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.
Oita 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).
1 Beppu Station is on the JR Nippō Main Line.
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).
The 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 ferry company operates frequent service from Yawatahama, with about 6 crossings per day, going to Beppu port.
Kansai-kisen operates a service from Osaka direct to Beppu. The overnight service takes about 12 hours, departing at 19:05 and arriving at 06:55.
The Foreign Tourist Information Office has three branches in the city center. Two of them (except Beppu Station) offer free internet access.
- 1 JR Beppu Station Office, 12-13 Ekimae-cho (Near the east exit of JR Beppu Station), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 09:00-17:00.
- 2 Kitahama office (Plaza), 1-3-17 Kitahama (from Beppu station east exit, walk 5 minutes down the main street in front of you (Ekimae-dori), the office will be on your right side just before the Ginza shopping arcade), ☏ , email@example.com. 10:00-17:00.
- Kannawa office, 5 Furomoto (in Jigoku-mushi Kohbo in Kannawa), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 09:00-17:00.
The 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.
The 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
Beppu's top sight are the eight hells (地獄 Jigoku), multicolored volcanic pits of boiling water and mud, and one geyser. The hells are too hot to be diluted into onsen baths, and they emerge at temperatures ranging from 50 to 99.5 °C (122 to 210 °F). Some of the hells have a natural smell of sulfur — which comes out a bit like rotten eggs.
The eight hells are administered by The Beppu Jigoku Association, ☏ . Combination tickets can be purchased at any of the hells for ¥2100 for visits to all eight; if you first purchase an unlimited bus ticket for ¥900 from the Foreign Tourist Office in Beppu train station, you get a coupon book which includes a ¥200 discount for the combination ticket. If purchased separately, admission to each individual hell is ¥400. Hours for the eight hells are 08:00-17:00, although Tatsumaki-Jigoku doesn't close until its geyser has had its last eruption at the end of the day, so it may be open a little bit later than the rest. All eight hells can be seen at a fairly leisurely pace in about 2½ hours.
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.
- 1 Umi-Jigoku (海地獄 Sea Hell). Blue-green fuming pond
- 2 Oniishibozu-Jigoku (鬼石坊主地獄 Shaven Monk's Head Hell).
- 3 Yama-Jigoku (山地獄 Mountain Hell).
- 4 Kamado-Jigoku (かまど地獄 Boiling Hell).
- 5 Oniyama-Jigoku (鬼山地獄 Demon Mountain Hell).
- 6 Shiraike-Jigoku (白池地獄 White Pond Hell).
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.
- 9 Beppu City Traditional Bamboo Center (竹細工伝統産業会館), ☏ . Has displays on bamboo craftsmanship and offers courses on making your own. Buses run from JR Beppu Station.
- 10 Kintetsu Beppu Ropeway, ☏ . When 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. ¥1400 round trip.
- 11 Global Tower (グローバルタワー), ☏ . Dec-Feb 09:00-21:00 Mar-Nov., Dec-Feb 09:00-19:00. An 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. ¥300.
Downtown 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.
- 1 Takegawara Onsen (竹瓦温泉), 16-23 Motomachi, ☏ . 06:30-22:30. A 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. Tickets are ¥100 for the hot bath, ¥1000 to include the sand bath. Discount coupons may be available from some of the neighboring hotels.
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.
- 2 Hyōtan Onsen (ひょうたん温泉), ☏ . 09:00-01:00. A 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. ¥750 for adults, ¥330 extra for the sand bath.
- Young Center (ヤングセンター). Also shows Japanese traditional popular drama.
- Public baths. Such as Mushiyu (historical steam bath), Shibunoyu, Shoninyu, Jigokubaruyu, Netsunoyu, Sujiyu and Taninoyu.
- Kamegawa Onsen (亀川温泉) (JR Kamegawa Station)
- 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.
- Shibaseki Onsen (柴石温泉) (Bus from JR Kamegawa Station)
- Kankaiji Onsen (観海寺温泉) (Bus from JR Beppu Station)
- Horita Onsen (堀田温泉) (Bus from JR Beppu Station)
- Hamawaki Onsen (浜脇温泉) (JR Higashi Beppu Station)
- Utopia Hamakawi Onsen
- 5 Beppu-Kaihama Sand Bath (別府海浜砂湯) (Beside the art museum), ☏ . Summer: 08:30-17:00, winter: 09:00-16:00, closed every 4th Wednesday of the month. Sand bath on the beach. A normal bath is also available, all with parasols. Parking available. ¥780.
