppu Station, just across from the western side of Beppu Park. Another similar option is the older Beppu Tower.
OnsenDowntown Beppu offers several hot springs to visit. You can't wander too far, though, without seeing the equally promiscuous sex shops, which will usually be quite blatant on the streets. If you're going to visit a hot spring with children, and you're worried about this, plan ahead.
Takegawara Onsenphone: +81 977-67-3880address: 16-23 MotomachiA Meiji-era classic. The hot bath is extraordinarily hot, and signs gently remind you that the regulars like it that way. If you're not in a hurry, take a dip after you've been buried up to your neck in hot sand on the other side of the building. Tickets come with a yukata. Step into the changing room to stash your valuables, change into your yukata, head through the curtain, and then lay down in the sand pit (with the yukata on); an attendant will be along to shovel hot sand on you shortly. (Cameras are welcome — they're happy to take photos of you while you're buried.) After ten minutes or so, you'll emerge from the earth and shower back in the changing area. It's between Ekimae-dori and Nagarekawa-dori, one block before the intersection with Route 10.
The other hot spring areas in addition to the downtown Beppu are:
- Kannawa Onsen (鉄輪温泉) (Bus 5, 9, 41, 43 from JR Beppu Station)
- Yukemuri Observation Platform to see hot springs steam against mountains.
phone: +81 977-66-0527A large complex with indoor and outdoor baths using several types of wood and stones, sauna and steam rooms, a waterfall bath, and a dry sand bath. There is a restaurant inside the complex.
Young CenterAlso shows Japanese traditional popular drama.
Public bathsSuch as Mushiyu (historical steam bath), Shibunoyu, Shoninyu, Jigokubaruyu, Netsunoyu, Sujiyu and Taninoyu.
- Hamada Onsen
- Myoban Onsen (明礬温泉) (Bus 5, 9, 24, 41, 43 from JR Beppu Station to Myoban or Jizoyu Mae)
- Tsukahara Onsen
Onsen Hoyoland (Bus 5, 9, 24, 41, 43 to Konya Jigokumae) with a mixed-bathing mud bath.
Tanayu OnsenMany different baths and a sauna with stunning view of the city.
The Aqua GardenWater park
Utopia Hamakawi Onsen
Beppu-Kaihama Sand Bath
FestivalsThe international Music Festival: Argerich's Meeting Point in Beppu has been annually held since 1998.
- Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University. The Beppu branch of this Kyoto-based university has students from over 80 countries. Take bus #50 or #51 from JR Beppu Station to reach the campus.
- Beppu University is about two miles west of JR Beppu Daigaku Station.
- The mud-yellow Tokiwa Department Store has four floors of high-end and casual clothing shops, a food court in the basement, and other standard Japanese department store fare. It's on Ekimae-dori, at the intersection with Route 10. There is a starbucks on the ground floor.
- You Me Town Department Store (Beppu shop). On Route 10 near Beppu Tower. There's a large grocery, pharmacy, and beauty shop on the ground level.
- B-Passage（Beppu Station center）
- Smaller shops can be found in the Ginza Shopping Arcade and the Yayoi Shopping Arcade between Ekimae-dori and Nagarekawa-dori.
Toyotsuneaddress: Ekimae Hon MachiA small but cozy outlet. The place's friendly okami-san has also recently prepared an English menu (inquire inside). The place serves a good tendon (2 big prawns!) for ¥680, and it comes with a miso soup which is also the shop's specialty, with a stronger taste than the normal ones. For the adventurous, they do fugu as well for around ¥2200.
address: Funakoshimachi 1-32Hanatokei is run by Mrs. Matsumoto, a devoted student of coffee beans and baking. The menu includes Japanese and Western style dishes.
68 BistroA calm and casual dining experience which doubles as a bar from 21:00 onwards. English/Japanese speaking staff. Japanese, Western, and South-East Asian style dishes are sure to satisfy any craving.
KogetsuCold noodles called reimen.
OgawaSashimi and seafood.
IzutsuGood sashimi sets at low prices.
Yakiniku IchirikiGrilled meat.
HitparadeA uniquely Japanese experience, Hit Parade is an all you can eat buffet and all you can drink (alcoholic or not) American 1950s Dance Hall. A live band performs songs from 1950s America while locals perform coordinated dance moves in front of the stage. It's more of a show than a modern dance club, think of a theater with food and drinks, but well worth the scene.
address: 大分県別府市北浜1-10-12An international bar/club with English and Japanese speaking staff. Usually frequented by local university students. Crazy parties can take place on weekends during the Semester but generally Plan B is a great place for a drink and good conversation. This bar has also often proven itself to be an entertaining source of information about local sights and attractions.
phone: +81 80-4642-9044address: 1-12 Ekimae MachiGreat location, nice staff, free laundry.
phone: +81 977-75-8838address: 1 Kumi Kita-juBudget accommodation in traditional Japanese style. There are many restaurants and onsens in the neighborhood. Free parking. They speak Japanese, English and Czech.
Cabosu House Beppu Hamayuphone: +81 977-23-3939address: 3-3-10 KitahamaClean and cozy. English-speaking desk staff. Has own public natural hot spring (free for guests).
phone: +81 977-66-0440address: Kannawa Ida 3-kumiA traditional Japanese-style hotel equipped with hot springs baths and steam-powered ovens.
phone: +81 977-23-1753address: 8-9 Ekimae-choHas its own hot bath.
phone: +81 977-22-1334address: 1-12-1 KitahamaNew, spacious and well-appointed rooms, with meals and 3 private and 2 public onsen available. There is a fluent English speaker on staff during the day-time hours.
phone: +81 977-24-1141address: Kankaiji 1A luxury hotel with multiple wings and a connected game center and aqua-fun park. In true Beppu style, it has its own onsen on the premises.
- Yufu, nearby, offers even more hot springs.
- Beppu can serve as a resting point before or after a trip to Mount Aso. The Kyushu Oudan Bus departs for Mount Aso from a depot about a block and a half east of JR Beppu Station on Ekimae-dori.
phone: +81 978-48-2331This wildlife park is a 60-minute bus ride from JR Beppu Station. Look for the kangaroo-covered posters outside the west exit. (Yes, kangaroos.)
phone: +81 97-532-5010About half-way between Oita and Beppu, where a colony of over 500 Japanese macaques can be visited in a pleasant surrounding. The macaques walk among you and one of the best sights is feeding time when a frenzy starts. For photos and video the best time to visit is from morning to early afternoon when the sun is behind you. At the base of the mountain is the visitors' center and Oita's Marine Palace, an aquarium with a dolphin show and trained fish. Those going to both can get a discount ticket at the Beppu Tourist Office in Beppu Station.
- Fukuoka is 2 hours away via Sonic Limited Express trains.
- Usajingu (宇佐神宮) is a large and historically significant temple.