The 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.
Try vegetables and seafood placed in small baskets and cooked directly in the hot springs, called jigokumushi (地獄蒸し). Be sure to include shiitake mushroom, for which Beppu is famous. Chicken tempura (とり天 toriten) is another specialty to try.
- Toyotsune (とよ常), Ekimae Hon Machi (as you exit the East Exit of Beppu Train Station, it's opposite the station on the left side tucked in the corner). Till 21:00. A small but cozy outlet. The place's friendly okami-san has 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.
- Hanatokei Coffee and Tea (花時計珈琲館), Funakoshimachi 1-32 (Daisansou-Iriguchi bus stop (Oita Kotsu Bus toward Ritsumeikan)). 08:00-20:00. Hanatokei is run by Mrs. Matsumoto, a devoted student of coffee beans and baking. The menu includes Japanese and Western style dishes. ¥400-1000.
- 68 Bistro. Su-Th 17:00-22:00. A 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.
- 1 Kogetsu (胡月). Cold noodles called reimen.
- 2 Toyoken (東洋軒). Chicken tempura
- 3 Ogawa (お食事処お川). Sashimi and seafood. ¥3000 for lunch, ¥15000 for dinner.
- 4 Izutsu (海鮮いづつ). Good sashimi sets at low prices.
- 5 Yakiniku Ichiriki (焼肉一力). Grilled meat. ¥3000 for lunch, ¥5000 for dinner.
- Hitparade. A 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. Men ¥3600, women ¥3000.
- Plan B, 大分県別府市北浜1-10-12 (Opposite Tokiwa Department Store), ☏ . An 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.
The Kannawa area has many small ryokan and paved streets that make for pleasant evenings walks in yukata.
- 1 Beppu Guest House (別府ゲストハウス), 1-12 Ekimae Machi (5 minutes walking south east from Beppu station), ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 16:00-22:00, check-out: 10:00. Great location, nice staff, free laundry. Dorm room ¥2,000, single room ¥2,800.
- 2 Happy Neko, 1 Kumi Kita-ju (in the Kannawa onsen area, 10 min walk from Jigoku), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00-23:00, check-out: 10:30. Budget accommodation in traditional Japanese style. There are many restaurants and onsens in the neighborhood. Free parking. They speak Japanese, English and Czech. Apartment - single: ¥3100, double: ¥4300, Private Tatami Room - single: ¥3800, double: ¥5300, triple: ¥6600, quad: ¥8800.
- 3 Cabosu House Beppu Hamayu, 3-3-10 Kitahama (8 minutes walk from JR Beppu Station east exit), ☏ . Check-in: 15:00-21:00, check-out: 11:00. Clean and cozy. English-speaking desk staff. Has own public natural hot spring (free for guests). Dorm room ¥2500, single room ¥3500, twin room ¥2800p/p, triple room ¥2800p/p.
- 4 Yokoso Ryokan, Kannawa Ida 3-kumi (25 min. by bus from Beppu station), ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. A traditional Japanese-style hotel equipped with hot springs baths and steam-powered ovens. ¥3,400 per person per night without any meal.
- 5 Minshuku Kokage (国際民宿こかげ), 8-9 Ekimae-cho (A short walk down Ekimae-dori from the east exit of JR Beppu Station), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 10:00. Has its own hot bath. Japanese and Western style rooms ¥4350 for one, ¥7650 for two, ¥11,475 for three.
- 6 Nogamihonkan Ryokan (野上本館), 1-12-1 Kitahama (it's a few minutes from JR Beppu Station on Ekimae-dori; turn right at the first street once you see the post office across the street on your left), ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 10:00. New, 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. Double tatami room between ¥6480 and ¥16200, Double bed room between ¥5400 and ¥9360 (prices vary depending on the date).
- 7 Suginoi Hotel (別府温泉 杉乃井ホテル), Kankaiji 1, ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. A 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. Rates range from ¥15,900 (per person) in Japanese or Western-style rooms on the Hon-Kan floor to ¥23,250 (per person) on the Good Time Floor.
- Yufuin, 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.
- Usa - Home to Usa Shrine and the African Safari
- Oita - Home to Takasakiyama, about 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.
|Routes through Beppu|
|Kitakyushu ←||N S||→ Oita → Kagoshima|
|Tosu ←||N S||→ Oita|